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SAJ-2016-02968 (SP-RLT)

Posted: 12/7/2017

Expiration date: 12/27/2017


TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN: The Jacksonville District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) has received an application for a Department of the Army permit pursuant to Section 404 of the Clean Water Act (33 U.S.C. §1344) and Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899as described below:

APPLICANT: Florida Department of Transportation, District 5
                      Attn: Ms. Casey Lyon
                      719 South Woodland Blvd.
                      Deland, Florida 32720

WATERWAY AND LOCATION: The project would affect waters of the United States associated with the Silver River, Half Mile Creek, and Ocklawaha River. The project site is located along SR 40 from Silver Springs to CR 314, in Sections 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6, Township 15 South, Range 23 East in Marion County, Florida.

Directions to the site from I-75 near Ocala, Florida are as follows: Take Exit 352 and go east on SR 40 (E/W Silver Springs Blvd.) for approximately 9.3 miles to end of 4-lane. The project begins east of the SR 40/SR 35 intersection for approximately 5 miles and ends east of the SR40/CR 314 intersection.

APPROXIMATE CENTRAL COORDINATES: Latitude     29.217304º
                                                                         Longitude -82.012349º

PROJECT PURPOSE:

Basic: Linear transportation improvements.

Overall: The overall project purpose is to expand SR 40 along an existing roadway from Silver Springs to CR 314 in central Marion County.

EXISTING CONDITIONS: SR 40 is an existing two lane, rural roadway. The wetland system consists of a freshwater system. The majority of upland and wetland habitats are forested communities with a small portion including dry and wetland prairies. The project abuts and crosses Outstanding Florida Waters, including Silver River State Park, Oklawaha River and Aquatic Preserve. The project area contains the Ocklawaha River within the eastern portion, the Silver River and Half Mile Creek in the western portion, the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway (MHCCFG) land managed by the FDEP Greenways and Trails Department to the north, Silver River State Park to the south of the proposed roadway alignment. The project on-site habitats and land uses were classified according to the Florida Land Use, Cover and Forms Classification System (FLUCFCS) (FDOT, 1999).

Upland Communities

Herbaceous (Dry Prairie) (FLUCCS No. 310) – The land cover type includes prairie grasses which occur on non-hydric soils and are generally treeless containing a variety of grasses, sedges, rushes and may include saw palmetto (Serenoa repens). This designation can be found along SR 40 in the right-of-way.

Upland Shrub and Brushland (FLUCCS No. 320) – This category includes areas of saw palmetto, gallberry (Ilex glabra), wax myrtle (Myrica cerifera) and other shrubs and brush. Small pockets of brushlands have been mapped within the mixed upland forests that occur throughout the project corridor.

Pine Flatwoods (FLUCCS No. 411) – This habitat type is dominated by pines such as slash pine and longleaf pine, and less frequently pond pine. Typical understory consists of saw palmetto, wax myrtle and gallberry. This habitat occurs in the eastern portion of the project are on just west of 314 and south of SR40.

Hardwood-Conifer Mixed (FLUCCS No. 434) – This category is for those forested areas in which neither upland conifers nor hardwoods achieve a 66 percent crown canopy dominance. This is the predominant upland forest that exists along the project corridor.

Coniferous Plantations (FLUCCS No. 441) – These are almost exclusively pine forest artificially generated by planting seedling stock or seeds. A stand of planted pine is located at the northeast corner of the intersection of SR 40 and SR 326.

Forest Regeneration (FLUCCS No. 443) – These areas are where tree stands have been harvested and will be, or are in the process of being, reforested. This area is located within Pond Site 6A.

Wetland Communities and Surface Waters

Streams and Waterways (FLUCCS No. 510) – This category includes rivers, creeks, canals and other linear water bodies. The Ocklawaha River crosses SR 40 in the eastern portion of the project area and Half Mile Creek crosses SR 40 in the western portion of the project area.

Mixed Wetland Hardwoods (FLUCCS No. 617) – This category is reserved for those wetland hardwood communities which are composed of a large variety of hardwood species tolerant of hydric conditions. Mixed wetland hardwood forests are found in the western end of the project corridor associated with Half Mile Creek and the Silver River and in the eastern end of the project corridor associated with the Ocklawaha River, as well as Pond Site 5C.

Cypress (FLUCCS No. 621) – This community is composed of pond or bald cypress which is either pure or predominant. This is the main habitat associated with the floodplain wetlands of the Ocklawaha.

