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: BFT Capital Corp.
c/o Mr. William Benham
25725 Lay Laine Drive
Astatula, Florida 34705
WATERWAY AND LOCATION: The 978± acre BK Ranch project would affect waters of the United States associated with the Kissimmee River Hydrologic Unit (Hydrologic Unit Code 03090101); project is bisected by Reedy Creek and Shingle Creek watersheds. The project site is located north of Old Tampa Highway, just west of Poinciana Parkway,
within Sections 28 and 33, Township 25 South, Range 28 East, in Osceola County, Florida.
Directions to the site are as follows: From US 192, proceed south on Poinciana Parkway approximately 5.75 miles; turn right on Old Tampa Hwy and proceed approximately 2.2 miles – the project site is on the right.
APPROXIMATE CENTRAL COORDINATES:
Overall: Development of a mixed-use community, including commercial, residential and school land uses, within the Urban Growth Boundary of Osceola County.
EXISTING CONDITIONS: The land uses on the BK Ranch site are historically agricultural and consist of improved pastureland and other areas that are conducive to cattle management. The identified community types were mapped using the Florida Land Use, Cover and Forms Classification System (Florida Department of Transportation, January 1999) Level III (FLUCCS – see attached map). The BK Ranch Property currently supports nine Land use types/vegetative communities within its boundaries. The uplands that exist on the subject property consist of Improved Pasture (211) Pine Flatwoods (411) Xeric Oak (421) and Temperate Hardwood (425). There are a total of 477.18 acres of aquatic resources on the subject property, including Streams and Waterways (510), Reservoirs, less than 10 acres (534), Cypress (621) Wetland Forested Mixed (630), and Freshwater Marshes (641).
The dominant wetland community type is forested wetlands that are best classified as Wetland Forested Mixed (630) totaling 454.6 acres. Vegetative species identified within this land use type include bald cypress (Taxodium distichum), sweetbay magnolia (Magnolia virginiana), loblolly bay (Gordonia lasianthus), dahoon holly (Ilex cassine), black gum (Nyssa sylvatica), dahoon holly (Ilex cassine), pond pine (Pinus serotina), water oak (Quercus nigra), maleberry (Lyonia ligustrina), fetterbush (Lyonia lucida), wax myrtle (Myrica cerifera), Florida dropseed (Sporobolus floridanus), swamp fern (Blechnum serrulatum), greenbriar (Smilax spp.), Virginia chain fern (Woodwardia virginica), netted chain fern (Woodwardia areolata), cinnamon fern (Osmunda cinnamomea), muscadine grape (Vitis rotundifolia), duckweed (Lemna minor) and soft rush (Juncus effusus).
Wetlands W4-9, W12-16 and SW1-2, totaling 12.61 acres, are not within federal jurisdiction and have been determined to be isolated pursuant to Supreme Court decision, Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County v U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 531 U.S. 159 (2001).
PROPOSED WORK: The applicant seeks authorization to fill 36.31 acres of waters of the United States for development of the 978± acre BK Ranch project.
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 proposed project design will include certain unavoidable impacts to wetland systems. These impacts are required to facilitate basic design requirements, including roadway access to major roadways, roadway alignments with existing and previously approved roadways, minimum roadway turning radii to meet minimum safety requirements, and other design characteristics necessary to meet local, regional and other agency requirements. The submitted design requires some wetland impacts that are unavoidable. These impacts are limited to small and isolated wetland systems and the outer fringes of the large wetland systems. The majority of these proposed wetland impacts are to low quality systems that have been severely impacted by the agricultural activities on the subject property. To minimize impacts to resources, the project design was modified several times so as to preserve the higher-functioning wetland areas and direct any unavoidable impacts to lower-quality wetlands and smaller wetlands that would be extremely difficult to maintain in any post-development setting. Focusing any unavoidable impacts are minimized in this manner because these lower-quality systems are typically difficult to maintain in the post-development condition. The small and isolated systems become land-locked within development and access for non-avian species is virtually eliminated. Additionally, smaller systems or systems with pre-development hydrology that is already impaired most often lose what remaining functional values exist after development of the surrounding areas.”
COMPENSATORY MITIGATION: The applicant has offered the following compensatory mitigation plan to offset unavoidable functional loss to the aquatic environment:
“The proposed wetland impacts that require mitigation will be offset by the purchase of Federal credits from the Florida Mitigation Bank.”
