Do you know that the Old Reedy Creek Road through Umstead State Park serves as the “spine” for two state trail networks?
Riding the trail on bicycle west to east between the Bull Durham Stadium and the Neuse River Trail on the NC Bikeway #2 on the (Mountains to Sea) Route or south to north from Sanford to the Virginia Border near Kerr Lake on the NC Bikeway #1 (East Coast Greenway), you travel through urban, suburban, and rural environments connecting many municipal and County parks and several downtown business districts. In addition, the trail provides users with the opportunity to access hundreds of acres of public open space in the triangle area including the Cities of Durham, Morrisville, Cary, Raleigh. The benefits of the trail to the local economy and the improved health of our residents is enormous.
How many federal, state and local dollars have been invested in grants for construction of these trails? How is it possible that all this is at risk for a private rock quarry on public land managed by RDU Airport Authority?
How will the RDU Airport Authority lease of the Odd Fellows Tract to Wake Stone Corporation for open pit mining quarry impact this critical multi-modal infrastructure?
The proposed Wake Stone Quarry Expansion will be directly impacting the East Coast Greenway and US Bicycle Route 1 as both of those segments route through the Old Reedy Creek Road/Trail along side the proposed expansion of the open pit mining site. This trail will be impacted by two driveways into the industrial site during the construction phase that will be used by logging trucks and bridge building equipment.
Here is the NC-DOT website that describes the NC DOT Bicycle Route 1, of which the Old Reedy Creek Road is a critical segment thru Umstead State park.
US 1 - Carolina Connection
Designated as a portion of US Bike Route 1, which runs from Maine to Florida, this route covers almost 200 miles of…
Here is the NC-DOT website that describes the NC DOT Bicycle Route 2.
The following East Coast Greenway Impact Report quantifies the impact of how critical this greenway is to our local economy and public health.
Old Reedy Creek Road will be used by the logging trucks to clear the 105 acres of the site, and by trucks used to build a new bridge over Crabtree Creek. This is explicitly stated in the lease agreement between Wake Stone and RDU Airport Authority.
“d) For purposes of conducting Lessee’s due diligence, including testing and exploratory operations, during the Option/Testing Period, and timber removal upon execution of the Minderal Lease until construction by the Lessee of the bridge across Crabtree Creek is complete and operational, Lessee may use Reedy Creek Road to access the Premises. Thereafter Lessee will not use Reedy Creek Road as a primary access point to the Premises and will not haul quarry or excavated or mined materials over this road.”
The berms that will be placed along Old Reedy Creek Road/Trail will not prevent air pollution in the form of particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10) from the quarry blasting and drilling to choke the lungs and impair the health of the people that use this trail.
The Old Reedy Creek Road is a gravel multi-use protected greenway that has been used by thousands of recreational users each day. The road/trail has been in place longer than the existence of RDU Airport. The trail and the single lane bridge that leads to the trail are not built to withstand hauling timber trucks, or bridge building equipment.
The fact that this is a gravel road also means that futigive dust emissions will be high as the trucks go by at high speeds. Children ride their bicycles on this trail, as it is a protected greenway. Will NC-DOT be providing a permit for Wake Stone Quarry to close the trail? Has NC-DOT provided permits to Wake Stone Quarry for the new driveways that have been created on this road into the property?
I believe that the placement of the proposed quarry expansion adjacent to the Old Reedy Creek Road/Trail should make the project subject to determination by NC-DOT under 4(f).
Expanding the quarry on to public land that is managed by RDU Airport Authority that has been historically used by the boy scouts will reduce the safety of multi-modal bicycle, walking, running, equestrian users of the Old Reedy Creek Trail as it is located at the West Entrance into Umstead State park that many people depend on, as part of the East Coast Greenway and NC-Bikeway #1. Quarry operations will generate additional noise, water and air pollution, which will make it less safe for recreational users of this critical trail. Truck traffic over the I-40 bridge at Old Reedy Creek Road, and over the single land bridge over Crabtree Creek will also make these primary multi-modal facilities unsafe for the recreational users of these bridges.
In the Draft EIS for Airport Expansion and Improvements, Raleigh Durham Airport, dated March, 1977 (stamped by the FAA), it states that the plans for 1977 Airport expansion would not adversely impact the recreation facility on the Odd Fellows Tract. see Part VI: Environmental Impact Assessment Report, page 95
“A recreation area under the jurisdiction of the Odd Fellows Club of Raleigh is located adjacent to the proposed project site, south of Umstead State Park and west of Crabtree Creek. The area contains a picnic shelter and a small lake, and is used for monthly club activities. This recreation facility will not be adversely affected by airport expansion.”
Reviewing the FAA rules, I believe that the proposed development of the Odd Fellows Tract should be subject to NEPA or NCEPA review due to the EXTRAORDINARY CIRCUMSTANCES of this case, that I have highlighted below.