Hydric Pine Flatwoods (FLUCCS No. 625) – This community consists of a sparse to moderate canopy of slash pine (Pinus elliottii) with an understory containing grasses, forbs, and saw palmetto.

Wetland Forested Mixed (FLUCCS No. 630) – This habitat type includes forested wetland communities where neither conifers nor hardwoods achieve canopy dominance. This habitat is found in the floodplain of the Ocklawaha to the northeast of SR 40.

Freshwater Marshes (FLUCCS No. 641) – This community is a non-forested wetland area found in relatively flat, low-lying areas. One small freshwater marsh is located nested within the upland forest near the western end of the project corridor.

Wet Prairie (FLUCCS No. 643) – This community type is predominantly grassy with some herbaceous vegetation. Species that commonly occur include sawgrass (Cladium jamaicensis), maidencane (Panicum hemitomon), cordgrasses (Spartina spp.), spike rushes (Eleocharis spp.), amongst others.

PROPOSED WORK: The applicant seeks authorization to directly impact 15.88 acres and secondarily impact 4.39 acres of waters of the United States (15.87 acres wetlands and 0.01 acre surface waters) to widen approximately 5 miles of SR 40 from the existing two-lane undivided rural roadway to a four-lane divided rural roadway from the end of 4-lanes to east of CR 314 in Marion County. The proposed typical section consists of four 12-foot travel lanes with 5-foot paved shoulders on both sides of the road, and a 12-foot multi-use paved trail on the north side from the planned Silver Springs/River Pollution Reduction Project to Ray Wayside Park near the Ocklawaha River Bridge.

AVOIDANCE AND MINIMIZATION INFORMATION – The project has been designed to avoid and minimize wetlands to the greatest extent practicable. The FDOT has provided the following information in support of efforts to avoid and/or minimize impacts to wetlands and surface waters. During the PD&E Study, alignments and typical sections were explored to minimize wetland impacts to the maximum extent possible that would achieve the project purpose. An example of this was maintaining the length of the Ocklawaha River Bridge. During the design phase, an optimized alignment that shifts the widening between both sides of the existing ROW to avoid impacting wetlands to the greatest extent possible was developed. Other measures include use of steepened side slopes and walls along approaches to structures to reduce the footprints of the required fill areas. Since stormwater runoff from the existing roadway is not currently treated, the proposed stormwater collection/treatment systems will reduce pollutant runoff into adjacent wetlands and floodplains. Throughout the pond siting process efforts were made to reduce wetland impacts and impacts to the Silver River State Park and the MHCCFG. Vegetative natural buffers were not used within this project corridor due to poor soil conditions. Since vegetative natural buffers were not available, alternative pond sites were assessed and wherever possible the pond site with the least amount of environmental impact was selected. Another measure was implemented to significantly reduce high quality forested impacts associated with Pond 5C. The drainage engineers reconfigured the pond using biosorption activated media to provide the required water quality treatment in the pond with a reduced pond size. Additionally, a 1:2 foot slope ratio was used for the mainline widening to reduce the amount of wetland impacts adjacent to the proposed roadway. In addition, FDOT will utilize erosion control measures and best management practices to avoid water quality degradation during construction.

COMPENSATORY MITIGATION – The applicant has offered to mitigate the Uniform Mitigation Assessment Method (UMAM) assessed functional loss of 15.88 acres (15.87 acres wetlands and 0.01 acre surface waters) of direct impacts and secondary impact of 4.39 acres of waters of the United States (15.87 acres wetlands and 0.01 acre surface waters) via permittee responsible mitigation under a watershed approach.

The FDOT is proposing two road improvement projects in Marion County, east of Ocala, that are anticipated to result in unavoidable adverse impacts to wetlands and water resources:

1. FM 410674-2 (SR 40 from end of 4 lane to CR 314) (This PN for a Standard Permit)
2. FM 410674-3 (SR 40 from Cr 314 to CR 314A) (Regional General Permit - 92).

The Halfmile Creek Mitigation Area (HCMA) is proposed to offset unavoidable adverse impacts associated with the widening of SR 40 from east of Ocala to CR 314A, including replacement of the bridge over the Ocklawaha River. The HCMA consists of approximately the eastern two-thirds (± 487.2 acres) of the Halfmile Creek Tract (±715.9 acres). The proposed mitigation includes preservation and enhancement of basin swamp (34.2 acres), hydric hammock (287.9 acres), and mesic hammock (123.5 acres) and restoration of mesic flatwoods (41.6 acres). Enhancement and restoration will be implemented through control of invasive and exotic species, site preparation and planting, filling one or more ditches, installation of low water crossing where appropriate, and introduction of fire within mesic flatwoods areas. These enhancement activities are anticipated to result in 26.1 units of UMAM functional gain.

