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: Brevard County
Solid Waste Management Department
C/o Euripides Rodriguez
2725 Judge Fran Jamieson Way
Viera, Florida 32940
WATERWAY AND LOCATION: The approximately 2,980-acre Brevard County U.S. 192 Solid Waste Management Facility (SWMF) project is located west of Melbourne, on the north side of US 192, approximately 8.5 miles west of I-95 and just east of the Osceola-Brevard County line, in Sections 19, 20, 29, 30, 31, and 32, Township 27 South, and Range 35 East in Brevard County, Florida. The proposed project would affect aquatic resources within the St. Johns River-Lake Washington Watershed (Hydrologic Unit Code #0308010106).
Directions to the site are as follows: From Jacksonville: Take I-95 south; exit and head west onto US 192; the project is located on the north side of US 192, approximately 8.5 miles west of I-95.
APPROXIMATE CENTRAL COORDINATES:
Basic: landfill construction.
Overall: The overall purpose of this project is the development of a site that will support multiple, integrated, environmentally sound and cost-effective solid waste management facilities (current and future), including the construction of a Class III landfill, to serve Brevard County, Florida.
PROJECT DESCRIPTION: The proposed project includes development of a 2,980-acre area (Property) identified as a long-term SWMF for Brevard County. The initial phase of the development (Phase I) would occur on a site (Site) that consists of the southern ±1,900 acres of the Property. Phase I is the only construction and wetland fill proposed in this application. Phase I would consist of a Class III landfill, related facilities, and associated infrastructure, including but not limited to internal roadways, utilities, a stormwater management system, borrow ponds, administrative offices, a scale house, and a multi-use solid waste management area. Future expansion of the SWMF is expected to occur on the northern 1,080 acres of the Property no earlier than 2036. The future expansion may include one or more Class I landfills and associated infrastructure.
EXISTING CONDITIONS: The Property has a long history of agricultural operations. Prior to the conversion to more intensive agricultural uses the land was native range. Beginning in the early 1940’s, the Property was steadily converted to improved pasture and crop production. Most of the drainage features (e.g., swales, ditches, ponds) on the site were constructed during this timeframe, although drainage alterations and modification continued to the near present. The Property contains 22 artesian wells associated with the intensive management of onsite improved pasture. These wells are frequently operated to flood irrigate sections of the Property for short durations in order to facilitate pasture grass growth and for direct cattle watering. Historical conversion along with the intense management of the Property has altered the vast majority of native upland communities that were previously present, with the exception of scattered oak/cabbage palm hammocks and forested upland fringes associated with the larger wetland sloughs present throughout the landscape.
Land classifications are based on the Florida Land Use Cover and Forms Classification System (FLUCCS), revised and published by the Florida Department of Transportation
(1999), and include the following:
Mixed Wetland Hardwood/Cypress (6170/6210): This community is classified as a mixed wetland forest where wetland hardwoods and coniferous species are co-dominant. Understory and groundcover vegetation in this area is similar in composition to other forested wetland communities on the site and includes wax myrtle, elderberry, pickerelweed, arrowhead, bloodroot, softrush and water hyssops.
Mixed Wetland Hardwood/Freshwater Marsh (6170/6410): These forested wetlands are dominated by a mixture of canopy hardwoods including red maple (Acer rubrum), cypress (Taxodium ascendens), and laurel oak (Quercus laurifolia) with understory and groundcover that includes wax myrtle (Myrica cerifera), softrush (Juncus effusus), pickerelweed (Pontederia cordata), arrowhead (Sagittaria lancifolia), bloodroot (Lachnanthes caroliniana), and water hyssops (Bacopa monnerii).
Mixed Wetland Hardwood/Wet Prairie (6170/6430): This land use is dominated by a canopy of red maple, sweet gum (Liquidambar styraciflua) and laurel oak with understory and groundcover including wax myrtle, elderberry, red root, water hyssop and yellow eyed grasses (Xyris elliottii).
