North Central Missouri Regional Water Commission secures key permit for dam construction

North Central Missouri Regional Water Commission
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On Wednesday, March 27, Harve Rhodes, Chairman of the North Central Missouri Regional Water Commission (NCMRWC), signed the Clean Water Act Section 404 Permit. It was then delivered to the Kansas City District of the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), where it received a countersignature and approval. The 404 Permit mandates the replacement of habitat impacted by a project through restorative efforts in equal or greater amounts at another location, preferably as close to the impacted area as possible. The NCMRWC has also met the requirements for Cultural Resources and the Endangered Species Act. The Roy Blunt Reservoir will affect jurisdictional Waters of the U.S., including wetlands, and its approved mitigation plan entails restorative measures in the Lower Grand Watershed, where it is located.

The North Central Missouri Regional Water Commission’s Project Team evaluated numerous proposals and sites to find suitable locations for habitat restoration. However, none of these sites or proposals were sufficient or economically viable. Ultimately, the team devised a restoration plan for the Swan Lake National Wildlife Refuge, a site desperately in need of rehabilitation within a critically threatened ecosystem. After a thorough review by relevant stakeholders, the proposal and plan were approved, leading to the permit’s signing.

Harve Rhodes remarked, “This permit represents the culmination of a years-long journey to fulfill all permitting requirements, removing the last major environmental permitting hurdle for dam construction. Among the significant achievements in the pursuit of the Reservoir, this stands as a paramount accomplishment.”

With acquisition, demolition, clearing, road, and bridge construction already in progress, the 404 permit was essential for dam construction and other activities impacting jurisdictional Waters of the U.S. The NCMRWC is awaiting the final approval of dam plans by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (MDNR).

Rhodes added, “I extend my gratitude to NRCS officials for their unwavering support and guidance. The construction of the Roy Blunt Reservoir is a historic endeavor, closely matched by the $25 million in environmental restoration to be carried out at the Swan Lake National Wildlife Refuge.”

Greg Pitchford, Fisheries Biologist and the Project Team’s lead for permitting at Allstate Consultants, stated, “Having spent most of my career in this region, the scale and scope of this project are what I’ve always envisioned. Our permitted mitigation plan will offer ecological benefits far exceeding the impacts at the Reservoir. I am thankful for the oversight agencies’ thoroughness, advice, and openness to our strategy. This scenario is a win-win for everyone, exemplifying the cooperation taxpayers expect for achieving significant outcomes.”

The Swan Lake National Wildlife Refuge is managed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, which, along with the USACE, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the MDNR, had to approve the mitigation plan.

Pitchford continued, “The oversight agencies executed their roles perfectly while also offering advice and insight during the plan’s development, helping us navigate the Clean Water Act requirements and regulatory processes. I was fortunate to receive assistance from a nationally recognized panel of experts, including Mickey Heitmeyer, a leading authority on wetland restoration.”

Brad Scott, General Manager of NCMRWC, expressed his appreciation, saying, “I want to commend the Project Team and especially the engineers at Allstate Consultants and Olsson Associates. Their innovation, dedication, excellence, and creativity have been evident throughout the Reservoir project, especially at Swan Lake. Their efforts will become the subject of transformative case studies for years to come.”

With the 404 Permit secured, activities at both Swan Lake and the Roy Blunt Reservoir, including clearing, grubbing, excavation, rip-rap placement, and the installation of a clay pad liner on the east ridge adjacent to the dam at the Reservoir, can begin.

Scott concluded, “Alongside the road and bridge construction, there will be significant activity at the Roy Blunt Reservoir this spring and summer. Meanwhile, we’re focused on securing approval for the dam plans, after which dam construction will start.”

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