Notice of Proposed Revisions to the National Handbook of Conservation Practices for the Natural Resources Conservation Service

 
CONTENT
Federal Register, Volume 85 Issue 57 (Tuesday, March 24, 2020)
[Federal Register Volume 85, Number 57 (Tuesday, March 24, 2020)]
[Notices]
[Pages 16607-16610]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2020-06088]
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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
Natural Resources Conservation Service
[Docket ID NRCS-2020-0001]
Notice of Proposed Revisions to the National Handbook of
Conservation Practices for the Natural Resources Conservation Service
AGENCY: Natural Resources Conservation Service, USDA.
ACTION: Notice of availability; request for comment.
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SUMMARY: The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is giving
notice that it intends to issue a series of revised conservation
practice standards in the National Handbook of Conservation Practices
(NHCP). NRCS is also giving the public an opportunity to provide
comments on specified conservation practice standards in NHCP.
DATES: We will consider comments that we receive by April 23, 2020.
ADDRESSES: We invite you to submit comments on this notice. In your
comments, include the volume, date, and page number of this issue of
the Federal Register. Comments may be submitted by any of the following
methods:
     Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to http://www.regulations.gov and search for docket ID NRCS-2020-0001. Follow the
instructions for submitting comments.
     Mail, or Hand Delivery: Mr. Bill Reck, National
Environmental Engineer, Conservation Engineering Division, U.S.
Department of Agriculture, NRCS, 1400 Independence Avenue, South
Building, Room 6136, Washington, DC 20250.
    NRCS will post all comments on http://www.regulations.gov.
    The copies of the proposed revised standards are available through
http://www.regulations.gov by accessing Docket No. NRCS-2020-0001.
Alternatively, the proposed revised standards can be downloaded or
printed from http://go.usa.gov/TXye.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. Bill Reck, (202) 720-4485; or
[email protected].
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: NRCS State Conservationists who choose to
adopt these practices in their States will incorporate these practices
into the respective electronic Field Office Technical Guide. These
practices may be used in conservation systems that treat highly
erodible land (HEL) or on land determined to be a wetland. Section 343
of the Federal Agriculture Improvement and Reform Act of 1996 requires
NRCS to make available for public review and comment all proposed
revisions to conservation practice standards used to carry out HEL and
wetland provisions of the law.
    The amount of the proposed changes varies considerably for each of
the conservation practice standards addressed in this notice. To fully
understand the proposed changes, individuals are encouraged to compare
these changes with each standard's current version, which can be found
at http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detailfull/national/technical/cp/ncps/?cid=nrcs143_026849.
    NRCS is requesting comments on the following conservation practice
standards: Access Road (Code 560); Amending Soil Properties with Gypsum
Products (Code 333); Amendments for Treatment of Agricultural Waste
(Code 591); Anionic Polyacrylamide (PAM) Application (Code 450);
Aquaculture Pond (Code 397); Bivalve Aquaculture Gear and Biofouling
Control (Code 400); Composting Facility (Code 317); Conservation Crop
Rotation (Code 328); Cross Wind Trap Strips (Code 589); Dam (Code 402);
Denitrifying Bioreactor (Code 605); Energy Efficient Building Envelope
(Code 672); Energy Efficient Lighting System (Code 670); Field
Operations Emissions Reduction (Code 376); Forage Harvest Management
(Code 511); Grade Stabilization Structure (Code 410); Grassed Waterway
(Code 412); Heavy Use Area Protection (Code 561); Herbaceous Weed
Treatment (Code 315); Herbaceous Wind Barriers (Code 603); Irrigation
Land Leveling (Code 464); Irrigation Pipeline (Code 430); Irrigation
System, Microirrigation (Code 441); Irrigation Water Management (Code
449); Lined Waterway or Outlet (Code 468); Livestock Pipeline (Code
516); Livestock Shelter Structure (Code 576); Pasture and Hay Planting
(Code 512); Prescribed Burning (Code 338); Pumping Plant (Code 533);
Riparian Forest Buffer (Code 391); Rock Wall Terrace (Code 555); Row
Arrangement (Code 557); Saline and Sodic Soil Management (Code 610);
Saturated Buffer (Code 604); Spoil Disposal (Code 572); Spring
Development (Code 574); Stormwater Runoff Control (Code 570);
Streambank and Shoreline Protection (Code 580); Surface Drain, Field
Ditch (Code 607);
[[Page 16608]]
Terrace (Code 600); Trails and Walkways (Code 575); Tree/Shrub Site
Preparation (Code 490); Underground Outlet (Code 620); Vegetative
Barrier (Code 601); Water Harvesting Catchment (Code 636); Watering
Facility (Code 614); Water Well (Code 642); and Well Decommissioning
(Code 351).
