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.
12602 Telecom Drive
Tampa, Florida 33637
WATERWAY AND LOCATION: The project contains freshwater wetlands, surface water, and other waters of the U.S. and is located in Sarasota County, Florida within Section 1, Township 38 South, Range 18 East, and Section 6, Township 38 South, Range 19 East. The site is bordered by Honore Avenue and undeveloped lands to the east, Esplanade on Palmer Ranch and South Creek to the west, Hammock Preserve to the north, and Oscar Scherer State Park and the future extension of East Bay Street to the south.
Directions to the site are as follows: Take Interstate-75 (I-75) to Exit 205 (Clark road), turn right onto Clark Road for 0.9 miles, turn left onto Honore Ave for 4.5 miles. Project site is south of Esplanade on Palmer Ranch subdivision on the west side of Honore Avenue.
APPROXIMATE CENTRAL COORDINATES:
Basic: To Develop Residential Housing
Overall: To construct a residential development with a stormwater management system, infrastructure, and amenities within proximity to major roadways such as Interstate 75 in Sarasota County, Florida.
EXISTING CONDITIONS: The proposed project site comprises approximately 169.15± acres consisting of approximately 125.1 acres of improved pasture, 16.3 acres of woodland pasture, 0.4 acres of invasive Brazilian Pepper thickets, 22.1 acres of freshwater marsh wetlands, 3.0 acres of stream and waterway, 2.2 acres of agricultural ditches, and 0.1 acre reservoir/ cattle pond. The Parcel 9D project site has historically been, and is currently actively managed as a cattle ranching operation.
PROPOSED WORK: The applicant seeks authorization to construct a development consisting of approximately 350 residential units, the applicant proposes to: (1) place clean fill material into 0.12 acres of wetlands and into 0.76 acres of Other Waters of the United States (OWUS); (2) dredge a maximum of 7,637 cy from wetlands and 1,757 cy from OWUS from a total of 0.75 acres; (3) restore and enhance of 8.23 acres of wetlands; and (4) avoid and preserve as part of the site plan platting process approximately 13.2 acres of moderate to higher quality herbaceous and shrub wetlands to provide connectivity among a wildlife corridors through the Palmer Ranch area.
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 has been designed to be consistent with and expand the watershed preservation and restoration program implemented throughout the development of the Palmer Ranch DRI. The challenges of enhancing or restoring wetland ecological function in an urban setting makes is highly likely that preservation of the wetlands would fail to maintain the ecological functions the systems now provides. A primary principle of the environmental design and permitting of the Palmer Ranch DRI has been the creation of environmental/habitat corridors throughout the project to aggregate and maximize ecological functions and habitat values of preserved natural systems.
Previous site plan alternatives eliminated Wetland H in total (5.40 acres) and provided wetland creation areas along Honore Avenue totaling 7.3 acres as mitigation. This design would have excluded the benefits of the wildlife corridor along South Creek and limit the upland buffering to 50-foot along the Creek. The current plan has significantly reduced impacts proposed to Wetland W-H through re-aligning the entrance roadway and eliminating nearly 65 single-family lots. The wetland impacts have been reduced from 6.02 acres to 0.72 acres by eliminating much of the impacts to Wetland H.
COMPENSATORY MITIGATION – The applicant has offered the following compensatory mitigation plan to offset unavoidable functional loss to the aquatic environment: To offset wetland and OWUS impacts, two (2) mitigation areas are proposed as compensation for wetland impacts regulated by local, state and federal wetland agencies. Mitigation for the project will occur along the northwest corner and southern portion of the property strategically connecting to and expanding the existing wildlife corridor along South Creek into Oscar Scherer State Park. The conceptual mitigation plan for the Project has been designed to target previously impacted areas for restoration or enhancement. As part of the mitigation plan, the applicant proposes to preserve and enhance 8.23 acres of wetlands within the project site with upland connectivity to the South Creek wildlife corridor through the Palmer Ranch area. The proposed wetland mitigation will fully offset impacts to the wetland areas, and the result will be a no-net-loss to wetlands for the proposed project. The Corps will evaluate the applicants’ mitigation proposal to ensure compliance with the 2008 Final Mitigation Rule.
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 Corps has made a preliminary determination that the proposed project may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect the wood stork and eastern indigo snake. The Corps will request the concurrence of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with this determination pursuant to Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act. Wood storks were the only federally listed species documented on the parcel during the applicant’s onsite assessment, though potentially suitable habitat exists for the eastern indigo snake.
The eastern indigo snake, a federally threatened species, is wide-ranging and may be expected in a wide variety of habitats at low densities. Utilizing the Eastern Indigo Snake Programmatic Effect Determination Key (updated January 25, 2012) yielded the following progression: A (Not Open Water) > B (Permit conditioned for Standard Protection Measures) > C (Refugia are present) > D (<25 acres of Xeric Habitat and <25 Tortoise Burrows) >E (Permit Conditioned for Tortoise Burrow Relocation). Based on the progression through the Key, consultation between the ACOE and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is not required for a "may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect" determination based on the Effect Determination Key for the Eastern Indigo Snake. Adherence to the FWS Standard Protection Measures for Eastern Indigo Snakes during construction should minimize regulatory exposure from eastern indigo snakes.
The project site is located within the Core Foraging Area (CFA) of wood stork colonies in Sarasota County. Using the South Florida Programmatic Concurrence Key for the Wood Stork (May 18, 2010), yielded the following progression: A (Impacts SFH >0.47 mile from colony) > B (Impact to SFH > 0.5 acre) > C (Impacts to SFH in CFA) > E (Project provides SFH compensation). Based on the progression through the Key, consultation between the ACOE and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is not required for a "may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect" determination based on the Programmatic Concurrence Key for the Wood Stork. Less than 5 acres of wetland impacts are proposed on the project so a site-specific foraging prey base analysis is not required pursuant to the Programmatic Concurrence Key.
The Corps has determined the proposal would have no effect on the Florida scrub jay based on lack of species on-site 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. Our initial determination is that the proposed action would not have a substantial adverse impact on EFH or federally managed fisheries in the Little Sarasota Bay area and Gulf of Mexico. 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 not 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 Tampa Permits Section, 10117 Princess Palm Avenue, Suite 120, Tampa, Florida 33610 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, Candice Wheelahan, in writing at the Tampa Permits Section, 10117 Princess Palm Avenue, Suite 120, Tampa, Florida 33610; by electronic mail at Peter.T.Romano@usace.army.mil; by facsimile transmission at (813)769-7061; or, by telephone at (813)769-7072.
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.