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Title 7Subtitle BChapter VISubchapter FPart 650 → Subpart B


Title 7: Agriculture
PART 650—COMPLIANCE WITH NEPA


Subpart B—Related Environmental Concerns


Contents
§650.20   Reviewing and commenting on EIS's prepared by other agencies.
§650.21   Working relations with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and related State environmental agencies.
§650.22   Rare, threatened, and endangered species of plants and animals.
§650.23   Natural areas.
§650.24   Scenic beauty (visual resource).
§650.25   Flood-plain management.

Authority: Pub. L. 86-523, 74 Stat. 220 as amended, Pub. L. 93-291, 88 Stat. 174 (16 U.S.C. 469); Pub. L. 89-665, 80 Stat. 915 (16 U.S.C. 470); Pub. L. 93-205, 87 Stat. 884 (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.); Secretary of Agriculture Memorandum 1695, May 28, 1970; 42 U.S.C. 4332(2)(C); E.O. 11514, 16 U.S.C. 1001-1008; 7 U.S.C. 1010-1011; 16 U.S.C. 590 a-f, q; 7 CFR 2.62.

Source: 39 FR 43993, Dec. 20, 1974, unless otherwise noted.

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§650.20   Reviewing and commenting on EIS's prepared by other agencies.

(a) NRCS employees assigned to review and comment on EIS's prepared by other agencies are to be familiar with NRCS policies and guidelines contained in this part, and NEPA.

(b) EIS's received for review by NRCS for which NRCS has expertise or interest shall be responded to promptly. Comments are to be objective with the intent to offer suggestions to help minimize adverse impacts of the proposed action to ensure the health and welfare of the agricultural community. Comments are to be based on knowledge readily available. Field office technical guides, soil surveys, field investigation reports, and other resource data and reference materials developed by NRCS and other agencies should be used and cited. It is not intended that special surveys or investigations be conducted to acquire additional information for use in preparing comments.

(c) The NRCS reviewer should consider the following kinds of concerns—(1) The suitability or limitations of the soils for the proposed action. Would an alternative route, location, or layout minimize land use problems and adverse environmental impacts?

(2) Provisions for control of erosion and management of water during construction. Are there resources downstream that would be affected by sediment from the construction area, and does the statement provide for adequate control measures? Will lack of erosion control cause air pollution? Is the stockpiling of topsoil for future use considered in the EIS?

(3) Provisions for soil and water conservation management measures on project lands, rights-of-way, access roads, and borrow areas. Does the statement indicate that enduring soil and water practices are to be installed and maintained?

(4) The effect of water discharges from project lands or rights-of-way onto other properties. Will discharges cause erosion or flooding on other lands? Will discharges affect water quality?

(5) The effects of disruption of the natural drainage patterns and severance of private land units. Does the statement indicate that natural drainage patterns will be maintained? Will bridges, culverts, and other water control structures be located to ensure that adjacent lands are not flooded or otherwise restricted in use? Does the EIS describe the effects of severance on private land ownerships?

(6) The impact on existing soil and water conservation management systems. To what extent will conservation systems be altered, severed, or suffer blocked outlets? Will land use or cover be affected?

(7) Impacts on prime and unique farmland. Would an alternative location or route require less prime farmland? Does the EIS consider secondary effects on prime farmland? What benefits are foregone if prime farmland is taken?

(8) Impacts on ecosystems. Does the EIS describe impacts on major plant communities, and terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems?

(9) Impacts on NRCS-assisted projects. Does the statement reflect the effect of the proposed action on present or planned NRCS assisted projects?

(d) EIS's referred to NRCS for departmental comments. EIS's referred by the USDA Coordinator for Environmental Quality Activities to the NRCS national office may designate NRCS as the lead agency for preparing comments for USDA. In this case, the NRCS national office determines whether inputs from STC's and other USDA agencies are needed. If so, STC's and other USDA agencies are requested to forward comments to the Environmental Services Division fo use in preparing the USDA response.

