[Federal Register Volume 61, Number 169 (Thursday, August 29, 1996)]
[Pages 45397-45398]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 96-22066]


Natural Resources Conservation Service

Finding of No Significant Impact for Limestone-Graveyard Creeks 
Watershed Bent and Prowers Counties, CO


    The Limestone-Graveyard Creeks Watershed is a federally assisted 
action authorized for planning under Pubic Law 83-566, the Watershed 
Protection and Flood Prevention Act. An environmental assessment was 
undertaken in conjunction with the development of the watershed plan. 
This assessment was conducted in consultation with local, state, and 
federal agencies as well as with interested organization and 
individuals. Data developed during the assessment are available for 
public review at the following location: U.S. Department of 
Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service, 655 Parfet Street, 
Suite E200C, Lakewood, CO 80215-5517.

Recommended Action

    The recommended plan is composed of management and enduring 
conservation practices to reduce deep percolation, runoff and 
irrigation induced erosion which will improve water quality of both 
surface and groundwater, the Arkansas river, as well as protect the 
resource base.
    It is expected that 108 long-term land treatment contracts will be 
written during the project's life. Approximately 26,700 acres will be 
treated through project action.
    The primary purposes are: (1) (Watershed protection)--protect the 
soil resource base from excessive irrigation induced erosion and 
sedimentation and reduce negative water quality impacts to surface and 
groundwater, including the Arkansas River from selenium, sediment, 
salts, and nitrate loading, (2) (Agricultural water management)--
improve application unformity.

Effects of Recommended Action

    Overall improved surface and groundwater quality, improved human 
health and safety, significant sediment and erosion reduction, improved 
water quality in the Arkansas River, improved wetlands and fisheries 
from improved water quality, improved wildlife habitat, reduced 
irrigation labor costs, reduced irrigation system operation and 
maintenance, and improved irrigation systems and management results in 
increased available water supply on and offsite.
    The proposed action will reduce selenium, sediments, salts, 
nitrates, and other pollutants, in ground water and the Arkansas River, 
thereby improving the water quality. It will also protect the watershed 
resource base by reducing irrigation induced erosion.
    Significant negative effects to wetlands are not expected. However, 
if mitigation is necessary, it will be accomplished on a value for 
value basis.
    A slight improvement of the upland wildlife habitat is expected due 
to an increase in forage and water quality.
    The proposed project will encourage and promote the agricultural 
enterprises in the watershed through education and accelerated 
technical and financial assistance. This will help maintain agriculture 
as a significant component in the area economy.
    A list of the cultural resource sites within the watershed has been 
obtained from the State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO). Their 
relationship to planned conservation measures was evaluated. The survey 
concludes that no significant adverse impacts will occur to known 
cultural resources in the watershed should the plan be implemented. If 
however, during construction of enduring measures a new site is 
identified, construction will stop and the (SHPO) will be notified.
    There is no wilderness areas in the watershed.
    There are no threatened or endangered species known to exist in the 
watershed. However, prairie dog towns which could provide habitat for 
the black-footed ferret, will not be disturbed during project action.
    As stated above, the primary objective of the project is to reduce 
the selenium entering the Arkansas River and groundwater. Land 
treatment measures will reduce selenium levels to within State and EPA 
    Wildlife habitat may be temporarily disturbed in areas where 
enduring measures are implemented. They will however, return to at 
least their previous value within a short period of time.
    The fishery in the Arkansas River will be impacted to a lesser 
degree by selenium after the project is complete.
    No significant adverse environmental impacts will result from the 
installation of conservation measures. Some short-term habitat 
disturbances may occur during construction of small erosion control 
structures, but they will heal quickly.


    The planned action is the most practical means of reducing the 
selenium, salts, and sediment entering the Arkansas River and 
groundwater, thus protecting the resource base in the watershed. Since 
no significant adverse environmental impacts will result from 
installation of the measures and no other alternatives could meet the 
tests of completeness, effectiveness, efficiency, and acceptability, 
this alternative becomes the only viable candidate plan. The no action 
alternative was used for comparison purposes.