    The following are highlights of some of the proposed revisions to
each standard:
    Access Road (Code 560): The standard was changed to better
accommodate local conditions and drainage issues.
    Amending Soil Properties with Gypsum Products (Code 333): Deleted
the word ``derived'' from the definition. Revised the Purpose section
to reduce the wording and provide clarity. Added two purposes: Improve
habitat for soil organisms and improve soil aggregate stability. Added
new sentence to the Conditions Where Practice Applies section. Revised
the Criteria section for active voice and clarity. Deleted the
Additional Criteria to Reduce the Potential for Pathogen Transport.
Wording change in the last sentence of the Additional Considerations to
reduce dissolved phosphorus in surface water and ground water. Changed
wording to active voice in the Operation and Maintenance section.
Updated references in the Reference section.
    Amendments for Treatment of Agricultural Waste (Code 591):
Formatting and writing style were updated to meet current agency
requirements. Minor revisions were made for clarity and readability
purposes. The section on validation of the product better defines the
criteria used by NRCS to determine what amendments are used under this
standard. References were updated.
    Anionic Polyacrylamide (PAM) Application (Code 450): Formatting and
writing style were updated to meet current agency requirements. Moved
the section ``safety and health'' from Consideration section to
Criteria section.
    Aquaculture Pond (Code 397): A purpose was added on reducing and
managing discharges. Controlling invasive mollusks was added to the
Criteria section. ``Additional Criteria for Modifying Existing
Aquaculture Ponds'' was added. Considerations on pond sizing and lining
for improved disease control were added.
    Bivalve Aquaculture Gear and Biofouling Control (Code 400): There
were no major changes to this standard. The definition was modified to
add ``risk to species of concern.'' Two additional considerations were
added regarding permits and licenses for beach access and operation of
boats within shellfish operation. Plan map description was revised to
reflect current ways to mark shellfish beds. A sub-bullet was added to
record keeping in the Operation and Maintenance section. The References
section was updated to delete outdated references and include new
documents.
    Composting Facility (Code 317): The format of the document was
converted to the new template and some language was added on general
benefits of composting within the Considerations and Operations and
Maintenance sections. The compost facility standard language was
changed to emphasize soil health. There was some clarification of the
language of roof runoff collection and potential leachate from the
compost. A technical requirement was added to the standard to limit
stack height to address potential spontaneous combustion safety hazard.
    Conservation Crop Rotation (Code 328): Minor edit to the definition
to read ``A planned sequence of crops grown in the same location over a
period of time (i.e., the rotation cycle).'' Added three new purposes
(improve soil organic matter quality, improve soil aggregate stability,
improve habitat for soil organisms) and associated criteria in response
to the Farm Bill review. Removed the ``Provide food and cover habitat
for wildlife, including pollinators forage and nesting'' purpose, as
this is not a primary resource concern, but left the associated
considerations section information. Removed reference to suitable
substitute crops in the General Criteria section and added it as a
bulleted item to the Plans and Specifications section. Added a new
Consideration section titled ``Considerations to Improve Soil
Moisture.''
    Cross Wind Trap Strips (Code 589): Reworded the Purpose section to
clarify the purposes of the practice. Shortened the statement in the
Conditions Where Practice Applies section. Edited the Considerations
section to clarify the statements. Removed the Nutrient Application
from the Plans and Specifications section. Formatting and writing style
were updated to meet current agency requirements.
    Dam (Code 402): Formatting and writing style were updated to meet
current agency requirements. Minor revisions were made for clarity and
readability purposes.
    Denitrifying Bioreactor (Code 605): Minor revisions were made for
clarity and readability purposes. Design criteria were simplified based
on the latest research and field experience.
    Energy Efficient Building Envelope (Code 672): This document has
been revised extensively. The name has been changed from ``Building
Envelope Improvement'' to ``Energy Efficient Building Envelope'' to
better reflect the improved energy efficiency purpose. The standard has
been rewritten to better focus on energy efficiency criteria, fire
safety, flexibility, and industry standards. The requirement for an
ASABE S612 Type 2 energy audit has been revised to allow other
assessment methods. Criteria was added to support prescriptive upgrades
to simplify and streamline implementation of some instances of the
practice. Additions were made to the Criteria and Considerations
sections for greenhouses.