(e) EIS's referred to NRCS for agency comments. EIS's received by the NRCS national office are screened by the Director, Environmental Services Division to determine which office within NRCS will prepare comments. If the proposed action is within one State, the draft EIS will be forwarded to the appropriate STC and he will reply directly to the agency requesting the comments. If the proposed action involves more than one State, one STC will be designated to forward NRCS comments directly to the agency requesting the comments. In some cases, the action may be national or regional in scope, and require inputs from several offices within NRCS. In this instance, comments will be assembled in the Environmental Services Division for preparation of a response to the agency requesting comments. A copy of each response prepared by a STC should be sent to the Director, Environmental Services Division.

(f) EIS's sent to NRCS offices other than the national office. If a STC receives an EIS from another agency, he is to respond to the initiating agency. A copy of his comments should be sent to the Director, Environmental Services Division.

(1) EIS's addressed to NRCS area or field offices. If an EIS is received by a field or area office of NRCS, the STC will coordinate the response.

(2) EIS's submitted to conservation districts. NRCS may furnish needed soil, water, and related resource information to the district for their use in preparing comments.

(g) Distribution of NRCS comments on other agencies' draft EIS's. Five copies of review comments made by NRCS on draft EIS's prepared by other Federal agencies are to be sent to CEQ.

(h) Third party requests for a copy of NRCS comments on another agency's EIS will be filled after NRCS has forwarded copies of its letter of comments to CEQ.

[42 FR 40118, Aug. 8, 1977]

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§650.21   Working relations with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and related State environmental agencies.

(a) Background. The authorities and missions of NRCS, EPA, and state environmental agencies make it imperative that an effective cooperative and coordinative working relationship be developed and maintained in areas of mutual concern. These common areas include air quality, water quality, pesticides, waste recycling and disposal, environmental considerations in land use, Environmental Impact Statements (EIS's) and environmental considerations in the conservation and development of natural resources.

(b) Policy. NRCS will work closely with EPA in accordance with the provisions of the EPA-USDA Memorandum of Understanding July 31, 1974, at all administrative levels and with related state agencies to meet statutory requirements and to achieve harmonious implementation of all actions of mutual concern directed to improving or maintaining the quality of the environment.

(c) Responsibility—(1) NRCS national office. The Deputy Administrator for Field Services is responsible for overall coordination with EPA at the national office level. The Deputy Administrator for Water Resources is responsible for contacts with EPA in relation to activities of the Water Resources Council on water and related land resource planning and for coordinating work with EPA on EIS development.

(2) Technical service center. The TSC director is responsible for contacts and coordination with EPA regional offices within the group of states served by the TSC.

(3) NRCS state office. The state conservationist is responsible for contacts and coordination with regional representatives of EPA and state environmental agencies in matters of mutual concern within his state.

(d) Coordination and implementation. (1) The NRCS national office will:

(i) Within the framework of USDA agreements and guidelines, develop agreements for undertaking specific activities or projects of national significance and mutual advantage.

(ii) Assist EPA as requested in developing EPA policy, guidelines, and standards.

(iii) Consider EPA needs in soil survey and land, inventory, and monitoring activities.

(iv) Maintain needed liaison and develop mutual guidelines with EPA on water resources work and in coordinating EIS's.

(v) Advise EPA regarding soils, plant materials, and soil and water conservation techniques.

(vi) Establish procedures for periodic review of NRCS national standards for treatment systems and practices for agricultural pollution abatement, including wind and water erosion and sediment control, transport of pesticides, organic matter and fertilizers, and burning of residues or clearing debris.

(2) The TSC director will:

(i) Within the framework of NRCS memorandums and guidelines coordinate with the EPA regional administrator(s) the development of needed agreements for undertaking specific activities or projects of multistate significance and mutual advantage.

(3) The state conservationist will:

(i) Obtain early input of EPA and interested state and local environmental agencies in the planning process for projects or measures within the state impacting on the environment.

