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 Power & Light Company
Mr. Brady Walker
700 Universe Boulevard
Juno Beach, Florida 33408
WATERWAY AND LOCATION: The project would affect waters of the United States, including wetlands, associated with unnamed tributaries to the St. Lucie Canal. The project site is located on an undeveloped parcel, on the east side of SW Allapattah Road, approximately 1.6-miles north of the intersection of SW Allapattah Road and SW Warfield Boulevard, within Sections 19, 29, and 30, Township 39 South, Range 39 East, in Indiantown, Martin County, Florida.
Directions to the site are as follows: From the Palm Beach Gardens field office, take PGA Boulevard west approximately 5.8-miles, turn right onto FL-710 West for approximately 21.9-miles, turn right onto SW Allapattah Road for approximately 2-miles, the site is on the right.
APPROXIMATE CENTRAL COORDINATES: Latitude: 27.060112°N
Basic: The basic project purpose is the discharge of fill material in waters of the U.S., including wetlands, to act as a suitable base for the construction of a solar energy generating facility.
Overall: The overall project purpose is to provide 74.5-megawatts of solar photovoltaic generation in FPLs service territory within Martin County.
EXISTING CONDITIONS: The project site consists of approximately 573.88-acres of cattle grazing land. On-site wetlands consist of bay swamps and freshwater emergent marsh. In addition, cattle ponds and agricultural ditches are located throughout the site. The site is bordered by agricultural lands to the north, SW Allapattah Road to the west, a large drainage canal and agricultural lands to the east, and residential development to the south; FPL also has a transmission line easement that runs through the southern portion of the site. The project area also consists of a small portion of pasture land on the west side of SW Allapattah Road to be used as a construction staging area for the proposed project.
Upland communities comprise the majority of the project site at 474.18-acres and consists of improved pastures and cattle operations, temperate hardwoods, cabbage palms, upland shrubs and brush lands, and dikes/levees. Improved pastures account for the majority of the site at 458.41-acres. The pastures were converted from natural vegetation to bahia grass (Paspalum notatum) and torpedo grass (Panicum repens) to support cattle grazing operations. Other species present include broomsedge (Andropogon spp.), dog fennel (Eupatorium capillifolium), tropical soda apple (Solanum viarum), nut sedge (Cyperus spp.), and thistle (Cirsium spp.). The pastures do not contain and over-story or mid-story. Areas of cattle feeding operations (approximately 0.60-acres) have been highly disturbed and include corrals and feed structures. The dominant vegetation in these areas is bahia grass. Upland shrub and brush lands account for 8.31-acres of the project site. Vegetation in these areas consist mainly of blackberry (Rubus spp.) and Brazilian pepper (Schinus terebinthifolius). Forested uplands are dominated by temperate hardwoods and cabbage palm, approximately 0.94-acres and 3.08-acres, respectively. Vegetation in the hardwoods consists of laurel oak (Quercus laurifolia), live oak (Quercus virginiana), cabbage palm (Sabal palmetto), slash pine (Pinus elliotii), and Brazilian pepper, with an understory of saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) and blackberry. The cabbage palm areas consist almost entirely of cabbage palm, but do contain some smaller slash pine with a sparse mid-story and understory. Dikes/levees account for 2.84-acres of the project site and are located along the eastern edge of the property along a large drainage canal, and are comprised of dense Brazilian pepper.
The remainder of the 99.77-acres on site consists of wetlands or waters, including agricultural ditches and cattle ponds. Bay swamps comprise 20.47-acres and are located in the eastern portion of the site in four locations adjacent to the eastern drainage canal. Vegetation communities in these areas consist of loblolly bay (Gordonia lasianthus), cabbage palm, sweet bay (Magnolia virginiana), and Brazilian pepper with an understory of Virginia chain fern (Woodwardia virginica), netted chain fern (Woodwardia areolata), and blackberry. Freshwater marshes comprise the largest community of on-site wetlands at 53.47-acres. Vegetation in these areas consist of torpedo grass, maidencane (Panicum hemitomon), soft rush (Juncus effusus), broomsedge, pennywort, arrowhead (Sagittaria spp.), pickerelweed (Pontederia cordata), Mexican primrose willow (Ludwigia octovalis), and Brazilian pepper. Another 6.04-acres of freshwater marshes with shrubs, brush, and vines, is located in the northeastern corner of the project site. Vegetation in this area consists of an understory of torpedo grass, maidencane, Virginia chain fern, and arrowhead, with a mid-story of Brazilian pepper, wax myrtle (Morella cerifera), and Mexican primrose-willow. Cattle ponds comprise approximately 5.01-acres of the site and are scattered throughout. These features hold water year-round and have large sand berms on either side where they were dug. Very little vegetation exists within these ponds, but duckweed (Lemna spp.), torpedo grass, bahia grass, broomsedge, dog fennel, Caesar weed (Urena lobata), and tropical soda apple were noted. Ditches on site consist of either linear wetlands (8.33-acres) or shallow swales/linear conveyances (6.39-acres). Vegetation within the linear wetlands consists of pennywort, Asian pennywort (Centella asiatica), Mexican primrose-willow, and soft rush. Vegetation within the shallow swales/conveyances consists of bahia grass, torpedo grass, dog fennel, and tropical soda apple.
