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SAJ-1998-03049 (SP-MRE)

Posted: 12/20/2017

Expiration date: 1/22/2018

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: Sawmill Timber LLC
                      Attn: Mr. Chester Skinner III
                      2963 DuPont Avenue, Suite 2
                      Jacksonville, Florida 32217

WATERWAY AND LOCATION: The project would affect waters of the United States (wetlands) associated with Buck Head Branch and/or Boggy Branch, both of which are tributaries to Pablo Creek. The project site is located southeast of the intersection of Interstate 295 and John Turner Butler Boulevard, in Sections 8, 9, 16, and 17, Township 3 South, Range 28 East, Jacksonville, Duval County, Florida.

                                                                         Longitude -81.501541°


Basic: The basic project purpose is mixed-use (residential – commercial) development.

Overall: The overall project purpose is the establishment of a mixed-use (residential – commercial) development serving east-central Jacksonville, Florida.


The subject property encompasses approximately 1,066.27 acres of land contiguous to the southeast corner of the intersection of Interstate 295 and John Turner Butler Boulevard. The property has been owned by the same extended family since the late 1800’s and has been managed for various uses such as silviculture, cattle grazing, and hunting. The existing site conditions reflect the land management activities for the past 100 plus years. All of the property has been timbered at various times; and, a network of timber roads extends throughout the site. A portion of Sawmill Slough, located in the northwest corner of the property, was dammed decades ago to create a reservoir. Many of the larger pines that were not harvested had been tapped for turpentine until the 1950’s; and, some of the higher ridges were converted to pastures for grazing cattle. Many of the pine flatwoods have been intensively managed as pine plantations and include numerous drainage ditches. When the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) built the adjacent section of John Turner Butler Boulevard and Kernan Boulevard, a large borrow pit was constructed on the property as a source of fill dirt; and, the borrow pit has been managed since for fishing and recreation. The property is currently owned and managed by Sawmill Timber, LLC and continues to be used for various purposes, which include silviculture, hay production, hunting, and fishing. The owners follow a timber management plan that has been approved by the City of Jacksonville and the Florida Forest Service, which is updated annually.

Uplands (842.13 acres): The property encompasses ten different upland community types identified by the Florida Land Use, Cover, and Forms Classification System (FLUCFCS).

Pine Flatwoods (FLUCFCS code 411, 350.30 acres): Pine flatwoods occur throughout the property in flatter areas with more poorly drained soils. The canopy in these areas is dominated by slash pine (Pinus elliottii) along with scattered hardwoods such as water oak (Quercus nigra), laurel oak (Quercus laurifolia), southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora), and sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua). The understory and ground cover vegetation is dominated by such species as saw palmetto (Serenoa repens), bitter gallberry (Ilex glabra), and bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum). This vegetation is relatively dense due to the lack of regular fire. The proximity to major highways and residential development has restricted the ability of the owners from conducting periodic prescribed burns.

Pine Plantation (FLUCFCS code 441, 134.88 acres): The pine plantations are planted with rows of even aged loblolly pine (Pinus taeda). Most of the plantations were thinned within the past 2 years in accordance with the timber management plan. The plantations are periodically bush-hogged to reduce competition for the pines. As a result, the ground cover vegetation in many areas is limited to herbaceous species such as bracken fern and various grasses.

Longleaf Pine – Xeric Oak (FLUCFCS code 412, 162.97 acres): The better drained portions of the property contain stands of scattered longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) mixed with such xeric oaks as turkey oak (Quercus laevis), blue jack oak (Quercus incana), and scattered live oak (Quercus virginiana). The understory and ground cover vegetation includes such species as scattered saw palmetto, myrtle oak (Quercus myrtifolia), bracken fern, and various grasses. The larger longleaf pines have been timbered, leaving scattered seed trees to allow for natural regeneration.

Clear Cuts (FLUCFCS code 441c/412c, 119.45 acres): Portions of the pine flatwoods and longleaf pine-xeric oak woods have been clear cut in preparation for replanting as pine plantation. These areas currently lack a canopy. The understory and ground cover vegetation has been bush-hogged as part of the site preparation work.

