DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

50 HIGUERA STREET

SAN LUIS OBISPO, CA 93401 5415

TELEPHONE: (805) 549-3111 TDD (805) 549-3259 INTERNET WWW.DOT.CA.GOV/DIST05/

 

May 9, 1997

Ted Lopez City of Santa Cruz 809 Center Street, Room 201 Santa Cruz, CA 95060

Re: Broadway-Brommer bicycle/ped path---Environmental Document

1 nave reviewed the February 1997 Draft Initial Study/Environmental .Assessment/Alternarives Analysis for the proposed Broadavay-Brommer Street Bicycle/Pedestrian Path Connection and have the following comments:

GENERAL COMMENTS

1) As outlined m my letter dated March 21, 1997 this document was prematurely released as a public document. The do ument intended as_one prepared for FHWA. must t have that agency's review and approval prior to its availability to the public. Caltrans acts together with the FHWA as co-lead agency under NEPA for projects such as this one. In this role, we perform the first level of review prior to making a recommendation that FHWA approve an environtnerltal document (drafts and finals). We also coordinate the federal level consultation required for various resource issues (such as consultation with the SHPO for Section 106, with USFWS for Section ,. the ACOE for Section 404). The FHWA retains ultimate responsibility for formal consultations and approvals. The procedures for preparing and processing environmental documents for federal aid projects are outlined in the Local Programs Procedures and guidance documents referenced therein, l:o which the city has been previously directed.

2) In my earlier letter, I mentioned the possibility of the project being eligible for approval as a Categorical Exclusion under NEPA instead of proceeding with the Environmental Assessment (under an assumption that the project would incur no substantial adverse impacts). I have since discussed this with the FHWA and they do not believe a CE would be appropriate regardless of the level of impacts. The issue is one of public ›Ilvolvement. On the basis that the public has already been presented with an Environmental Assessment (albeit one not approved by FHWA), it would be inappropriate to downscale the review to a CE, which technically requires no public review

3) Please refer to the FHWA Technical Advisory for guidance on format and content which FHWA will expect in this Environmental Assessment. While my comments to follow will address specific issues, it will be important that the document be revised to present the material in the expected format.

4) Reformatting should help to clarify the information presented in the document. In its present form, the document is difficult to follow. Information on the setting, project description, alternative analysis and impacts is included to varying degrees in each section of the document without clear distinction. Thus it is difficult for the reader to keep the information straight and draw any conclusions about the various alternatives. For example, the Project Description chapter (B) includes a section on the Affected Environment; setting information is then expanded in the chapter discussing project impacts (D). Some, but not all of the project impacts are also discussed in the chapte on Alternatives Analysis (C), which precedes the more complete setting and impact info-rnation (Chapter D). As you will find in the Technical Advisory, setting information should be presented in complete fashion in a separate chapter. followed b the project description/ alternatives and finallv a discussion of the impacts.

5) This project may be subject to the formal integration process known as NEPA/404()8 This process was developed to streamline the review of federal transportation projects requiring a Section 404 permit from the Army Corps of Engineers. The Process is intended for projects requiring an Individual Permit from the ACOE. Th- information in the environmental document is not sufficient to conclude whether a Nationwide or Individual Permit would be required for this project. Guidance papers on the NEPA/404 integration process will be provided to the city. The basic pre nise of integration is to gain concurrence from the ACOE (as well as other federal agencies such as the USFWS who signed an MOU agreeing to use this process) throughout the project development process. At the time when a permit is finally requested, all substantive issues will have been addressed and agreed upon.

6) Arnong the items for concurrence under NEPA/404 is the alternatives analysis. Please review the alternatives analysis against this guidance and revise as necessary.

7) Often, an Environmental Assessment will present a preferred alternative. The fo.&emdash;nat of this document is more similar to an EIS where several alternatives are considered equally. However, in the Alternatives Analysis chapter, there is a section on the Consultant Recommendation". Is this the preferred alternative? If it is, it should be clearly presented as such in the document. If it is not, this should be removed from the document. set adso speclAic ronlmcet s

8) All references to the Caltrans Environmental Handbook should be eliminated. As noted above, Caltrans is acting as a co-lead agency with 1FHWA under NEPA. Although some of the information in the handbook may be relevant, there is no need to cite it as a reference as this is not a Caltrans project. (Furthermore, please note for future reference that the qualification of impact significance per the handbook is misinterpreted m this document. The IS/EA commonly states that, according to the handbook, "an impact is considered significant if...". Actually, the checklist simplv asks the first question in determining whether there is an impact, and further asks for a qualification on significance if the answer to the first question is yes". In other words simply answering yes to the first question on does not equate with having a sign›ficant Impact as the document suggests.)

