Corps releases Final EIS on Massachusetts Department of Transportation's South Coast Rail Project
September 23, 2013
By Tim Dugan
CONCORD, Mass. -- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New England District has released the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) on the Massachusetts Department of Transportation's South Coast Rail proposal to establish commuter passenger rail service between Boston and the cities of New Bedford and Fall River, Mass. The FEIS was prepared in cooperation with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to serve as a joint FEIS/Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) pursuant to the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA).
The project proponent, MassDOT, is seeking a Corps permit under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act and Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act to perform work in navigable waters and discharge fill material in waters of the U. S., including wetlands, incidental to establishment of passenger rail service between Boston and the cities of New Bedford and Fall River. Because the proposal constitutes a potentially significant environmental impact the Corps determined that a Federal Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), an in-depth environmental study, was required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
The joint EIS/EIR allowed the MEPA review to be conducted simultaneously with the federal NEPA process.
It evaluated a range of alternative transportation routes, including three principal rail routes, one bus route and a no-build alternative.
As the proposed project is not funded by a federal agency, the Corps is the lead federal agency for purposes of the NEPA review and has coordinated the environmental review with cooperating agencies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Transit Administration, the Federal Railroad Administration and the Federal Highway Administration.
Work is proposed in U.S. waters, including adjacent wetlands, along existing active and out-of-service railroad corridors between Boston and New Bedford/Fall River. The proposal now under active review by the Corps would result in permanent loss of approximately 12.3 acres of waters of the U.S. (including wetlands), and follows (roughly, north to south) the existing Stoughton Commuter Rail Line from Boston to Stoughton Station; an existing rail line that has been out of service since 1958 from Stoughton to MA Route 138 (Broadway Avenue) in Raynham; an existing rail line that has been out of service since 1916 from MA Route 138 (Broadway Avenue) to Longmeadow Road in Taunton; and existing, active (in-service) freight lines, from Longmeadow Road to New Bedford, and from Myricks Junction (Berkley) to Fall River.
The FEIS/FEIR compares the direct, indirect and cumulative impacts of the practicable alternatives on the natural, cultural and socioeconomic environment. The FEIS is intended to provide the information needed for the Corps to perform a public interest review for the Section 404 permit decision.
The EIS/EIR evaluates several transportation facilities and corridor alternatives to implement the proposed transit service over a distance of about 50 to 60 miles. Transportation modes considered included rail (diesel or electric) and rapid bus. Corridors considered included a rail corridor through Attleboro, Stoughton or Middleborough or a rapid bus service along MA-24, MA-140, and I-93. MassDOT's preferred alternative is the Stoughton commuter rail alternative (using electric or diesel powered locomotives) which involves using the active freight lines from New Bedford and Fall River to Taunton, then using the inactive rail bed north to Stoughton, then using the active commuter rail tracks to South Station in Boston.
The application for the federal permit was filed with the Corps under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, which requires a Department of Army (DA) permit for the discharge of dredged or fill material in waters of the U. S., including adjacent wetlands; and under Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899, which requires a DA permit for any work in, or affecting navigable waters of the United States.
The public notice, with additional information and a list of 25 libraries where hard copies of the FEIS/FEIR can be reviewed, is available on the Corps website at http://www.nae.usace.army.mil/Missions/Regulatory/PublicNotices.aspx.
A Record of Decision (ROD), not less than 30 days after the FEIS/FEIR is released, will need to be completed prior to a permit decision by the Corps. The MassDOT Wetlands Mitigation Plan design will need to be finalized; and a Programmatic Agreement must be signed to ensure that the requirements of the Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act will be met. Also, state approvals on water quality certification and coastal zone consistency are needed before the Corps can make a final permit decision.
For further information on this review of MassDOT's South Coast Rail proposal (file # NAE-2007-00698) please contact the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New England District, Regulatory Division (ATTN: Alan Anacheka-Nasemann), 696 Virginia Road, Concord, MA 01742-2751 or by email to: SCREIS@usace.army.mil.