CULTURAL RESOURCES: The applicant stated that according to a Cultural Resources Assessment Report, conducted by others, and provided a Florida SHPO concurrence to the report with a DHR Project File No.: 2010-1622. The archaeological shovel testing was conducted within the existing and proposed right of way along SR 40 and within the proposed boundaries defined for pond locations and Floodplain Compensation Areas (FPCs). The historic architecture survey was conducted within the entire Area of Potential Effect (APE) along the corridor and within the ponds and FPCs. The archaeological survey resulted in the documentation of 10 archaeological sites, including seven newly recorded sites, and six isolated archaeological occurrences. Two previously recorded archaeological sites could not be identified in the field. Eight archaeological sites are low or moderate density lithic or lithic and ceramic artifact scatters. One site consists of redeposited mid-nineteenth century artifacts. None of these sites, nor the six isolated archaeological occurrences, is considered eligible for listing on the NRHP. One prehistoric archaeological site, 8MR1878, the Cactus Flower site, had already been determined to be eligible for the NRHP by the Florida SHPO and Phase III mitigation was originally recommended for the portion of the site within the SR40 ROW. The present survey results did not alter that determination for the portion of the site within the SR40 ROW. However, after additional review and modification of the pond sites during design, SHPO agreed that the project would have no adverse effect on the eligible Cactus Flower site (8MR1878). The no adverse effect finding was based on the project plans to build up SR 40 in that area, such that no ground-disturbance would occur within the site boundary.

By copy of this public notice, the Corps is providing information for review. Our final determination relative to historic resource impacts is subject to review by and coordination with the State Historic Preservation Officer and those federally recognized tribes with concerns in Florida and the Permit Area.

ENDANGERED SPECIES: The project is located within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) Consultation Areas for the Florida scrub jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens), Red-cockaded Woodpecker (Picoides borealis), Eastern Indigo snake (Drymarchon corais couper), sand skink (Neoseps reynoldsi)

Eastern Indigo snake: The potential impacts to the endangered Eastern Indigo snake were evaluated using The Eastern Indigo Snake Programmatic Effect Determination Key, August 2013. Use of the Eastern Indigo snake key resulted in the following sequential determination: A > B > C > D > E “not likely to adversely affect” the Eastern Indigo snake. This due to the existence of less than 25 potentially occupied and abandoned gopher tortoise burrows observed within the project area. Also the applicant proposes to follow the FWS approved Standard Protection Measures for the Eastern Indigo Snake during the clearing and construction phases of the project.

The Corps has determined the proposed project will have no effect on the Florida scrub jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens), Red-cockaded Woodpecker (Picoides borealis), and sand skink (Neoseps reynoldsi).

Scrub jay: The Florida scrub-jay lives only in the scrub and scrubby flatwoods habitats of Florida. This type of habitat grows only on nearly pure, excessively well-drained sandy soils, and occurs along present coastlines in Florida, on paleodunes of the high central ridges and other ancient shorelines of the Florida Peninsula, and inland on scattered alluvial deposits bordering several major rivers. This species' habitat is dominated by a layer of evergreen oaks: myrtle oak (Quercus myrtifolia) and/or Archbold oak (Q. inopina), sand live oak (Q. geminata), Chapman oak (Q. chapmanii), and runner oak (Q. minima)], rusty lyonia (Lyonia ferruginea), and Florida rosemary (Ceratiola ericoides). This layer is rarely greater than two meters in height, except where fire has been suppressed. Ground cover is sparse, dominated by saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) and sand palmetto (Sabal etonia). Bare sand patches are essential for foraging and acorn-caching. Since there is minimum oak scrub or xeric scrub habitat in or near the project, the Corps determined that the project would have “no effect” to the scrub jay.

Woodpecker: A large portion of the project area consists of existing roadways along the SR 40 corridor. The woodpecker live and forage in mature pine forests, specifically those with longleaf pines averaging over 80 to 120 years old and loblolly pines averaging 70 to 100 years old. The red-cockaded woodpeckers live in groups with a breeding pair and as many as four helpers, usually male offspring from the previous year. Each group needs about 200 acres of old pine forest to support its foraging and nesting needs. There is a lack of old growth pine stands within the project area for nesting by red-cockaded woodpeckers. Therefore the Corps determination for the proposed project is “no effect” to the woodpecker.

