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SAJ-2006-01059 (SP-MRE)

Published Feb. 13, 2017
Expiration date: 3/6/2017
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) as described below:

APPLICANT:  D.R. Horton, Inc. – Jacksonville
                       4220 Race Track Road
                       Jacksonville, Florida 32259

WATERWAY AND LOCATION: The project would affect waters of the United States (wetlands) associated with Peters Creek, a tributary of Black Creek. The project site is located south of the intersection of Russell Road and Sandridge Road in Sections 39 and 46, Township 5 South, Range 26 East, Clay County, Florida.

APPROXIMATE CENTRAL COORDINATES:  Latitude 30.042990°
                                                                          Longitude -81.745779°

PROJECT PURPOSE:

Basic: The basic project purpose is residential development.

Overall: The overall project purpose is the establishment of a residential subdivision serving northeast Clay County.

EXISTING CONDITIONS: The property encompasses five communities identified by the Florida Land Use, Cover, and Forms Classification System (FLUCFCS). These communities are Pine-Mesic Oak (FLUCFCS 414), Pine Plantation (FLUCFCS 441), Bay Swamp (FLUCFCS 611), Wetland Forested Mixed (FLUCFCS 630), and Borrow Pits (FLUCFCS 740).

The Pine-Mesic Oak community is located in the southwest corner of the site and is dominated by slash pine (Pinus elliottii), longleaf pine (Pinus palustris), and loblolly pine (Pinus taeda) in association with mesic oaks (Quercus spp.) and other hardwood species. The understory species include gallberry (Ilex glabra), wax myrtle (Myrica cerifera), saw palmetto (Serenoa repens), and wire grass (Aristida stricta).

The Pine Plantation community forms the dominant upland vegetative cover type at the site. Planted bed/row slash pines occur over an understory of gallberry and saw palmetto with scattered woody shrubs and herbaceous plant species.

The Bay Swamp communities occur as two small, depression wetland systems near the northwest property boundary. Loblolly bay (Gordonia lasianthus), swamp bay (Persea palustris), fetterbush (Lyonia lucida), cinnamon fern (Osmunda cinnamomea), and Virginia chainfern (Woodwardia virginica) are the dominant vegetative species in these systems.

The Wetland Forested Mixed community is the dominant vegetative community and occupies approximately half the site. Slash pine, loblolly bay, swamp bay, red maple (Acer rubrum), scattered cypress (Taxodium spp.), scattered black gum (Nyssa sylvatica var. biflora), fetterbush, and Virginia chainfern are the dominant vegetative species in these systems.

Three shallow Borrow Pits are located within the site boundary. Torpedo grass (Panicum repens) dominates the vegetated portions of these shallow borrow pits.

PROPOSED WORK: The applicant seeks authorization to place fill material over a total of 4.83 acres of wetlands to facilitate the construction of a single-family residential subdivision with associated infrastructure and stormwater management system.

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:

Due to the size, location, and orientation of the wetlands encompassed by the property, the total avoidance of work affecting wetlands is not practical. The northern access road must cross the main wetland system to access developable uplands and provide the secondary access mandated by Clay County. However, the project would avoid the majority of that main system; and, would result in the conservation/preservation of the majority of that system, substantial upland buffers, and additional upland “islands” interior to that main wetland system. The remaining work within wetlands mainly affects the terminal protrusions of wetlands jutting into upland areas, transitional fringe areas along developable uplands, or small depressional systems separated from the main wetland system by extensive upland areas.

COMPENSATORY MITIGATION: The applicant has offered the following compensatory mitigation plan to offset unavoidable functional loss to the aquatic environment:

The applicant’s ecological agent submitted a Wetland Rapid Assessment Procedure (WRAP) quantifying and qualifying the loss of wetland functions and services associated with the work proposed (loss of 4.83 acre of wetlands). The WRAP calculates the functional loss at 3.09 units. In consideration of the WRAP, the applicant would provide compensatory mitigation through the purchase of 3.09 credits from the Longleaf Mitigation Bank.

CULTURAL RESOURCES:

Previously, in a letter dated July 19, 2006, the State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO) determined there were no significant archeological or historical resources recorded within the project area. Furthermore, because of the location and/or nature of the project the SHPO concluded that it is unlikely that any such site would be affected by the work proposed. However, although 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 SHPO and those federally recognized tribes with concerns in Florida and the Permit Area.

ENDANGERED SPECIES:

The applicant commissioned an Endangered and Threatened Species/Significant Natural Communities Habitat Assessment as part of the Clay County Planned Urban Development process. That assessment determined that the project would have no effect on any federally listed threatened or endangered species or designated critical habitat.

However, Eastern Indigo Snake (Drymarchon corais couperi) frequents several habitat types, including pine flatwoods, scrubby flatwoods, high pine, dry prairie, tropical hardwood hammocks, edges of freshwater marshes, agricultural fields, coastal dunes, and human-altered habitats. Therefore, this species could utilize the area encompassed by the ESA scope of analysis for this project. Gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus) burrows are commonly utilized as refuge from winter cold and/or desiccating conditions in xeric habitats; and, hollowed root channels, hollow logs, or burrows of rodents, armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus), or land crabs (Cardisoma guanhumi) provide shelter in wetter habitats. A recent survey of the project site identified approximately 220 acres of xeric habitat and approximately 595 active and/or inactive gopher tortoise burrows on the overall property. In consideration of the potential presence of eastern indigo snake habitat, the Corps utilized The Eastern Indigo Snake Programmatic Effect Determination Key, August 2013. As the applicant has agreed to implement the Standard Protection Measures for the Eastern Indigo Snake, August 12, 2013, use of this key resulted in the sequence A-B-C-D-may affect. Through separate correspondence, the Corps will coordinate this information with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and initiate formal consultation in accordance with Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act.

The Corps executed a Resources At Risk (RAR) report. The RAR did not indicate that the site is utilized by, or contains habitat critical to, any other federally listed threatened or endangered species. The Corps also reviewed geospatial data and other available information. The Corps has not received or discovered any information that the project site is utilized by, or contains habitat critical to, any other federally listed threatened or endangered species.

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 an adverse effect on EFH or federally managed fisheries in Peters Creek, Black Creek, or the St. Johns River. 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. Corps personnel have verified the jurisdictional line; and, the St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD) finalized a Formal Wetland Determination (16-109-99844-3).

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

COMMENTS regarding the potential authorization of the work proposed should be submitted in writing to the attention of the District Engineer through the Jacksonville 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, Mark R. Evans, in writing at the Jacksonville Permits Section, Post Office Box 4970, Jacksonville, Florida 32232; by electronic mail at mark.r.evans@usace.army.mil; by facsimile transmission at (904)232-1940; or, by telephone at (904)232-2028.

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.