20 April 2016

Federal Agency Provides Gordon Creek Documents

Following a Freedom of Information Request on January 26 to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the federal agency initially provided a single document on March 25th, that was an agreement with the official signatures of the parties involved with a wetland project along Gordon creek in central Cherry county.

A reply provided via email to the agency on March 28th, however denoted several known FWS documents which had not been provided through the FOIA process. Ancillary sources had indicated these additional project-related documents.

The agency then conducted an “additional search for responsive documents,” as indicated in an April 14, 2016 letter of response for request FWS-2016-00392, based upon agency records.

This eventual reply was first received by email, and then via a postal delivery of a dvd disc with more than twenty documents.

Most prominent was an updated addendum to landowner agreement NE-64850-14-71 for payment of final project costs, totaling $237,072.32, according signatures made in December 2015. Portions of the funds paid by the Sandhills Task Force were through money received from grant 12-134 as received from the Nebraska Environmental Trust. The $100,000 provided by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission was from a state wildlife grant, as provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The primary source of money was the Sandhills Task Force, as the majority of the money was indicated as this NGO being the source, according to the document. The landowner still provided $40,000.

Numerous other federal documents provided included:

  • A variety of emails, as redacted, mostly in regards to site visits; includes an email indicating that a seed mix to be used “was developed to be successful on wetland and upland areas and is designed with monarch and pollinator habitat in mind”
  • an Attachment A - Detailed description of project activities (additional details for Block 18 and Block 22 on the permit form).
  • an Attachment B - Engineering Design plans prepared by Bob Atkeson, of the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
  • an Attachment C - Wetland certification/delineation report and supplemental maps prepared by Chuck Markley, NRCS.
  • an Attachment D - Wetland delineation polygons overlain on the project plan map, prepared by Ted LaGrange, wetlands biologist for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.
  • an Attachment E - Nebraska Stream Condition Assessment Procedure (NeSCAP) narrative and calculation spreadsheet prepared by Ritch Nelson, NRCS.
  • an Attachment F - Landowner agreement NE-64850-14-71 signed by the landowner and the project funding partners.
  • an Attachment G - NEPA compliance checklist prepared by the USFWS.
  • an Attachment H - Section 7 Biological Memo and Evaluation Form, and a Supplemental Memo regarding effects on American burying beetle prepared by the USFWS
  • an Attachment I - State Nongame and Endangered Species Conservation Act (NESCA) review prepared by Michelle Koch, NGPC
  • an Attachment J - Cultural resource review prepared by Margaret Van Ness, USFWS

Also included were:

  • an application for a Department of the Army permit
  • a letter from the Sandhills Task Force to the Army Corps of Engineers office in Omaha, dated December 2014, indicating that the project partners would “proceed with the described soil, water, and stream habitat improvement project activities as described without further individual project consultation with USACE.” Eventually the ACE would issue a nationwide permit, via their Omaha regulatory office in early June 2015.
  • a project timeline

The documents and correspondence were the “final response” from the agency, which provided the information without any dollar payment required.

In their seeming entirety, these documents do convey the breadth of this project, the entities involved and what was necessary for this project along Gordon Creek to be accomplished.