Jacksonville, Fla. (Aug. 23, 2012) – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Jacksonville District has issued a public notice in relation to an application for a Department of the Army permit, submitted by Bay County Tourist Development Council, Panama City Beach, Fla.
Bay County Tourist Development Council proposes to stabilize and renourish approximately 17.5 miles of beach between Phillips Inlet and St. Andrews State Park, impacting up to 315 of Waters of the United States waterward of the Mean High Water Line. Under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, USACE regulates dredge and fill activities in waters of the United States, including wetlands. Under Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899, USACE is responsible for protecting and maintaining the nation’s navigable waterways.
The proposed project would be accomplished in three phases. Phase I consists of routine nourishment at 9-10 year intervals, with timing determined by monitoring of conditions. Phase II is for emergency nourishment in response to major storm erosion, which will be a combination of storm loss replacement and routine nourishment. Phase III is for smaller hot spot nourishment within the Panama City Beach project area, when the need arises during the permit period. If a major storm impacts the project area, dune and vegetation losses may be replaced to the greatest extent practical, subject to upland owner permission.
To minimize turbidity, the borrow areas from which sand will be taken have a silt component below the state limit of five percent. A water-sediment slurry will be pumped by hydraulic dredge from the borrow areas to the beach, where it will be contained by a system of dikes until it settles. Turbidity monitoring will also be conducted.
The applicant states that positive impacts to the coastal ecosystem will occur as a result of the project, including storm erosion protection, increasing sea turtle and shorebird nesting areas, and a more aesthetically pleasing recreational beach.
In accordance with the provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, USACE has initiated consultation with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Fisheries Service on minor adverse impacts to Essential Fish Habitat or federally managed fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico. USACE has also determined that the proposed project may affect several federally listed species, including sea turtles, piping plover, Choctawhatchee beach mouse, and Gulf sturgeon and its designated critical habitat. Furthermore, USACE has determined the project may affect, but is not likely toadversely affect manatees, St. Andrew beach mouse and smalltooth sawfish. There are no known historic properties within the project area.
The decision of whether to issue or deny the permit application will be based on the information received through the Public Notice and the evaluation of the probable impact to associated wetlands. Comments regarding the application should be submitted in writing to the District Engineer, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District, 1002 West 23rd Street, Suite 350, Panama City, Fla. 32405 by September 22, 2012. Further questions may be referred to Melinda Witgenstein by mail to the same address, by e-mail to Melinda.M.Witgenstein@usace.army.mil, by fax at 850-872-0231 or by telephone at 850-763-0717, extension 24.