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:
Charlotte County Community Services
Paris & Natural Resources Department
514 East Grace Street
Punta Gorda, Florida 33950
ATTN: Mr. Roger DeBruler
WATERWAY AND LOCATION: The Captain Jeff Steele Artificial Reef is located in the northern waters of Charlotte County, in Federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The site is accessible 13.9 nautical miles at a true heading of 285 degrees from Stump Pass and 18.3 nautical miles at a 297 degrees true heading from Gasparilla Pass, and 21.0 nautical miles to Boca Grande Pass. The reef is located in water depths ranging from -58.0 to -65.0 feet mean lower low water (MLLW) in a 0.25-mile by 0.25-mile area. The final reef height clearance will be -29.0 feet MLLW off the top of the deployed material.
The existing reef corners latitude and longitude are as follows:
• NW Corner 26.93184°/-82.59611° (26°55.910'N/82°36.042'W)
• NE Corner 26.93183°/-82.60070° (26°55.910'N/82°35.766'W)
• SW Corner 26.92784°/-82.59611° (26°55.670'N/82°36.042'W)
• SE Corner 26.92783°/-82.60069° (26°55.670'N/82°35.766'W)
APPROXIMATE CENTRAL COORDINATES: Latitude 26.93000°
Basic: Continued (re)nourishment of an existing artificial reef.
Overall: To continue the (re)nourishment of the Captain Jeff Steele Artificial Reef in order to provide habitat enhancement, diving attraction, material diversity, and a long-lasting habitat for a wide variety of reef fish in the Gulf of Mexico.
EXISTING CONDITIONS: The existing reef site contains a barge, concrete pipes, junction boxes, concrete reinforced power poles, culvert modules, etc. The existing material shows little, if any settling. The bottom is composed of barren sand and does not support live bottom areas.
PROPOSED WORK: The applicant seeks (re)authorization of a previous permit to continue to place clean pre-cast concrete pieces, concrete rubble, heavy gauge scrap steel, vessels, and other suitable materials of opportunity on the reef site, for an additional ten (10) year period, as part of the (re)nourishment of the existing Captain Jeff Steele Artificial Reef site in the Gulf of Mexico.
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 avoid any live bottom resources and minimized to the maximum extent practicable because the reef material deployments have been limited to the same 0.25-mile by 0.25-mile (40-acre) area since its creation in 2008.
COMPENSATORY MITIGATION: The applicant has provided the following explanation why compensatory mitigation should not be required: Compensatory mitigation is not required because the purpose of the project purpose is to create aquatic habitat resulting in a net gain of aquatic functions. The project has not and will not result in the permanent loss of any aquatic resources.
CULTURAL RESOURCES: The Corps is not aware of any known historic properties within the permit area. Review of the latest published version of the National
Register of Historic Places indicates that no registered properties, or properties listed as eligible for inclusion therein, are located at the site of the proposed work. This reef has been in operation since 2008 and no historic properties have been documented within or adjacent to the reef site. 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: Pursuant to Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act, the Corps has determined the (re)authorization of this project may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect (MANLAA) the following listed species: West Indian Manatee (Trichechus manatus), Smalltooth sawfish (Pristis pectintata), and Swimming Sea Turtles including Green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas), Hawksbill sea turtles (Eremochelys imbricate), Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles (Lepidochelys kempii), Leatherback sea turtles (Dermochelys coriacea), and/or Loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta). There is no designated critical habitat within or immediately adjacent to the project area.
The Corps obtained previous MANLAA concurrence from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) on December 15, 2007 (Service Consultation Code: 41420-2007-1-1108) for the West Indian Manatee and the project will be required to abide by the current “Standard Manatee Conditions for In-Water Work – 2011”. Therefore, the Corps has concluded that since project location and methodologies have not changed, the continued (re)nourishment of this reef will not result in any new effects to the manatee and no further consultation will be required unless otherwise notified by USFWS.
The Corps also obtained a previous MANLAA concurrence from the National Marine Fisheries Service Protected Resources Division (NMFS-PRD) on October 31, 2007. The Corps has concluded that since project location and methodologies have not changed, the continued (re)nourishment of this reef will not result in any new effects to the smalltooth sawfish or swimming sea turtles.
Furthermore, the Corps evaluated the proposed work utilizing NMFS’s Jacksonville District’s Programmatic Biological Opinion (JAXBO) dated 20 November 2017. JAXBO analyzes the effects from 10 categories of minor in-water activities occurring in Florida and the U.S. Caribbean on sea turtles (loggerhead, leatherback, Kemp's ridley, hawksbill, and green); smalltooth sawfish; Nassau grouper; scalloped hammerhead shark, Johnson's seagrass; sturgeon (Gulf, shortnose, and Atlantic); corals (elkhorn, staghorn, boulder star, mountainous star, lobed star, rough cactus, and pillar); whales (North Atlantic right whale, sei, blue, fin, and sperm); and designated critical habitat for Johnson's seagrass; smalltooth sawfish; sturgeon (Gulf and Atlantic); sea turtles (green, hawksbill, leatherback, loggerhead); North Atlantic right whale; and elkhorn and staghorn corals in accordance with Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act. For this evaluation, the Corps conducted a project specific review to ensure that all of the Project Design Criteria (PDC) were met. In accordance with the project-specific review process established in the JAXBO, a PDC checklist, certification that the activity meets the applicable PDCs, and supporting documentation for the proposed activity were emailed to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org on 15 March 2018. The Jacksonville District satisfied the project-specific review requirements stipulated in the JAXBO and satisfied its obligation under the ESA for the above-listed species and critical habitats within the NMFS purview.
Therefore, no further consultation will be required unless otherwise notified by NMFS-PRD. All previous and/or new permit conditions applicable to these listed species will be included in any new permit authorizations.
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 proposed reef (re)nourishment would impact up to 40+ acres of existing artificial reef and sand bottom habitat utilized by various life stages of shrimp, reef fish, stone crab; and coastal migratory pelagics. 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. The proposed deployment areas support a bare bottom as described above. 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 (NMFS-HCD).
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 been verified by Corps personnel, as the project is located within the tidal waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
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 via traditional mail to the attention of the District Engineer through the Fort Myers Permits Section, 1520 Royal Palm Square Blvd, Fort Myers, FL 33919 or preferably via email to Katy.R.Damico@usace.army.mil 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 aquatic resources. This is based on an analysis of the applicant's avoidance and minimization efforts for the project, as well as the compensatory mitigation, if proposed.
QUESTIONS concerning this application should be directed to the project manager, Katy Damico, in writing at the Fort Myers Permits Section, 1520 Royal Palm Square Blvd, Fort Myers, Florida 33919; by electronic mail at Katy.R.Damico@usace.army.mil ; by facsimile transmission at (813) 769-7061; or, by telephone at (813) 769-7076.
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. Artificial reefs that are constructed in Florida's coastal zone require coordination with the state for Coastal Zone Management (CZM) Consistency as required under Section 307(c) of the Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1456(c)). This coordination is required even when the state does not issue or require a state permit.
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.
The Florida State Clearinghouse determined that this project was consistent with the Florida Management Program, via a letter dated November 26, 2007.
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.