We spoke with someone at MDEQ today. He confirmed that UM did withdraw its permit yesterday, but that the permit is still appearing as active in the database.
LETTER TO MDEQ by neA2cc Leadership Team:
To Luke Golden,
I am writing my letter in response to the permit submitted by the University of Michigan for the proposed Bus and Transportation facility planned for Northeast Ann Arbor (Permit # 298-9TT7-B4B7). Although my understanding is that the UM will be pulling this permit, I am hoping you will read this letter as I believe there are major issues with the proposed project that I address below.
Because this facility will be located in a residential area, I have concerns about the impacts of the project in terms of runoff, flooding and erosion risks in areas downstream of the site. I also believe the project violates the intent of the Clean Water Act, as it proposes to fill and/or degrade the six existing regulated wetlands located on this site. Finally, I believe the UM has several other sites it should have considered as part of this permit, including ones that are located on lots that are already developed and that will not directly impact local waterways. Given these factors, any justification for building on this site should clearly acknowledge and address the irreversible impacts to the wetlands and regulated streams that will be caused by this project and should involve a more rigorous analysis of several other UM property locations.
The residences of this area have been trying to raise these, and other concerns, with the UM for more than 22 months. The University, however, has not addressed these concerns.
My concerns are as follows:
- Inappropriateness of site due to presence of multiple wetlands: This project is on a site that contains six regulated wetlands (per ECT report and UM permit). Eliminating these wetlands by filling them and/or by partially filling them seems to violate the intent of Section 404 of the Clean Water Act – “The basic premise of the program is that no discharge of dredged or fill material may be permitted if: (a) a practicable alternative exists that is less damaging to the aquatic environment” (USEPA website). Given the amount of property owned by the UM, it appears that the UM does have several “practicable alternatives.” The UM only considered one other location in its permit request, but did not adequately weight the pros and cons of these two sites. In addition, the UM owns a substantial amount of property that would provide a better location for this type of industrial facility.
- Impacts to Wetland 22, including road construction effects: The current permit identifies filling this largest wetland to support grading and construction. I am concerned about any fill to this wetland, given the size and quality of this habitat. In addition, I believe UM needs to address impacts to this wetland that could be caused by the widening of Hubbard Road. Although this impact is not cited in the permit, I will note that there are orange flags along Hubbard indicating this road will be widened (or changed). This would cause the road to run up against this wetland, further degrading the habitat and impacting water quality.
- Water quality and quantity impacts to unfilled wetlands: The wetlands that will remain on the site will likely suffer irreversible impacts to habitat quality. These impacts will involve changes in water quantity due to paving over soil and removing vegetation. The effects on water quantity may both increase the amount of water entering the wetlands during rain events and decrease the amount of water causing low-water conditions, due to removal of water moisture from surrounding soils. The wetlands will also likely suffer a decline in water quality, through increased runoff from road salts and from oil and other materials that are released from the cars. The increase in salinity is a common issue in detention basins along Green Road. It would be prudent to assume road salts (and other contaminants) will enter this wetland as well.
- Inadequate control measures to reduce runoff: I am concerned that the current plans for this facility will not adequately address runoff from the site. I am raising this concern based on the findings from the City of Ann Arbor as communicated to the UM on 01-February 2016. The City specifically indicates concerns with “The 100-year peak discharge from the proposed project vastly exceeds the 0.15 cfs per acre rate allowed by the Rules of the WCWRC.” See http://etrakit.a2gov.org/etrakit3/viewAttachment.aspx?Group=PROJECT&ActivityNo=UM16-001&key=JH%3a1602010503329475
- Stormwater estimates that do not align with Federal guidelines: I have heard from Evan Pratt, the Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner, that Michigan’s current state standards for stormwater may not comply with the most recent USEPA requirements. I ask the MDEQ to clarify this issue, and specifically address whether this project complies with the USEPA requirements for stormwater runoff.