The Corps is not aware of any known historic properties within the permit area, which is defined by the project boundaries, and no information was provided by the Applicant. The Florida Master Site File database indicates a cultural resource assessment survey may be required within portions of 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 applicant indicated no federally listed plant species occur on the project site. The Corps has completed preliminary federally listed species affect determinations which include the following:
The Corps has determined the proposed project “may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect” wood stork. The proposed activity is within the Core Foraging Area (CFA) of three rookeries, located approximately 12-14 miles southeast of the project site; the project supports marginally Suitable Foraging Habitat (SFH) for wood stork. Based on the Effect Determination Key for the Wood Stork in South Peninsular Florida (dated May 2010), the Corps determination sequence is as follows: A (Project impacts SFH at a location greater than 0.47 miles from a colony site) > B (Project impact to SFH is greater in scope than 0.5 acres) > C (Project impacts to SFH within the CFA of a colony site > E (Project provides SFH compensation) = Not Likely to Adversely Affect (NLAA). The project provides SFH compensation within the CFA consisting of enhancement, restoration or creation (and federal mitigation bank credits) that provides an amount of habitat and foraging function equivalent to that of the impacted SFH; in accordance with the Clean Water Act section 404(b)(1) guidelines, and is not contrary to the habitat management guidelines. The Corps has U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service concurrence for the proposed activities through use of the aforementioned determination key.
The Corps has determined the proposed project “may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect” the Eastern Indigo Snake. Based on the Eastern Indigo Snake Effect Determination Key (dated January 25, 2010; August 13, 2013 Addendum), the Corps determination sequence is as follows: A (The project is not located in open water or salt marsh.) > B (The permit will be conditioned for use of the Service’s standard Protection Measures for the Eastern Indigo snake during site preparation and construction) > C (There are gopher tortoise burrows or other refugia.) > D (Project will impact less than 25 active and inactive burrows) > E (Permit will be conditioned such that all gopher tortoise burrows, active or inactive, will be evacuated prior to site manipulation in the vicinity of the burrow. If an indigo snake is encountered, the snake must be allowed to vacate the area prior to additional site manipulation in the vicinity. Permit is conditioned with the standard protection measure for the Indigo Snake) = NLAA. All gopher tortoise burrows, active or inactive, will be evacuated prior to site manipulation in the burrow vicinity. If excavating potentially occupied burrows, active or inactive, individuals must first obtain state authorization via a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Authorized Gopher Tortoise Agent permit. The excavation method selected should also minimize the potential for injury of an indigo snake. Holes, cavities, and snake refugia other than gopher tortoise burrows will be inspected each morning before planned site manipulation of a particular area, and if occupied by an indigo snake, no work will commence until the snake has vacated the vicinity of proposed work; the permittee agrees to use the Standard Protection Measures for the Eastern Indigo Snake (dated August 12, 2013). The Corps has USFWS concurrence for the proposed activities through use of the aforementioned determination key.
Based on existing habitat types, the Corps preliminarily determined the project will have no effect on Bluetail mole skink (Eumeces egregious lividus) and Sand skink (Neoseps reynoldsi), Florida bonneted bat (Eumops floridanus), red-cockaded woodpecker (Leuconotopicus borealis), Florida grasshopper sparrow (Ammodramus savannarum floridanus), Everglades Snail Kite (Rostrhamus sociabilis plumbeus), Audubon’s crested caracara (Polyborus plancus audubonii) and Florida scrub jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens).
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 36.31 acres of freshwater wetlands and surface waters which ultimately discharge to Reedy Creek. Our initial determination is that the proposed action would not have a substantial adverse impact on downstream EFH or Federally managed fisheries. 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 (NMFS).
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 not been verified by Corps personnel.
AUTHORIZATION FROM OTHER AGENCIES: Water Quality Certification will be required from the South Florida Water Management District.
COMMENTS regarding the potential authorization of the work proposed should be submitted in writing to the attention of the District Engineer through the Cocoa Permits Section, 400 High Point Drive, Suite 600, Cocoa, Florida 32926, 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, Jeffrey S. Collins, in writing at the Cocoa Permits Section (address above), by electronic mail at Jeffrey.email@example.com, or by telephone at (321) 504-3771.
IMPACT ON NATURAL RESOURCES: Coordination with USFWS, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the NMFS, 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 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.
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.