Sand skink: A large portion of this segment of SR 40 is dominated by surface waters, adjacent wetlands and floodplains of the Silver River, Half Mile Creek in the western portions and the Ocklawaha River within the eastern portion of the project corridor. No sand skink were observed with this segment of SR 40. Sand skink tracks are usually observed in open sandy areas and skinks occur in excessively drained, well-drained, and moderately well-drained sandy soils. The majority of habitat within this segment are forested and wetland habitat. Therefore the Corps determination for the proposed project is “no effect” to the sand skink.

ESSENTIAL FISH HABITAT (EFH): This notice initiates consultation with the National Marine Fisheries Service on EFH as required by the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act 1996. Our initial determination is that the proposed action would not have a substantial adverse impact on EFH or federally managed fisheries in the unnamed wetlands. Our final determination relative to project impacts and the need for mitigation measures is subject to review by and coordination with the National Marine Fisheries Service.

NOTE: This public notice is being issued based on information furnished by the applicant. This information has not been verified or evaluated to ensure compliance with laws and regulation governing the regulatory program. The jurisdictional line has not been verified by Corps personnel.

AUTHORIZATION FROM OTHER AGENCIES: Water Quality Certification may be required from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and/or one of the state Water Management Districts.

COMMENTS regarding the potential authorization of the work proposed should be submitted in writing to the attention of the District Engineer through the Panama City Permits Section, Post Office Box 4970, Jacksonville, Florida 32232 within 21 days from the date of this notice.

The decision whether to issue or deny this permit application will be based on the information received from this public notice and the evaluation of the probable impact to the associated wetlands. This is based on an analysis of the applicant's avoidance and minimization efforts for the project, as well as the compensatory mitigation proposed.

QUESTIONS concerning this application should be directed to the project manager, Mr. Randy Turner, in writing at the Jacksonville Permits Section, Post Office Box 4970, Jacksonville, Florida 32232, by electronic mail at Randy.L.Turner@usace.army.mil, by fax at (904) 232-1904, or by telephone at (904) 232-1670.

IMPACT ON NATURAL RESOURCES: Coordination with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Marine Fisheries Services, and other Federal, State, and local agencies, environmental groups, and concerned citizens generally yields pertinent environmental information that is instrumental in determining the impact the proposed action will have on the natural resources of the area.

EVALUATION: The decision whether to issue a permit will be based on an evaluation of the probable impact including cumulative impacts of the proposed activity on the public interest. That decision will reflect the national concern for both protection and utilization of important resources. The benefits, which reasonably may be expected to accrue from the proposal, must be balanced against its reasonably foreseeable detriments. All factors which may be relevant to the proposal will be considered including cumulative impacts thereof; among these are conservation, economics, esthetics, general environmental concerns, wetlands, historical properties, fish and wildlife values, flood hazards, floodplain values, land use, navigation, shoreline erosion and accretion, recreation, water supply and conservation, water quality, energy needs, safety, food, and fiber production, mineral needs, considerations of property ownership, and in general, the needs and welfare of the people. Evaluation of the impact of the activity on the public interest will also include application of the guidelines promulgated by the Administrator, EPA, under authority of Section 404(b) of the Clean Water Act or the criteria established under authority of Section 102(a) of the Marine Protection Research and Sanctuaries Act of 1972. A permit will be granted unless its issuance is found to be contrary to the public interest.

The US Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) is soliciting comments from the public; Federal, State, and local agencies and officials; Indian Tribes; and other Interested parties in order to consider and evaluate the impacts of this proposed activity. Any comments received will be considered by the Corps to determine whether to issue, modify, condition, or deny a permit for this proposal. To make this determination, comments are used to assess impacts to endangered species, historic properties, water quality, general environmental effects, and the other public interest factors listed above. Comments are also used to determine the need for a public hearing and to determine the overall public interest of the proposed activity.

COASTAL ZONE MANAGEMENT CONSISTENCY: In Florida, the State approval constitutes compliance with the approved Coastal Zone Management Plan. In Puerto Rico, a Coastal Zone Management Consistency Concurrence is required from the Puerto Rico Planning Board. In the Virgin Islands, the Department of Planning and Natural Resources permit constitutes compliance with the Coastal Zone Management Plan.

REQUEST FOR PUBLIC HEARING: Any person may request a public hearing. The request must be submitted in writing to the District Engineer within the designated comment period of the notice and must state the specific reasons for requesting the public hearing.

Jacksonville District Marion County permit public notice U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE)