December 13, 2011 John Thomas US Army Corps of Engineers Raleigh Regulatory Field Office 3331 Heritage Trade Drive

, Suite 105 Wake Forest, NC 27587 Transmitted via email: John.T.Thomas.JR@usace.army.mil Re: Corps Action ID SAW-2010-00020 (Milburnie Dam Removal and Mitigation Bank) Dear Mr. Thomas, I am writing regarding the Milburnie Dam Removal and Mitigation Bank project on behalf of the Neuse RIVERKEEPER® Foundation, an environmental non-profit organization that works to protect water quality throughout the Neuse River basin, including the portion of the River that includes the outmoded Milburnie Dam. While the Public Notice issued November 10, 2011 states the Comment Deadline is December 12, 2011 I respectfully request that you accept this comment as the public is required 30 days to comment and the notice was not posted until November 14, 2011. Thank you for the opportunity to provide comments on this important prospectus. We would like to convey our support, albeit conditional, for Restoration Systems’ (the Sponsor) proposal to remove Milburnie Dam and create an associated Mitigation Bank. While we whole-heartedly support the removal of the dam in order to restore an additional 15 miles of the Neuse River to its natural, free-flowing state we have reservations regarding the creation of the Milburnie Dam Mitigation Bank that relate to the proposed Secondary Geographic Service Area (03020202 and 03020203). Our organization has a history of supporting the removal of unnatural in-stream structures and has been involved in a number of dam removal projects, including the Quaker Neck dam, as well as planning for future dam removal on the Little River, an important tributary of the Neuse. We support and agree with the stated goals of the project as stated in the Prospectus, to: • Improve water quality - Eliminate chronic hypoxic and anaerobic conditions related to impoundment. • Establish an appropriate aquatic community – Transform the current lentic community associated with the impounded river to a more ecologically appropriate lotic community characteristic of a free-flowing river. • Facilitate habitat restoration and re-colonization of listed aquatic species – Remove the barrier (Milburnie Dam) to range expansion of listed aquatic species native to the area. • Provide anadromous fish passage - Open 15 mile river passageway for American shad, striped bass, and other migratory fish for spawning. For almost a decade the Milburnie Dam has been identified as a priority for removal because it presents a barrier to migratory fish as well as causing other water quality problems that affect aquatic and human communities downstream. We have carefully reviewed the September 2011 prospectus submitted by Restoration Systems and our detailed comments are below.
612 W. Lane Street Raleigh, NC 27603 (919) 856-1180 (919) 890-3852 fax P.O. Box 15451 New Bern, NC 28561 www.neuseriver.org 1307 Country Club Road New Bern, NC 28562 (252) 637-7972 (252) 514-0051 fax

Sediment Toxicity and Transport Unfortunately, the discharge of built up sediments is a fact of dam removal no matter how carefully work is conducted. The Sponsor even admits that “total avoidance of discharge into water of the U.S. is not feasible” (43). While the short-term impacts of dam removal could potentially impact downstream areas in a negative way we believe the sponsor has provided a plan (staged removal) that will greatly reduce that impacts of the release of built up sediment and the associated nutrients. In addition, there is potential for released sediment to carry heavy metals and hydrocarbons loaded from the urbanized drainage area, but due to the overall low percentage of organic content in the impoundment the potential for the downstream discharge of toxic sediments is low and the sponsor has proposed to diligently study the potential prior to any removal action. We encourage the regulatory agencies involved in the additional permits and approvals for this project to be vigilant in the defense of water quality as they work with the IRT to determine whether the proposed removal is likely to cause unacceptable effects on local regional water quality, we do not believe the minimal potential for contaminated discharge should not be a reason to stall the project at this point.

Wetlands The prospectus discusses two primary wetlands areas that may be impacted by the removal of the dam, in addition to at least one area that is likely to develop into wetlands following the lowering of water levels upstream of the current dam. In total, this results in a net loss of 11.8 acres of wetlands within the study area. We encourage the US ACE to take advantage of the Sponsor’s offer to offset the 11.8 acres of total wetlands loss (pp 20 “Regarding wetlands specifically, any losses not considered de minimus or otherwise avoidable will be mitigated.”) in order to further the water quality improvement in the basin but do not believe this loss should be a sticking point for the project. With responsible use of BMPs, which we believe the sponsor has proposed, the long-term benefits of removing this barrier to natural flow should outweigh the short-term impacts to water quality that will result from the loss of localized wetlands that have developed over that past approximately 150 years.