- Increase in impervious surfaces in a degraded sub-watershed: The watershed of the Huron River continues to be threatened by conversion of open spaces to impervious surfaces. These effects are cumulative and are growing more pronounced, as highlighted by the impacts of recent extreme precipitation events. I have observed these direct effects on Millers Creek. During the fall and winter months, for example, the sections of Milers Creek that are north of Baxter Road run dry. In these sections, the river bed dries up due to a lack of input of water. As the snowmelts and during large rain events, the creek turns highly erosive, and water levels increase quickly and dramatically. These conditions make it difficult for most organisms to live in the creek, and the Huron River Watershed Council has identified sections of Millers Creek as highly degraded. The resulting impacts on Millers Creek have been well documented in the following report http://apache.mtri.org/aamillerscreek/Findings.htm. This study was done in 2004. Clearly the watershed has changed much since then and we do not have a complete up-to-date understanding of these impacts on Millers Creek. This lack of information should be addressed by the UM, by asking for more information about the cumulative impact of their construction activities, including recent projects such as MCity.
- Water inundation risks in residential area: This facility is located right next to a large residential area. There are several residences that are located south (and downstream) of this facility (see Appendix A). Given this, I am concerned about the additional runoff from this site, including whether the stormwater discharges or excess water runoff will impact surrounding residences. For example, although the permit indicates that there is a creek south of Hubbard Road, the UM does not think its activities will impact flow in this creek. I don’t think this has been adequately demonstrated, as additional runoff from this lot will likely drain to this regulated creek, which means higher flows will occur in the downstream areas, along residential sites.
- Location of facility in residential area: Although the UM is not required to follow city zoning ordinances, this location is in a neighborhood and is not suitable for heavy industrial operations (for local zoning that demonstrates residential nature of area see https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=zEcTJfZ05EeQ.kpu66J7Ln1tk). There are numerous residential areas north, east, and south of the proposed site (https://nea2ccdotorg.wordpress.com/2016/03/11/this-hits-home/).
- Lack of full consideration of multiple other sites that are located in more industrial locations: The UM owns a substantial amount of property in Ann Arbor (http://blog.mlive.com/annarbornews_impact/2009/01/011109umproperty.png). To adhere to the intent of the Clean Water Act, I ask the MDEQ to require the UM to look at several other viable properties, especially ones that do not have so many wetlands or streams located on the site. Ideally, UM should compare this permit with a site that is already located in a more industrial or commercial area of Ann Arbor (for example along State Street, south of the Athletic Campus).
- Incomplete permit application: I noted some points of confusion or inconsistencies in this permit request that should be addressed by the UM. These are as follows:
- ECT wetland delineation report: I note the following issues with this report:
- Wetland naming and labelling convention: Throughout the report, the existing wetlands are both referred to using numbers and alphabetical labels. I found this confusing and as a result I was not able to adequately understand some of the key points of the report. For example, Table 4.1 uses numbers to reference the wetlands. The following paragraphs, however, refer to Wetlands C, D, and E. These references do not match up. This problem continues with the photographs of the wetlands, as the labels do not match up.
- Wetland #27 is missing from the map: In the report, ECT mentions Wetland 27 that is on the site and a regulated wetland. On the map of the site, however, this wetland does not appear. Instead there is a point I. This point I is referenced in the wetland determination sheet but is not discussed elsewhere in the report. I found this confusing and it limited my ability to understand this report.
- UM Permit: I noticed the following issues with the UM permit:
- Incomplete listing of adjoining lots: The UM permit identifies seven “adjoining lots” to the proposed bus facility. For example, the permit identifies 3534 Frederick Drive, but not 3535 Frederick Drive, which is also directly across from the proposed bus lot. In addition, the UM did not identify the Green Baxter Court residences that are just north of this proposed facility (see Appendix B). This is a Section 8 Public Housing Unit that is home to approximately 23 families and 30 children. Please consider whether this residence is also an adjoining lot directly to the north of the facility (and is comparable to the USGS GLSC lab located across Hubbard to the south). These families should also be able to hear about and comment on this permit.
- Inconsistent number of buses: In this report, the UM identifies that the facility will house approximately 50 buses. In other documents, the UM has specified that it owns and uses approximately 60 buses. I would like confirmation from the UM about the exact number of buses that will be housed at this location as well as an estimate of how or whether this number will change in the next 5 years.
Thank you for your time. I appreciate the opportunity to voice my concerns about this permit application.