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: Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), District 5
719 South Woodland Blvd.
Deland, Florida 32720
WATERWAY AND LOCATION: The project is located in waters of the United States associated with freshwater wetlands that flow to Lake Monroe and the St. Johns River, a Traditional Navigable Waterway. The project site is located along Interstate 4 (I-4) one mile east of SR 434 to east of SR 15/600 (US 17/92), a distance of approximately 10 miles, in Sections 12, 13, 24, 25, 26, and 35, Township 20 South, Range 29 East; Section 6, 7, 18, Township 20 South, Range 30 East; and Section 16, 19, 20, 29, 31, 32, Township 19 South, Range 30 East, in Seminole County, Florida.
Directions to the site from Jacksonville are as follows: Exit I-95 onto I-4. Head west on I-4 for approximately 36 miles to SR 434. The project begins approximately one mile east of SR 434 near the existing rest area.
APPROXIMATE CENTRAL COORDINATES:
Basic: Linear transportation improvements.
Overall: The overall project purpose is to construct roadway improvements within the I-4 corridor to reduce congestion, improve traffic operations, and improve public safety in western Seminole County.
EXISTING CONDITIONS: The existing I-4 corridor consists of three 12-foot travel lanes in each direction with or without 24-foot wide auxiliary lanes in some sections, 12-foot inside and outside shoulders (10-foot paved) with guardrail located on the inside of the eastbound lane, and 40 to 164-foot grassed median all within a 300 to 350-foot right-of-way. The project limits include interchanges at Lake Mary Boulevard, CR 46A, SR 417, SR 46, and SR 15/600 (US 17/92). The following paragraphs summarize the general land uses as well as the vegetative composition and hydrologic features of wetlands and surface waters in the project corridor, as provided by the applicant’s consultant. The land uses were classified according to the Florida Land Use, Cover and Forms Classification System (FLUCFCS) (FDOT, 1999).
FLUCFCS 110/120: Low/Medium-Density Residential: These land uses abut the right-of-way and include unincorporated Seminole County, the City of Longwood, the City of Lake Mary, and the City of Sanford.
FLUCFCS 140: Commercial and Services: This land use includes businesses located in mall, strip mall, or stand-alone establishments adjacent to the right-of-way.
FLUCFCS 170: Institutional: This land use includes educational facilities, including vocational and higher education schools.
FLUCFCS 190: Open Land: This land use consists of non-forested, undeveloped in urban areas, including within and adjacent to the right-of-way.
FLUCFCS 310: Herbaceous (Dry Prairie): This land use consists of relatively open areas adjacent to the right-of-way that support cabbage palm (Sabal palmetto), saw palmetto (Serenoa repens), and various hardwoods scattered throughout a mosaic of bahiagrass (Paspalum notatum), beggartick (Biden alba) and dogfennel (Eupatorium capillifolium).
FLUCFCS 434: Upland Mixed-Coniferous/Hardwood: This land use contains a dense canopy of slash pine (Pinus elliotti), live oak (Quercus virginiana), laurel oak (Q. laurifolia), cabbage palm, southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora), sand pine (P. clausa), and longleaf pine (P. palustris). The shrub and understory layer consists of saw palmetto, myrtle oak (Quercus myrtifolia), red maple (Acer rubrum), shiny blueberry (Vaccinium myrsinities), rusty staggerbush (Lyonia ferruginea), and gallberry (Ilex glabra).
Wetland Communities and Surface Waters:
FLUCFCS 512 and 513: Streams and Waterways: This land use includes wetland or upland cut ditches located along the existing eastbound travel lanes and a wetland or upland cut ditch located along the existing westbound travel lane from east of SR 434 to east US 17/92.
FLUCFCS 530: Reservoirs Less than 10 acres: This land use best describes existing stormwater management systems located within and adjacent to the project corridor.
FLUCFCS 617: Mixed Wetland Hardwoods: This land use includes forested wetlands adjacent to Lake Monroe that support a canopy of red maple, sweet bay (Persea palustris), cabbage palm, Carolina willow (Salix caroliniana), cypress (Taxodium spp.), sweet gum (Liquidambar styraciflua), and slash pine. The understory consists of saw palmetto, wax myrtle (Myerica cerifera), hackberry (Celtis occidentalis), common reed (Phragmites australis), elderberry (Sambucus canadensis0, swamp fern (Blechnum serrulatum), cinnamon fern (Osmunda cinnamomea), lizard’s tail (Saururus cernuus), and broomsedge (Andropogon virginicus). This land use includes Wetland 3, Wetland 5, and Wetland 6.