    Energy Efficient Lighting System (Code 670): This document has been
revised extensively. The name has been changed from ``Lighting System
Improvement'' to ``Energy Efficient Lighting System'' to better reflect
the improved energy efficiency purpose. The standard has been rewritten
to better focus on energy efficiency and energy conservation versus
performance. The requirement for an American Society of Agricultural
and Biological Engineers standard ASABE S612 Type 2 energy audit has
been revised to allow other assessment methods. Criteria was added to
support prescriptive upgrades to simplify and streamline implementation
of some instances of the practice. Additions were made to the Criteria
and Considerations sections for greenhouses and nurseries.
    Field Operations Emissions Reduction (Code 376): Changed the
definition to ``Adjusting field operations and technologies to reduce
emissions of particulate matter (PM) and oxides of nitrogen from field
operations.'' Added the additional purpose of reduce emissions of
oxides of nitrogen to cover the expanded definition. Changed the
``Condition Where Practice Applies'' to ``This practice applies to
cropland'' since another practice exists for performing these
activities on other land uses and it is more appropriate to focus this
practice on cropland.
    Forage Harvest Management (Code 511): Most changes were minor in
nature. Added content to reflect current agency policies and science.
The definition was reworded for improved clarity. Two new purposes were
added including ``Optimizing soil microbial life and aggregate
stability'' and ``Reduce soil compaction'' to address soil health
resource concerns. The remaining purposes were reworded slightly for
improved clarity. New additional criteria for the two new purposes were
added. Considerations section was reworded for improved
[[Page 16609]]
clarity. Considerations section updated with valid new considerations.
References were updated.
    Grade Stabilization Structure (Code 410): Formatting and writing
style were updated to meet current agency requirements. Minor revisions
were made for clarity and readability purposes.
    Grassed Waterway (Code 412): Minor revisions were made for clarity
and readability purposes. Clarified the minimum design storm to use
under the heading ``Stability'' in the Criteria section. Added
clarification on the freeboard requirements in the Depth section of
Criteria. Statements were added in the Considerations section on soil
health management systems and organic agriculture to address comments
received from the general Federal Register notice for review. Removed
the requirement for a profile in the Plans and Specifications section
to address a comment provided during the general Federal Register
notice for review.
    Heavy Use Area Protection (Code 561): Simplified the definition to
provide more flexibility to standard. Added reduce soil erosion as a
purpose. Added the wording of relocation or treatment under the
Considerations section to allow more flexibility in addressing the
heavy use area resource concern. Changed name of Additional Criteria
sections to better fit purpose statement.
    Herbaceous Weed Treatment (Code 315): One purpose statement was
determined to be a duplicate and was deleted along with the additional
criteria for that purpose. Terminology was changed to be consistent
throughout the standard. An additional requirement was added to the
Plans and Specifications section. A few wording changes were made for
clarity and readability.
    Herbaceous Wind Barriers (Code 603): Added a brief sentence to the
definition. Renamed the first purpose from soil erosion to wind
erosion. Edited the Criteria section for verbiage and clarity. Moved a
requirement within the ``Additional Criteria to Reduce Wind Erosion and
Particulate Matter Emissions'' to ``General Criteria.'' Edited the
Considerations section for verbiage. Listed the items in the Operation
and Maintenance section as bulleted items.
    Irrigation Land Leveling (Code 464): Formatting and writing style
were updated to meet current agency requirements. Added text to
Criteria section to include responsibilities of the landowner and
contractor to follow laws and regulations, obtain all necessary
permits, and locate all utilities. Modified the standard to provide
clarity to some requirements.
    Irrigation Pipeline (Code 430): Formatting and writing style were
updated to meet current agency requirements. Supplementary ASTM
references added. Maximum pressure relief valve activation pressure
established to allow for congruency between industry standard practice,
sound engineering practice, and NRCS Conservation Practice Standard.
Requirement to install backflow prevention devices where chemicals are
added in accordance with responsible governing body has been
established.
    Irrigation System, Microirrigation (Code 441): Wording changes were
made for clarity and readability. Provisions made for deficit
irrigation. Standardized wording for injection of chemicals.
    Irrigation Water Management (Code 449): Wording changes were made
for clarity and readability. Remote telemetry data systems with cloud-
based irrigation scheduling capabilities were added to the standard.
Four supplementary publications were added to the References section
corresponding to cutting-edge science-based technology. ``Condition
Where Practice Applies'' section was simplified by removing policy
statements. Criteria section was reordered to clarify criteria to use
for timing of irrigation events and criteria to use for the volume of
irrigation events.