9) FHWA does not employ the term "significance" in its environmental documents. End term is duly recognized as an important qualifier for documents prepared under CEQA. The preferred approach for preparing a joint CEQA/NEPA document is to include all discussion of significance and related findings as required under CEQA into a separate chapter.

10) A separate technical study for biological_esources must be prepared specifically for this project. The natural environment appears to be the most sensitive issue with the proposed project. Currently, information is scattered among several documents and correspondence prepared for different purposes. If necessary, a Biological Assessment would be developed from this for formal consultation on listed species. Guidance to consultants for preparing these documents is available.

11) What is the relationship of Santa Cruz County to this project? It appears that the project straddles the boundary between the city and county. What level of authority will the county have on the project, are they a co-lead or responsible agency under CEQA; will they also need to issue a Coastal Development Permit?

SPECIFIC COMMENTS

i) Title Sheet. The lead agency under CEQA (city of Santa Cruz) needs to be identified and sign the title sheet. Caltrans will sign together with FHWA; the Caltrans signature will be for Jerry T. Gibbs, chief, Special Funded Projects.

9) Page 1. Section 1. The document mentions that the project will receive funding from two programs under ISTEA I understand this project is being funded by CARQ (Congestion Management and Air Quality); what is the other federal program?

) Page 1, Section 2. As noted above delete reference here and throughout the document to the Caltrans Environmental handbook.

t) Page 3, Section 3. The Purpose and Need for the project should be expanded; refer to the tYEPA/404 guidance. Much of the information already appears to be developed such as that in Chapter D, Section 6 and Chapter C, Section 3

S) Page 8, Section 6. As indicated in the general comments above (#4), the Affected Environment section needs to be expanded and address each of the individual resource issues. Individual topics need to be addressed for physical, biological and cultural (including socioeconomic) issues. Affected Environment should not be included as it is here under "Project Description".

6) Page 8, Section 6a. The common place names used in the teat are difficult to trace to the exhibits (such as Figure 3) for someone who is not familiar with the area Since these areas are referred to throughout the document, please include an exhibit that clearly identifies them.

7) Figure 3. Where is Brornmer Street? Only Broadway is identified; is the section of Broadway near 7th Street actually supposed to be labeled as Brommer?

8) Page 13, Alternatives. Is Alternative D being presented as the preferred altemative? It is not appropriate to identify an alternative recommended by the consultant (the lead agencies should be making the recommendation on a preferred alternative if there is one).

9) Page 14, Alternatives considered but Eliminated. Some of the reasons given for eliminating the alternatives are not unique when compared to other alternatives still under consideration. Reasons for rejecting the Frederick Park Bridge alignment appear to be predominantly visual. In light of the potential effects on the natural environment Or the remaining alternatives, should this_one be reconsidered?

l0)7 Page 18. Required Permits & Approvals.

Federal Consistency would be required of the CA Coastal Comrnission under the federal Coastal Zone Management Act. The city and/or county would be issuing a Coastal Development Permit (under authority delegated to them under the CA Coastal Act)

An NPDES permit may be required (if disturbed area exceeds 5 acres).

Certification or waiver under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act (in conjunction with the Section 404 permit) would be required.

Caltrans does not administer Section 106. See general comment above (#1).

The Section 106 and Section 4(f) processes and applicability to this project are not accurately described here.

11) Page 19, Current Status. Should this be identified as "funding"? I understand the project is funded through CMAQ and not a TEA grant.

12) Page 19, Linkages. An exhibit depicting this would be helpful. This is another element that should more appropriately be included as part of the Purpose and Need

13) Page 91, Alternatives Analysis. The presentation of this analysis is awkward and hard to follow, at least in part because it precedes the discussion of impacts in the document Please refer to the NEPA/404 guidance on preparing the Alternatives Analysis.