Improved Pasture (FLUCFCS code 210, 25.50 acres): Several areas comprise fields of Bahia grass (Paspalum notatum). These fields had been used to graze livestock prior to the construction of John Turner Butler Boulevard and Interstate 295. The fields are still maintained for production of hay and also for hunting. Various early successional species also occur in these fields, such as dog fennel (Eupatorium sp.), blackberry (Rubus sp.), and ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia).

Temperate Hardwoods (FLUCFCS code 425, 16.95 acres): The areas of temperate hardwoods have a canopy dominated by such species as live oak, laurel oak (Quercus hemisphaerica), southern magnolia, pignut hickory (Carya glabra), and scattered longleaf pine. The understory and ground cover vegetation includes such species as saw palmetto, staggerbush (Lyonia ferruginea), wild olive (Osmanthus americanus), and bracken fern.

Hardwood-Conifer Mixed (FLUCFCS code 434, 27.95 acres): Some of the woods have a canopy dominated by a mixture of pines such as longleaf and slash and hardwoods such as live oak, laurel oak, and southern magnolia. The understory and ground cover vegetation includes such species as saw palmetto, staggerbush, bitter gallberry, and bracken fern.

Open Land (FLUCFCS code 190, 0.59 acre): The property contains a number of relatively small areas of open land that have been cleared and kept as open fields but are not necessarily maintained as improved pasture.

Commercial and Services (FLUCFCS code 140, 1.75 acres): Sawmill Timber, LLC owns two buildings on the property. One building is located east of the borrow pit near Kernan Boulevard and is used as an office and storage barn for equipment and supplies. A second building is located to the west of the impoundment in the western half of the property. This building is used for entertaining family and guests.

Residential, Low Density (FLUCFCS code 112, 1.79 acres): The caretaker for the property lives in a mobile home located on the north side of the borrow pit near Kernan Boulevard.

Trail Roads (FLUCFCS code 814): Numerous unpaved trail roads extend throughout the property. The wetlands are crossed in multiple locations. The crossings over the main wetlands have been in place for many decades. The acreage of the trail roads is included in the adjacent vegetative communities.

Surface Waters (25.78 acres): The property contains two main types of surface waters, which are man-made drainage ditches and manmade ponds. In conjunction with submitting permit applications, the applicant identified the individual surface waters with unique numbers. The applicant identified drainage ditches with “D” numbers and man-made ponds with “P” or “SW” numbers. For example, the man-made ditch “DA1” is the label for an upland-cut ditch located at the southeast corner of wetland system A in the eastern half of the property (reference the project drawings).

Man-Made Drainage Ditches (FLUCFCS code 510, 6.813 acres upland-cut 3.277 acres wetland-cut): The property encompasses numerous man-made drainage ditches. Some of the ditches were constructed along the edges of trail roads and serve to keep the road surface dry. Other ditches extend through the pine plantations. The ditches vary in width and depth but generally do not hold water throughout the year. The largest ditch onsite extends into the property from the western boundary and serves as the outfall for a large wetland system located to the west of Interstate 295. This large ditch holds shallow flowing water throughout the year. Vegetation growing in the ditches includes such species as cattail (Typha sp.), primrose willow (Ludwigia peruviana), beak rush (Rhynchospora spp.), spikerush (Eleocharis spp.), Asian coinwort (Centella asiatica), and various grasses. The ditches are maintained periodically as needed to prevent obstruction, especially after timbering operations.

Man-Made Ponds (FLUCFCS codes 533/534, 15.69 acres): There are three man-made ponds on the property. PA1 is a 2.91-acre impoundment that was created when a section of Sawmill Slough was dammed many years ago. SW2 is a 0.21-acre livestock watering pond surrounded by uplands. P3 is a 12.57-acre man-made borrow pit surrounded by uplands that was constructed for fill dirt when the adjacent section of John Turner Butler Boulevard and Kernan Boulevard were being built.

Wetlands (198.36 acres): The property encompasses five main types of wetlands pursuant to the FLUCFCS. The individual wetlands have been labeled with separate “W” numbers for the current applications. For example wetland system “A” located at the western end of the property is divided into 8 separate areas by roads and ditches. The wetland at the southernmost end of area A is designated “WA1”.

