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: Donald Mears
iStar Financial, Inc.
3232 West Lake Mary Boulevard, Suite 1410
Lake Mary, Florida 32746
WATERWAY AND LOCATION: The project, referred to as Bonita Grande, would affect waters of the United States associated with the Estero Bay Basin. The project site is located in Section 31, Township 47 South, and Range 26 East, Lee County. More specifically, the project is located at the northwest corner of the intersection of Bonita Beach Road and Bonita Grande Drive.
Directions to the site are as follows: From Exit 116 on Interstate 75, proceed approximately 0.5 miles east on Bonita Beach Road. The project is located on the north side of Bonita Beach Road and west of Bonita Grande Drive.
APPROXIMATE CENTRAL COORDINATES: Latitude 26.333761°
Basic: Commercial development.
Overall: To construct an economically viable commercial development in Southern Lee County, located in close proximity to an Interstate 75 interchange.
PROJECT HISTORY: A Corps dredge and fill permit for commercial development was previously issued for this site on December 7, 2007. The original authorization included the disturbance to all on-site wetlands. A two-year work extension was issued on December 27, 2012. The authorized work was never initiated, and the previous permit and extension have expired.
EXISTING CONDITIONS: The 67.53 acre site contains 2.10 acres of Corps jurisdictional wetlands and 6.65 acres of other surface waters. The wetlands consist of disturbed cypress. The other surface waters consist of ditches and canals. The site is heavily infested with exotic vegetation including earleaf acacia (Acacia auriculiformis), melaleuca (Melaleuca quinquenervia), and Brazilian pepper (Schinus terebinthifolius).
Surrounding land uses include Kehl Canal and undeveloped land to the north, single family residential to the east, commercial development to the south, and commercial and undeveloped land to the west.
PROPOSED WORK: The applicant seeks authorization to construct a commercial development with associated infrastructure, amenities, and stormwater management system. The proposed project will result in the discharge of 20,000 cubic yards of fill material into 2.10 acres of Corps jurisdictional wetlands. The proposed project will also impact 6.65 acres of other surface waters including ditches and canals.
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:
Because of the highly disturbed, low-quality nature of the wetlands on-site, all impacts proposed will be mitigated through the purchase of mitigation bank credits from an approved mitigation bank off-site, which will provide greater long-term regional ecological value.
COMPENSATORY MITIGATION – The applicant has offered the following compensatory mitigation plan to offset unavoidable functional loss to the aquatic environment:
In order to offset the loss of wetland functions, compensatory mitigation will be provided by the purchase of freshwater forested mitigation bank credits from a regionally approved Mitigation Bank.
The Corps is not aware of any known historic properties within the permit area. A cultural resource assessment survey was previously conducted in 2006. The survey found no archeological sites within or adjacent to the project boundary. 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.
The project site is located in an area where the eastern indigo snake (Drymarchon corais couperi) may occur. A species survey conducted of the project site, by the applicant’s agent, did not reveal the presence of any eastern indigo snakes, however potential refugia were identified in the form of gopher tortoise burrows. The permit instrument, if issued, would contain the Standard Protective Measures for Eastern Indigo Snake which must be followed during all construction activities. In following the Indigo Snake Programmatic Concurrence Key, as amended, the proposal keys out to A>B>C>D>E> “not likely to adversely affect”. In accordance with the Key, Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) requirements have been fulfilled and no further consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is necessary for the eastern indigo snake.
The project site is within wood stork (Mycteria americana) core foraging areas. In accordance with the South Florida Programmatic Wood Stork Key the proposal keys as follows: A>B>C>E> “not likely to adversely affect”. Although the project will directly impact potential wood stork foraging habitat, replacement compensation is proposed in accordance with Clean Water Act 404(b)(1) guidelines at a USFWS approved mitigation bank; therefore, Corps determined the project “may affect, not likely to adversely affect” In accordance with the Key, Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) requirements have been fulfilled and no further consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is necessary for the wood stork.
The Corps has determined the proposed project “may affect” the Florida bonneted bat (Eumops floridanus). The project impacts occur within the consultation area (2013). The applicant’s roosting and acoustic survey reports identified no evidence of utilization by the Florida bonneted bat. The Corps will request consultation with this determination from the USFWS via a separate letter.
The Project site includes 60.88± acres of land cover types that could be used by Florida panther (Puma concolor coryi) for essential behavior patterns if situated in an appropriate landscape. No Florida panther telemetry locations have been documented within the Project limits. No evidence of Florida panthers was observed on-site during the Project’s listed species survey or other fieldwork. Panther vehicular collisions have been reported within 1 mile of the Project. Use of the February 19, 2007 Florida Panther Effect Determination Key resulted in a “May affect” determination for the Florida panther (A > B “May affect”). The Corps will initial formal consultation from the USFWS via a separate letter.
ESSENTIAL FISH HABITAT (EFH): The project would only impact freshwater wetlands; therefore, the Corps has determined that no substantial adverse impacts to EFH will result from the proposed action.
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 Fort Myers Permits Section, 1520 Royal Palm Square Boulevard, Suite 310, Fort Myers, Florida 33919 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, Russell Rouan, in writing at the Fort Myers Permits Section, 1520 Royal Palm Square Blvd, Fort Myers, FL 33919; by electronic mail at Russell.W.Rouan@usace.army.mil; or, by telephone at (239) 334-1975 x0011.
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.