(ii) Coordinate preparations of NRCS practice standards and procedures for agricultural pollution abatement within the state with EPA and related state agencies.

(iii) Encourage the development of a coordinated review and approval process within the state with EPA and appropriate state and local agencies including conservation districts for actions of mutual concern.

(iv) Attempt to resolve all EPA areas of concern on NRCS assisted project-type actions within the state before a final EIS is prepared.

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§650.22   Rare, threatened, and endangered species of plants and animals.

(a) Background. (1) A variety of plant and animal species of the United States are so reduced in numbers that they are threatened with extinction. The disappearance of any of these would be a biological, cultural, and in some instances an economic loss. Their existence contributes to scientific knowledge and understanding, and their presence adds interest and variety to life.

(2) The principal hazard to threatened and endangered species is the destruction or deterioration of their habitats by human activities such as industrialization, urbanization, agriculture, lumbering, recreation, and transportation. These activities of man will continue but the necessity of recognizing their adverse impacts and selecting alternatives that minimize or eliminate such impacts on threatened and endangered species is imperative.

(3) The Endangered Species Act of 1973 (Pub. L. 93-205, 87 Stat. 884 (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.)) provides a means whereby the ecosystems upon which endangered and threatened species depend may be maintained and a program for the conservation of such species. The Act also provides that, in addition to the Department of the Interior, “All other federal departments and agencies shall, in consultation with and with the assistance of the Secretary (of Interior), utilize their authorities for the conservation of endangered species and threatened species listed pursuant to section 4 of this Act and by taking such action necessary to insure that actions authorized, funded, or carried out by them do not jeopardize the continued existence of such endangered species and threatened species or result in the destruction or modification of habitat of such species which is determined by the Secretary, after consultation as appropriate with the affected states, to be critical.” The Act also:

(i) Defines endangered species as any species in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range and threatened species as any species likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range. The Act uses the category “threatened.” The term “rare” is not used.

(ii) Further defines species as including any subspecies of fish or wildlife or plants and any other group of fish and wildlife of the same species or smaller taxa in common spatial arrangements that interbreed when mature.

(iii) Provides for the Secretary of the Interior to enter into cooperative agreements with states for the purpose of implementing state programs for the conservation of endangered and threatened fish and wildlife. This assistance may include financial grants.

(iv) Provides national lists of endangered and threatened animal and plant species to be maintained by the Secretary of the Interior and published in the Federal Register. When resident fish and wildlife are added to the list, the affected states are to be consulted by the Secretary. The Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution is preparing a list of endangered or threatened plant species.

(b) Policy. The Act gives NRCS additional direction for participation in the conservation and protection of endangered and threatened species. As the principal federal agency concerned with land use planning of privately owned rural land and with professional conservation employees headquartered in almost every county, NRCS is uniquely capable of playing a vital role. Additional training will be provided as needed to meet NRCS responsibilities. NRCS will assist in the conservation of threatened and endangered species and consistent with legal requirements avoid or prevent activities detrimental to such species. NRCS concern for these species will not be limited to those listed by the Secretary of the Interior and published in the Federal Register, but will include species designated by state agencies as rare, threatened, endangered, etc.

(c) Responsibility—(1) NRCS national office. The Administrator will arrange for consultation and coordination of NRCS national office activities with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, other federal agencies, and national organizations.

(2) Technical service center. The TSC director will, within the group of states served by the TSC arrange for consultation and coordination with regional representatives of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, other Federal agencies, and national and regional organizations.

(3) NRCS state office. The state conservationist will arrange for consultation and coordination with the state fish and game or conservation agency, other state agencies, state organizations and foundations, conservation districts, and state representatives of federal agencies and national organizations.

(d) Coordination and implementation. (1) The NRCS national office will:

(i) Within the framework of national legislation, USDA agreements, and NRCS objectives, develop NRCS policies and directives for guiding agency efforts that will protect threatened and endangered species and for avoiding actions that jeopardize the continued existence of such species and their critical habitats.

(ii) Maintain needed liaison and develop mutual understanding with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other concerned federal agencies.

(iii) Establish procedures for periodic review of NRCS participation in the national effort to conserve these species.

(2) The TSC director will: (i) Within the framework of NRCS policies and guidelines, arrange for needed liaison and understanding with regional counterparts of other federal agencies within the group of states served by the TSC and keep state conservationists informed of developments within such states.

(ii) Provide guidance and assistance to state conservationists in carrying out NRCS policies and guidelines.

(3) The state conservationist will develop procedures to establish working relationships with other concerned federal agencies, state fish and wildlife or conservation agencies, conservation districts, concerned scientists in state university systems and natural history museums, and other informed persons and organizations to offer assistance in:

(i) Preparing or maintaining lists of the state's threatened and endangered species.

(ii) Determining the geographic occurrence of endangered and threatened species, the nature of their habitat, and that portion of the habitat that is critical to the survival, maintenance, or increase of these species.

(iii) Discussing the kinds of measures important to preserve their habitat.

(iv) A monitoring program that would obtain advanced warning of actions or conditions that could further endanger these species, thereby enabling NRCS and others to take appropriate protective action.

(v) Assisting recovery teams, as appropriate, in preparing species recovery plans of those endangered and threatened species included in Federal lists.

(4) The state conservationist will also:

(i) Keep NRCS area and field offices informed of species listed as being threatened or endangered, geographic area in which they are found, and information such as their numbers, preferred habitat, and critical factors.

(ii) Review the status of threatened and endangered species each December and send a report of the review to the Administrator.

(5) NRCS district conservationists within the geographic range of threatened and endangered species will examine conservation district programs and NRCS operations to evaluate their effects on these species, and recommend to district officials and the state conservationist any action needed for their protection.

(6) NRCS field employees within the geographic range of threatened and endangered species will be continually alert to conditions, actions, or trends that may adversely affect the welfare of these species and report adverse situations to the state conservationist.

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§650.23   Natural areas.

(a) Background. (1) Natural areas are defined as land or water units where natural conditions are maintained insofar as possible. Natural conditions usually result from allowing ordinary physical and biological processes to operate with a minimum of human intervention. Manipulations may be required on natural areas to maintain or restore features that the areas were established to protect.

(2) Natural areas may be designated areas of Federal, non-Federal government, or privately controlled land. Designation may be formal as provided for under federal regulations for areas of federal land to be administered as natural areas or by foundations or conservation organizations specifically created to acquire and maintain natural areas. Designation may be informal in the case of private landowners who designate a specific area as a natural area and manage it accordingly. Several professional societies concerned with renewable natural resources encourage establishment of natural areas withdrawn from economic uses and recognition of natural areas maintained and managed in economic enterprises.

(3) Natural areas are established and maintained for a variety of purposes including:

(i) Furthering science and education. Natural areas provide sites for research and outdoor classrooms for study of plant and animal communities in environments with particular ecological conditions.

(ii) Monitoring the surrounding environment. Natural areas serve as gauges against which to evaluate changes in land use, vegetation, animal life, air quality, or other environmental values.

(iii) Providing recreation attractions. Natural areas are valued by many people for their scenic, wild, and undisturbed character but must be protected, as needed, to prevent disturbance or alteration of the resources.

(iv) Preserving unique values. Natural areas may be established to protect scenic, biologic, geologic, or paleontologic features.

(v) Serving as a genetic base for native plants and animals. Natural areas may be established to preserve examples of land and water ecosystems with their full range of genetic diversity of native plants and animals including threatened and endangered species.

(b) Policy. NRCS will recognize natural areas, if so dedicated, as a land use, and will support the designation of appropriate natural areas.

(c) Responsibility—(1) NRCS national office. The Administrator will designate a member of the national office staff to act as NRCS representative on the Federal Committee for Ecological Preserves and to provide appropriate liaison with other federal agencies and non-Federal groups concerned with natural areas.

