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: Forgan Mcintosh
Limetree Bay Terminals, LLC
1 Estate Hope
Christiansted, St. Croix, USVI 00820
WATERWAY AND LOCATION: The project would affect navigable waters of the United States (WOTUS) at Limetree Bay, Caribbean Sea. The Limetree Bay Terminal Facility is located on the south shore of St. Croix on the former Hovensa Oil Terminal Facility. The project site is located at 1 Estate Hope, Christiansted, St. Croix, USVI.
Directions to the site are as follows: From the St. Croix Airport, turn east onto the Melvin Evans Highway. The Limetree Bay Terminal Facility is located on the right side of the Highway, after the Diageo Rum Distillery Facility.
APPROXIMATE CENTRAL COORDINATES: Latitude: 17.687756° N
Longitude: -64.740337° W
Basic: Offload bulk fuel carrier vessels.
Overall: Provide Limetree Bay Terminals, LLC the ability to receive shipments from Very Large Bulk Fuel Carriers with drafts up to -76 feet below mean sea level at the Limetree Bay Terminal Facility without having to transfer fuel to smaller vessels.
EXISTING CONDITIONS: Construction of the Limetree Bay Terminal Facility and Navigation Channel was undertaken in the 1960’s. The last major dredging in the area occurred in 1974. The Limetree Bay Terminal Facility has revetted jetties which are moderately colonized by coral and sponge species. According to a benthic assessment conducted for the planning of this project the coral colonization on these jetties includes ESA listed corals, including Acropora palmata, Orbicella annularis, Orbicella faveolata, Orbicella franksi and Dendrogyra cylindrus. The Limetree Bay Terminal Navigation Channel extends seaward from the east basin of the harbor at a depth of over 60ft. The channel is cut into limestone and steep slopes characterize the channel out to its seaward end. On the eastern side of the channel a shallow rock pavement extends seaward from the end of the eastern jetty. This rock pavement or hardbottom supports the essential features of Acropora spp. critical habitat. The water is only six to eight feet deep off the end of the eastern jetty. The pavement is sparsely colonized by hard and soft coral species at the end of the jetty but the abundance of corals and sponges increases seaward. ESA listed coral species in this pavement include Acropora palmata and Orbicella faveolata. The algae Halimeda becomes more abundant on the pavement as you move offshore. The edges of the navigation channel vary in slope due to the substrate integrity and stability.
Colonization on the channel slope is drastically different than the pavement. Colonization is extremely sparse and colonization by algae, Dictyota and Halimeda, ranges from 100% coverage in some areas to only 1% in others. Algal species are the most abundant colonizers followed by sponges, both encrusting and branching but these represent well less than 1% of the total bottom coverage. The greatest abundance of colonization by corals is near the upper edges of the channel wall. Dropping down the slope corals cover less than 1% of the channel walls. The ESA listed corals Orbicella faveolata and Acropora palmata were observed on the channel walls. Skeletons of branching Acropora palmata can be seen buried in the channel walls. The area closer to the seafloor is colonized primarily by algal species. The channel bottom is composed of soft sediment and is basically uncolonized except by a few scattered hydroids.
The western side of the channel has what was once a well-developed reef crest located about 2300 feet off the end of the western jetty. Between the cross channel and the reef crest there are scattered seagrass beds of Thalassia testudinum and Syringodium filiforme. The reef crest is composed primarily of the skeletons of Acropora palmata and broken coral rubble, the area is heavily colonized by algae Dictyota is the dominant colonizer. Beyond the reef crest irregular rock pavement extends off shore with a scattered sand veneer. The hard bottom and the reef crest is minimally colonized with by scattered corals. There are a few areas of scattered seagrass, primarily Syringodium filiforme, with a few small patches of Thalassia testudinum on the sand veneer south of the reef. The seagrass beds are all slightly raised above the surrounding sand plains and algal beds. On the southern plain to the west of the navigation channel between 50 and 150 feet in depth there are expansive algal beds where Halimeda is the dominant algae and densely cover large areas. Between 50 and 150 feet the plain slopes gradually and there is intermittent sand and exposed pavement. The pavement is colonized by primarily sponges and soft corals. Very few hard corals were encountered. The abundance of species varied between emergent patches of pavement but hard corals were extremely sparse and only a very few were noted on the emergent pavement. Hard corals noted on the emergent pavement included Siderastrea siderea, Diploria strigosa, Solesnastrea bournoni, and Madracis decacti. The slope become steeper at approximately 150 feet deep and it varies in angle with small intermittent rock ledges exposed between steep sand drops. The ledges are colonized by sponges, predominantly Xestospongia muta, soft corals, branching sponges, hydroids and a very few hard corals. Black corals become present at 100 feet deep and are one of the most abundant species at depth. Below 350 feet only a few hydroids and black corals were noted.