PROPOSED WORK: The proposed project is the construction of a 74.5-megawatt solar photovoltaic energy center, including solar arrays, transformers, a collection yard, collector lines, unpaved access roads, and perimeter security fence. The applicant seeks authorization to permanently place fill material within 3.75-acres of open water/cattle ponds and 1.99-acres of agricultural ditches (linear wetlands) and permanent grading impacts to 0.22-acres of open water ponds and 1.44-acres of agricultural ditches. Permanent impacts will occur to approximately 9,285 linear feet of ditches (linear wetlands). Also proposed is 0.29-acres of temporary impacts to wetlands for flow-way improvements. These temporary impacts include minor re-grading, installation of water control structures, and culvert replacements to maintain and improve hydrology on the project site. Also proposed is the filling of 5.77-acres and permanent grading of 0.62-acres of non-jurisdictional linear conveyances (shallow agricultural swales). Total permanent project impacts will occur to 3.43-acres of wetlands and 3.97-acres of cattle ponds/open waters and temporary impacts to 0.29-acres of wetlands.
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 layout of the FPL Solar Energy Center in Martin County has been designed to avoid and minimize wetland and surface water impacts to the greatest extent practicable. Given the widespread distribution of wetlands and surface waters, it was not possible to entirely avoid them without compromising the energy production capability of the facility. However, all natural wetlands were avoided, and the only permanent impacts proposed by the project are to surface waters that will be filled as a result of the proposed activities. These surface waters can be characterized as man-made agricultural ditches and farm ponds. Natural wetlands will not be permanently impacted, and a 50-foot upland buffer will remain between preserved wetlands and the footprint of the solar array, per Martin County guidelines.
Impacts to wetlands and water bodies were eliminated or reduced to the extent practicable by using the following standards:
• Restricting the footprint of the solar array to the portion of the site that has already been disturbed by ranching activities.
• Use of existing roads and culverted crossings for access to the greatest extent practicable. New unpaved access paths were confined to those areas absolutely necessary for proper site access and security.
• Implementing best management practices (BMPs) and effective soil erosion control measures, including routine inspections during construction and until soil stabilization has occurred. These procedures are intended to minimize the extent and duration of project-related disturbance on wetlands and water bodies, control erosion and sedimentation, and enhance revegetation.
• Conducting an analysis to ensure the proposed stormwater design will not cause adverse effects to wetland and surface water functions.
Impacts form permanent fill include 12.4-acres necessary for placement of the solar array, collector yard, and access paths. Using the Wetland Rapid Assessment Procedure, FPL has determined these impacts related to a functional loss of 3.1 units. As such, FPL intends to purchase 3.1 credits from the Federally approved Bluefield Ranch Mitigation Bank.”
Since the applicants’ initial submittal, the Corps has conducted a site visit and reduced the amount of agricultural ditches that were determined to be jurisdictional. The original application proposed either permanent or temporary impacts to 12.4-acres of waters of the U.S. However, after the Corps’ site visit, the amount of on-site jurisdictional ditches was reduced. Total project impacts to waters of the U.S., including wetlands, will be 7.69-acres.
COMPENSATORY MITIGATION – The applicant has offered the following compensatory mitigation plan to offset unavoidable functional loss to the aquatic environment:
The applicant originally proposed to compensate for unavoidable wetland impacts through the purchase of 3.1 credits from the Bluefield Ranch Mitigation Bank. However, as discussed above, project modifications have reduced the amount of required compensatory mitigation to 1.8 palustrine emergent wetland credits from the Bluefield Ranch Mitigation Bank.
CULTURAL RESOURCES: The Corps is aware of historic property/properties within, or in close proximity to, the permit area. The Corps will initiate consultation with the State Historic Preservation Office and those federally recognized tribes with concerns in Florida and the Permit Area, and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, as applicable, pursuant to 33 CFR 325, Appendix C and Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, by separate letter.
ENDANGERED SPECIES: The Corps assessed the project site for Federally listed species using the FWS’ Information for Planning and Consultation (IPaC) web site and all available GIS data within the Corps’ Resources at Risk (RAR) system, for purposes of complying with Section 7 of the ESA of 1973 (as amended). The IPaC system generated a list of 23 species within Martin County.
The Corps has determined the proposed project may affect the Eastern indigo snake (Drymarchon corais couperi). The Corps will request initiation of formal consultation with the Fish and Wildlife Service/National Marine Fisheries Service pursuant to Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act by separate letter.
In addition, the Corps has determined the proposed project may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect the American wood stork (Mycteria americana) and Audubon’s crested caracara (Polyborus plancus audubonii). The Corps will request U.S. Fish and Wildlife concurrence with this determination pursuant to Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act by separate letter.
The Corps has determined that the proposed project would have no effect on the Florida panther (Felis concolor coryi), southeastern beach mouse (Peromyscus polionotus niveientris), West Indian manatee (Trichechus manatus), Everglades snail kite (Rostrhamus sociabilis plumbeus), Florida grasshopper sparrow (Ammodramus savannarum floridanus), Florida scrub-jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens), ivory-billed woodpecker (Campephilus principalis), Kirtland’s warbler (Setophaga kirtlandii), piping plover (Charadrius melodus), red knot (Calidris canutus rufa), Red-cockaded woodpecker (Picoides borealis), hawksbill sea turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata), leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea), loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta), Florida leafwing butterfly (Anaea troglodyte floridalis), Miami blue butterfly (Cyclargus thomasi), beach jacquemontia (Jacquemontia reclinata), four-petal pawpaw (Asimina tetramera), Lakela’s mint (Dicerandra immaculata), tiny polygala (Polygala smallii), and Florida perforate cladonia (Cladonia perforata), or their designated critical habitat.
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 site does not contain EFH and the Corps’ initial determination is that the proposed action would not have a substantial adverse impact on EFH or Federally managed fisheries in the South Atlantic Region. 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 Palm Beach Gardens Permits Section, 4400 PGA Boulevard, Suite 500, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida 33410 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. John Policarpo, in writing at the Palm Beach Gardens Permits Section, 4400 PGA Boulevard, Suite 500, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida 33410, by electronic mail at John.N.Policarpo@usace.army.mil, by facsimile transmission at (561) 626-6970, or by telephone at (561) 472-3518.
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.