FLUCFCS 621: Cypress: This land use includes isolated forested wetlands dominated by cypress with an understory of red maple, sweet gum, royal fern and cinnamon fern. This land use describes wetlands in the infield of I-4 and the off ramp of I-4 westbound to US 17/92. This land use includes Wetland 4.
FLUCFCS 641: Freshwater Marshes: This land use includes scattered Carolina willows and Chinese tallow (Triadica sebifera) within a mosaic of redroot (Lachnanthese caroliana), fringed meadowbeauty (Rhexia petiolate), chalky bluestem (Andropogon virginicus), maidencane (Panicum spp.), Elliott’s lovegrass (Eragrostis elliottii), dogfennel and St. John’s wort (Hypericum spp.). This land use is located along the I-4 eastbound exist ramp to Lake Mary Boulevard. This land use includes Wetland 1A.
PROPOSED WORK: The applicant seeks authorization to dredge and/or fill 7.24 acres of wetlands, 1.52 acres of wetland cut surface waters and 2.40 acres of upland cut surface waters, for a total of 11.16 acres of waters of the United States (surface waters and wetlands) in order to perform roadway improvements along I-4 from one mile east of SR 434 to east of US 17/92. In addition, the project would incur approximately 3.23 acres of secondary wetland impacts. The proposed improvements to I-4 include widening the existing six-lane divided urban interstate to a 10-lane divided highway, intersection improvements along the corridor, and new or upgraded stormwater management facilities.
AVOIDANCE AND MINIMIZATION INFORMATION – This project has been designed to avoid and minimize wetlands to the greatest extent practicable while maintaining FDOT and American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) design criteria. Environmental data gathered during the Planning, Development & Environmental (PD&E) Study and design phase were used to develop the current alignment that provides the necessary roadway improvements, satisfies acceptable traffic engineering design standards, and avoids and minimizes impacts to significant environmental features to the greatest extent possible. It was determined the proposed design represents the minimum amount of fill required to achieve the project purpose and meet the FDOT’s safety criteria and drainage requirements. The project will be constructed in accordance with the Clean Water Act Section 401 Water Quality Certification (WQC) and utilize Best Management Practices (BMPs) during construction to avoid water quality degradation. The stormwater treatment facilities will be improved and upgraded to fully treat and attenuate all anticipated stormwater. Based on the above considerations, there are no practicable alternatives to the proposed construction in wetlands, and the proposed action includes all practicable measures to minimize harm to wetlands that may result from proposed roadway construction. These wetlands have been disturbed by edge effects associated with adjacency to the existing I-4 corridor as evidenced by presence of nuisance/exotic species within and adjacent to the ROW. By constructing the project within and adjacent to the existing I-4 corridor, impacts to previously undisturbed resources have been minimized.
COMPENSATORY MITIGATION – The applicant proposed the purchase of 4.42 freshwater herbaceous and forested Uniform Mitigation Assessment Method (UMAM) credits from an approved wetland mitigation bank.
CULTURAL RESOURCES: The Corps is aware of recorded historic resources within the permit area. By letter dated May 9, 2017, the FDOT indicated that historical/architectural background research identified 30 previously recorded historic resources within the Area of Potential Effects (APE). FDOT provided the State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO) a Cultural Resource Assessment Technical Memorandum (December 2015) and Cultural Resources Assessment Addendum (May 2017) and requested SHPO concurrence with FDOT’s determination that the construction activities within the ROW along the permit area will have no adverse effect on any resources listed or considered eligible for listing on the NRHP.
None of the previously recorded resources is a distinctive embodiment of a type, period, or method of construction. In addition, background research did not reveal any historic associations with significant persons and/or events. By letter dated January 31, 2018, the SHPO provided concurrence with the FDOT recommendations and findings that the proposed action will have no adverse effect on historic properties listed, or eligible for listing, on the NRHP, or that are otherwise significant to Florida’s history or prehistory.
ENDANGERED SPECIES: The project is located within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) Consultation Areas for Florida scrub jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens), Everglade snail kite (Rostrhamus sociabilis plumbeus) and wood stork (Mycteria americana); and potential habitat for the eastern indigo snake (Drymarchon corais couperi).