Cypress (6210): This community is dominated by a canopy of pond cypress with herbaceous vegetative cover including pickerelweed, duck potato, softrush, red root, broomsedges (Andropogon spp.) and water hyssops.
Cypress/Freshwater Marsh (6210/6410): Dominant vegetation is similar to the cypress, above, with an open marsh component of Thalia (Thalia geniculata), pickerelweed, duck potato, iris (Iris hexagonia), softrush, and red root.
Cypress/Wet Prairie (6210/6430): Dominant vegetation within this land use is similar to the above with a wet prairie component consisting of broomsedges, St. John’s wort, (Hypericum fasciculatum) red root and yellow eyed grasses.
Freshwater Marsh (6410): This vegetative association includes species including arrowhead, pickerel weed, water hyssops, saw grass (Cladium jamaicense), cattails (Typha sp.), maidencane (Panicum hemitomon), iris, softrush, and hat pins (Eriocaulon sp.).
Freshwater Marsh/Waterway (6410/5100): This marsh/ditch association includes vegetative components such as pickerelweed, duck potato, maidencane, Carolina willow (Salix caroliniana), primrose willow (Ludwigia peruviana), softrush, and water hyssop.
Freshwater Marsh/Wet Prairie (6410/6430): The vegetative association is comprised of a mixture of herbaceous vegetation adapted to tolerate a wide range of water levels. Dominant species include sawgrass, duck potato, pickerelweed, softrush, St. John’s wort, iris, broomsedge, red root and water hyssop.
Wet Prairie (6430): Wet prairie communities are typically seasonally inundated systems dominated by a mixture of facultative and facultative wetland species. On this site, this classification has been applied to both naturally occurring ephemeral wetlands as well as man-made flooded pasture. Dominant vegetation includes a mixture of St. John’s wort (Hypericum fasciculatum), water hyssop (Bacopa monnieri), maidencane, broomsedge, softrush, and yellow eyed grasses (Xyris spp.) in less disturbed areas, with softrush and broomsedge dominating man-made wet prairie
Mixed Wetland Hardwood/Cypress/Freshwater Marsh (6170/6210/6410): This community is classified as a mixed wetland forest where wetland hardwoods and coniferous species are co-dominant and the understory component consists of emergent marsh vegetation. This understory and groundcover vegetation is similar in composition to other forested wetland communities on the site and includes wax myrtle, elderberry, pickerelweed, sawgrass, cattails, arrowhead, bloodroot, softrush and water hyssops.
Shrub Dominated Wetland (6400): This community is characterized by a disturbed mixed understory of wet tolerant shrubs including wax myrtle and salt myrtle. The ground cover includes elderberry, pickerelweed, cattails, arrowhead, bloodroot, softrush and water hyssops. The hydrology of this area is affected by the adjacent ditch and seasonal flooding conditions.
Freshwater Marsh/Wet Prairie/Shrub Dominated (6410/6430/6400): The vegetative association is comprised of a mixture of herbaceous vegetation as well as areas containing a shrub dominated understory, all adapted to tolerate a wide range of water levels. Dominant species include wax myrtle, salt myrtle, sawgrass, duck potato, pickerelweed, softrush, St. John’s wort, iris, broomsedge, red root and water hyssop.
Wet Prairie/Mixed Wetland Hardwood/Cypress (6430/6170/6210): This community is classified as a mixed wetland forest where wetland hardwoods and coniferous species are co-dominant. Understory and groundcover vegetation in this area is similar in composition to other forested wetland communities on the site and includes wax myrtle, elderberry, pickerelweed, arrowhead, bloodroot, softrush and water hyssops. The edges of these areas are comprised of vegetation typically associated with wet prairie and includes mixture of St. John’s wort (Hypericum fasciculatum), water hyssop (Bacopa monnieri), maidencane, broomsedge, softrush, and yellow eyed grasses (Xyris spp.).
Cypress/Wet Prairie/Freshwater Marsh (6210/6430/6410): The vegetative association is comprised of a mixture of a canopy of cypress, with understory herbaceous vegetation adapted to tolerate a wide range of water levels. Dominant species include sawgrass, duck potato, pickerelweed, softrush, St. John’s wort, iris, broomsedge, red root and water hyssop.