Stream and Lake Swamps (FLUCFCS code 615, 169.24 acres): The highest quality wetlands onsite are the swamps located along the main drainageways. The large swamp in the western half of the property forms part of Buckhead Branch, which drains to the south and forms a headwater of Pablo Creek. Sawmill Slough drains into Buckhead Branch near the northwest corner of the property. A portion of Sawmill Slough was impounded to form a man-made reservoir many decades ago. The eastern half of the property contains a section of Ryals Swamp which forms another headwater of Pablo Creek. Boggy Branch drains into Ryals Swamp immediately south of the northern property boundary. These wetlands have not been timbered for many decades, so the vegetation is relatively mature and in good condition with very little nuisance, invasive species. These areas provide habitat for a wide variety of aquatic and wetland dependent wildlife and contribute to the downstream ecological quality of Pablo Creek. The deeper portions of these forested wetlands may be characterized as bottomland swamps which are periodically flooded and contain one or more meandering flow channels that contain flowing water throughout the year. The canopy in these deeper wetlands includes such species as bald cypress (Taxodium distichum), Carolina ash (Fraxinus caroliniana), blackgum (Nyssa sylvatica var. biflora), American elm (Ulmus americanus), red maple (Acer rubrum), and sweetbay (Magnolia virginiana). The understory and ground cover vegetation are relatively open and include such species as iris (Iris sp.), swamp lily (Crinum americanum), sedges (Carex spp. and Cyperus spp.), beakrush (Rhynchospora spp.), dwarf bluestem (Sabal minor), buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis), Virginia willow (Itea virginica), and royal fern (Osmunda regalis). Bordering the upper edges of the bottomland swamps are seepage slope wetlands that include bay swamp and hydric hardwood hammock. The dominant vegetation in the bay wetlands is loblolly bay (Gordonia lasianthus), fetterbush (Lyonia lucida), cinnamon fern (Osmunda cinnamomea), bamboo vine (Smilax laurifolia), and sphagnum moss (Sphagnum sp.). The areas of hydric hardwood hammock include various hardwoods such as sweetbay, sweetgum, water oak, laurel oak, ironwood (Carpinus caroliniana), cane (Arundinaria gigantea), pipestem (Agarista populifolia), cinnamon fern, netted chain fern (Woodwardia areolata), wax myrtle (Morella cerifera), and fetterbush. These areas have a seasonal high water table at or very near the ground surface due to ground water seepage from the adjacent uplands.

Wetland Pine Plantation (FLUCFCS code 441W, 23.74 acres): Contained within many of the upland pine plantations are areas of wetland pine plantation. The vegetation in these areas comprises a canopy of rows of even-aged planted loblolly pine and a ground cover of herbaceous species such as blue maidencane (Amphicarpum muhlenbergianum), beakrush, red root (Lachnanthes carolinianum), and warty panic grass (Panicum verrucosum). These areas are located adjacent to ditches that have drained the pine plantations for many decades. As a result of the slope of the land and the ditches, the areas of jurisdictional pine plantation do not hold standing water, although the seasonal high water table is still within 6 inches of the ground surface. The pine plantations are bush-hogged periodically to control the growth of competing vegetation, so the ground cover tends to be dominated by early successional weed species.

Hydric Pine Flatwoods (FLUCFCS code 625, 0.07 acre): The eastern half of the property contains a very small area of hydric pine flatwood. The canopy in this area contains slash pine. The understory and ground cover vegetation is sparse and includes blue maidencane.

Inland Ponds and Sloughs (FLUCFCS code 616, 1.88 acres): The northeast corner of the property contains a section of Boggy Branch that connects to Ryals Swamp. This wetland is relatively narrow and was ditched decades ago. The vegetation is dominated by such species as loblolly bay, slash pine, fetterbush, and cinnamon fern.

Mixed Wetland Hardwoods (FLUCFCS code 617, 0.12 acre): The northwest corner of the property contains a small area of drained wetland that contains such species as red maple, water oak, and cinnamon fern.

Wetland Creation Area (FLUCFCS code 625, 1.31 acres): A wetland creation area was constructed in 1998 along the eastern edge of Gum Swamp. This creation area has naturally converted into a seepage slope/hydric pine flatwood wetland. The canopy is dominated by slash pine and loblolly bay. The understory and ground cover vegetation are dominated by such species as wax myrtle, sphagnum moss (Sphagnum sp.), clubmoss (Lycopodium sp.), yellow-eyed grass (Xyris sp.), and various wet grasses. Approximately 1.09 acres of this area was required as mitigation for the extension of Gate Parkway pursuant to St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD) permit 4-031-0606-ERP issued on April 7, 1998 and Corps permit SAJ-1998-03121.