The requirements in this Order apply to, but are not limited to, the following actions: grants, loans, contracts, leases, construction and installation actions, procedural actions, research activities, rulemaking and regulatory actions, certifications, licensing, permits, plans submitted to the FAA by state and local agencies for approval, and legislation proposed by the FAA
5- 6.1. Categorical Exclusions for Administrative/General Actions. This category includes the list of CATEXs for FAA actions that are administrative or general in nature. An action included within this list of categorically excluded actions is not automatically exempted from environmental review under NEPA. The responsible FAA official must also review Paragraph 5–2, Extraordinary Circumstances, before deciding to categorically exclude a proposed action.
b. Release of an airport sponsor from Federal obligations incurred when the sponsor accepted: (1) an Airport Improvement Grant; or (2) Federal surplus property for airport purposes. (NOTE: FAA consent to long-term leases (i.e., those exceeding 20 years) converting airport-dedicated property to non-aeronautical, revenue-producing purposes (e.g., convenience concessions such as food or personal services) has the same effect as a release and is part of this CATEX provided that the proposed and reasonably foreseeable uses of the property do not trigger extraordinary circumstances as described in Paragraph5- 2, Extraordinary Circumstances). (ARP, AST)
5- 6.3. Categorical Exclusions for Equipment and Instrumentation. This category includes the list of CATEXs for FAA actions involving installation, repair, or upgrade of equipment or instruments necessary for operations and safety.An action included within this list of categorically excluded actions is not automatically exempted from environmental review under NEPA. The responsible FAA official must also review Paragraph 5–2, Extraordinary Circumstances, before deciding to categorically exclude a proposed action.
Paragraph 5–2, Extraordinary Circumstances
Circumstances. An extraordinary circumstance exists if a proposed action involves any of the following circumstances and has the potential for a significant impact:
(1) An adverse effect on cultural resources protected under the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, as amended, 54 U.S.C. §300101 et seq.;
(2) An impact on properties protected under Section 4(f);
(3) An impact on natural, ecological, or scenic resources of Federal, state, tribal, or local significance (e.g., federally listed or proposed endangered, threatened, or candidate species, or designated or proposed critical habitat under the Endangered Species Act, 16 U.S.C. §§ 1531–1544);
(4) An impact on the following resources: resources protected by the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act, 16 U.S.C. §§ 661–667d; wetlands; floodplains; coastal zones; national marine sanctuaries; wilderness areas; National Resource Conservation Service-designated prime and unique farmlands; energy supply and natural resources; resources protected under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, 16 U.S.C. §§ 1271–1287, and rivers or river segments listed on the Nationwide Rivers Inventory (NRI); and solid waste management;
(5) A division or disruption of an established community, or a disruption of orderly, planned development, or an inconsistency with plans or goals that have been adopted by the community in which the project is located;
(6) An increase in congestion from surface transportation (by causing decrease in level of service below acceptable levels determined by appropriate transportation agency, such as a highway agency);
(7) An impact on noise levels of noise sensitive areas;
(8) An impact on air quality or violation of Federal, state, tribal, or local air quality standards under the Clean Air Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 7401–7671q;
(9) An impact on water quality, sole source aquifers, a public water supply system, or state or tribal water quality standards established under the Clean Water Act, 33 U.S.C. §§ 1251–1387, and the Safe Drinking Water Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 300f-300j-26;
(10) Impacts on the quality of the human environment that are likely to be highly controversial on environmental grounds. The term “highly controversial on environmental grounds” means there is a substantial dispute involving reasonable disagreement over the degree, extent, or nature of a proposed action’s environmental impacts or over the action’s risks of causing environmental harm. Mere opposition is not sufficient for a proposed action or its impacts to be considered highly controversial on environmental grounds. Opposition on environmental grounds by a Federal, state, or local government agency or by a tribe or a substantial number of the persons affected by the action should be considered in determining whether or not reasonable disagreement regarding the impacts of a proposed action exists. If in doubt about whether a proposed action is highly controversial on environmental grounds, consult the LOB/SO’s headquarters environmental division, AEE, Regional Counsel, or AGC for assistance;
(11) Likelihood to be inconsistent with any Federal, state, tribal, or local law relating to the environmental aspects of the proposed action; or
(12) Likelihood to directly, indirectly, or cumulatively create a significant impact on the human environment, including, but not limited to, actions likely to cause a significant lighting impact on residential areas or commercial use of business properties, likely to cause a significant impact on the visual nature of surrounding land uses, likely to cause environmental contamination by hazardous materials, or likely to disturb an existing hazardous material contamination site such that new environmental contamination risks are created
Page 120 also has something that can apply, as the proposed 12 million dollar fencing project by RDU Airport Authority would sever the NC-DOT US-1 Bikeway (Old Reedy Creek Road) and will harm Umstead State Park.
B-2. Section 4(f), 49 U.S.C. § 303 Section 4(f) of the U.S. Department of Transportation Act of 1966 (now codified at 49 U.S.C. § 303) protects significant publicly owned parks, recreational areas, wildlife and waterfowl refuges, and public and private historic sites. Section 4(f) provides that the Secretary of Transportation may approve a transportation program or project that requires the use of any publicly owned land from a public park, recreation area, or wildlife or waterfowl refuge of national, state, or local significance, or land from any publicly or privately owned historic site of national, state, or local significance, only if there is no feasible and prudent alternative to the use of such land and the program or project includes all possible planning to minimize harm resulting from the use.
B-2.1. Affected Environment.The FAA should identify as early as practicable in the planning process section 4(f) properties that implementation of the proposed action and alternative(s) could affect.
RDU AA, FAA, NC-DOT, and NC DEQ do not appear to understand the significance of Umstead State Park and the importance of protecting the existing wildlife and recreational corridors that will be impacted by leasing airport land to a private quarry for an open pit mining operation.
If you haven’t had a chance to listen to the first portion of the public hearing held by the NC DEQ, here is the link.
If you would like to understand the concerns of the recreational community that use the Old Reedy Creek Road, you please review the results of the survey of trail users. This survey was distributed to trail users over a 2 week period in the middle of a pandemic. It was distributed via QR code to people on the trail while I rode my bike and wore a mask.
The second day of the public hearing will be held on July 7 at 9 am. More information is available from NC DEQ page
There is also information on the Umstead Coalition website.