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: Pioneer Trail Solar Energy Center
Florida Power and Light
700 Universe Boulevard
Juno Beach, Florida 33408
WATERWAY & LOCATION: The proposed project will fill 9.08 acres of wetlands associated with the St. Johns River. The project is situated west of County Road 415 and on the south side of State Road 44 in Sections 20, 21, 28, 29, 30, Township 17 South, Range 32 East Volusia County, Florida.
Directions to the site are as follows: From Jacksonville take I-95 south and exit onto State Road 44 at New Smyrna Beach. Go west on State Road 44 approximately 7 miles to the project site on the south side of the road.
APPROXIMATE CENTRAL COORDINATES
Latitude 28.9980 North
Longitude -81.1102 West
Basic: Energy Production
Overall: Solar Energy Center.
EXISTING CONDITIONS: The approximately 1,190-acre site is located in located just south of US-44 and approximately 1.5 miles west of US-415, in Volusia County, Florida. The majority of the upland native community historically present at the Pioneer Trail site was cleared, the area topographically graded, irrigation ditches installed and vegetation replaced with a monoculture of sod. Agricultural land uses for the site include approximately 818.7 acres of sod farm and approximately 106.8 acres of improved pastures, with approximately 6.7 acres of residential area with 0.9 acres of land that is considered pine flatwoods. The onsite wetlands are comprised of approximately 219 acres of wetland forested mix and cypress, approximately 17.4 acres of freshwater marshes, wetland scrub and wet prairies and approximately 20.1 acres of ditches and reservoirs.
PROPOSED WORK: The applicant proposes to fill 9.08 acres of wetlands associated with the St. Johns River for the construction of the Pioneer Trail Solar Energy Center. The facility will consist of solar photovoltaic panels mounted as fixed tilt arrays with inverters, transformers and at-grade access pads, a substation, and areas required during construction for equipment laydown and staging.
AVOIDANCE AND MINIMIZATION INFORMATION: The applicant has provided the following information in regards to the on-site wetlands: Construction of the Project at the Pioneer Trail site has been designed to avoid and minimize impacts to jurisdictional wetlands through maximizing utilization of previously-disturbed upland sod farm areas for construction of the solar array. The facility has been designed to utilize existing access roads to the greatest extent practicable and avoid impact to the large, high-quality forested wetland systems on the site. As a result, approximately 96 percent of the onsite wetlands will be completely avoided. To minimize potential secondary impacts, erosion control best management practices and upland buffers will be maintained adjacent to wetlands.
COMPENSATORY MITIGATION: The applicant has offered the following compensatory mitigation plan to offset the direct loss of 9.08 acres of Corps jurisdictional wetlands: The purchase of 5 federal mitigation credits from the Colbert Cameron Mitigation Bank.
CULTURAL RESOURCES: 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.
ENDANGERED SPECIES: The property is located within the United States Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) Consultation Area for the Everglades Snail Kite (Rostrhamus sociabilis plumbeus), Florida Scrub-jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens) and Eastern Indigo Snake (Drymarchon corais couperi). Based on applicant’s wildlife surveys, habitat preferences for these species, location of the project site and surrounding development the Corps has determined that the project would have no effect on the Everglades Snail Kite and the Florida Scrub Jay. Our final determination is subject to review by the FWS.
The Corps completed an evaluation of the project based upon the August 13, 2013 updated addendum to the January 2010 North and South Florida Ecological Services Field Offices Programmatic Concurrence for use with the Eastern Indigo Snake. Use of the Key for the Eastern Indigo Snake resulted in the following sequential determination: 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 project construction.) >C (There are no gopher tortoise burrows, hole, cavities, or other refugia where a snake could be buried or trapped and injured during project activities.) = (Not Likely to Adversely Affect (NLAA) with the applicant adherence to the standard protection measures for the Eastern Indigo Snake. Based upon the NLAA determination for the Eastern Indigo Snake no further coordination is required.
ESSENTIAL FISH HABITAT (EFH): The project involves impacts to freshwater forested wetlands within an interior county. A review of the National Marine Fisheries Service EFH Habitat Protection Mapper Web site the project does not occur in the vicinity of EFH designated by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council of NMFS. The Corps has determined that the proposed project will not have an impact on EFH.
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: The project is currently under review by the FDEP and Volusia County, Florida.
COMMENTS regarding the application should be submitted in writing to the District Engineer at the above address 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, Jim Carr at the letterhead address, by electronic mail at email@example.com , or by telephone at 321-504-3771, extension 26.
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.