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 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 (33 U.S.C. §403) as described below:
APPLICANT: Lee County BOCC
C/o Lesli Haynes
Division of Natural Resources
WATERWAY AND LOCATION: The project would affect waters of the United States associated with the Gulf of Mexico. The project site is located in the Gulf of Mexico, approximately 13 nautical miles offshore at heading of 248 degrees from Redfish Pass in Lee County, Florida. The reef will be placed in approximately 44 feet of water at the following coordinates:
Center: Lat 26°22.199’N, Long 82°17.282’ W
NW Corner: Lat 26°22.407’N, Long 82°17.525’ W
NE Corner: Lat 26°22.407’N, Long 82°17.036’ W
SE Corner: Lat 26°21.990’N, Long 82°17.036’ W
SW Corner: Lat 26°21.990’N, Long 82°17.525’ W.
Directions to the site are as follows: Approximately 13 nautical miles at a 203 degree heading from Redfish Pass, between North Captiva and Captiva Island.
APPROXIMATE CENTRAL COORDINATES: See above
Basic: modify deployment materials and extend permit construction window.
Overall: The applicant wishes to modify the current permitted project description to allow for alternate deployment materials for the Dean Hicks Reef and extend the construction window by 5 years.
EXISTING CONDITIONS: The existing reef is located 13 nautical miles offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. Benthic habitat in the project area is described as non-vegetated bottom of a firm sand/shell mixture. The nearest known hard bottom habitat is more than 1.5 miles from the area, and the nearest structure (Poseidon's Garden artificial reef) is approximately 0.22 miles from the area. To date there have been 5 deployments at the reef site; one deployment of limestone boulders and 4 deployments of clean concrete.
PROPOSED WORK: The applicant seeks authorization to modify the current permitted project description to allow for alternate deployment materials for the Dean Hicks Reef, formerly permitted under the “Causeway West Reef”. The current permit authorizes the deployment of “concrete secondary use material, pre-fabricated concrete artificial reef units, and limestone rock for the construction of the Causeway West Reef, to enhance recreational fishing. Placement material to consist of clean and non-polluting materials, such as pre-cast concrete, culverts, pilings, or junction boxes.” The proposed project description would allow for future deployments of materials to include: precast concrete, concrete/limestone rubble, clean steel/concrete vessels, heavy-gauge scrap steel and other appropriate materials of opportunity. Additionally, the applicant would like to extend the expiration date of the permit by 5 years, resulting in a new expiration date of November 22, 2023.
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 permittee will have divers inspect the placement area prior to deployment to ensure there are no resource impacts. All materials used for reef-building shall be prepared in accordance with National Artificial Reef Plan (as Amended): Guidelines for Marine Artificial reef Materials, Second Edition.
Reef structures, materials, and installation methods shall be designed and deployed to prevent entanglement and entrapment of listed species. The permittee shall ensure that no reef material is deployed that would trap marine life, and must be configured, cut or shaped, so as to not function as a fish trap and to minimize the accumulation of abandoned fishing gear, lines, ropes, and other materials that may entangle ESA-listed species. Specifically, the following design criteria shall be implemented:
1. Open-bottom pre-fabricated reef modules may not be used unless the module also has a top opening sufficiently large to allow a turtle to escape. Approved open-bottom modules include:
•three-sided modules where each side of the top opening is at least 48-in in length along its edge;
• four- (or more) sided modules where each side of the top opening is at least 40-in in length along its edge;
•modules with a round opening with a diameter of at least 40-in (oval openings are not allowed unless a 40-in diameter circle space can fit within the oval); and
•modules that are approved by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Artificial Reef Program as being turtle friendly. FWC is currently working on developing this list.
2. No open-bottom modules are allowed that include additional modules, discs, or other materials stacked or placed on, or immediately adjacent to, the top opening, as they may prevent turtles from easily escaping.
3. Vessels, other large vehicles (e.g., subway cars), and military surplus (e.g., decommissioned battle tanks, landing craft, and Navy TACTS Towers) may be deployed as reef-building material. Any such structure shall:
•be further prepared by removal of protruding structures, such as ladders, rails, booms, and antennae, to the extent practicable;
•have openings on all exposed sides with a minimum diameter of 40-in, i.e., a circle with a 40-in diameter must be able to fit within the opening, to prevent entrapment of ESA-listed species; and
•have a sufficient number of openings to allow for ambient light conditions throughout the structure to ensure that several points of egress will be available for, and visible to, sea turtles that may enter the structure.
4. Automobiles shall not be deployed.
5. Explosives shall not be used to deploy or sink material.
6. Clean steel and concrete, such as bridge or large building demolition materials, slabs, and pilings, may be used provided that, to the extent practicable, steel reinforcement rods are cut off evenly with the surface of the concrete to minimize the amount of protruding metal.
All materials/structures must be configured and constructed to be stable, durable, and provide habitat. Also, at a minimum, no piece shall weigh less than 150 pounds. All placement of the material on the reef will be accomplished during daylight hours. Each deployment typically consists of 1 day, but the construction of 1 reef may take multiple deployments/barge loads of material to complete. The number of deployments each year depends on funding and material availability. Additionally, the applicant will adhere to NMFS’s Sea Turtle and Smalltooth Sawfish Construction Conditions
COMPENSATORY MITIGATION –The applicant has provided the following explanation why compensatory mitigation should not be required:
There are no resource impacts associated with the project and therefore no mitigation is proposed.
CULTURAL RESOURCES: The activity is of such limited scope there is little likelihood of impact upon a historic property; therefore, the proposed project would have “No Potential to Cause Effect”.
The Corps has determined the proposed project may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect the green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas), Loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta), Leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea), Hawksbill sea turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata), Kemp’s ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys kempii), and smalltooth sawfish (Pristis pecinata) . The Corps has received concurrence from the National Marine Fisheries Service concurrence with these determinations 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 1996. The project footprint is not changing and all materials used for reef-building shall be prepared in accordance with National Artificial Reef Plan (as Amended): Guidelines for Marine Artificial reef Materials, Second Edition. Our initial determination is that the proposed action would not have a substantial adverse impact on EFH or Federally managed fisheries in the 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 Fort Myers Permits Section, 1520 Royal Palm Square Boulevard Suite 310, Fort Myers, FL within 15 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, Erin Campbell, in writing at the Fort Myers Permits Section, 1520 Royal Palm Square Boulevard Suite 310, Fort Myers, FL 33919; by electronic mail at firstname.lastname@example.org; by facsimile transmission at (239)334-0797; or, by telephone at (239)334-1975.
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.