One of the biggest challenges in building a reservoir is getting permission from the numerous state and federal agencies that oversee such projects. These agencies and their rules are needed to make sure that the reservoir project doesn’t cause avoidable harm to the communities in the region or to the environment. To make sure that the rules are followed in the design and construction of the reservoir, we must apply for and receive the following permits.
Follow these links to find information regarding each step of the regulatory process.
The Missouri Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) is responsible for protecting the safety of drinking water for Missouri’s communities. The project team will file for a permit from MDNR to construct the drinking water reservoir. Once built, the team will file for a permit to dispense drinking water. State-mandated standards must be met before these permits will be granted.
An important component of the project, and of the process for receiving a permit to dispense drinking water will be the Source Water Protection Plan, documenting the steps being taken to protect lake water quality. The initial draft of the Source Water Protection Plan was completed in the summer of 2017.
Signed into law in 1970, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires federal funding agencies to assess the environmental effects of projects prior to issuing support or funds. Since the Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS) is the federal sponsor, the agency completed an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in 2006, documenting the environmental impacts of the proposed reservoir.
The EIS documentation is required to include a rigorous alternatives analysis. The purpose of the EIS is to ensure that the proposed solution meets the project goals and protects environmental and community resources. The purpose of the EIS alternatives analysis is to verify that the project is the best way to meet the project purposes, while minimizing impacts on the environment.
Local, State, and National entities given the opportunity to review and comment on the EIS include:
- Missouri Department of Conservation
- Missouri Department of Natural Resources
- Missouri Department of Economic Development
- Missouri Department of Transportation
- Missouri State Emergency Management Agency
- Missouri Governor’s Office
- Army Corps of Engineers
- Environmental Protection Agency
- US Fish and Wildlife Service
- Natural Resources Conservation Services
- Department of the Interior Office of Environmental Policy and Compliance
- Federal Emergency Management Agency
- National Wildlife Federation
- National Defense Council
- Missouri Audubon
- Various local stakeholder groups
For more information, please visit the East Locust Creek Watershed EIS and the Records of Decision from NRCS and EPA. These documents confirm that NEPA requirements have been met and the project should move forward.
Adding fill to a body of water can alter flows and water quality in such a way as to impact people living upstream and downstream of a project. In this case, constructing a dam across the East Fork of Locust Creek will have impacts on more than 40 miles of various drainages and 200 acres of wetlands (see Jurisdictional Determinations section). The permitting process requires a detailed plan to verify we have considered all options available and have chosen the one offering the least negative impacts on the surrounding communities. The plan includes an opportunity for all citizens who may be impacted by ELCR to provide comments on the project. Successful completion of the process will result in receiving a permit indicating that ELCR is in compliance with Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. For more information, see: https://www.epa.gov/cwa-404.
Although the NEPA process resulted in an Environmental Impact Statement that includes an alternatives analysis, the 404 Permit process requires a somewhat different alternatives analysis. In this case, the proposed project must be shown to be the Least Environmentally Damaging Practicable Alternative (LEDPA). In part to meet this requirement, a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) is in the process of being prepared.
- Provide a dependable, affordable long-term water supply to meet a projected 7.0-million gallons daily (MGD) demand for north-central Missouri.
- Reduce flooding on 18 miles of East Locust Creek between the proposed multipurpose dam location and the confluence with Locust Creek.
- Provide water-based recreation to meet the unmet demand for the 10-county recreation management area.
While updating the EIS, the alternative analysis was designed to meet both the NEPA and Corps’ requirements. This supplemental EIS has been funded by NRCS and is currently in the works.
“Jurisdictional waters of the United States” is a legal term for lakes, rivers, streams, and wetlands, including those that do not always carry water. Our country places a high value on protecting the quality and quantity of these waters so they can be used and enjoyed for generations to come. In 1972, those values became law when the Clean Water Act was passed. Sections 401 (water quality) and 404 (effects of fill) of the Clean Water Act are particularly relevant to the construction of the East Locust Creek Reservoir (ELCR).