14) Page 25, Table 1. This should be presented as a "Cost Estimate" (as opposed to an 'opinion") and simplified into construction (including mitigation) and right-of-wav costs. Detail is available in the appendix. Why are costs for right-of-wav acquisition not anticipated? Is the entire project located on city-owned property?

15) Page 26, Transportation Benefits. The projected conversion of 500 automobile trips to bicycle trips is speculative. Is there any analysis to support this assumption? If not, it should not be u=sed in the enviromnental document.

16) Page 27, Air Quality. It's unclear why in the context: of this section, construction impacts would be discussed. How are these impacts considered a "benefit''. Potential shortterm impacts tO air quality during construction should be discussed in the impact section. If the assumption questioned above is not substantiated, it should not be used here.

17) Page 32, Table 9. What is the value of identifying a matrix of mitigation requirements s? Is the objective to illustrate which alternatives have the most mitigation or the least impacts?

18) Page 32, Table 4 ' How is it that Altemative D1 is identified as the only alternative that meets the project objective to "minimize environmental impacts"? The text on page 35 indicates that Alternatives C and D3 may also "qualify".

19) Page <7, Chapter D Impacts. Remove setting information from the impact discussion. Complete setting should be incorporated under "Affected Environment,".

20) Page 37, Section 1 Land Use & Planning. A separate section in the setting should include discussion of local plans and policies. The impact section should identify whether the proposed project/altematives are consistent with the plans/policies.

21) Page 43. Item (6) Local Coastal Program. If the land use designations in the project area are inconsistent with the LCP, is an LCP amendment underway? Is the proposed project consistent with the existing land use designation? Is the project actually subject to three agencies with jurisdiction for Coastal Development Permits (city/county/ Coastal Commission)?

22) Page 46, Section 2 Population & Housing. Beyond mention of a portion of this information in the Socioeconomic setting, since there is no potential for an impact, there shouldn't be any further discussion in the document.

23) Page 52, Mitigation Measure GEO-2 (b). Properly designing the project is not considered a mitigation measure.

24) Page 53, Impact & Mitigation Measure GEO-3. Although related, water quality issues are generally found under its own heading rather than combined with geotechnical issues. An estimate of total disturbed area should be calculated. If over S acres, an NPDES permit will be required. Corresponding to that permit. a Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan will be required of the contractor. If the area is less than S acres, the city should still consider requiring a stormwater plan of the contractor to minimize erosion and sedimentation during construction.

25) Page 55, Section c(1) Erosion and sedimentation. This discussion would be more appropriately combined with that found under GEO-3.

26) Page 56, Section c(3) Flood Control Capacity. Is the project within the 100-year floodplain? Was a hydraulic analysis prepared? What level Sow will the bridges associated with some of the alternatives accommodate? Will the project create additional backwater within the floodplain?

27) Page 57, Section 5 Air Quality. Include the information to be developed on construction emissions in the document.

28) Page >9, Section 6 Transportation & Circulation. As noted earlier. the information in this section would be better used to formulate the project Purpose & Need. In this section, the terms "project area", "study area" and "study corridor" are used throughout this section without any clarification. Are they interchangeable or are they each distinct for the purpose of evaluating existing circulation patterns? This isn't clear in the docurnent. It is also unclear where the "screenline" is. A reference to Figure 9 identifying it would be helpful.

29) Page 54, Accidents. Discussion of accidents and traffic safety should be presented as part of the need for the project and not an element of project impacts as it occurs here.

30) Page 65, Section 7 Biological Resources. What is the special status of the plants identified here? Are they listed, candidates, proposed for listing? For the species not located by initial survey, is suitable habitat present where follow-up surveys would need to verifypresencelabsence?

31) Page 66, Bio Resources. The informatiorlpresented in the document on the red legged,ged frog appears seriously lacking. Although USFWS provided quite a bit of information and recommendations in their letter (2/14/97), the information is neither incorporated nor the letter even referenced in the document.

32) Page 68, Bio Resources. Include a heading for the wetlands discussion in the setting.