Conservation Easements (2.00 acres): There are two additional wetland creation areas associated with the conversion of an offsite borrow pit to a stormwater treatment pond pursuant to SJRWMD permit 4-031-0424M issued on May 9, 1995. These creation areas were constructed and appear to be successful. A conservation easement was recorded over these areas on October 27, 1995 (Book 8206, Pages 36 to 47 in the Official Records for Duval County).

PROPOSED WORK: The applicant is requesting a 25-year permit for the project, which would be built in seven phases. Construction of the overall project would require the elimination of a total of 26.81 acres of wetlands and 10.54 acres of surface waters. Almost one half of the work affecting wetlands (13.17 acres) would affect partially drained pine plantation. Most of the remaining impacts are required for road crossings. The surface water impacts would primarily affect man-made ditches (9.26 acres) and livestock watering ponds.

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:

Due to the location, orientation, and size of the wetland systems encompassed by the property, the total avoidance of work affecting these systems is not practical. The master plan generally avoids work affecting the higher quality wetlands, except for requisite road crossings, and limits adverse impacts to degraded areas, primarily pine plantation and drainage ditches.

COMPENSATORY MITIGATION – The applicant has offered the following compensatory mitigation plan to offset unavoidable functional loss to the aquatic environment:

Compensatory mitigation would be accomplished through a combination of onsite wetland restoration (2.76 acres), wetland enhancement (10.82 acres), wetland creation (0.18 acre), and wetland preservation (158.94 acres) combined with the purchase of credits from a federally approved mitigation bank with a service area encompassing the project site.

CULTURAL RESOURCES: The established National Historic Preservation Act scope of analysis for this project encompasses the entire property. The Corps has reviewed the Cultural Resource Assessment Survey of the 1100 Acre Parcel, Duval County, Florida (March 2017), which evaluated the project site, and finds that Cultural Resource Assessment Survey complete and sufficient in accordance with Chapters 1a-46, Florida Administrative Code. The Corps determined that the field strategy and shovel testing regime for this project was thorough and meets the standards set forth in Module 3 of the Cultural Resource Management Standards and Operational Manual. As a result of the survey, no archaeological sites were identified, one archaeological occurrence was identified, and one historic structure, a 1950s cabin (8DU21931) was identified within the permit area. The structure was recommended as potentially eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) by the researcher. The researcher also suggested that the structure’s history and physical attributes have been sufficiently documented in this report to serve as potential mitigation for any adverse effects that may occur in the future. In a letter dated May 17, 2017, the State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO) indicated that the SHPO assessed the building as not eligible for inclusion on the NRHP. The Corps agrees with the SHPO assessment and determined that no effects would occur to historic properties as a result of future project activities at the site.

ENDANGERED SPECIES: The established Endangered Species Act scope of analysis for this project encompasses the entire property.

Red Cockaded Woodpecker (Picoides borealis): The project site is within a consultation area identified by the Corps and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) for this species; and, the property is within 1 mile of six identified colonies (1684, 1685, 1686, 1688, 1689, and 1690). Therefore, this species may utilize the project site. Habitat for red-cockaded woodpecker typically incorporates mature pine woodlands (not wetlands); and, optimal habitat is characterized as a broad savanna with a scattered overstory of large pines and a dense groundcover containing a diversity of grass and shrub species. Nesting and roosting occur in cavity trees that are almost exclusively old, living, flat-topped pine trees. The subject property has been surveyed for red-cockaded woodpeckers. The property contains scattered mature longleaf pine and slash pine. All of these pines have been inspected, and no Red Cockaded Woodpecker nest cavities have been identified. The applicant’s ecological agent indicates that no Red Cockaded Woodpeckers have been observed on the subject property or on the land immediately abutting the subject property. Further, no calls of the Red Cockaded Woodpecker have been heard onsite or from the land immediately abutting the subject property. The areas where the mature pines occur onsite have not been regularly burned and have a relatively dense undergrowth. Past land management activities have created a patch work of recent clear cuts, thinned stands of natural pine, pine plantations, and open pasture. As a result suitable nesting and foraging habitat does not exist onsite. Further, as significant forested habitat is located near the project site, it is likely that this species would only opportunistically forage at the site, which the development of the site could reduce but would not preclude. In consideration of this analysis, the Corps has determined that the project would have no effect on this species.