(2) Technical service center. The TSC director will designate a TSC plant sciences discipline leader to provide leadership, appropriate liaison, and assistance on natural areas to NRCS state offices.

(3) NRCS state office. The state conservationist will designate an appropriate NRCS representative to work with other agencies and groups, and will coordinate assistance on natural areas needed by area and field offices.

(d) Coordination and implementation. (1) NRCS technical assistance will be furnished to representatives of administering agencies, foundations, groups, and individuals when requested through conservation districts. Conservation district officers will be encouraged to recognize appropriate natural areas concepts and programs and to participate in them.

(2) NRCS employees will report to state conservationists abuses and potential or actual damages to natural areas that may be found in the course of ordinary business.

(3) NRCS will cooperate with professional societies, groups, and individuals in locating areas suitable for and needed as natural areas.

(4) NRCS employees providing technical assistance to land users must inform them about the impact their decisions may have on adjacent or nearby natural areas. Land users will be encouraged to consult with concerned agencies, societies, and individuals to arrive at mutually satisfactory land use and treatment.

(5) Recommended classification systems for characterizing areas designated as ecological preserves or as natural areas are contained in the following publications:

Soil Taxonomy, a Basic System of Soil Classification for Making and Interpreting Soil Surveys, USDA-NRCS Agricultural Handbook 436.

Forest Cover Types of North America Exclusive of Mexico, Report of the Committee on Forest Cover Types, Society of American Foresters, 1964.

Potential Natural Vegetation of Conterminous United States. A. W. Kuchler, American Geographical Society Special Publication 36, 1964.

Wetlands classification described by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in its Circular 39.

NRCS will, to the extent feasible, use these classification systems when providing technical assistance on public and private natural areas and ecological preserves.

(6) The NRCS published National List of Scientific Plant Names will be used when scientific names or name symbols are needed for automatic data processing.

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§650.24   Scenic beauty (visual resource).

(a) Background. Contributions to scenic beauty are a normal product of NRCS work. Strip-cropping, field borders, field windbreaks, and ponds are examples. Emphasis is given to those soil and water conservation measures that contribute to a productive and efficient agriculture and increase the attractiveness of rural America and are in line with goals and objectives of conservation districts. This is best accomplished by considering the landscape visual resource when providing planning assistance to individual landowners, groups, units of government, and watershed and resource conservation development project sponsors. NRCS responsibilities in recreation also offer opportunities to develop the scenic beauty of the rural landscape. Department of Agriculture Secretary's Memorandum 1695, May 28, 1970, “Protecting and Improving The Quality of the Environment,” includes scenic beauty as an objective of the Department's programs.

(b) Policy. NRCS will:

(1) Provide technical assistance with full consideration of alternative management and development systems that preserve scenic beauty or improve the visual resource;

(2) Emphasize the application of conservation practices having scenic beauty or visual resource values particularly in waste management systems; field borders, field windbreaks, wetland management, access roads, critical area treatment; design and management of ponds, stream margins, odd areas, and farmsteads; siting or positioning of structures and buildings to be in harmony with the landscape while reducing the potential for erosion; using native and other adaptable plants for conservation which enhance scenic beauty and create variety while linking beauty with utility;

(3) Promote personal pride in landowners in the installation, maintenance, and appearance of conservation practices and their properties;

(4) Select suitable areas for waste products and use of screens to hide “eyesore” areas, and

(5) Encourage conservation districts to include practices which promote scenic beauty in their annual and long-range programs.

(c) Responsibility. The Natural Resources Conservation Service will provide technical assistance through conservation districts to landowners, operators, communities, and state and local governments in developing programs relating to scenic beauty.

(1) NRCS national office. The Administrator will:

(i) Assign appropriate NRCS national office leadership to insure that enhancement of scenic beauty is included in national information, policy, guidelines, standards, guides to specifications for conservation practices without impairing basic soil and water conservation functions.

(ii) Emphasize in plant material center management and in plant materials functions that locating and evaluating plants for forage, erosion control, and recreation or wildlife uses be carried out with full attention to visual resource value.