33) Page 70, Mitigation Measure BIO-1(a). The measure is a little weak; a commitment to protect by establishing Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESAs) to be

shown on the plans and delineated in the field prior to the start of grading activities would be stronger.

34) Page 70, Mitigation Measure BIO-1(b). A concept for mitigation planting needs tO be developed at this stage. It is not up to DFG to propose adequate riparian mitigation for during the permit stage, nor is it up to the inspector to quantify vegetation impacts during construction toward developing a mitigation planting plan DFG would review plans during the permit phase and the construction inspector would monitor activities in the field. A reasonable estimate of specific impacts and mitigation (including estimated costs) must be made at this stage for each alternative under consideration. This can be refined during the detailed design phase of the selected alternative.

35) Page 72, Table 10. The context of Mit Measure BIO-1(c) is tree removal. What is the reference to Steelhead Trout in this context? There is only cursory reference to potential impacts to the steelhead on page 81.

36) Page 80, Mitigation Measure BIO-8(c). What is the rationale for only 1:1 replacement planting of coast live oak woodland and 2:1 for coast live oak riparian as noted with mitigation measure BIO-1(c). Even a 2:1 ratio appears low for what I presume to be high quality habitat. Does the monitoring and maintenance provision Only apply to this aspect of the mitigation plan? (See also comment =3~~~ above.)

37) Page 80. Mitigation Measures BIO-8(d) and BIO-9(b). This appears to be establishment of an ESS (see #33 above); these should also be shown on the plans.

38) Page 81. Impact BIO-10. The tidewater goby is a federally listed endangered species. the steelhead is proposed for listing. The treatment of the potential impacts and m›tiaation measures is inadequate The NES must address these issues and. if necessary, a Biological Assessment may be required for consultation with the USFWS. Summary information then should appear in the EA.

39) Page 82, Impact BIO-11. This is the first mention that invasive plants inhabit the project area. This type of information needs to be contained in the setting. Does the presence of these exotic plants now diminish the quality of the existing habitat, or is it just a threat to what is otherwise well-developed high quality habitat?

40) Page 84, Sections 8 Energy and 9 Hazards. As noted earlier, the estimated conversion of 500 auto trips to bicycle trips is highly speculative. Using this as a basis tO assert any measurable energy savings or reduced risk of a fuel related spill due to an auto accident is specious.

41) Page 85, Section 9 Hazards. Was an Initial Site Assessment prepared to determine whether there is any risk that contamination may be present within the project area? If not, one needs to be conducted and summarized in the document.

42) Page 100, Section 14 Cultural Resources. The setting section needs to better summarize the information from the HPSR (both for archaeological and architectural resources), not simply state the potential for resources. An exhibit showing the location of the resources would help the reader understand the relationship of the historic property to the project. Check the technical statements for accuracy (for example, the text mentions that FHWA needs to make a determination of eligibility In fact, the HPSR is a Finding of Effect (the property is already listed on the National Register). For the impact section as well, be sure the information is accurately summarized from the technical document.

43) Page 121, Section 4(f). Please review the guidelines for preparing Section 4(f) evaluations. This is not a Caltrans requirement; it is a federal requirement. Visual impacts are not the only consideration in evaluating use under Section 4(f). Furthermore, onlv one propertv (Live Oak Ranch) appears to be the subject of this evaluation. As I understand the project, there may be three 4(f) properties- Live Oak Ranch, Arana Gulch and Frederick Park. Whether or not Arana Gulch qualifies depends on whether the city has actually designated it as a parklrecreation area or wildlife refuge. Further, FHWA has provided guidance on circumstances when Section 4(f) does not apply to TEA projects (although this is funded through CMAQ). Note, however, the caveat that Section 4(f) does apply if the project would affect rare and endangered species or critical habitat. This will be an important question to answer (via the NES and Biological Assessment, if needed) to determine whether Section 4(f) would apply

I apologize that I was unable to provide comments to vou sooner, however! I didn t anticipate the level of effort this document would require to review. As I mentioned to you last week, I will be away from the office most of next week. But I will be able to return some calls during the week. Please contact me with any questions you may have I can be reached at (805) 5493103.

Sincerely,

Aileen K. Loe

Senior Environmental Planner

 

cc: JTGibbs

RLKrumholz

Charlie Chen--FHWA

 



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