Wood Stork (Mycteria americana): The project site is wholly or partially within the Core Foraging Area of the Cedar Point Road (594003) and Dee Dot Ranch (594004) Wood Stork nesting colonies. Therefore, this species may utilize the project site. Wood Storks forage in water that ranges from 6 to 10 inches deep. They feed in freshwater marshes, narrow tidal creeks, and flooded tidal pools. Favored foraging areas are depressions in marshes and swamps where prey becomes concentrated during periods of falling water levels. Wood Stork typically do not forage in areas with dense undergrowth vegetation nor in areas with a closed canopy. The main wetland systems, Buckhead Branch and Ryalls Swamp, contain shallow flow channels that could provide foraging areas for Wood Stork. However, such use would likely be sporadic due to the dense canopy cover and the amount of understory vegetation. Except for a few proposed road crossings, no impacts are proposed to these wetlands. The other wetlands onsite have been drained for decades by a series of ditches. These wetlands do not hold standing water, so they do not provide suitable foraging habitat. The ditches do not typically hold 6 to 10 inches of water, so they do not provide suitable foraging habitat. In consideration of the site conditions, the project would affect less than 0.5 acre of suitable foraging habitat for Wood Storks. In consideration of this information, the Corps utilized The Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Jacksonville Ecological Services Field Office and State of Florida Effect Determination Key for the Wood Stork in Central and North Peninsular Florida, September 2008, to determine potential effects upon this species. Use of this key resulted in the sequence A-B-C-may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect.

Eastern Indigo Snake (Drymarchon corais couperi): This species frequents several habitat types, including pine flatwoods, scrubby flatwoods, high pine, dry prairie, tropical hardwood hammocks, edges of freshwater marshes, agricultural fields, coastal dunes, and human-altered habitats. Therefore, this species may utilize the project site. Gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus) burrows are commonly utilized as refuge from winter cold and/or desiccating conditions in xeric habitats; and, hollowed root channels, hollow logs, or burrows of rodents, armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus), or land crabs (Cardisoma guanhumi) provide shelter in wetter habitats. The applicant did not provide information associated with any previous or recent survey of the project site for gopher tortoise (active or inactive gopher tortoise burrows). However, the applicant’s ecological agent indicates that populations of gopher tortoise occur on the subject property in the areas of longleaf pine – xeric oak. In consideration of this information, any authorization issued by the Corps would require the implementation of the Standard Protection Measures for the Eastern Indigo Snake, August 12, 2013. Due to the presence of eastern indigo snake habitat, the Corps utilized The Eastern Indigo Snake Programmatic Effect Determination Key, August 2013. Use of this key resulted in the sequence A-B-C-D-may affect. The Corps will coordinate our determination with the FWS.

The Corps executed a Resources At Risk (RAR) report. The RAR did not indicate that the site is utilized by, or contains habitat critical to, any other federally listed threatened or endangered species. The Corps also reviewed geospatial data and other available information. The Corps has not received or discovered any information that the project site is utilized by, or contains habitat critical to, any other federally listed threatened or endangered species.

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 not affect marine or estuarine habitat. Therefore, the Corps’ initial determination is that the proposed action would not have an adverse effect on EFH or federally managed fisheries in Pablo Creek or downstream waters. 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 Corps has reviewed the delineation of wetlands encompassed by the project site and concurs with that delineation. The Corps, however, has not finalized the jurisdictional determination regarding those wetlands.

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 Jacksonville Permits Section, Post Office Box 4970, Jacksonville, Florida 32232 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, Mark R. Evans, in writing at the Jacksonville Permits Section, Post Office Box 4970, Jacksonville, Florida 32232; by electronic mail at mark.r.evans@usace.army.mil; by facsimile transmission at (904)232-1940; or, by telephone at (904)232-2028.

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.

duval county permit public notice U.S. Army Corps of Engineers USACE