TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN: The Jacksonville District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) has received a complete prospectus proposing the establishment of a mitigation bank pursuant to the 2008 Compensatory Mitigation for Losses of Aquatic Resources regulations (33 CFR Part 332) as described below:
APPLICANT: Mitchell Family LLC (MFLLC)
4939 New Providence Avenue
Tampa, FL 33629
LOCATION: The proposed project, identified as the 2,072-acre Manatee Mitigation Bank (MEMB), lies within Sections 27, 28, 33, and 34, Township 33 south, and Range 21 east, Manatee County, Florida. Further described, the project directly abuts the south side of State Road 62, approximately 4.7 miles west of the town of Duette. The location maps are included as Figures 1 and 2, attached to this public notice.
APPROXIMATE CENTRAL COORDINATES: Latitude: 27.5664°N
PROSPECTUS SUMMARY: Pursuant to 33 CFR 332.8(d)(4), the Corps has posted a full copy of the MEMB prospectus online so that it is available for review by the public. The prospectus may be downloaded from the Regulatory In-Lieu Fee and Bank Information Tracking System (RIBITS) at web address: https://ribits.usace.army.mil.
Once on the RIBITS homepage, select "Jacksonville" from the "ALL DISTRICTS" drop down menu located in the lower left corner of the screen. Once the district filter has been selected, click on the “Banks & ILF Sites” link located in the Navigation box (upper left corner). This will generate a list of projects, scroll down the list and click on the “Manatee MB” link. On this page, click on the "Cyber Repository" link located on the menu bar above the General Information box, then click on the Prospectus Document to view the prospectus associated with the MEMB project.
If you are unable to access the web address, a copy of the prospectus is available upon request to the project manager listed at the end of this public notice.
PROJECT GOALS AND OBJECTIVES: The applicant seeks authorization to bank generated wetland credits that could be used to offset impacts to wetland impacts in the final approved Mitigation Service Area. The overall primary ecological goal of the MEMB is to restore, enhance, and permanently protect the hydrology and wildlife habitat of 991 acres of wetland habitats and the 1,016 acres of adjacent upland buffer habitats while increasing the wetland function on a watershed level. Note that the utility easement and access roads remaining after restoration/enhancement activities would consist of approximately 65 acres of the total 2,072-acre site. Specific restoration objectives would include:
• Hydrological enhancement through replacement of nonoperational culverts, road removal and low water crossings.
• Treatment and control of nuisance and exotic vegetation.
• Cessation of cattle operations.
• Cessation of timber harvesting/silviculture activities.
• Preservation of the restored/enhanced 991 acres of wetland habitat and 1,016 acres of associated upland buffer habitat.
ECOLOGICAL SUITABILITY OF THE SITE: Information provided by the applicant indicate the following:
The project site is immediately adjacent to lands under private and public conservation land ownership. By establishing the MEMB, critical habitats and wildlife corridors are restored, enhanced, and preserved, with water quality protection to the regional and connecting Little Manatee and Manatee Rivers. The MEMB would provide compensatory mitigation for private and public projects. Though disturbances have occurred, they have not resulted in conditions that would prevent targeted native habitat conditions suitable for mitigation bank establishment. There is currently no federally permitted mitigation bank lying within the footprint of the Manatee River and Little Manatee River watersheds.
Historic aerials indicate that areas of wetlands have transitioned into uplands and that timber harvesting took place within the creek floodplain wetlands. Historic aerial photography indicates that the entire site has been clear-cut for conversion to cattle operations and agricultural uses, converting forested communities to pasture. The property remained cleared from the 1940’s through the present, except where the land was also converted to pine plantation. By clearing the property, historic native communities were eliminated or negatively affected. In the 1950's the property began its conversion to agriculture and cattle ranch operations. Silviculture operations were initiated by planting pine plantation rows throughout the MEMB. Forested and herbaceous wetlands and uplands were fully or partially cleared and drained for cattle grazing, citrus grove creation and pine tree production. Ditches were constructed. Agricultural ponds were created. Cattle operations commenced. Interior fences and cattle guards were constructed. Hunting and fishing occurred. Multiple agricultural roads were constructed. The roads were constructed using fill material excavated by creating roadside ditches, swales and agricultural farm ponds. Most of the roads are elevated, constructed above natural grade where they cross through wetlands. Culverts were not installed within the elevated roads that bisect the wetlands. This obstruction altered or eliminated historic water patterns and hydrologic connections between riverine and wetland habitats.
