Public Notice Notifications

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SAJ-2016-00447 (SP-MRE)

Published Feb. 15, 2017
Expiration date: 3/8/2017
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:  Wilderness Trail Mortgage, LLC
                       Attn: Mr. Chad Grimm
                       1301 Riverplace Boulevard, Suite 1500
                       Jacksonville, Florida 32207

WATERWAY AND LOCATION: The project would affect waters of the United States (wetlands) associated with the Intracoastal Waterway (IWW). The project site is located east of North Roscoe Boulevard (approximately 50 North Roscoe Boulevard) and north of the terminus of North Wilderness Trail in Section 39, Township 4 South, Range 29 East, Ponte Vedra Beach, St. Johns County, Florida.

APPROXIMATE CENTRAL COORDINATES:  Latitude 30.184743°
                                                                          Longitude -81.398377°

PROJECT PURPOSE:

Basic: The basic project purpose is residential development.

Overall: The overall project purpose is residential development serving the Ponte Vedra Beach community.

EXISTING CONDITIONS:

The applicant contracted a site specific topographic survey of the property. The land is relatively flat. The extent of wetlands generally runs along the 4-foot contour line with the uplands ranging in elevation between +4.0 feet and +5.5 feet or slightly higher. The shallower wetlands have a seasonal high water table at or very close the ground surface and generally range between elevation +4.0 feet and +3.0 feet. The deeper wetlands typically hold between12 and 18 inches of water during the rainy season and generally range between elevations +3.0 feet and +2.0 feet. There is a linear-shaped man-made pond or canal that extends through the property in an east/west direction, which was constructed between 1952 and 1969. The pond narrows to the east until it is essentially a wide ditch. The deeper portions of the pond are between 3.5 and 5.5 feet deep, while the shallower portions at the eastern end are between 2.0 and 3.0 feet deep. This pond discharges to the west into a short section of upland-cut ditch that then connects to a ditch along the east side of North Roscoe Boulevard, which then drains to the north and is culverted under North Roscoe before discharging into the IWW.

The site encompasses 10 vegetative community types identified by the Florida Land Use, Cover, and Forms Classification System (FLUCFCS). The FLUCFCS communities include temperate hardwoods (FLUCFCS code 425), Cabbage Palm (FLUCFCS code 428), Spoil (FLUCFCS code 740), pine flatwoods (FLUCFCS code 411), pine-hardwood forest (FLUCFCS code 434), inland ponds and sloughs (FLUCFCS code 616), mixed hardwoods – hydric hammock (FLUCFCS code 617), pine-cabbage palm wetland (FLUCFCS code 624), reservoir – man-made ponds (FLUCFCS code 534), and man-made ditches (FLUCFCS code 510).

Most of the uplands may be characterized as temperate hardwood hammock. These areas have a canopy dominated by a variety of hardwoods such as southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora), live oak (Quercus virginiana), laurel oak (Quercus laurifolia), pignut hickory (Carya glabra), American holly (Ilex opaca), and sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) along with scattered basswood (Tillia americana) and cabbage palm (Sabal palmetto). The understory and ground cover include such species as wild olive (Osmanthus americanus), yaupon holly (Ilex vomitoria), saw palmetto (Serenoa repens), partridge berry (Mitchella repens), beauty berry (Callicarpa americana), and bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum).

The property contains six upland areas that had spoil deposited on them when the adjacent ponds were excavated. Over time these spoil areas have naturally revegetated with various hardwoods. Understory and ground cover vegetation in these areas includes such species as yaupon holly and bracken fern.

The majority of the upland in the southeast corner of the property is pine flatwoods. The canopy in this area is dominated by loblolly pine (Pinus taeda) and slash pine (Pinus elliottii) mixed with lesser amounts of hardwoods such as water oak (Quercus nigra) and laurel oak. The understory and ground cover vegetation is dominated by such species as saw palmetto, bitter gallberry (Ilex glabra), and bracken fern.

Small pine-hardwood forest areas of upland in the northeastern corner of the property have a canopy dominated by a mixture of loblolly pine and various hardwoods such as red maple (Acer rubrum), sweetgum, live oak, and cabbage palm. The understory and ground cover vegetation is dominated by such species as cinnamon fern (Osmunda cinnamomea), bracken fern, spike grass (Chasmanthium sp.), and muscadine grape vine (Vitis rotundifolia).

The deeper wetlands (inland ponds and sloughs) regularly hold standing water during the rainy season. The canopy in these areas is dominated by such species as blackgum (Nyssa sylvatica var. biflora), red maple, Carolina ash (Fraxinus caroliniana), and bald cypress (Taxodium distichum). The understory and ground cover vegetation includes such species as royal fern (Osmunda regalis), buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis), iris (Iris sp.), canna lily (Canna flaccida), sphagnum moss (Sphagnum sp.), sedges (Carex spp. and Cyperus spp.), and beakrush (Rhynchospora spp.).