Consultation--Public Participation

    The Bent and Prowers Soil Conservation Districts requested in 
March, 1989, that the watershed be considered for a PL566 watershed 
project. A field review was made on March 23, 1989. The review team 
found that significant irrigation water management, water quality, and 
watershed protection treatment was needed. The Soil Conservation 
District and the NRCS Field Office decided that detailed information 
collection would be the first priority. Data on water quantity, 
quality, and practice needs were gathered. Ninety percent of the 
landowners expressed an interest in this project. Significant resource 
problems were found and the sponsors made an application for PL566 
planning assistance June 16, 1989.
    The State Soil Conservation Board formally accepted the application 
on September 6, 1989. The Soil Conservation Services' West National 
Technical Center (WNTC) made a field reconnaissance October 25, 1989. 
They met with the irrigation company personnel, field offices, and 
conservation district officials. It was decided further data was needed 
to quantify the off-site effects from project action. In January 1993, 
the NRCS Field Office, area staff and state staff developed a schedule 
to complete a preauthorization plan and plan of work.
    On June 24, 1993, a public scoping meeting was held to discuss the 
problems, needs, and possible effects from a project. Federal, State, 
and local agencies, and the general public were invited. This group 
helped give direction to the NRCS planners. A public response analysis 
was completed

[[Page 45398]]

on the responses. A summary of those responses is shown on Table C.
    An environmental evaluation meeting was also held on June 24, 1993, 
to identify environmental concerns and issues and discuss how best to 
address those concerns.
    Numerous newspaper articles, newsletters, and radio public service 
announcements have been aired to provide public information. Public 
meetings with the news media in attendance were held to gain input and 
inform the public.
    A public meeting in the morning and a sponsors meeting in the 
afternoon were held December 2, 1993, to determine the desirability of 
pursuing a planning authorization and review the preliminary plan. The 
sponsors felt that cost shared management practices were essential to 
get adequate water quality improvement. Potential alternatives and the 
responsibilities of each sponsor and NRCS were stressed in discussions. 
The SCDs have the right of eminent domain under authority established 
by state law. If needed, they are willing to fulfill their agreements 
to see that a plan is formulated and implemented.
    The public and sponsors encouraged NRCS to go forth with the 
request for planning. Potential practices and alternatives were 
reviewed to identify what may be needed. A revised application was 
developed and approved by the sponsors to slightly change the watershed 
size and sponsors in January 1994.
    The sponsors reviewed the preauthorization report in March 1994 and 
concurred with the report. However, the sponsors requested cost share 
on management practices. NRCS, agreed to pursue cost sharing for 
management practices. The preauthorization report was transmitted to 
the WNTC in Portland for technical review in April 1994. A review by 
the WNTC was completed on June 30, 1994. Comments were incorporated, 
and on July 28, 1994, the SCD boards reviewed WNTC comments on the 
Preauthorization Plan, and agreed to continue their support of the plan 
even though cost sharing for management practices were not approved.
    The SCD boards have met regularly and provided positive leadership 
to the furthering of conservation and improvement of the watershed. 
Ongoing water quality, quantity and management practices are being 
installed by a combination of landowner, district and state funds. The 
two district boards cooperated in getting a 319 demonstration project, 
approved in February 1994, to show the value of surge irrigation and 
irrigation water management on six fields in the watershed area.
    On September 26, 1994 the watershed was approved for planning. A 
meeting was held in December 1994 with field and area staffs, the State 
Water Resources Planning staff, and sponsors to review the Plan of Work 
and develop assignments to complete the watershed plan. A scoping 
meeting and environmental assessment meeting was held at this time.
    The Watershed Plan was developed and reviewed with the sponsors at 
their board meetings in May, 1995. They requested that NRCS have a 
public meeting to present the plan to all interested publics. On June 
1, 1995, a public meeting was held in Lamar, Colorado. It was the 
consensus of those present to move forward into inter-agency review.
    Specific consultation was conducted with the State Historic 
Preservation Officer concerning cultural resources in the watershed.
    Public meetings were held throughout the planning process to keep 
all interested parties informed of the study progress and to obtain 
public input to the plan and environmental evaluation.
    Agency consultation and public participation to date has shown no 
unresolved conflicts related to the project plan.


    The Environmental Assessment summarized above indicates that this 
federal action will not cause significant local, regional, or national 
impact on the environment. Therefore, based on the above findings, I 
have determined that an environmental impact statement for the 
Limestone-Graveyard Creeks Watershed Plan is not required.

    Dated: August 19, 1996.
Stuart N. Simpson,
Assistant State Conservationist.
[FR Doc. 96-22066 Filed 8-28-96; 8:45 am]