Lakes < 10 acres (5240): These man-made ponds are heavily disturbed by cattle and contain little vegetation.
The following upland communities are found within the Property:
Improved Pasture (2110): Dominant vegetative species for this land use includes: bahia grass (Paspalum notatum), Bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon, limpograss (Hermarthria altissima), carpetgrass (Axonopus fissifolius), frog’s bit (Phyla nodiflora), coinwort (Centella asiatica), pennywort (Hydrocotyle umbellata), creeping beggartick (Desmodium incanum) and smutgrass (Sporobolus indicus). Pasture on site is subject to intense grazing, as well as periodic burning and/or flooding associated with grass production.
Cattle Feeding Operations (2310): This land use is highly disturbed and mostly devoid of vegetation.
Live Oak (4270): In addition to live oak (Quercus virginiana), other vegetative species associated with this land use include red mulberry (Morus rubra), cabbage palm (Sabal palmetto), saw palmetto (Serenoa repens), elderberry (Sambucus canadensis), variable panicum (Panicum commutatum), tropical soda apple (Solanum viarum) poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans), and blackberry (Rubrus beautifolia). Portions of the hammocks on site have been disturbed due to cattle grazing and feral hog damage.
Live Oak/Cabbage Palm (4270/4280): This land use occurs as a transitional zone between cleared pasture and mixed hardwood wetland communities. In contrast to the live oak community, cabbage palm is more prevalent within the canopy of this land use. In addition to these two species, understory vegetation is dominated by variable panicum, tropical soda apple, sweetbroom (Scoparia dulcis), poorman’s pepper (Lepidium virginicum). Heavy grazing within these areas has caused disturbance to the native groundcover.
Cabbage Palm (4280): The majority of the areas mapped as cabbage palm hammock occur as small islands within the pasture, and as such, they are for the most part heavily grazed with little groundcover vegetation.
PROPOSED WORK: The applicant seeks authorization to place fill in 107.9 acres of waters of the U.S. (wetlands and ditches) for the Phase I development, which includes the construction of a Class III landfill, with internal roadways, utilities, borrow ponds, stormwater ponds, parking areas, office buildings, a scale house and multi-use solid waste management area. At full build-out of the Property, the project would permanently impact 149.7 acres of jurisdictional wetlands, including direct fill in 96.9 acres of wetlands, 52.9 acres of wetland excavation, 4.9 acres of temporary wetland impacts and a 0.1-acre non-jurisdictional wetland impact. Placement of fill in waters of the U.S., for construction of future phases on the Property, is being reviewed under the National Environmental Policy Act but could not be authorized at this time due to the absence of water quality certification.
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 applicant has reduced impacts significantly since the July 6, 2012 public notice advertising approximately 262 acres of proposed fill. Brevard County has considered eight different development plans, each with the intent of minimizing wetlands impacts and impacts to federal and state listed wildlife. Considerations for wetland impact minimization included:
• Reduce and avoid impacts to wetlands providing significant wildlife habitat
• Maximize the conservation of wetlands that have higher functional values and which can be enhanced through mitigation measures
• Maximize the connectivity of proposed conservation areas on the site
• Assess site hydrology to identify wetlands that have been artificially maintained by site management practices
• Identify areas where site management practices have facilitated invasion and spread of undesirable plant species into wetlands
• Maximize the potential for creating and enhancing wetland buffers
• Identify unique wetland systems to the extent that they may exist
• Avoid areas known to be used by listed wildlife species
• Assess hydrologic connections of wetlands onsite and offsite
• Identify wetlands that may provide significant water quality benefits
The project design also provides setbacks along the Property boundary and along the natural gas pipeline easement that traverses the Site. The County’s land development regulations require the landfills on the Property to be setback at least 400 feet from the Property boundary. This 400 foot property boundary buffer was designed to provide adequate buffers for the adjacent properties to the north, east and west of the project. Along the southern boundary of the site, the setback buffer was expanded to 600 feet to provide a larger buffer along highway U.S. 192.
