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: Seminole Tribe of Florida
c/o Ms. Cherise Maples, Director
Environmental Resource Management Department
6300 Sterling Road
Hollywood, Florida 33024
WATERWAY AND LOCATION: The project is located within the Seminole Tribe of Florida (STOF) Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation (BCSIR); including Sections 14, 15, 22 and 23, Township 48 South, Range 33 East and Sections 7, 12-30, 34-36, Township 48 South, Range 34 East, Hendry County; and most of the STOF BCSIR in Broward County, Florida.
Directions to the site are as follows: From I-75, proceed north on Snake Road approximately six miles to the STOF BCSIR.
APPROXIMATE CENTRAL COORDINATES:
PROJECT HISTORY/STATUS: The BCSIR Water Conservation Plan (WCP), permit SAJ-1998-00622, was issued on July 16, 1999. The WCP is a comprehensive water management system designed to accommodate the STOF’s water entitlement, while supporting sustainable agriculture and contributing to the restoration of the western basin of the Everglades ecosystem. Seven drainage basins were identified within the BCSIR. The western four basins (1-4) are a critical project authorized by Section 528 of the Water Resources Development Act of 1996 and cost-shared by the Corps and STOF. The eastern three basins (5-7) were to be funded by the Natural Resource Conservation Service, who subsequently withdrew from the project.
For the entire project, the Corps authorized the filling and excavation of approximately 145 acres and 50 acres of wetlands, respectively, for construction of water management facilities, including Water Resource Areas (WRAs) and Irrigation Storage Areas (Irrigation Cells), in the seven basins. The majority of wetland impacts occurred in ditches or the edges of significantly drained wetland systems. The project was designed to use drained wetland systems to store, attenuate and treat water prior to use for irrigation, discharging to existing canals, or discharging to the Big Cypress area south of the West Feeder Canal. Basin 1 components were constructed in 2008, Basin 4 in 2012 and Basin 2 in 2017; Basin 3 and 5-7 components have not been constructed.
In summer 2014, the Corps reached its federal cost share limit of $30 million dollars. As a result, the STOF was responsible, under an agreement with the Department of the Army, for providing all remaining funds required to complete Basin 2 construction. The Corps prepared an Engineering Documentation Report to remove Basin 3 from the federal project which was approved on July 8, 2015 and subsequently took steps to amend the Project Cooperation Agreement to reflect the change as well as other related documents. This public notice advertises the proposed extension of SAJ-1998-00201, and removal of Basin 3 from the authorized federal project. Any future construction of WRAs 3 and 5-7 would be financed and performed by the STOF.
Basic: Water treatment and storage
Overall: The overall project purpose is to construct WRAs 3 and 5-7 on the BCSIR.
EXISTING CONDITIONS: The hydrology of the BCSIR has been severely altered by internal ditching and construction of the Central and Southern Flood Control Project (C&SFFC) canals; particularly the West and North Feeder Canals. These canals intersect just north of the S-190 control structure to form the L-28 Interceptor Canal. The C&SFFC canals and their associated control structures have had a major impact on both the region and the BCSIR surface and ground water resources.
The reservation contains approximately 52,000 acres of which 3,890 are native uplands and 30,570 are wetlands. The remaining 17,550 acres are areas that have been converted from natural habitat into agricultural uses such as citrus, row crops, pastures, or into housing and community areas; most citrus and row crop lands are fallow. There are four basic wetland communities within the BCSIR: wet prairies, sawgrass marshes, cypress domes and hardwood swamps. These wetland systems are severely overdrained in some areas, allowing the establishment of exotic/nuisance vegetation, including cogon grass (Imperata cylindrica), Melaleuca (Melaleuca quinquenervia), sword fern (Nephrolepis cordifolia), Brazilian pepper (Schinus terebinthifolius), Japanese climbing fern (Lygodium japonicum) and Old World climbing fern (Lygodium microphyllum).
PROPOSED WORK: The STOF seeks a 10-year permit extension to place fill over approximately 75 acres of ditches and drained wetlands for construction of berms and other project features associated with WCP WRAs 3 and 5-7.
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:
Proposed wetland impacts are limited to ditches and drained wetland systems and are the minimum necessary to complete the project.
COMPENSATORY MITIGATION: The applicant has offered the following compensatory mitigation plan to offset unavoidable functional loss to the aquatic environment:
Wetland impacts realized through construction of each WRA are offset by operation of the WRAs under the WCP. Additionally, the STOF is authorized to receive half of the wetland functional capacity improvement as compensatory mitigation credit for future use on the BCSIR.
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 STOF Tribal Historic Preservation Officer.
ENDANGERED SPECIES: During the original permit application review, the Corps consulted with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) on a “may affect” determination for Florida panther (Puma concolor coryi), which resulted in a Biological Opinion (BO Service Number #4-1-98-F-398 ) dated June 11, 1999. The BO also concurred with “may affect, not likely to adversely affect” determinations for eastern indigo snake (Drymarchon corais couperi) and Audubon’s crested caracara (Polyborus plancus). The Corps agreed with FWS to include the Standard Construction Measures for Eastern Indigo Snake and other protection measures as conditions of the permit. Management guidelines were developed for Audubon’s crested caracara and also included as conditions of the permit.
The Corps also coordinated with FWS and received concurrence (FWS letter dated September 28, 1998) with “may affect, not likely to adversely affect” determinations for Everglade snail kite (Rostrhamus sociabilis plumbeus) and wood stork (Mycteria americana).
The Wildlife Conservation Plan Biological Opinion (BO) (Service Code: 2013-F-0197), dated December 19, 2014, addressed Florida bonneted bat (Eumops floridanus) impacts resulting from development and land management activities on the BCSIR. The BO requires general minimization and conservation measures (i.e., pre-project wildlife survey and standard wildlife education measures) and bonneted bat specific Best Management Practices:
Surveys for bat roosts will be conducted prior to clearing a project site;
Limit construction activities within 1,000 ft of known roosts (currently no roosts are known on Tribal lands).
If potential roosting trees or snags occur within the project site, retain them if possible.
Protect these trees or snags by limiting the use of heavy equipment around them.
Incorporate engineering designs that discourage bats from using buildings or structures.
The four triggers to reinitiate consultation include: (1) the amount or extent of incidental take is exceeded; (2) new information reveals effects of the action that may affect listed species or critical habitat in a manner or to an extent not previously considered; (3) the action is modified in a manner causing effects to listed species or critical habitat not previously considered; and (4) a new species is listed or critical habitat designated that may be affected by the action. The original permit conditions are still in effect and there are no proposed changes to the plan, original determination, BO or permit conditions regarding this species. As noted in the BO, the Corps will coordinate with FWS during the detailed design and construction phase of the project and, if necessary, reinitiate consultation.
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 up to 75 acres of freshwater herbaceous and forested wetlands. Our initial determination is that the proposed action would not have a substantial adverse impact on EFH or federally managed fisheries in the Everglades watershed. 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 will be required from the STOF for this project. The Corps will coordinate the proposed permit issuance with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
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 30 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: Preliminary review of this application indicates that an Environmental Impact Statement will not be required. Coordination with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 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. By means of this notice, we are soliciting comments on the potential effects of the project on threatened or endangered species or their habitat.
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, 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. 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 decision, comments are used to assess impacts on endangered species, historic properties, water quality, general environmental effects, and the other public interest factors listed above. Comments are used in the preparation of an Environmental Assessment and/or an Environmental Impact Statement pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act 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.