Bordering the deeper sloughs are slightly higher areas of mixed hardwoods – hydric hammock that either are saturated to the ground surface or hold shallow puddled water during the rainy season. The canopy in these areas includes such species as laurel oak, sugarberry (Celtis laevigata), American elm (Ulmus americana), sweetgum, red maple, cabbage palm, sweetbay (Magnolia virginiana), and scattered water hickory (Carya aquatica). The understory and ground cover vegetation include such species as dwarf bluestem (Sabal minor), cinnamon fern, netted chain fern (Woodwardia areolata), Virginia chain fern, pipestem (Agarista populifolia), wax myrtle (Morella cerifera), and Virginia willow (Itea virginica).

Sometime between 1952 and 1969 a linear pond (Pond 1) was excavated through the center of the property in an east/west direction. This pond ranges from around 45 feet wide at the western end to between 15 and 20 feet wide at the eastern end where it transitions into a ditch. Two other small ponds (Ponds 2 and 3) are located near the northwest corner of the property. All of these ponds have relatively steep banks and are generally too deep to support aquatic vegetation.

The property contains four man-made ditches. A fifth ditch is located along the east side of North Roscoe Boulevard within the road right-of-way. Three of the ditches appear to follow the edges of an abandoned trail road that extended in an east/west direction through the property (Ditches 1, 2 and 4). Ditch 3 serves as the outfall ditch for Pond 1 and connects to the road side ditch along North Roscoe Boulevard.

PROPOSED WORK: The applicant seeks authorization to discharge clean fill material over a total of 4.625 acres of wetlands, 1.84 acres of ponds, and 0.22 acre of ditches to facilitate the establishment of a single-family residential subdivision. The work proposed would establish the site infrastructure, stormwater management system, and portions of residential parcels. The applicant also plans to construct an elevated boardwalk within the eastern region of the site. The construction of the boardwalk would not incorporate the discharge of fill; and, as such, would not require Department of the Army authorization.

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 determined that the development of the site could not proceed without affecting wetlands due to the location, size, and orientation of the onsite systems. The applicant minimized work affecting these systems by limiting the majority of the work proposed to the wetland-upland transitional areas and man-made ponds. The applicant eliminated several parcels to address local requirements for a neighborhood park and avoidance of large-specimen protected trees. The applicant indicates that the number of residential parcels proposed is the minimum necessary to support an economically viable project.

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 compiled a Uniform Mitigation Assessment Procedure (UMAM) quantifying and qualifying the wetland functions and services that would be lost through the implementation of the work proposed. The UMAM indicates that the total functional loss equates to 4.28 units. In consideration of the UMAM, the applicant is researching the possibility of utilizing credits from a mitigation bank.

CULTURAL RESOURCES: The Corps is not aware of any known historic properties within the permit area. The applicant contracted a Cultural Resource Assessment Survey of the project site; and, that survey determined that the site did not encompass any site listed in, or eligible for listing in, the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). 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 within the Core Foraging Area of a Wood Stork colony; however, the project would not affect suitable foraging habitat for Wood Storks. In consideration of this information, the Corps utilized The Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Jacksonville Ecological Services Field Office and State of Florida Effect Determination Key for the Wood Stork in Central and North Peninsular Florida, September 2008, to determine potential effects upon this species. Use of this key resulted in the sequence A-B-no effect.

The project site is within a consultation area identified by the Corps and the FWS for Red Cockaded Woodpecker (Picoides borealis). Therefore, this species may utilize the project site. Habitat for Red Cockaded Woodpecker typically incorporates mature pine woodlands (not wetlands); and, optimal habitat is characterized as a broad savanna with a scattered overstory of large pines and a dense groundcover containing a diversity of grass and shrub species. Nesting and roosting occur in cavity trees that are almost exclusively old, living, flat-topped pine trees. The project site does not encompass typical or optimum habitat; or, trees capable of supporting cavities. Further, as significant forested habitat is located near the project site, it is likely that this species would only opportunistically forage at the site, which the development of the site would not preclude. Therefore, the Corps determined that the project would have no effect on this species.

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.

In consideration of the information noted above, the Corps has determined the proposal would have no effect on any listed threatened or endangered species or designated critical habitat.

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 project would not affect marine or estuarine habitat. In consideration of the project location, our initial determination is that the proposed action would not have an adverse impact on EFH or federally managed fisheries in the IWW. 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 not verified the jurisdictional line.

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 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.