The NOAA NOS benthic habitat map for the area shows a linear reef to the east of the jetty and an expansive pavement and pavement with channels to the south. These features are accurately depicted and were confirmed during detailed benthic surveys. To the west of Limetree Bay Terminal Navigation Channel and to the south of the Cross Channel the map depicts continuous seagrass beds. While seagrass beds are present, they are not as continuous as shown in the map. The map then shows linear reef along running between the two channels. This shallow reef crest is composed primarily of Acropora skeletons and has minimal colonization by live corals. The map then shows reef colonized pavement and reef colonized pavement with sand channels extending off shore to the drop, however on the western side of the channel past a depth of approximately 30 feet, expansive sand flats varying from colonization by algae and seagrass to expansive areas of uncolonized sand and sponge and soft coral colonized emergent pavement are present.
ESA listed sea turtles hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata), green turtles (Chelonia mydas), loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) and leatherback turtles (Ermochelys coriacea), occur in the offshore areas of the project. Green, hawksbill and a loggerhead sea turtles were seen during the benthic surveys conducted within the project areas. Two hawksbills were resting along the channel sides. There is a small sandy beach to the eastern side of the jetty and the Limetree Bay Terminals Environmental Manager has recorded as many as 14 turtle nests in this area at one time including nests which were laid by leatherbacks. The ESA listed Nassau Grouper (Epinephelus striatus) was also observed along the channel walls.
The terrestrial portion of the project is located on a jetty which is composed of fill material and is completely unvegetated. The jetty is used by shorebirds for nesting, including the Least Tern (Sternula antillarum).
PROPOSED WORK: The applicant seeks authorization to install a Single Point Mooring (SPM) and an underwater pipeline system for the offshore transfer of bulk fuel from Very Large Bulk Carriers to the existing facilities at the Limetree Bay Marine Terminal.
The project would include the placement of two concrete coated 30 inches in diameter parallel pipelines from the end of the eastern jetty of the Limetree Bay Terminal to a Pipeline End Manifold (PLEM) to be located offshore at a water depth of approximately 150 feet below mean sea level. The system would then transition into three 24 inches in diameter hoses which would be suspended mid water at a depth of 150 feet to 250 feet to the Buoy Balance Position for the SPM.
Two sections of the parallel pipelines would be placed on the surface of the marine floor, while two other sections would have to be buried under the marine floor. As stated above, the marine bottom offshore of the jetty consists of rock pavement or hardbottom composed of old reef material and limestone. To install the first offshore section of the pipelines, an approximately 300 feet long, 62 feet wide and 20 feet deep trench would be excavated seaward from the end of the eastern jetty. This would require the temporary removal of a section of the revetment of the jetty. The revetment is composed of concrete tetrapods or dolos. After the dolos are removed, the existing pavement or hardbottom would be broken and approximately 14,000 cubic yards of material, including broken hardbottom and sediments, would be dredged from the footprint of the trench. To minimize the impact of the oncoming seas and prevent erosion during excavation an open ended caisson would be driven enclosing the excavation area. In order to minimize turbidity impacts, turbidity barriers would be installed to the west (the predominant wave and current direction) to prevent suspended sediments from impacting the corals which have colonized the shoreline dolos and riprap. Once the excavation is complete, the pipelines would be placed, the trench refilled with the same material excavated from it, and the dolos returned to their original location to protect the terminus of the jetty. A clamshell or bucket type excavator would be used to create the trench. The removal of the dolos and the initial 50 to 75 feet of trenching would be done from the shoreline. Beyond the reach of the shoreline equipment a spud barge would be used to complete the trenching, pipeline placement, and refilling of the trench. The dolos would be temporarily relocated to an uncolonized area of marine floor to the southeast of the project footprint while the pipelines are installed. The material excavated from the shoreline would be temporarily stored on the jetty and protected by reinforced silt fencing while stock piled. The material excavated with the barge would be temporarily side cast along the project corridor while the pipelines are installed.
The second section of the pipelines would be surface lain on the marine floor to the south over the next 600 feet before turning to the southwest to cross the Limetree Bay Terminal Navigation Channel. The pipeline would continue on the sea floor surface for 288 feet to the outer edge of the navigation channel.