The Corps has determined the proposed project is not likely to adversely affect the Eastern Indigo snake (Drymarchon corais couper) and wood stork (Mycteria americana).
Eastern Indigo snake: The potential impacts to the endangered Eastern Indigo snake were evaluated using The Eastern Indigo Snake Programmatic Effect Determination Key, August 2013. Use of the Eastern Indigo snake key resulted in the following sequential determination: A > B > C > D > E “not likely to adversely affect” the Eastern Indigo snake. This due to the existence of less than 25 potentially occupied and abandoned gopher tortoise burrows observed within the project area. Also the applicant proposes to follow the FWS approved Standard Protection Measures for the Eastern Indigo Snake during the clearing and construction phases of the project.
Wood Stork: This species typically inhabits freshwater and brackish wetlands, primarily nesting in cypress and mangrove swamps. They can be found foraging in shallow water in freshwater marshes, wet prairies, narrow tidal creeks, and flooded tidal pools, as well as roadside ditches and pasturelands. The proposed project is within the buffer of two wood stork nesting colonies. Also the proposed project would impact 0.02 acres of herbaceous wetlands and 1.41 acres of other surface waters which exhibit the parameters of suitable foraging habitat for the wood stork. Based upon review of the Wood Stork Key for South Florida, dated May 18, 2010, the proposed project resulted in the following sequential determination: A > B > C > D > E = “not likely to adversely affect” the wood stork. This is due to the applicant proposing to provide mitigation at an approved mitigation bank which is within the appropriate CFA and of matching hydroperiod of the proposed impacts, and the project is not contrary to the Habitat Management Guidelines for the Wood Stork in the Southeast Region. Given the above information, the Corps has determined that the proposed project may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect the wood stork.
The Corps has determined the proposed project will have no effect on the Everglades snail kite (Rostrhamnus sociabilis plumbeus) and Florida scrub jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens).
Snail kite: Kite foraging habitat consists of relatively shallow wetland vegetation, either within extensive marsh systems, or in lake littoral zones. Emergent vegetation, including spike rushes, maidencane, and bulrushes, are important components of habitat because they allow apple snails to occupy the area. Dense, thick vegetation is not optimal for snail kite foraging because kites cannot readily see apple snails to capture them, and if vegetation is too sparse, apple snails may not be able to survive or reproduce. Kites nest in a variety of vegetation types, including both woody vegetation such as willows, cypress, pond apple, and even exotic invasive species such as melaleuca. Kites usually nest over open water, and this helps protect nests from mammalian predators such as raccoons. Nests can be very well hidden, or quite obvious. The height of a nest is usually about 1-3 meters above the water. Kites almost always nest in areas with good foraging habitat nearby, and most foraging occurs in marshes immediately surrounding the nest. Its preferred habitat is lowland freshwater marshes mostly in the watersheds of the Everglades, Lakes Okeechobee and Kissimmee, and the upper St. Johns River. Critical habitat was designed for the snail kite in 1977, but it’s located well south of the project. This species is greatly affected by water levels, dispersing great distances during drought years. There is no documentation of this species in or near the project, nor is suitable habitat located in or near the project, therefore the Corps determination for the proposed project is “no effect” to the snail kite.
Scrub jay: The Florida scrub-jay lives only in the scrub and scrubby flatwoods habitats of Florida. This type of habitat grows only on nearly pure, excessively well-drained sandy soils, and occurs along present coastlines in Florida, on paleodunes of the high central ridges and other ancient shorelines of the Florida Peninsula, and inland on scattered alluvial deposits bordering several major rivers. No appropriate habitat for the species exists near the project area, and none were observed during listed species surveys or other field work conducted by the applicant’s consultant. The project abuts the existing I-4 corridor which is surrounded by residential and commercial development and wetlands, severely restricting colonization by emigrating birds from outside colonies. Therefore, the Corps has determined that the proposed project would have “no effect” on this 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. Our initial determination is that the proposed action would not have a substantial adverse impact on EFH or federally managed fisheries in the unnamed wetlands. 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 Panama City 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, Mr. Randy Turner, in writing at the Jacksonville Permits Section, Post Office Box 4970, Jacksonville, Florida 32232, by electronic mail at Randy.L.Turner@usace.army.mil, by fax at (904) 232-1904, or by telephone at (904) 232-1670.
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.