(2) NRCS state office. The state conservationist will:

(i) Assign appropriate staff member(s) to provide leadership in carrying out scenic beauty policy and procedure within the state.

(ii) Develop and keep current a landscape management plan to improve and maintain the appearance of all real properties under NRCS control, and provide appropriate assistance to owners and managers of properties leased or rented by NRCS.

(iii) Give emphasis to preserving scenic beauty and contributing to the visual resource in the NRCS information program whenever opportunities exist.

(d) Coordination and implementation. (1) The governing body of each conservation district will be encouraged to revise or update its district program to appropriately provide for beautification of the countryside through applicable land use changes and effective soil and water conservation treatment.

(2) In providing assistance to watershed and resource conservation and development project sponsors and other resource planning groups for soil, water, and related resources, emphasis will be given to measures that preserve natural beauty or contribute to the quality of the visual resource.

(3) Local organizations and groups interested in scenic beauty will be contacted and consulted for cooperation in and coordination with NRCS and conservation district efforts.

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§650.25   Flood-plain management.

Through proper planning, flood plains can be managed to reduce the threat to human life, health, and property in ways that are environmentally sensitive. Most flood plains are valuable for maintaining agricultural and forest products for food and fiber, fish and wildlife habitat, temporary floodwater storage, park and recreation areas, and for maintaining and improving environmental values. NRCS technical and financial assistance is provided to land users primarily on non-Federal land through local conservation districts and other State and local agencies. Through its programs, NRCS encourages sound flood-plain management decisions by land users.

(a) Policy—(1) General. NRCS provides leadership and takes action, where practicable, to conserve, preserve, and restore existing natural and beneficial values in base (100-year) flood plains as part of technical and financial assistance in the programs it administers. In addition, 500-year flood plains are taken into account where there are “critical actions” such as schools, hospitals, nursing homes, utilities, and facilities producing or storing volatile, toxic, or water-reactive materials.

(2) Technical assistance. NRCS provides leadership, through consultation and advice to conservation districts and land users, in the wise use, conservation, and preservation of all land, including flood plains. Handbooks, manuals, and internal memoranda set forth specific planning criteria for addressing flood-plain management in NRCS-assisted programs. The general procedures and guidelines in this part comply with Executive Order (E.O.) 11988, Floodplain Management, dated May 24, 1977, and are consistent with the Water Resources Council's Unified National Program for Floodplain Management.

(3) Compatible land uses. The NRCS Administrator has determined that providing technical and financial assistance for the following land uses is compatible with E.O. 11988:

(i) Agricultural flood plains that have been used for producing food, feed, forage, fiber, or oilseed for at least 3 of the 5 years before the request for assistance; and

(ii) Agricultural production in accordance with official State or designated area water-quality plans.

(4) Nonproject technical and financial assistance programs. The NRCS Administrator has determined that NRCS may not provide technical and financial assistance to land users if the results of such assisted actions are likely to have significant adverse effects on existing natural and beneficial values in the base flood plain and if NRCS determines that there are practicable alternatives outside the base flood plain. NRCS will make a case-by-case decision on whether to limit assistance whenever a land user proposes converting existing agricultural land to a significantly more intensive agricultural use that could have significant adverse effects on the natural and beneficial values or increase flood risk in the base flood plain. NRCS will carefully evaluate the potential extent of the adverse effects and any increased flood risk.

(5) Project technical and financial assistance programs. In planning and installing land and water resource conservation projects, NRCS will avoid to the extent possible the long and short-term adverse effects of the occupancy and modification of base flood plains. In addition, NRCS also will avoid direct or indirect support of development in the base flood plain wherever there is a practicable alternative. As such, the environmental evaluation required for each project action (§650.5 of this part) will include alternatives to avoid adverse effects and incompatible development in base flood plains. Public participation in planning is described in §650.6 of this part and will comply with section 2(a)(4) of E.O. 11988. Flood-plain management requires the integration of these concerns into NRCS's National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process for project assistance programs as described in Section 650 of this part.

(6) Real property and facilities under NRCS ownership or control. NRCS owns or controls about 30 properties that are used primarily for the evaluation and development of plant materials for erosion control and fish and wildlife habitat plantings (7 CFR Part 613, Plant Materials Centers, 16 U.S.C. 590 a-e, f, and 7 U.S.C. 1010-1011). If NRCS real properties or facilities are located in the base flood plain, NRCS will require an environmental evaluation when new structures and facilities or major modifications are proposed. If it is determined that the only practicable alternative for siting the proposed action may adversely affect the base flood plain, NRCS will design or modify its action to minimize potential harm to or within the flood plain and will prepare and circulate a notice explaining why the action is proposed to be located in the base flood plain. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) flood insurance maps, other available maps, information, or an onsite analysis will be used to determine whether the proposed NRCS action is in the base flood plain. Public participation in the action will be the same as described in §650.6 of this part.

(b) Responsibility. NRCS provides technical and financial assistance to land users primarily through conservation districts, special purpose districts, and other State or local subdivisions of State government. Acceptance of this assistance is voluntary on the part of the land user. NRCS does not have authority to make land use decisions on non-Federal land. NRCS provides the land user with technical flood hazard data and information on flood-plain natural values. NRCS informs the land user how alternative land use decisions may affect the aquatic and terrestial ecosystems, human safety, property, and public welfare. Alternatives to flood-plain occupancy, modification, and development are discussed onsite with the land user by NRCS.

(1) NRCS National Office. (§600.2 of this part). The NRCS Administrator, state conservationist, and district conservationist are the responsible Federal officials in NRCS for implementing the policies expressed in these rules. Any deviation from these rules must be approved by the Administrator. The Deputy Administrator for Programs has authority to oversee the application of policy in NRCS programs. Oversight assistance to state conservationists for flood-plain management will be provided by the NRCS technical service centers (§600.3 of this part).

(2) NRCS state offices. (§600.4 of this part). Each state conservationist is the responsible Federal official in all NRCS-assisted programs administered within the State. He or she is also responsible for administering the plant materials centers within the State. The state conservationist will assign a staff person who has basic knowledge of landforms, soils, water, and related plant and animal ecosystems to provide technical oversight to ensure that assistance to land users and project sponsors on the wise use, conservation, and preservation of flood plains is compatible with national policy. For NRCS-assisted project actions, the staff person assigned by the state conservationist will consult with the local jurisdictions, sponsoring local organizations, and land users, on the basis of an environmental evaluation, to determine what constitutes significant adverse effects or incompatible development in the base flood plain. The state conservationist is to prepare and circulate a written notice for NRCS-assisted actions for which the only practicable alternative requires siting in a base flood plain and may result in adverse effects or incompatible development. The NRCS NEPA process will be used to integrate flood-plain management into project planning and consultations on land use decisions by land users and project sponsors.

(3) NRCS field offices. The district conservationist (§600.6 of this part) is delegated the responsibility for providing technical assistance and approving financial assistance to land users in nonproject actions, where applicable, and for deciding what constitutes an adverse effect or incompatible development of a base flood plain. This assistance will be based on official NRCS policy, rules, guidelines, and procedures in NRCS handbooks, manuals, memoranda, etc. For NRCS-assisted nonproject actions, the district conservationist, on the basis of the environmental evaluation, will advise recipients of technical and financial assistance about what constitutes a significant adverse effect or incompatible development in the base flood plain.

(c) Coordination and implementation. All planning by NRCS staffs is interdisciplinary and encompasses the six NEPA policy statements, the WRC Principles and Standards, and an equivalent of the eight-step decisionmaking process in the WRC's February 1978 Floodplain Management Guidelines. NRCS internal handbooks, manuals, and memoranda provide detailed information and guidance for NRCS planning and environmental evaluation.

