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) and Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 (33 U.S.C. §403) as described below:
APPLICANT: Town of Palm Beach
c/o Thomas Bradford
360 South County Road
Palm Beach, Florida 33480
WATERWAY AND LOCATION: The project would affect waters of the United States associated with Lake Worth Lagoon. The project site is located within existing access channels adjacent to the Town of Palm Beach.
The north access channel is located within the Lake Worth Lagoon, Class III Waters, in Palm Beach (Sections 26 and 35, Township 43 South, Range 43 East), in Palm Beach County between Latitude 26.688552°, Longitude -80.044198° and Latitude 26.676045°, Longitude -80.040157°.
The central access channel is located within the Lake Worth Lagoon, Class III Waters, in Palm Beach (Sections 26 and 35, Township 43 South, Range 43 East), in Palm Beach County between Latitude 26.674846°, Longitude -80.039884° and Latitude 26.670300°, Longitude -80.038879°.
The south access channel is located within the Lake Worth Lagoon, Class III Waters, in Palm Beach (Sections 2 and 11, Township 44 South, Range 43 East), in Palm Beach County between Latitude 26.661793°, Longitude -80.039092° and Latitude 26.648011°, Longitude -80.039004°.
The disposal site known as Bonefish Cove and is located within the Lake Worth Lagoon, Class III Waters, in Palm Beach County with the NW corner located at Latitude 26.608333°, Longitude -80.042944°, the NE corner at Latitude 26.608333°, Longitude -80.041722° the SW corner at Latitude 26.604694°, Longitude -80.042944°, and the SE corner located at Latitude 26.604694°, Longitude -80.041722°.
Directions to the site are as follows: The proposed project is located east of the Town of Palm Beach within the Lake Worth Lagoon. Access to the site is by boat only.
APPROXIMATE CENTRAL COORDINATES:
Basic: The basic project purpose is improved water access and habitat creation.
Overall: The overall project purpose is to improve water access within existing access channels along the Town of Palm Beach and provide increased habitat within the Lake Worth Lagoon.
EXISTING CONDITIONS: The proposed dredging and filling activities is located within the Lake Worth Lagoon. The existing conditions within these areas consist of silty muck substrate with intermittent sandy substrates. A seagrass survey was conducted in June 2014 and April 2017. No resources were found within the proposed dredge footprint.
North Access Channel: Sediments were generally silty to depths greater than 6 inches. One section of sandy material was encountered near a residential dock currently undergoing construction rehabilitation. No seagrasses, macroalgae, oysters, sponges, corals or other marine life were observed in or adjacent to any of the proposed dredging areas of North Application Section.
Central Access Channel: The Central Application Section generally consists of two segments. Segment one is aligned east-to-west, with the dredging template beginning approximately 450 feet east of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway (AICW) and covering approximately 1,650 linear feet travelling east. Segment 2 is generally aligned north-to-south, is approximately 1,400 feet in length, travelling north from the end of Segment 1 and terminating approximately 350 south of the Southern Boulevard Bridge. At the eastern end of Segment 1, sediments were sandy and shelly with silt. No seagrasses, macroalgae, oysters, sponges, corals or other marine life were observed in or adjacent to any of the proposed dredging areas. Sediment transitioned to silty/mucky within 75 feet of where the existing channel traverses red mangrove lined shorelines, approximately STA 81+00 to STA 90+00. The sediment encountered in this section were mucky, silty sediments, greater than 6 inches in thickness. Caulerpa verticillata was noted among the rocks along the red mangrove shoreline, outside of the proposed dredging template and buffer. No seagrasses, macroalgae, oysters, sponges, corals or other marine life were observed in or adjacent to any of the proposed dredging areas in the red mangrove region. A small section of the dredging template extends west of the red mangrove section and east of the AICW. While this section is no closer than 450 feet to the AICW, the bathymetry drops and the sediments become less mucky and more sandy/shelly. No seagrasses, macroalgae, oysters, sponges, corals or other marine life were observed in or adjacent to this section of the proposed dredging areas. The presence of a variable-depth layer of unconsolidated bottom substrate (muck) in nearly all of the assessment areas makes conditions unsuitable for the establishment and continued existence of seagrass and rooted macroalgae.