COMPENSATORY MITIGATION – The applicant has offered the following compensatory mitigation plan to offset unavoidable functional loss to the aquatic environment:
“To mitigate for the proposed wetland impacts, the applicant has purchased 134 mitigation bank credits at the Mary A Regional Mitigation Bank to address impacts to the herbaceous wetlands. As there are no forested mitigation bank credits available at this bank, or other banks within the drainage basin, and to address mitigation requirements of the FDEP for impacts to this habitat type, the project plan for the Site (Phase I) also includes the creation of six acres of forested wetland habitat. An assessment of the proposed wetland creation was conducted using UMAM. Based on this analysis, the proposed wetland creation area provides 135.3 units of functional gain. Note that the excess UMAM mitigation credit will be reserved for future use by Brevard County.”
The Corps is not aware of any known historic properties within the permit area, which is defined by the entire 2,980-acre Property. By copy of this public notice, the Corps is providing information for review. A cultural resource assessment survey was conducted in January 2012 and documented in the report entitled “Cultural Resource Assessment Survey Report, US 192 Solid Waste Management Facility, Brevard County, Florida” (February 2012). No archaeological sites or historic structures were identified during the investigation. 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.
The Corps has determined the proposed project “may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect” the Eastern Indigo Snake. Based on the Eastern Indigo Snake Effect Determination Key (dated January 25, 2010; August 13, 2013 Addendum), the Corps determination sequence is as follows: A (The project is not located in open water or salt marsh.) >B (The permit will be conditioned for use of the Service’s Standard Protection Measures for the Eastern Indigo Snake during site preparation and protection construction.) >C (There are gopher tortoise burrows, holes, cavities, or other refugia where a snake could be buried or trapped and injured during project activities.) >D (The project will impact less than 25 acres of xeric habitat supporting less than 25 active and inactive gopher tortoise burrows ) >E (Any permit will be conditioned such that all gopher tortoise burrows, active or inactive, will be evacuated prior to site manipulation in the vicinity of the burrow) = NLAA. The permittee agrees to use the Standard Protection Measures for the Eastern Indigo Snake (dated August 12, 2013). If an indigo snake is encountered, the snake must be allowed to vacate the area prior to additional site manipulation in the vicinity. Any permit will also be conditioned such that holes, cavities, and snake refugia other than gopher tortoise burrows will be inspected each morning before planned site manipulation of a particular area, and, if occupied by an indigo snake, no work will commence until the snake has vacated the vicinity of proposed work. The Corps has U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) concurrence for the proposed activities through the use of the aforementioned determination key.
The Corps determined the project “may affect” both wood stork and Audubon’s crested caracara and requested formal consultation with the FWS on September 7, 2012. The Corps revised the wood stork determination to “may affect not likely to adversely affect,” based on proposed on-site compensatory mitigation measures, and FWS provided concurrence through a Biological Opinion (BO) dated October 28, 2014 (FWS Log. No. 04EF1000-2012-F-0099). The BO also concluded the proposed action would not jeopardize the continued existence of Audubon’s crested caracara.
The proposed project is within the Consultation Areas established for Florida scrub jay, and Everglades Snail Kite. Based on existing habitat types, the Corps preliminarily determined the project will have no effect on these 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 impact approximately 107.9 acres of primarily herbaceous palustrine wetlands located in the St. Johns River watershed. Our initial determination is that the proposed action would not have a substantial adverse impact on EFH or Federally managed fisheries in the upper St. Johns River. 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 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 Cocoa Permits Section, 400 High Point Drive, Suite 600, Cocoa, Florida 32926 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 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 Collins, in writing at the Cocoa Permits Section, 400 High Point Drive, Suite 600, Cocoa, Florida, 32926; by electronic mail at Jeffrey.S.Collins@usace.army.mil; by fax at (321) 504-3803, or by telephone at (321) 504-3771 extension 13.
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 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.