Pursuant to The Tennessee Water Quality Control Act of 1977, and Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs. 0400-40-03- .06(4)(d), this notice sets out the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation’s (the “Department’s”) determination that the degradation resulting from the new habitat alteration proposed in the § 401 Water Quality Certification and Aquatic Resource Alteration Permit application NRS19.128 is necessary to accommodate important economic or social development in the area.
The Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT), through its authorized agent C.W. Matthews Contracting Co., Inc., applied for a § 401 Water Quality Certification and Aquatic Resource Alteration Permit for stream and wetland impacts associated with upgrades to the Interstate 75 and Interstate 24 interchange and the Interstate 75 Welcome Center. Additional information on the project proposal and supporting documents are available for review on the internet at the Division’s Water Resources Permits Data viewer (https://www.tn.gov/environment/about-tdec/tdec-dataviewers.html) by entering the permit file number listed in the title of this Notice of Determination.
Spring Creek (Stream 2), Wetland 1, Wetland 2, and Wetland 3, located within the project boundary were previously listed as Exceptional Tennessee Waters (ETWs). Spring Creek is designated as Exceptional Tennessee Waters due to the presence of the state threatened Chickamauga Crayfish. Wetland 1 and Wetland 2 are listed as Exceptional Tennessee Waters because of the presence of multiple state-listed plant species (Gratiola floridana and Trillium lancifolium), the large size of the wetland, and the contiguity of the wetlands to Spring Creek and West Chickamauga Creek, providing a riparian buffer for these ETWs. Wetland 3 is listed as Exceptional Tennessee Waters due to wetland size and because the wetland is contiguous to, and provides a riparian buffer for, Spring Creek.
The interstate modifications are proposed to provide increased vehicle capacity and safer roadway conditions. The proposed project aims to improve substandard ramp geometry to meet The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials standards, decrease interstate congestion, improve traffic operations, and improve safety within the interchange and at the Interstate 75 Welcome Center by reducing the critical crash rate factor. The critical crash rate factor was determined to be twice that of the statewide crash rate.
After taking into consideration the information received in support of the permit application and the comments received through intergovernmental coordination and public participation, the Department has determined that:
1. The proposed alterations will result in greater than de minimis degradation to habitat of a stream segment and three wetlands designated as Exceptional Tennessee Waters.
2. The degradation is necessary to accommodate important economic or social development in the area because the highway improvements are required to improve traffic operations and traffic safety.
Petition for Declaratory Order/Permit Issuance
Pursuant to the Antidegradation Statement, Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs. 0400-40-03-.06(4)(d), the Department’s determination that degradation above a de minimis level of the ETWs is necessary to accommodate important economic or social development in the area is subject to review by the Board of Water Quality, Oil and Gas. Within 30 days after the date of this notification, any affected intergovernmental coordination agency or affected third person may petition the Board for a declaratory order under Tenn. Code Ann. § 4-5-223, and the Board shall convene a contested case. If a petition for declaratory order is timely filed, it will be processed in accordance with Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs. 0400- 40-03-.06(4)(d) and rules governing contested case hearings. If no such petition is filed within 30 days after this notification, then the Department will proceed to its final determination of whether to issue the permit.