The current ecological value to the region and regional watersheds is moderate and can be significantly improved. In summary, the MEMB site currently supports an altered wetland-upland community mix, with floodplain forested wetlands, pine plantations, flatwoods, marshes and hammocks. The MEMB benefits from its location between the Little Manatee River and Manatee River, as well as by the adjoining 10,000-acre Duette Preserve habitat protection. MEMB’s wetlands in their current state still provide value to wetland dependent wildlife. Though fenced barriers are present across the site, the MEMB is strategically placed for wildlife utilization in an extensive wildlife corridor. By clearing the property, pasture and planted pine replaced native communities, and historic communities were removed. Years of harvesting, current cattle grazing activities, and fire suppression have produced altered wetland and upland communities. Land use of the property is active cattle operations, active silvicultural operations for the production of timber, and active hunting with other passive recreational activities. Feral hogs are actively degrading wetland and upland habitats. Elevated roads block the flow of water, altering bisected wetlands.
ESTABLISHMENT AND OPERATION OF THE BANK: The proposed MEMB would be established and operated by MFLLC, as the Sponsor, with the assistance of TerraBlue Environmental, LLC. The property that comprises the MEMB is owned by MFLLC. The MEMB is proposed to be established as a single and complete project. Following MEMB successful construction and implementation activities and attainment of final success criteria, long-term management activities will be implemented in order to ensure the sustainability of MEMB. In addition, the Sponsor will provide sufficient financial assurances to ensure construction and long-term management of the proposed MEMB.
PROPOSED SERVICE AREA: The proposed Service Area includes two Hydrologic Unit Codes (HUC); Manatee River (03100202) and Little Manatee River (03100203). These watersheds extend from north of Sun City and Ruskin, south to northern Sarasota, westward from east of Duette through Parrish, Ellenton, Bradenton, Palmetto, Lakewood Ranch and Wimauma. The MEMB foot print straddles both of the above mentioned HUC. This area is shown on Figure 7, attached to the end of this public notice.
CULTURAL RESOURCES: The State Division of Historical Resources (DHR) has been contacted with respect to “Master File” identification of archaeological site material presence. If archaeological resources are identified by DHR or are found within the MEMB, provisions will be made in the mitigation plan to ensure that the site receives protection according to the DHR recommendations. Project review will include coordination with DHR and review of the site for potential cultural resources.
ENDANGERED SPECIES: The site will be reviewed for potential critical habitat and presence of endangered species. The findings will be coordinated with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service.
ESSENTIAL FISH HABITAT (EFH): The project proposal will be coordinated with the pertinent federal agencies to minimize the risk for any potential impact to EFH.
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.
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.
COMMENTS: Comments regarding the proposed mitigation bank should be submitted in writing to the District Engineer at the address below within 30 days from the date of this notice.
The initial evaluation pertaining to whether or not this mitigation bank proposal has the potential for providing compensatory mitigation for activities authorized by issued Department of the Army permits will be based on the information contained in the prospectus, received from this public notice and obtained during an inspection of the project site.
If you have questions concerning this proposal, you may contact Ms. Marie L. Huber by electronic mail at Marie.L.Huber@usace.army.mil, by fax at 904-232-1904, or by telephone at 904-232-1683 or at the following address:
DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY
JACKSONVILLE DISTRICT CORPS OF ENGINEERS
P. O. BOX 4970
JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA 32232-0019
IMPACT ON NATURAL RESOURCES: Preliminary review of this application indicates that an Environmental Impact Statement will not be required. 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. By means of this notice, we are soliciting comments on the potential effects of the project on threatened or endangered species or their habitat
EVALUATION: After the end of the comment period, the district engineer will review all comments received and make an initial determination as to the potential of the proposed project to provide compensatory mitigation for activities authorized by Department of the Army permits. That determination 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. Factors relevant to the proposal will be considered including 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.
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 proposed activity. All comments received will be considered by the Corps during the formulation of the initial determination of potential for the proposed activity.