The third section of the pipeline corridor would require excavating an approximately 1,625 feet long, 62 feet wide and 16 feet deep trench across the navigation channel using an extended arm backhoe or a clamshell or bucket type crane excavator mounted on a barge. The pipelines would be buried down the channel wall and then beneath the uncolonized channel bottom and then up the slope on the western side of the channel. The channel floor is soft unconsolidated material which is uncolonized in the area of the crossing. The excavated material would be temporarily side cast during the pipe placement and once the pipeline is in place the material would be replaced over the top of the pipeline. A total of 40,000 cubic yards of sediments would be excavated and then backfilled into the trench once the pipes are installed. Concrete mats would be placed over the pipes and backfill at critical areas. The same equipment used to excavate the trench would be used to cover it up. The excavated material would be side cast rather than lifting the material completely out of the water to avoid suspending sediments throughout the entire water column. By keeping the material near the seafloor, it would keep the turbidity plumes near the uncolonized seafloor and sparsely colonized lower area of the channel walls. Keeping the material in the water also avoids having the material dewater while waiting to re-fill the trench. The excavation within the channel would be made so the top of the pipelines would be at minimum depth of 70 feet below mean sea level, so they would be at least 10 feet below the existing channel floor which is 60 feet below mean sea level.
The fourth section of the pipelines would begin once the pipelines emerge from the channel. This section of the pipelines would be surface lain to a depth of 150 feet where the PLEM would be placed. The PLEM would be held in place by four 18 inches diameter piles which would be 60 feet in length. A submarine vibra-hammer on a crane barge would be used to install these pilings.
The system would then transition into three 24 inches in diameter hoses which would be suspended mid water at a depth of 150 feet to 250 feet to the Buoy Balance Position for the SPM. Floats and weights would be used to hold the hoses in position and eight anchors would be used to stabilize the SPM in a position at 665 feet of water depth, which would allow for adequate depth for the tankers to swing without getting in to water less than 88 feet. Three anchors may be placed on the floated hoses if necessary. The hose anchors and the SPM anchors would be anchor piles 60 inches in diameter and 80 feet in length. A submarine vibra-hammer on a crane barge would be used to install these pilings.
The SPM would be placed in an area of restricted navigation. The PLEM hoses and SPM would be illuminated to allow for clear visibility of these structures.
The sinking of the pipeline in place would be controlled by a crane on a barge, removal of floats and flooding of the pipe. Pipe sink divers and/or robots would assist and would bolt the pipeline sections together.
The final pipeline route would be marked prior to the start of construction. The construction footprint of trenched sections of the pipeline would be approximately 62 feet wide. The applicant is proposing to relocate all coral colonies located within 50 feet of the centerline of trenched sections of the pipeline corridor. For surface lain sections of the pipeline the applicant estimates an impact area of approximately 11 feet wide and is proposing to relocate all coral colonies located within 20 feet from the centerline of the pipeline corridor. An estimated total of 2,215 coral colonies would be relocated from the project corridor. Those coral colonies would be relocated to the east of their current location, outside of the project construction or impact corridor. According to applicant estimates, the project impact corridor would occupy an area of approximately 4.33 acres of marine bottom, of which approximately 1.65 acres would consist of pavement or hardbottom areas supporting the essential features of Acropora spp.
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 pipeline route has been designed to avoid and minimize the presence of sensitive aquatic resources, including non-ESA listed corals, ESA listed corals, critical habitats and seagrasses to the maximum extent possible. All corals, including ESA listed corals, within the potential impact footprint would be transplanted outside of the project corridor. The relocated corals would be monitored and maintained for five years to ensure their stability and good condition. Water Quality and Environmental Monitoring plans would be implemented during all in-water work. As part of the Water Quality Monitoring Plan, during in water construction, four water samples would be taken around the area of in-water work. Samples would be taken one meter below the surface and one meter from the seafloor up to 30 m in depth and would be analyzed for turbidity expressed as NTUs, Dissolve Oxygen, and pH with a YSI meter twice a day during all in-water construction. Control samples will be utilized to determine whether elevated turbidity is a function of the project or due to ambient conditions. As per the Virgin Islands Code, visual depth visibility readings (Secchi disk measurements) should not fall below one meter; NTU readings may not exceed three NTU in class C waters. Baseline samples would be utilized to determine if elevated readings are the result of sea conditions. Wind speed and direction, wave height and direction, and rainfall would be recorded at the time of sampling. During installation, if the water samples show NTUs readings in excess of the allowable limits, Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR), Division of Environmental Protection (DEP) would be notified by email. If it is determined that the elevated turbidity is the result of the installation, the source of the problem would be identified and methods worked out to reduce suspended sediments. Spill Contingency and Countermeasure Plans will also be implemented during project construction and operation. As part of the Environmental Monitoring Plan monitoring divers will be on site through the pipeline installation, including the trenching, filling, placement of pipes. Divers will dive and photograph and video on going activities and assist in the location of the barge to avoid impact to resources, and transplant additional corals if needed. Monitors will photograph and describe any noted impact to surrounding corals and remediate any potential impacts to the greatest degree possible (e.g., dust corals on which sediment has settled or remove debris). Once activities move into water depths greater than 100 feet an ROV will be used to monitor the activities and to document any potential impacts. Weekly reports will be prepared and submitted to all concerning agencies. Once the installation is complete a final report will be prepared documenting the entire installation and providing a video of the installed components. The system will be monitored on a monthly basis for the first six months after installation to assess any potential impacts and then on a semiannual basis for the life of SPM.
