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: Florida Power & Light Company
c/o Ms. Beverly Musser
7200 N.W. 4th Street
Plantation, Florida 33317
WATERWAY AND LOCATION: The affected waterway is Estero Bay. The project begins in Section 25, Township 46 S, Range 24 E, Estero, Lee County, Florida and ends in Section 02, Township 47 S, Range 24 E, Fort Myers Beach, Lee County, Florida.
APPROXIMATE CENTRAL COORDINATES:
Basic: Remove and replace failing electrical distribution line
Overall: Remove and replace failing electrical distribution line (FPL Estero Bay South Route Cable Crossing WR#5060289)
EXISTING CONDITIONS: The existing conditions along the project corridor include red mangroves (Rhizophora mangle) and black mangroves (Avicennia germinans) at the shoreline where the project will begin. The center of the project is open water Estero Bay. The proposed project lies within a previously permitted utility easement. The bottom of Estero Bay along the corridor ranges from 0.8 feet to 18.7 feet with an average of 6 feet. The bottom contours are relatively flat and consist of a sandy-mud. Sparse seagrass beds consisting of star grass (Halophila englemannii), shoal grass (Halodule wrightii), turtle grass (Thalassia testudinum), and paddle grass (Halophila decipiens) were present along the project route. The terminus of the project is located in mowed upland grasses near a kayak/canoe launch off Estero Boulevard approximately 0.1 miles southeast of the entrance to Lover’s Key Resort.
PROPOSED WORK: The applicant seeks authorization to remove and replace 4.2 miles of electrical distribution line. 3,000 linear feet of cable will be placed by horizontal direction drill (HDD) and 19,000 linear feet will be placed by jet-plow trenching. The work will result in the unavoidable functional loss of 0.84 acres (ac) of submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV).
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 has proposed a meandering path to minimize the unavoidable loss of .84 ac of SAVs in addition to utilizing HDD from uplands under the mangrove forest to the bay. Turbidity booms with weighted skirts will surround the entire work area and both barges to ensure protection of water quality within Estero Bay. In regards to the drilling fluid, returns from the “exit point” must be cleaned with a second “pipeside” plant, or pumped back to the rig side via a “return line”.
COMPENSATORY MITIGATION – The applicant has offered the following compensatory mitigation plan to offset unavoidable functional loss to the aquatic environment:
The applicant proposes to restore 1.18 ac of seagrass habitat in Captiva Shoal which is located in Pine Island Sound between the north end of Captiva and Pine Island. The areas to be restored consist of prop scars and vessel blowout injuries within dense turtle grass (Thalassia testudinum) meadows. These injuries are approximately 2-3 feet below the surface of the substrate and are too deep to foster seagrass growth. Targeted restoration areas will be raised in elevation to a grade suitable for seagrass growth using sand of appropriate texture and composition. Sand-filled biodegradable bags will be used where appropriate to stabilize the fill until seagrasses have recolonized the scars. Restoration will consist of natural recruitment and manual transplantation. Colonizing seagrass species, such as shoal grass (Halodule wrightii) and manatee grass (Syringodium filiforme) will be transplanted from adjacent beds into the restoration sites using currently accepted scientific techniques. The transplantations will be performed by a contractor specializing in seagrass restoration in Florida. Enhancements such as bird stakes and fertilizer spikes may be used to facilitate the restoration process.
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.
1) Green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas)
Leatherback sea turtles (Dermochelys coriacea)
Hawksbill sea turtles (Eretmochelys imbracata)
Kemp's ridley sea turtles (Lepidochelys kempii)
Loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta)
Smalltooth sawfish (Pristis pectinata)
The Corps has determined that the proposed project will result in a “may affect, not likely to adversely affect” for swimming sea turtles and the smalltooth sawfish. The Corps will request concurrence with this determination from the National Marine Fisheries Service pursuant to Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act by separate letter.
2) West Indian (Florida) manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris) and its designated critical habitat
The Corps has determined the proposed project may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect the West Indian (Florida) manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris) or its designated critical habitat. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) provided the Corps with a programmatic concurrence letter dated April 25, 2013 for these determinations when the determination is arrived at through the use of the Florida Effect Determination Key for the Manatee in Florida (April 2013). Therefore, no further consultation with the FWS is required and the provisions of Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) are determined to be fulfilled.
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. The proposal would impact approximately 0.46 ac of unvegetated bay bottom and 0.84 ac of sparsely vegetated bay bottom utilized by various life stages of Penaeid shrimp complex, red drum (Sciaenops ocellatus), reef fish (various spp.), spiny lobster (Panulirus argus), migratory/pelagic fish (various spp.), and snapper/grouper complex. 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. The jurisdictional line has 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 Fort Myers Permits Section, 1520 Royal Palm Square Blvd, Suite 310, Fort Myers, FL 33919 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, Muriel Blaisdell, in writing at the Fort Myers Permits Section, 1520 Royal Palm Square Blvd, Suite 310, Fort Myers, Florida, 33919; by electronic mail at Muriel.M.Blaisdell@usace.army.mil; by facsimile transmission at (239) 334-0797; or, by telephone at (239) 334-1975, ext. 0001.
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.