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 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 (33 U.S.C. §403) as described below:
APPLICANT: Escambia County Board of County Commissioners
Marine Resources Division
3360 West Park Place
Pensacola, Florida 32502
WATERWAY AND LOCATION: The proposed reef site would be located at the Casino Beach public access area, in the Gulf of Mexico approximately 358 feet offshore of Escambia County, Florida.
Northeast Corner: Latitude: 30.403767°
Northwest Corner: Latitude: 30.403566°
Southeast Corner: Latitude: 30.400567°
Southwest Corner: Latitude: 30.400366°
Basic: Artificial Reef Site.
Overall: Establish an artificial snorkeling reef off of Casino Beach in the Gulf of Mexico to provide reef habitat, recreational fishing, and diving opportunities.
EXISTING CONDITIONS: The proposed artificial reef site would be located in the Gulf of Mexico, approximately 358 feet south of the existing Casino Beach public access in Escambia County. The habitat within the proposed artificial reef site contains medium to coarse grained sands, predominately unvegetated with a surficial layer of microalgae/cyanobacteria. There is no submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV’s) located within the reef deployment site. Additionally, there are no natural rock outcrops or hard bottom formations within the deployment site. The water depth within the proposed project area ranges from approximately -10 feet to -25 feet NAVD.
PROPOSED WORK: The applicant seeks to establish a 300-foot by 1,200-foot nearshore artificial reef deployment area, which would be referred to as the Casino Beach Boardwalk Snorkel and Paddle Craft reef site. Specifically, the applicant proposes to install fifty eight (58) pre-fabricated, pile-supported multi-media reef modules (e.g., Walter Eco-Systems Reef Modules or similar pre-fabricated units) within each of the proposed artificial reef sites. The pre-fabricated reef modules would be comprised of a stack of concrete disks with a center support pole extending into the substrate to ensure the modules remain firmly anchored to the bottom and do not subside. The top of each reef would extend upward in the water column to a maximum of 6 feet below the mean low water elevation. The deployment area would have a 50-foot buffer on each side.
AVOIDANCE AND MINIMIZATION INFORMATION: The applicant has provided the following information in support of efforts to avoid and/or minimize impacts to the aquatic environment:
The applicant selected a site that is devoid of submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV’s) and where there are no natural rock outcrops or hard bottom formations.
COMPENSATORY MITIGATION: The applicant has provided the following explanation why compensatory mitigation should not be required:
No compensatory mitigation is proposed.
CULTURAL RESOURCES: The Corps is not aware of any known historic properties within the permit area. 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 Corps has determined the proposed project may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect swimming sea turtles, including green turtle (Chelonia mydas), hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricate), Kemp’s ridley turtle (Lepidochelys kempii), leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea), loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) and the endangered West Indian manatee (Trichechus manatus), threatened Gulf Sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus desotoi) and its designated critical habitat, and endangered smalltooth sawfish (Pristis pectinata). The Corps will request U.S. Fish and Wildlife and the National Marine Fisheries Service concurrence with this determination pursuant to Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act.
ESSIENTIAL 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. The proposal would impact approximately 8.26 acres of unvegetated bottom in the Gulf of Mexico which may be utilized by various life stages of species within the following Fisheries Managements Plans (Shrimp, Reef Fish, Stone Crab and Coastal Migratory Pelagics). Our initial determination is that the proposed action would not have a substantial adverse impact on EFH or Federally managed fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico. 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.
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 Pensacola Permits Section, 41 North Jefferson Street, Suite 301, Pensacola, Florida 32502 within 30 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, Steve Andrews Jr., in writing at the Pensacola Permits Section, 41 North Jefferson Street, Suite 301, Pensacola, Florida 32502, by electronic mail at email@example.com, by fax at (850) 433-8160, or by telephone at (850) 439-0707.
IMPACT ON NATURAL RESOURCES: Preliminary review of this application indicates that an Environmental Impact Statement will not be required. 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. By means of this notice, we are soliciting comments on the potential effects of the project on threatened or endangered species or their habitat
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 of 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 decision, comments are used to assess impacts on endangered species, historic properties, water quality, general environmental effects, and the other public interest factors listed above. Comments are used in the preparation of an Environmental Assessment and/or an Environmental Impact Statement pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act 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.