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SEC Phase 2 up for public comment
by Garrett E. Valenzuela
Sep 04, 2013 | 1276 views | 0 0 comments | 22 22 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune photo -- The second phase of the SouthEast Connector will impact wetlands in the Truckee Meadows and the Regional Transportation Commission has sent permit applications to the U.S. Army Corps of Civil Engineers for review and public comment.
Tribune photo -- The second phase of the SouthEast Connector will impact wetlands in the Truckee Meadows and the Regional Transportation Commission has sent permit applications to the U.S. Army Corps of Civil Engineers for review and public comment.
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The Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) has reached another major step in the SouthEast Connector project (SEC). The public comment period has opened for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) on Phase 2 of the project, concerning the Clean Water Act and the water quality certification by the State of Nevada.

The public comment period will be open until Sept. 22 for the water quality certification and until Sept. 23 for the Clean Water Act application. Local citizens, government agencies and stakeholders, such as Fish and Wildlife Services, have the opportunity address any part of Phase 2, which covers the 4.5 mile stretch from Clean Water Way to South Meadows Parkway.

Temporary impacted wetlands during the project cover 13.51 acres and permanent impacts will cover 11.23 acres covered under Waters of the U.S., including wetlands in or adjacent to Steamboat Creek. Although some wetland area will be permanently impacted by the SEC, the RTC plans to reconstruct more wetland area than it affects when the project comes to a close, which includes 19.13 acres of mitigation wetlands and 2.38 acres of open water.

“It is extremely complex because there are all different types of quality of wetlands we are impacting,” SEC Project Manager Garth Oksol said Wednesday. “The high-quality water we are impacting we replace at a three-to-one ratio for every acre. For the agriculture ones, it will be done at two to one and the others that are white top (poor quality) will be done at one and a half to one.

“At the end of the day, we are proposing a two-to-one ratio in the overall project for the permit. However, we have flood volume mitigation and the vegetation also has potential to become additional wetlands. At the end of the day, the ratio could be as high as 15 to one.”

Oksol said he hopes to have a decision from the USACE by the end of the calendar year. Once the comment period has ended, the RTC will analyze the comments and possibly adjust its plans for Phase 2 before handing the final permit and project plans to the USACE for approval and beginning any kind of construction on the project.

“There are opportunities to potentially start early construction, but a lot of it is going to depend on what our weather is like this year, the timing of the permit and a few other things,” Oksol said.

RTC officials said Wednesday that the public comment period is a vital stage for this, and any project, because it gives a chance to hear concerns or questions from the public, which often leads to clearing up misconceptions.

“You hear a lot in the public comment that the picture painted is that we are coming through with a giant bulldozer and blazing over the entire segment,” Oksol said. “But in reality, if you look at our corridor, it is 1,000 acres encompassed in Phase 2. Of that, 173 are called Waters of the U.S. Come down to that, we are permanently impacting 11 acres.

“Then we are going to put back 22 plus an additional up to 150. When you really look at in terms of the permanent impact to Waters of the U.S., it is extremely small.”

Construction continues on Phase 1 of the SEC, which began in February at the intersection of Sparks Boulevard and Greg Street in Sparks and encompasses construction of a bridge over the Truckee River, meeting up with Phase 2 at Clean Water Way. While much of the construction cannot be seen from roadways, Oksol said Phase 1 is moving as planned.

“Construction on Phase 1 is going very well,” Oksol said. “We are on schedule for a late summer/fall 2014 completion. We have steel girders arriving on site to start building the bridge across the river. The intersection is very close to opening up. We have a few more weeks of landscaping and turn signal replacement. We are still progressing on Phase 1 and we will continue to do that until we have a decision by the court.”

The court decision refers to a lawsuit filed against the SouthEast Connector project, proposing construction of Phase 1, and inevitably the entire project, be stopped until a complete Environmental Impact Statement could be done. RTC Public Information Officer Michael Moreno said the USACE did not require the RTC to do the impact statement for Phase 1 and he added that the agency awaits the court’s decision when it convenes in October.

Public comments concerning the water and wetland impacts can be sent to the USACE office at 300 Booth Street in Reno, room 3050. Comments cannot be sent directly to the RTC concerning the permits.

•Other RTC News

Pyramid/395 Connection

The Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Pyramid Highway/395 Connection project is available for review online through the RTC and Nevada Department of Transportation. The public comment period will open Sept. 13 and close Nov. 13, and public hearings will be held beginning at 4:30 p.m. on Oct. 9 and 10 at Truckee Meadows Community College and Shaw Middle School, respectively.

Proposed improvements for the project include providing a limited-access freeway facility within the Pyramid Corridor from either Disc Drive or Sparks Boulevard to just north of Eagle Canyon Road along one of three alternative alignments; and providing a limited access freeway connector facility from Pyramid Highway to US 395 along one of two alternative alignments. The proposed connector facility would provide connections in the area of Pyramid Highway/Disc Drive to the east and US 395/Parr Boulevard to the west, with potential access to the connector to/from the Sun Valley area at either Sun Valley Boulevard or to the west in the area of the planned future West Sun Valley arterial roadway.

Balloon Race Shuttle

•The RTC will provide express service to the Great Reno Balloon Race from 4 a.m. to 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. The park-and-ride service costs $2 for adults and $1 for youths/seniors for a one-way fare and $3.75 for adults and $1.75 for youths/seniors for a 24-hour fare.

Pickup locations include Reed High School in Sparks, the RSCVA Convention Center parking lot C the RTC 4th STreet Station and drop off will be at Rancho San Rafael Park in Reno.
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