Proposed Action on Riverbed Debris According to the sponsor, “…there is a strong likelihood that fallen trees and other debris will become prominent features of the riverbed…the need for canoeists and kayakers to make an occasional portage during a river outing is also a subjective topic that should be explored…”(47) Much of the main stem of the river in Wake County, above and below the dam, is already fraught with snags and obstacles and with the sponsor’s commitment to perform “snag and remove” operations we believe the recreational use of the area can be retained to today’s standard or better. Due to the danger associated with the dam and the inconvenience of taking a boat out above the dam (primarily because of the high water level in the impoundment and associated muck), the section of river between the boat ramp at Elizabeth Road and upper Milburnie Dam is already rarely used by canoe and kayak groups with which we are associated. The most local outfitter, Paddle Creek, runs trips from the dam to the Buffalo Road (Elizabeth) take out but not further; the NRF almost never paddles this stretch but starts below the dam due to safety issues and easy of loading. From a recreational standpoint the NRF has no objection to the proposal, and looks forward to having the area returned to a riverine system that would support personally manned craft and allow us to safely use more of the river for outreach and education to the general public.

Establishment and Operation On the premise that “this mitigation bank is not a traditional stream restoration project and is characterized this by…a more complicated set of risks…” the sponsor has requested a “larger upfront release” of credits for this release project. NC DENR has found that private mitigation provides a long-term success rate greater than that stateprovided mitigation (Hill et al. 2011. “Compensatory stream and wetland mitigation in North Carolina: An Compensatory evaluation of regulatory success.” NC Department of Environment and N Natural Resources. Raleigh, NC.) Because of this fact, combined with the strict provisions which regulate the rest of the credit release over the duration of the project, and our previous experience with the sponsor the NRF has no objection to the sponsor, sponsor’s request for a larger than normal upfront credit release release.

Service Area Finally, I would like to remind you of – and resubmit by incorporation – information from our comment on the initial prospectus of April, 2010.
The maintenance of local communities and character are incredibly important when protecting and enhancing the environment in order to avoid ‘hot spots’ and problems of environm environmental justice. Therefore, mitigation credits from this project should be available only to offset impacts within the , Upper Neuse (03020201). By the applicants own admission, “Neuse 01 is a large…drainage area…” and if this area is not sufficient to provide the market required to make this bank profitable then it is perhaps provide not the right time for its creation (MDSRB 2010 Prospectus, 4). It is our belief that a further restricted service area would be appropriate and ideal but we understand the economic and legislative realities do legislative not allow us to require this additional restriction. … Incredible care must be taken to manage the potential negative impacts of this project, but if carefully implemented, the restoration of natural flow and free passage will encourage vibrant natural communities natural that will benefit the Neuse and her human communities for years to come.

We whole-heartedly support the removal of the dam in order to restore an additional 15 miles of the Neuse rt River to its natural, free-flowing state and support important migratory fish population. Our experiences with flowing the sponsor, Restoration Systems, have been positive and we believe they have the expertise and track record to ponsor, accomplish this task. However, we continue to have serious concerns about the use of the credits from the proposal mitigation bank outside of the Neuse 01. If the project cannot be made to work financially, while ject financially ensuring an appropriately restrictive area for credit use then it is not the time for this project to be conducted. use, comments I appreciate the opportunity to share our comments in the decision process for removal of Milburnie Dam and establishment of the mitigation bank associated with the project. Please feel free to contact me with any questions you may have at (919) 856-1180 or alissa@neuseriver.org. 1180 Sincerely, Alissa Bierma Upper Neuse RIVERKEEPER® Cc: Lynette Batt, American Rivers Dr. Wilson Laney, USFWS George Howard, Restoration System ation Systems

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