South Access Channel: The South Application Section generally consists of two segments. Segment one is aligned east to west, with the dredging template beginning approximately 220 feet east of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway (AICW) and covering approximately 1,250 linear feet travelling east. Segment 2 is generally aligned north-to-south, is approximately 4,950 feet in length. Individual specimens of Halophila decipiens were encountered adjacent to the proposed dredge template and buffer in the northern extents of the South Application Section. In total 0.007 acres of Halophila decipiens were observed, comprised of 13 individual plants and one approximately 20 foot long by 10 foot wide patch. Sediments encountered in this regions were generally silty with some shell, with silt thicknesses of greater than 6 inches. Beyond the above listed Halophila decipiens, no other seagrasses, macroalgae, oysters, sponges, corals or other marine life were observed in or adjacent to this section of the proposed dredging areas. Progressing south from the above listed section, sediments generally became less shelly and more silty/mucky. No further seagrass, macroalgae, oysters, sponges, corals or other marine life were observed along or adjacent to the proposed dredge template and buffer within the South Application Section. The southern end of the proposed South Application Section consisted of waist-deep muck sediments. The region where segment 1 and segment 2 intersect, approximately STA 15+00, exhibited shelly substrate and slightly deeper bathymetry, however, no seagrass, macroalgae, oysters, sponges, corals or other marine life were observed along or adjacent to the proposed dredge template and buffer in this area. Where the existing channel traverses red mangrove lined shorelines, approximately STA 13+50 to STA 04+00, the sediments encountered in this section were mucky, silty sediments, greater than 6 inches in thickness and no seagrasses, macroalgae, oysters, sponges, corals or other marine life were observed in or adjacent to any of the proposed dredging areas this region. A small section of the dredging template extends west of the red mangrove section and east of the Intracoastal Waterway. While this section is no closer than 220 feet to the Intracoastal Waterway, the bathymetry abruptly drops and the sediments become less mucky and more sandy/shelly. No seagrasses, macroalgae, oysters, sponges, corals or other marine life were observed in or adjacent to this section of the proposed dredging areas.
Bonefish Cove: The benthic community was sampled at two sites within Bonefish Cove to characterize the biological community and sediment environment. A total of 10 cores samples and 10 grab samples were collected for quantification of the benthic community, and two sediment cores were analyzed. The sediment at Bonefish Cove was black muck (100% silt/clay), and muck depth exceeded 1.7 m. Bonefish Cove also had the highest organic content of the 10 study locations at 38.9%. One of the Bonefish Cove sample sites had the lowest overall macrofaunal abundance and diversity of all study sites.
PROPOSED WORK: The applicant seeks authorization to dredge approximately 57,000 cubic yards from within existing access channels to a depth of -5.0 feet Mean Low Water. The excavated materials will be placed within Bonefish Cove bringing existing bottom elevations closer to the photic zone to create suitable habitat under the initial phase of creating the Bonefish Cove Restoration project which will include a 9.37 acre mangrove area, 1.51 acres of oyster reefs, a wave break, and 33.14 acres of seagrass habitat. This notice is strictly for the initial placement of the dredge material and will be followed by a formal proposal under a separate application.
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 project as proposed will not impact any submerged aquatic vegetation therefore no further avoidance and minimization was provided.
COMPENSATORY MITIGATION – The applicant has offered the following compensatory mitigation plan to offset unavoidable functional loss to the aquatic environment:
The project as proposed does not provide a loss of waters or special aquatic site therefore no compensatory mitigation has been provided.
CULTURAL RESOURCES: The Corps has determined the activity is of such limited scope there is little likelihood of impact upon a historic property; therefore, the proposed project would have “No Potential to Cause Effect”.
ENDANGERED SPECIES: The Corps has determined the proposed project may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect the swimming sea turtles: [green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas), Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys kempii), and Loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta)]; and smalltooth sawfish (Pristis pectinata). Work will occur in waters accessible to the swimming sea turtles and smalltooth sawfish. Smalltooth sawfish and swimming sea turtles may be affected by being unable to use an area for forage or refuge habitat due to potential avoidance of construction activities. These effects will be insignificant due to the small size of each piling placed and the limited time it will take to complete the action. Because these species are motile and likely to leave the area during construction, the risk of injury from this type of construction activity is insignificant. The Corps will request National Marine Fisheries Service concurrence with this determination pursuant to Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act.
The Corps has determined the proposal may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect the West Indian Manatee (Trichechus manatus). Use of The Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District and the State of Florida Effect Determination Key for the Manatee in Florida (Manatee Key) dated 25 April 2013 results in a path of A-B-C-G-N-O-P (paragraph 4). Provided the applicant adheres to the standard manatee construction conditions during the in-water work, the key results in a may affect, not likely to adversely affect determination. For proposed in-water activities analyzed with the West Indian Manatee in which the Corps reaches a may affect, not likely to adversely affect determination with respect to the manatee, the FWS concurs with the Corps determination in accordance with 50 CFR 402.14(b) 1; and, no further consultation with the FWS is required.
The Corps has determined the proposal would have no effect on any other 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 proposal would impact approximately 14.12 (7.06 acres for the dredging and 7.06 acres for the disposal site) acres of silty organic matter along the bottom substrate utilized by various life stages of penaeid shrimp complex, reef fish, stone crab, spiny lobster, migratory/pelagic fish, 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 South Atlantic Region. 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 Palm Beach Gardens Permits Section, 4400 PGA Boulevard, Suite 500, Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33410 within 15 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, Samantha L. Rice, in writing at the Palm Beach Gardens Permits Section, Suite 500, Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33410; by electronic mail at Samantha.L.Rice@usace.army.mil; by facsimile transmission at (561)626-6971; or, by telephone at (561)472-3536.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: After reviewing all available information pertaining to the completed work, the Department of the Army has not recommended legal action at this time. Final determination regarding legal action will be made after review of the project through the permit procedure.
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.