    Lined Waterway or Outlet (Code 468): Added tractive stress as
design method based on a literature review. Updated References section.
    Livestock Pipeline (Code 516): Revised language as needed to
improve readability and clarity of the standard. No major technical
changes were made, except the secondary purpose of ``Develop renewable
energy systems'' was removed.
    Livestock Shelter Structure (Code 576): The definition and purpose
for the standard made it clear that this practice is to protect animals
from negative environmental factors and to improve the distribution of
grazing animals. Provided clarity of minimum space needed based on
specific animal type. Regarding wind shelters, provided guidance on
stability analysis to ensure safety of producers and livestock.
Multiple changes and additions were made throughout the standard.
    Pasture and Hay Planting (Code 512): The name was changed from
``Forage and Biomass Planting'' to ``Pasture and Hay Planting'' to
better convey NRCS' intending purpose of the practice. Changes were
made to reflect current agency policy and science. Air quality was
added as a Purpose. ``Produce feedstock for biofuel production'' was
removed as a purpose. The purpose ``Improve soil and water quality''
was split into two purposes, ``Improve water quality'' and ``Improve
Soil Health.'' The General Criteria section was updated to reflect the
use of ecological site descriptions and forage suitability groups.
Additional Criteria section was added for the three purposes added. The
Considerations section was revised and updated to better represent the
applicability of the standard. Plans and Specifications and References
sections were updated to support the content and changes made.
    Prescribed Burning (Code 338): This standard was last revised in
2010 and needed updating to reflect new policy and science. Definition
was changed from controlled to planned to better reflect the practice.
Added soil health to Purposes section. Criteria section changes
included adding smoke management and reordered to reflect burn
planning. Split Operations and Maintenance section to reflect the
difference between during the burn and post burn. Added and updated
References section.
    Pumping Plant (Code 533): Formatting and writing style were updated
to meet current agency requirements. Moved a few sentences to more
appropriate sections of the practice. Minor revisions were made for
clarity and readability purposes. The ``Improve Air Quality'' purpose
was removed as it is addressed in NRCS CPS Combustion System
Improvement (Code 372). Also removed ``Additional Criteria for
Improvement of Air Quality.'' This should make it clear that this
standard is not for the purpose of replacing, repowering, or
retrofitting a combustion engine.
    Riparian Forest Buffer (Code 391): Formatting and writing style
were updated to meet current agency requirements. Minor revisions were
made for clarity and readability purposes. The Purposes section was
updated to better correlate with resource concerns. Criteria section
was adjusted to match changes in purposes. The References section was
updated.
    Rock Wall Terrace (Code 555): The name of the standard was changed
from ``Rock Barrier'' to ``Rock Wall Terrace'' to more accurately
describe the practice. The purposes were revised to reflect the
conservation resource concerns for installing the practice. Editorial
changes were made throughout the document to improve clarity and to
remove the reference to the old practice name. Three figures were added
to graphically display the information in the text. The option of
allowing the drainage from the
[[Page 16610]]
terrace to outlet into a filtration area separately or in conjunction
with an outlet channel was added. For a wall height greater than 3
feet, a requirement to include a stability analysis was added.
    Row Arrangement (Code 557): Minor editorial changes to Purposes and
Condition Where Practice Applies sections to provide clarity. The order
of topics in Criteria section was changed to provide a better flow of
information. Editorial changes were made to Considerations section to
provide context and clarity. Reference was added.
    Saline and Sodic Soil Management (Code 610): The name of the
standard has changed slightly from ``Salinity and Sodic Soil
Management.'' Minor revisions were made for clarity and readability
purposes. The Criteria section was reordered to better match criteria
to intended purposes.
    Saturated Buffer (Code 604): Formatting and writing style were
updated to meet current agency requirements. Moved a few sentences to
more appropriate sections of the practice. Minor revisions were made
for clarity and readability purposes. In ``Conditions Where Practice
Applies,'' changes were made to expand the applicability of the
standard by allowing the practice to be applied to subsurface drainage
systems with surface inlets. If the system includes surface inlets, the
practice applies only if the inlets are adequately protected to prevent
entry of soil and debris capable of plugging the distribution pipes.
    Spoil Disposal (Code 572): Changed the name from ``Spoil
Spreading'' and changed the units from acres to cubic feet. The
Definition section was broadened to include all construction
activities. The Purposes section was rewritten to align with resource
concerns and the Criteria section was simplified.
