Early Notice and Public Review of a Proposed Activity, Forty-Fort, PA

To all interested floodplain residents of Forty-Fort, residents of Luzerne County, elected officials, agencies, groups, and individuals:

This document is to give notice that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) – Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) as guided by Executive Order 13690 Establishing a Federal Flood Risk Management Standard (FFRMS) and a Process for Further Soliciting and Considering Stakeholder Input and Executive Order 11988, Floodplain Management, as amended, has identified that the following Proposed Action is located within the 100-year floodplain. Additionally, ICE has identified and evaluated practicable alternatives to locating the action in the floodplain and the potential impacts on the floodplain from the proposed action, discussed further below. This public notice will be posted online.

Proposed Action

ICE is proposing to lease office space, complete interior construction, and install an electronic security system (ESS) at the existing building located at 1989 Wyoming Avenue, Forty-Fort, PA 18704. The property is located in a suburban area of Luzerne County, PA. The purpose of the project is to provide staff adequate office space that meets security requirements in support of the HSI mission in Pennsylvania. The proposed interior construction of the space would include constructing new walls to subdivide the space and create an office, storage room, and conference room. Additionally, office subdividing partitions will be installed, along with a new kitchenette. New carpeting, doors, windows, and light fixtures will also be installed. Finally, the leased space will be painted. The lease footprint in the building would be approximately 1,800 square feet.

Utilizing the Climate Informed Science Approach of the FFRMS, along with Federal Emergency Management Agency floodplain maps and National Flood Hazard Layer Flood Insurance Rate maps, ICE identified that the Proposed Action would be located within the 100-year floodplain, within the AE zone (designated as a high-risk flood zone). The limit of disturbance for the Proposed Action in its entirety is limited to 1,800 square feet within the existing footprint of the building, all of which is located in the 100-year floodplain. The floodplain is already permanently impacted by the existing building and adjacent parking lot.

Lease execution, project construction, and installation of the ESS would occur within the existing facility and is not anticipated to impact site topography and floodwater conveyance and storage on the project site. No ground disturbing activities are anticipated; therefore, no grading would be required and erosion and sedimentation would not be anticipated. There were no wetlands identified within the vicinity and surrounding area of the project. ICE would obtain all applicable local, state, and federal permits as necessary.

Based on an Information Planning and Consultation Review of the Project area, ICE identified the endangered Indiana Bat and the Northern Long-eared Bat as potentially within the local area and in the vicinity of the Project area, along with the Tricolored Bat, the Green Floater Clam, and the Monarch Butterfly, which are proposed-endangered, proposed-threatened, and candidate species, respectively. However, as stated previously, the Proposed Action is located in a previously disturbed area within an existing building. Therefore, ICE has determined that the project would have no effect on any of these endangered, threatened, or candidate species. There are no critical habitats in the vicinity of the Project area. Additional consultation under Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is not required. No negative impacts to recreational or educational values of the floodplain are anticipated to occur.

Alternatives

The entirety of the property is within the AE flood zone, therefore there are no practical site alternatives that would be more suitable for execution of the lease, interior construction, and installation of the ESS, when regarding the 100-year floodplain. As stated previously, the Proposed Action (which is the Preferred Alternative) would not impact the floodplain. The Proposed Action is confined to the previously disturbed area of the constructed building, therefore any further flood risk to federal assets is minimal. Under the No Action Alternative, the current land use within the area of the Proposed Action (an existing building) would continue, and no construction, lease execution, or ESS installation would occur. There would be no impacts to the floodplain or to the environment, however the purpose and need for the Proposed Action would not be satisfied. Therefore, ICE has eliminated the No Action Alternative from consideration.

There are three primary purposes for this notice. First, people who may be affected by activities in floodplains and those who have an interest in the protection of the natural environment should be given an opportunity to express their concerns and provide information about these areas. Second, an adequate public notice program can be an important public educational tool. The dissemination of information about floodplains can facilitate and enhance Federal efforts to reduce the risks associated with the occupancy and modification of these special areas. Third, as a matter of fairness, when the Federal government determines it will participate in actions taking place in floodplains, it must inform those who may be put at greater or continued risk.

Any individual, group, or agency wishing to comment on the project may do so via email at icesustainability@ice.dhs.gov. Comments must be received by the Department of Homeland Security on or before January 10, 2024. This notice is posted on the DHS NEPA website and will remain online through the duration of the comment period.

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