16 August 2010

NDOR Response to Comments on La Platte Bottoms Project

The following is the response - dated August 13, 2010 - received from Monty W. Fredrickson, P.E., Director – State Engineer at the Nebraska Department of Roads. It is presented here to provide their perspective on the pending highway project which will bisect the La Platte Bottoms.

"I am writing in response to your email correspondence dated June 28, 2010 to Governor Dave Heineman. The U.S. Highway 34 project is a collaboration of Iowa and Nebraska. It was developed and reviewed in conjunction with local, state and federal resources for many years under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process which was administered by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). A Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) was prepared and approved by the FHWA in 1996. A second DEIS was prepared and approved by FHWA in 2004. A Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) was approved on May 18, 2007 and a Record of Decision (ROD) was signed on December 14, 2007. Through the NEPA process, and subsequently the Clean Water Act Section 404 permit process, several points of public involvement are required to gather comments and address issues of the citizens. Public meetings to discuss the 2004 DEIS were held in Bellevue, Nebraska on January 18, 2005 and in Glenwood, Iowa on January 9, 2005.

"Information gathered from public meetings and comments received from local, state and federal resources agencies involved in the review of the document were considered during the completion of the NEPA process and subsequent design of the U.S. Highway 34 project. No comments were made by the public or resource agencies, such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, indicating the "La Platte Bottoms" was a significant resource.

"Through the NEPA process, a myriad of both natural and human environmental factors are considered, as well as costs and logistics in the development of the alternatives that would address purpose and need for the project. No single resource, such as Migratory Bird Habitat, is weighed higher than other identified resources.

"The Nebraska Department of Roads (NDOR) and the project consultant have delineated wetland resources along multiple alternatives carried forward through the DEIS to the FEIS process. Wetland impact areas in the various documents vary due to the level of design and method of delineation that was completed at each successive stage of the project development process. Through the draft stages of the NEPA process, wetland determinations are broadly assessed for the alternatives considered. As the NEPA process transitions to final project design, detailed wetland delineations are performed to determine the final wetland impacts resulting from the project. The detailed wetland delineation coupled with continued project design avoidance and minimization efforts reduced the impacted wetland area to 4.97 acres as reflected in the Section 404 Permit issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

"The NDOR will continue efforts to address your concerns as discussed in the meeting with you and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on July 23, 2010."