(1) Steps for nonproject technical and financial assistance programs. (i) NRCS assistance programs are voluntary and are carried out through local conservation districts (State entities) primarily on non-Federal, privately owned lands.

(ii) After the land user decides the type, extent, and location of the intended action for which assistance is sought, the district conservationist will determine if the intended action is in the base flood plain by using HUD flood insurance maps, and other available maps and information or by making an onsite determination of the approximate level of the 100-year flood if maps or other usable information are lacking.

(iii) If the district conservationist determines that the land user's proposed location is outside the base flood plain, and would not cause potential harm within the base flood plain, NRCS will continue to provide assistance, as needed.

(iv) If the district conservationist determines that the land user's proposed action is within the base flood plain and would likely result in adverse effects, incompatible development, or an increased flood hazard, it is the responsibility of the district conservationist to determine and point out to the land user alternative methods of achieving the objective, as well as alternative locations outside the base flood plain. If the alternative locations are determined to be impractical, the district conservationist will decide whether to continue providing assistance. If the decision is to terminate assistance for the proposed action, the land user and the local conservation district, if one exists, will be notified in writing about the decision.

(v) If the district conservationist decides to continue providing technical and financial assistance for a proposed action in the base flood plain, which is the only practicable alternative, NRCS may require that the proposed action be designed or modified so as to minimize potential harm to or within the flood plain. The district conservationist will prepare and circulate locally a written notice explaining why the action is proposed to be located in the base flood plain.

(2) Steps for project assistance programs. (i) NRCS project assistance to local sponsoring organizations (conservation districts and other legal entities of State government) and land users is carried out primarily on non-Federal land in response to requests for assistance. NRCS helps the local sponsoring organizations prepare a plan for implementing the needed resource measures.

(ii) NRCS uses an interdisciplinary environmental evaluation (§650.6 of this part) as a basis for providing recommendations and alternatives to project sponsors. Flood-plain management is an integral part of every NRCS environmental evaluation. NRCS delineates the base flood plain by using detailed HUD flood insurance maps and other available data, as appropriate, and provides recommendations to sponsors on alternatives to avoid adverse effects and incompatible development in base flood plains. NRCS will develop, as needed, detailed 100-year and 500-year flood-plain maps where there are none.

(iii) NRCS's NEPA process (part 650 of this chapter) is used to integrate the spirit and intent of E.O. 11988 Sections 2(a) and 2(c) into agency planning and recommendations for land and water use decisions by local sponsoring organizations and land users.

(iv) NRCS will terminate assistance to a local sponsoring organization in project programs if it becomes apparent that decisions by land users and local jurisdictions concerning flood-plain management would likely result in adverse effects or incompatible development and the environmental evaluation reveals that there are practicable alternatives to the proposed project that would not cause adverse effects on the base flood plain.

(v) In carrying out the planning and installation of land and water resource conservation projects, NRCS will avoid, to the extent possible, the long-term and short-term adverse effects associated with the occupancy and modification of base flood plains. In addition, NRCS will also avoid direct or indirect support of development in the base flood plain wherever there is a practicable alternative. Where appropriate, NRCS will require design modifications to minimize harm to or within the base flood plain. NRCS will provide appropriate public notice and public participation in the continuing planning process in accordance with NRCS NEPA process.

(vi) NRCS may require the local government to adopt and enforce appropriate flood plain regulations as a condition to receiving project financial assistance.

(3) Actions on property and facilities under NRCS ownership or control. For real property and facilities owned by or under the control of NRCS, the following actions will be taken:

(i) Locate new structures, facilities, etc., outside the base flood plain if there is a practicable alternate site.

(ii) Require public participation in decisions to construct structures, facilities, etc., in flood plains that might result in adverse effects and incompatible development in such areas if no practicable alternatives exist.

(iii) New construction or rehabilitation will be in accordance with the standards and criteria of the National Flood Insurance Program and will include floodproofing and other flood protection measures as appropriate.

[44 FR 44462, July 30, 1979]

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