In addition, during construction activities the following protocols would be implemented and followed, as applicable to the Puerto Rico region: NMFS Sea Turtle & Smalltooth Sawfish Construction Conditions; NOAA Vessel Strike Avoidance and Reporting Guidelines; and USFWS Standard Manatee Conditions for In-Water Work.
COMPENSATORY MITIGATION: In order to compensate for project impacts to hard bottom areas, the applicant is proposing to create an artificial reef using the extra pieces of pavement and rock left over from the trenching activities. These will be left in the side cast area and will be collected by divers to create an artificial reef structure in the area which has been cleared of corals. These piece of rock and rubble will be affixed together and placed as to create habitat for fish and invertebrates and overtime this structure will become colonized by corals. The applicant has indicated that taking in consideration the above avoidance and minimization measures, no additional compensatory mitigation should be necessary or required for this project.
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 Virgin Islands State Historic Preservation Officer.
ENDANGERED SPECIES: The Corps has determined that the proposed project would have no effect on nesting individuals of federally listed sea turtles. The Corps has also determined that the proposed project may affect but is not likely to adversely affect the federally listed threatened West Indian Manatee (Trichechus manatus). Similarly, the Corps has determined that the proposed project may affect but is not likely to adversely affect the federally listed endangered Blue (Balaenoptera musculus), Fin (Balaenoptera physalus), Humpback (Megaptera novaeangliae), Sei (Balaneoptera borealis) and Sperm (Physeter microcephalus) whales; the federally listed threatened Nassau grouper (Epinephelus striatus) and Scalloped hammerhead shark (Sphyrna lewini); as well as swimming individuals of the federally listed threatened Green (Chelonia mydas) and Loggerhead (Caretta caretta) sea turtles, and the federally listed endangered Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata) and Leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea) sea turtles. In addition, the Corps has determined that the proposed project may affect but is not likely to adversely affect the federally listed threatened Mountainous star (Orbicella faveolata), Lobed star (Orbicella annularis), Elkhorn (Acropora palmata), and Pilar (Dendrogyra cylindrus) corals. Finally, the Corps has determined that the proposed project may affect and is likely to adversely affect the designated critical habitat for Elkhorn and Staghorn corals. Via separate letter the Corps will request U.S. Fish and Wildlife and National Marine Fisheries Services concurrence with these determinations, as appropriate, pursuant to Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act.
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 of 1996. According to information provided by the applicant, the proposed project would impact approximately 4.33 acres of marine bottom, which may be utilized by various life stages of federally managed species within the U.S. Caribbean. Based on the available information, the Corps initial determination is that the proposed action would not have a substantial adverse impact on EFH or Federally managed fisheries in the Caribbean Sea. 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, Habitat Conservation Division.
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.
AUTHORIZATION FROM OTHER AGENCIES: A Water Quality Certificate from the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Planning and Environmental Resources, Division of Environmental Protection (DPNR-DEP) will be required.
COMMENTS regarding the potential authorization of the work proposed should be submitted in writing to the attention of the District Engineer through the Antilles Permits Section, Fund. Angel Ramos Annex, Suite 202, 383 F.D. Roosevelt Ave., San Juan, Puerto Rico 00918, 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 waters of the United States (WOTUS). 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, José A. Cedeño-Maldonado, in writing at the Antilles Permits Section, Fund. Angel Ramos Annex, Suite 202, 383 F.D. Roosevelt Ave., San Juan, Puerto Rico 00918, by electronic mail at email@example.com or by telephone at (787) 729-6944.
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, aesthetics, 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 of 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 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 the Virgin Islands, the Department of Planning and Natural Resources Coastal Zone Management 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.