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) and Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 (33 U.S.C. §403) as described below:
APPLICANT: Florida Department of Transportation, District 5
Attn: Ms. Casey Lyon
719 South Woodland Blvd.
Deland, Florida 32720
WATERWAY AND LOCATION: The project is located in waters of the United States (wetlands and surface waters) associated with the St. Johns River. The project site is located on SR 44 west of the City of Deland in Sections 15, 22 and 38, Township 17 South, and Range 29 East, Lake and Volusia Counties, Florida.
Directions to the site are as follows: From downtown Jacksonville, take I-95 South for approximately 102 miles and then take exit 260B to merge onto I-4 West. Continue on I-4 West for approximately 14 miles and then take exist 118A-118B to merge onto SR 44 West (New York Ave). Go approximately 10 miles to project site where SR 44 intersects with the St. Johns River.
APPROXIMATE CENTRAL COORDINATES: Latitude 29.008178°
Basic: Linear transportation improvements.
Overall: The overall project purpose is to replace the bascule bridge over the St. Johns River at SR 44 with a new high-level, fixed-span bridge with associated access roads to maintain connection with SR 44 in Lake and Volusia Counties.
EXISTING CONDITIONS: SR 44 is a two-lane paved rural roadway that transitions to a two-lane bridge over the St. Johns River. The bridge over the St. Johns River was constructed in 1955 and has undergone several major rehabilitations. Per a bridge inspection performed in April 2016 the bridge is classified as Functionally Obsolete due to its narrow shoulders. The wetland systems consist of freshwater wetlands associated with the St. Johns River floodplain. All on-site habitats and land uses were classified according to the Florida Land Use, Cover and Forms Classification System (FLUCFCS) (FDOT, 1999).
FLUCFCS 1200 – Residential, Medium Density – This land use best describes parts of the project east of the St. Johns River along SR 44.
FLUCFCS 1840 – Marinas and Fish Camps – This land use best describes the areas southwest and northeast of the St. Johns River bridge along the St. Johns River.
FLUCFCS 4340 – Hardwood-Conifer Mixed – This land use best describes the forested area west of the St. Johns River near the intersection of County Road 42 and SR 44. This land use supports a canopy of live oak (Quercus virginiana), cabbage palm (Sabal palmetto), sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua), and laurel oak (Q. laurifolia). The understory contains saw palmetto (Serenoa repens), American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana), beggarticks (Bidens alba), common ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia), and brackenfern (Pteridium aquilinum).
Wetland Communities and Surface Waters:
FLUCFCS 5100 – Streams and Waterways – This land use best describes the open water of the St. Johns River.
FLUCFCS 6150 – Stream and Lake Swamps (Bottomland) – This land use best describes the forested areas on either side of the St. Johns River. This land use supports a canopy of bald cypress (Taxodium distichum), pond cypress (T. ascendens), swamp tupelo (Nyssa biflora), red maple (Acer rubrum), sweetgum, cabbage palm, American elm (Ulmus americana), and laurel oak. The understory contains wax myrtle (Myrica cerifera), saltbush (Baccharis halimifolia), Carolina willow (Salix caroliniana), royal fern (Osmunda regalis), cinnamon fern (O. cinnamomea), pickerelweed (Pontederia cordata) and lizard’s tail (Saururus cernuus).
FLUCFCS 6300 – Wetland Forested Mixed – This land use best describes the forested area east of the St. Johns River bridge and south of SR 44. This land use supports a canopy of bald cypress, pond cypress, swamp tupelo, red maple and laurel oak. The understory contains wax myrtle, Carolina willow, saltbush, buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis), royal fern, cinnamon fern, blue flag iris (Iris virginica), pickerelweed, and alligator flag (Thalia geniculata).
FLUFCS 6410 – Freshwater Marshes – This land use best describes the shrubby wetland area east of the St. Johns River bridge within the maintained powerline easement. This land use contains shrubby and ground-layer species such as saltbush, Carolina willow, buttonbush, Peruvian primrose-willow (Ludwigia peruviana), giant cane (Arundinaria gigantea), royal fern, and pickerelweed.
PROPOSED WORK: The applicant seeks authorization to discharge fill material over 5.47 acres of waters of the United States (surface waters and wetlands) associated with replacement of the bascule bridge over the St. Johns River with a new high-level, fixed-span bridge including access roads to maintain connection with SR 44; conduct intersection improvements at County Road 42 and SR 44; and provide stormwater management facilities for stormwater attenuation and treatment.