    Spring Development (Code 574): Formatting and writing style were
updated to meet current agency requirements. Moved text in Criteria
section to better align with the subsections. Updated Plans and
Specifications and Operation and Maintenance sections with concise
text. Changed the Definitions section to exclude Purpose section
language.
    Stormwater Runoff Control (Code 570): Changed the Definition to
systems to control the quantity and quality of stormwater runoff.
Reworded to remove flooding and clarify where the practice is used.
Added emphasis for infiltration of precipitation for use in ground
water recharge. Allowed other measures in addition to vegetative
measures.
    Streambank and Shoreline Protection (Code 580): Formatting and
writing style were updated to meet current agency requirements. Minor
revisions were made for clarity and readability purposes. References
were also updated.
    Surface Drain, Field Ditch (Code 607): Formatting and writing style
were updated to meet current agency requirements. Updated Criteria
section to include responsibilities of the landowner and contractor to
follow laws and regulations, obtain all necessary permits, and locate
all utilities.
    Terrace (Code 600): Minor revisions were made for clarity and
readability purposes. Revised the Purpose section from ``retain runoff
for moisture conservation'' to ``manage runoff'' which includes
stormwater management. In General Criteria, the Alignment heading was
moved to the top, slightly reworded, and NRCS CPS Contour Farming (Code
330) was referenced. Topsoiling was moved from Criteria to
Considerations section as it is not always required. Removed sentences
on underground outlets because NRCS CPS Underground Outlet (Code 620)
is referenced and that guidance is located there. Updated Consideration
section on establishing temporary cover on disturbed areas that will
cropped.
    Trails and Walkways (Code 575): Improved wording for clarity and
readability. Added criteria for drain spacing and trail widths.
Clarified what is to be provided in the Specifications section and
updated the References section.
    Tree/Shrub Site Preparation (Code 490): Formatting and writing
style were updated to meet current agency requirements. Minor revisions
were made for clarity and readability purposes. Criteria section was
updated to add for avoiding or mitigating soil damage and hydrologic
impacts, and for evaluating pesticide risks. A new consideration was
added, plans and Specifications section was expanded to align with
conservation plan requirements, and Operations and Maintenance section
was expanded to include safety plans for chemical exposure. The
References section was also updated.
    Underground Outlet (Code 620): Minor rewording to improve
readability. Clarified Criteria section on thrust blocking, bedding,
and backfill requirements to evaluate for site-specific conditions.
Revised Criteria section for maximum velocity in perforated drain
tubing to 12 feet per second and maximum velocity in nonperforated pipe
to follow manufacturer's recommendations. Under Outlet heading of the
Criteria section, a table was added showing minimum lengths of outlet
pipe required by pipe diameter. Considerations section was updated to
add selecting vegetation species that are native, support pollinators,
and wildlife as appropriate.
    Vegetative Barrier (Code 601): Added new purpose, ``Reduce
ephemeral gully erosion'' and reworded the last purpose. Changed the
Conditions Where Practice Applies section to add gully erosion to the
statement. Formatting and writing style were updated to meet current
agency requirements. Changed table to add stem diameter (.35) and
associated densities. Also changed the densities for the .5 diameter.
    Water Harvesting Catchment (Code 636): Definition was revised to
more clearly define practice. Purposes section was reworded to more
directly relate to the stated resource concerns. Condition Where
Practice Applies section was rewritten to clearly explain where
practice may be used. Criteria section was revised and reordered to
clearly explain the design requirements. Considerations section was
rewritten to provide additional information for designers to consider
when planning and designing the practice.
    Watering Facility (Code 614): Minor revisions were made for clarity
and readability purposes. Clarification added that this practice does
not apply to embankment or excavated ponds. Requirements were added for
backflow prevention when connecting to domestic or municipal water
supplies. Requirements were added for fencing where fencing is needed.
    Water Well (Code 642): This standard has undergone minimal changes.
Changes in the Criteria section included adding a new ``roles and
responsibility,'' ``screen and filter pack installation,'' and ``well
performance aquifer testing'' criteria.
    Well Decommissioning (Code 351): This standard has undergone
minimal changes. Changes to the Criteria section include adding ``Laws
and Regulation,'' ``Roles and Responsibilities,'' ``Disinfection,'' and
``Sealing and Collapsible Formation.'' Deleted ``Casing Grouted in
Place'' criterion.
Matthew Lohr,
Chief, Natural Resources Conservation Service.
[FR Doc. 2020-06088 Filed 3-23-20; 8:45 am]
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