The Jurisdictional determination process includes field work to determine where there are streams and wetlands being impacted by the proposed reservoir so that the impacts can be considered in both the granting of the 404 permit and the determination of work necessary to mitigate for the impacts. The Jurisdictional Determinations process is largely complete with USACOE currently reviewing the final preliminary jurisdictional determinations. This map shows the streams and wetlands currently estimated as jurisdictional.
Administered by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (MDNR), the 401 permitting process requires a detailed plan that will guarantee the protection of all jurisdictional waters involved in the ELCR project, both in process and once completed. Before the lake can be constructed, we have to show that the project will not violate surface water quality standards either during construction or after the lake is complete. When the plan is approved, a permit will be issued indicating that we are in compliance with Section 401 of the Clean Water Act.
The 401 permit process is closely related to the 404 permit process and so the two are generally considered together. The MDNR 401 section is involved with the 404 discussions and will monitor the results and attempt to work together with the Army Corps of Engineers to avoid over-burdening the project sponsors, while still protecting water quality.
For more information see: https://www.epa.gov/cwa-404/clean-water-act-section-401-certification.
As part of the planning and design phases of the project, the project team is required by law to show that negative impacts on streams and wetlands are being avoided, minimized and mitigated. These steps must be taken in order with avoidance being the preferred solution, minimizing being the next preferred solution and mitigation being the last resort. However, for projects such as the East Locust Creek Reservoir, the impacts cannot be avoided, and mitigation is required. Any jurisdictional waters that have been adversely affected, in spite of our efforts of avoidance and minimization, will need to be replaced or substituted. This process is accomplished by a variety of measures that include restoring, establishing, enhancing, and/or preserving aquatic resources at another location. For more information, see https://www.epa.gov/cwa-404.
Due to the size of the East Locust Creek Reservoir Project, it is anticipated that the mitigation costs will be high and that a combination of methods will be required including permittee responsible projects such as stream restoration projects, riparian corridor restoration projects and wetland creation projects. In addition, where it makes sense economically or practically, mitigation credits may also be purchased from existing mitigation projects or in-lieu fee programs.
Large dams can provide a myriad of benefits. However, if they are poorly constructed, they can fail. The sudden release of millions of gallons of water can result in the loss of life and significant property damage. Dams are a perfect example of risk versus reward. The permitting process helps to minimize the risk and maximize the reward. In Missouri, dams over 35 feet tall are regulated by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to ensure that they are constructed, maintained, and operated in a safe manner. Preliminary dam plans are scheduled to be provided to MDNR during the summer of 2017 so that they can begin reviewing the plan. Final dam plans will have to be submitted to and approved by them before construction can
begin.For more information, see: http://dnr.mo.gov/geology/wrc/dam-safety/index.html?/env/wrc/dam-safety/index.html.
For communities that participate in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), a floodplain development permit must be obtained. Rural Sullivan County does not currently participate, but floodplain maps are currently being prepared by a Missouri State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) contractor with the plan to publish them in 2018 or 2019. At that time, Sullivan County will begin to participate in the program. The East Locust Creek project team is currently in contact with SEMA and their contractor to try and make sure that the reservoir is included on the maps, so that the maps don’t have to be amended later at added expense to the taxpayers.
For information, see: https://www.fema.gov/permit-floodplain-development.
While no specific permit is required, the project team will be required to verify that no violations of the Endangered Species Act will occur and that mitigation will be provided to offset negative impacts to threatened and endangered species.
- A study conducted in the spring and summer of 2016 determined that federally endangered Indiana Bats and federally threatened Northern Long-Eared Bats do currently reside in some of the areas in the proposed lake bed.
- Mead’s Milkweed, a federally threatened species, is known to have occurred in Sullivan County, but it has been searched for in the proposed lake bed and found to not be present.
- State endangered Plains Spotted Skunk is also known to have occurred in the area, but its presence in the lake bed has not been confirmed or ruled out.
The United States Fish and Wildlife Service, which is responsible for enforcing the Endangered Species Act, will be reviewing the project team findings on federally threatened and endangered species and will have authority to stop the 404 permitting process if they are not satisfied that the project is compliant with the Endangered Species Act.