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 proposed project has been designed to avoid waters of the U.S. to the greatest extent practicable. The original Project Development and Environment (PD&E) Study for SR 44 (FDOT, 2004) required 11.30 acres of impacts to waters of the U.S., in order to accommodate stormwater management facilities and access roads from SR 44 to residential and commercial land uses. However, the proposed design reduces impacts to waters of the U.S. by relocating stormwater management facilities under the proposed bridge decks within the existing right-of-way and modifying the access road alignments while maintaining FDOT design standards. The FDOT also chose to use the southern alignment from the PD&E Study in order to avoid impacts to habitats, including waters of the U.S., within the Ocala National Forest.
The proposed project is also expected to improve water quality of the St. Johns River. Currently, stormwater runoff from SR 44 flows untreated to the St. Johns River. The proposed stormwater management facilities will collect and treat stormwater runoff before discharging into the St. Johns River. According to a water quality analysis, the proposed stormwater management facilities will reduce Phosphorus loading of the St. Johns River by 1.92 pounds/year.
COMPENSATORY MITIGATION – The applicant has offered the following compensatory mitigation plan to offset unavoidable functional loss to the aquatic environment:
The functional values of the on-site wetlands and surface waters were established using the Uniform Mitigation Assessment Method (UMAM). This assessment concludes that the project will incur a total of 3.77 units of functional loss. FDOT proposed to purchase 3.77 wetland mitigation credits from a federally approved mitigation bank that is within the geographical service area covering the proposed project.
A Cultural Resource Assessment Survey (CRAS) report was submitted for review and determination of effect on April 15, 2003, as part of the PD&E Study for SR 44. FHWA, after consultation with the State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO), determined that this project will have “no effect” on any historic sites listed or eligible for listing on the NRHP (letter dated January 6, 2004). A CRAS Technical Memo was prepared for the proposed SR 44 design and submitted to the SHPO. Again, the SHPO determined this project will have “no effect” on any historic sites listed or eligible for listing on the NRHP (letter dated October 11, 2017).
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: The project is located within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) Consultation Areas for the Everglade snail kite (Rostrhamus sociabilis plumbeus), Florida scrub jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens), Red-cockaded Woodpecker (Picoides borealis), wood stork (Mycteria americana), West Indian Manatee (Trichechus manatus) and Eastern Indigo snake (Drymarchon corais couper).
The Corps has determined the proposed project will have no effect on the Everglades snail kite, Florida scrub jay, or Red-cockaded Woodpecker.
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.
Woodpecker: The project abuts the existing SR-44 corridor which is surrounded by residential and commercial development and wetlands. The woodpecker live and forage in mature pine forests, specifically those with longleaf pines averaging over 80 to 120 years old and loblolly pines averaging 70 to 100 years old. The red-cockaded woodpeckers live in groups with a breeding pair and as many as four helpers, usually male offspring from the previous year. Each group needs about 200 acres of old pine forest to support its foraging and nesting needs. There are no pine stands in or adjacent to the project area and the remnant pines are too young for nesting by red-cockaded woodpeckers. Therefore the Corps determination for the proposed project is “no effect” to the woodpecker.
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 one wood stork nesting colony. Also the proposed project would impact 5.47 acres of herbaceous and forested wetlands which appear not to exhibit the parameters of suitable foraging habitat for the wood stork, but with lack of ground confirmation, possibly provides suitable foraging habitat. 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.
Manatee: Use of The Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District, and the State of Florida Effect Determination Key for the Manatee in Florida, April 2013 resulted in the following sequential determination: A > B > C > G > N > O > P > “may affect, not likely to adversely affect.” This determination is based on the applicant following the standard manatee construction precautions for the proposed activity. By letter dated 25 April 2013, the FWS stated that for proposed in-water activities analyzed with the April 2013 version of this key in which the Corps reaches a “may affect, not likely to adversely affect” determination with respect to the manatee and/or its designated critical habitat, the FWS hereby concurs with the Corps determination in accordance with 50 CFR 402.14(b)1 and no further consultation with the FWS is required.
Eastern indigo snake: Potential impacts to the Eastern indigo snake were evaluated using The Eastern Indigo Snake Programmatic Effect Determination Key, January 2010 and revised August 2013. The Corps has programmatic concurrence with the sequential determination of A > B > C > NLAA pursuant to the Key. This determination is based on the applicant implementing the Standard Protection Measures for the Eastern Indigo Snake and there are no gopher tortoise burrows, holes, cavities, or other refugia where a snake could be buried or trapped and injured during project activities.
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/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 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, 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.