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: USAF Hurlburt Field
c/o Philip Pruitt
Chief, Installation Management Flight
415 Independence Road
Hurlburt Field, FL 32544
WATERWAY AND LOCATION: The project would affect waters of the United States associated with East Bay River and East Bay Swamp. The project site is located at 415 Independence Avenue, USAF Hurlburt Field, in Sections 6 and 7, Township 2 South, Range 24 West, Okaloosa County, Florida.
Directions to the site are as follows: From Pensacola, travel east on U.S Highway 98 until reaching USAF Hurlburt Field. The project site is on the west side of the Hurlburt Field runway, near its northern end.
APPROXIMATE CENTRAL COORDINATES: Latitude 30.436343°
Basic: Military mission support
Overall: To construct facilities and infrastructure necessary to support recapitalization of the AC-130 to the AC-130J combat aircraft.
EXISTING CONDITIONS: The wetland systems proposed for impact include 4.94 acres of moderately high quality wetland coniferous forest (FLUCFCS 620), 28.24 acres of very high quality wetland forested mixed habitat (FLUCFCS 630), 25.06 acres of moderate quality wetland scrub (FLUCFCS 631), and 1.46 acres of low quality vegetated non-forested wetlands (FLUCFCS 640). To the west and north of the proposed impact areas are very high quality wetland forested mixed (FLUCFCS 630) habitats of East Bay River and East Bay Swamp. To the east and south of the proposed impact areas are existing base facilities.
PROPOSED WORK: The applicant seeks authorization to discharge fill material into 59.70 acres of wetlands for the construction of facilities associated with the recapitalization of the AC-130 aircraft. The proposed project includes two Combat Aircraft Parking Areas, a Holding Area Munitions, and an Aircraft Maintenance Unit and Weapons Hanger to support the recapitalization effort. The project is commonly referred to as the Combat Aircraft Parking Apron (CAPA) project. Of the 59.70 acres of wetlands to be directly impacted by the discharge of fill material, 57.91 acres are within areas designated as preservation area associated with mitigation for a previous Corps permit for Hurlburt Field AFB, SAJ-1999-00679-IP-DH. The approximately 3200 acres of preservation area associated with that permit were not formally preserved because they are federal lands and cannot be subject to encumbrances such as conservation easements. The applicant is proposing the purchase of additional mitigation bank credits in order to compensate for the preservation value of these wetlands. Indirect effects would also occur to 38.30 acres of wetlands immediately adjacent to the wetlands to be filled; compensatory mitigation is also proposed for these indirect impacts.
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:
This project has been designed to avoid and minimize wetlands to the greatest extent practicable. Consideration was given to avoiding and/or minimizing wetland impacts. Project environmental data and agency input were used to develop the current alignment that provides the necessary facilities, satisfies Air Force Regulations, and avoids/minimizes impacts to significant environmental features to the greatest extent possible. It was determined the proposed design represents the minimum amount of fill required in order to achieve the project purpose and meet the Air Force Mission requirements. The project would be constructed in accordance with the 401 WQC, standard engineering practices, Air Force Regulations, and BMPs during construction will be implemented to avoid water quality degradation. The stormwater treatment facility would be constructed to fully treat and attenuate all anticipated stormwater. The adjacent onsite waters will be protected by a combination of erosion control measures in accordance with Air Force Regulations. Wetland and surface water impacts were reduced and eliminated wherever practicable. 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 construction of support facilities.
COMPENSATORY MITIGATION – The applicant has offered the following compensatory mitigation plan to offset unavoidable functional loss to the aquatic environment:
Hurlburt Field AFB will purchase 48.52 freshwater and forested UMAM credits from Pensacola Bay Mitigation Bank. The applicant is prepared to purchase all mitigation credits at one time to off-set unavoidable impacts.
The Corps is not aware of any known historic properties within the permit area. 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 Corps has determined the proposal may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect the eastern indigo snake. The Corps has determined the proposal would have no effect on any other listed threatened or endangered species or 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 proposal would impact approximately 59.70 acres of predominantly forested wetlands adjacent to tidal waters utilized by various life stages of shrimp, reef fish, red drum, and coastal migratory/pelagic fish. Our initial determination is that the proposed action would not have a substantial adverse impact on EFH or Federally-managed fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico. 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 Pensacola Permits Section, 41 N. Jefferson Street, Pensacola, FL 32502 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, Ed Sarfert, in writing at the Pensacola Permits Section, 41 N. Jefferson Street, Pensacola, FL 32502; by electronic mail at firstname.lastname@example.org; by facsimile transmission at (850)433-8160; or, by telephone at (850)439-9533.
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 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.