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: Duke Energy Florida, Inc.
c/o Wayne R. Richardson, Environmental Specialist
101 Cemetery Road
Tarpon Springs, FL 34689
WATERWAY AND LOCATION: Due to the linear nature of this project, the wetland impacts are located within two basins: the St. Marks River Basin and the Ochlockonee River Basin. The project site is located in Sections 6, 7, 18, 19, 30, 31, Township 1 North and Range 1 West; Sections 30, 31, Township 2 North and Range 1 West and 2, 3, 4, 11, 13, 14, 24, 25, Township 2 North and Range 2 West in Gadsden and Leon Counties, Florida. More specifically, the existing transmission line runs from the Havana Substation (Structure TQ-106) to the Tallahassee Substation (Structure TQ-1). The project area is a 100-foot cleared transmission corridor that is 14.2 miles long.
Directions to the site are as follows: The Havana Substation is on the east side of Paradise Road about 0.3 miles north of the intersection of Paradise Road and Merrittt Lane in Havana, Gadsden County, Florida. The existing corridor runs west of State Road 263 and then runs south and southeast toward Tallahassee. The Tallahassee Substation is located on the south side of the intersection of Blountstown Highway and Silverbell Drive in Tallahassee, Leon County, Florida.
APPROXIMATE CENTRAL COORDINATES:
Havana substation Tallahassee substation
Latitude 30.60424 30.43516
Longitude -84.43998 -84.37282
Basic: Utility line improvements.
Overall: To enhance the power grid between the Havana and Tallahassee substations in Gadsden and Leon Counties, Florida.
EXISTING CONDITIONS: Forty-eight wetlands and 21 surface waters were identified in the transmission corridor. A total of 34.03 acres of jurisdictional wetlands and surface waters are located within the project corridor. There are 17 surface water ditches within the project limits. These ditches are typically adjacent to roadways and are surrounded by residential areas. These systems are primarily open water system with varying species including smartweed (Polygonum punctatum), pickerelweed (Pontederia cordata), arrowhead (Sagittaria lancifolia), and wild taro (Colocasia esculenta). Ditch slopes are predominantly covered in pennywort (Hydrocotyle umbellata), spadeleaf (Centella asiatica), and red ludwigia (Ludwigia repens). Surface Waters 7, 15, 19 and 20 are surface water ponds within the project limits. These systems are deep ponds averaging 24-72 inches in depth. Typical vegetation in these surface waters consists of cattails (Typha sp.) and softrush (Juncus effuses). Nineteen freshwater marshes occur within the project limits. Within the transmission corridor, these herbaceous systems are often confined to relatively level, low-lying areas. Typical vegetative community components include Virginia chain fern (Woodwardia virginica), maidencane (Panicum hemitomon), softrush (Juncus effuses), red maple (Acer rubrum), sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua), coastal sweet pepperbush (Clethra alnifolia), sweet gallberry (Ilex coriacea), and buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis). Twenty-nine shrub and small tree wetlands occur within the project limits. These wetlands were former forested wetlands but now have shrub and sapling trees indicative of a forested wetland in an existing transmission corridor. Species include sapling red maple, sweet gum, cypress, black gum and buttonbush, Carolina willow, Carolina redroot, Virginia chain fern, softrush, cinnamon fern, pickerelweed, arrowhead, lizard’s tail and St. John’s-wort. Wetland AC contains a portion of the Ochlockonee River that bisects the corridor. The Ochlockonee River is primarily open water with floodplain wetland along the river boundary. Herbaceous species within the floodplain consists of Virginia chain fern, cinnamon fern, softrush, and redroot. Shrubby species include Carolina willow, buttonbush and primrose willow. The riparian zone is forested with pop ash, water hickory, Carolina willow, and cypress. Wetland indicators included inundation, sediment deposit, scouring, seepage slopes, and stain lines.
PROPOSED WORK: A Standard Permit was issued on January 25, 2017 that authorized 0.88 of temporary impacts and 4.88 acre of permanent fill for at-grade access improvements, at-grade structures and poles within the existing transmission line corridor that runs from the Havana Substation (Structure TQ-106) to the Tallahassee Substation (Structure TQ-1). The project involved replacing 107 existing wood utility structures with 146 new steel or concrete structures, the installation of permanent at-grade access improvements, and a combination of temporary and permanent structure pads within wetlands. No stormwater management system is proposed as the access improvements are at-grade and would remain permeable. Minor above grade improvements are proposed at the construction entrance. Culverts will be installed to ensure the construction entrance does not impede road side ditch flow.
Permit Modification #1 was issued on October 30, 2017 that resulted in 0.25 acre of permanent impact and 0.08 acre of temporary impact in order to stabilize a crossing at Wetland X.
Duke Energy is requesting a modification to the previously permitted work. The proposed modification is to convert 4 previously permitted easement stabilizations at Wetlands A, J, K and P, from at-grade to above-grade. The modification would impact an additional 2.55 acres of jurisdictional wetlands. Therefore, the new impact total to jurisdictional wetlands would be 7.68 acres.
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:
Overall, the applicant designed the project to have a minimal adverse effect on wetland resources. These access improvements have been designed to remain at-grade until above-grade is necessary to safely cross the corridor. In addition, they are located to have the least impact to wetlands. Deep pools of the wetlands were avoided, flow characteristics were maintained, and seasonal high water elevations would not be altered. Access improvements would be installed with geo-web and gravel design. No compaction would occur.
COMPENSATORY MITIGATION – The applicant has offered the following compensatory mitigation plan to offset unavoidable functional loss to the aquatic environment:
Per Special Condition 12 of the original Standard Permit, the Corps received proof of purchase of 1.25 Federal credits from St. Marks Mitigation Bank.
Per Special Condition 13 included in Permit Modification #1, the Corps received verification that 0.2 Federal credit was purchased from St. Mark's Mitigation Bank.
A Uniform Mitigation Assessment Method (UMAM) analysis was conducted for the proposed modification. A UMAM functional loss score was calculated for the permanent above grade access improvements. The total UMAM functional loss score is -2.01 for the 2.55 acres of total permanent impact. Duke Energy provided mitigation under the previous permit for the 16’ wide at-grade stabilizations within Wetland A, J, K and P. Therefore, Duke Energy is proposing to purchase the difference of the original functional loss amount (-0.34 units) and the total proposed above-grade functional loss amount (-2.01 units) which equates to 1.67 mitigation bank credits. To compensate for the wetland loss, Duke Energy is proposing to purchase 1.75 freshwater forested mitigation bank credits from St. Marks River Mitigation Bank (SAJ-2008-02014) located in the St. Marks River Basin.
CULTURAL RESOURCES: The previously permitted activity was published by public notice dated October 6, 2016. By letter dated 12 October 2016, it was the opinion of the State Historic Preservation Office that the proposed project is unlikely to adversely affect historic properties. By letter dated 16 December 2016, the STOF had no objection to the project. Since the proposed modification is within the previously permitted area, no further consultation is required.
ENDANGERED SPECIES: The Corps determined the proposed project would have no effect on the red cockade woodpecker.
By email dated September 22, 2016, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service concurred with the Corps determination of not likely to adversely affect purple bankclimber, Ochlockonee moccasinshell, oval pigtoe, and shinyrayed pocketbook or their designated critical habitat.
By email dated 18 October 2016, the USFWS concurred with the Corps determination of may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect the wood stork.
The Corps has determined, based on the use of the Eastern Indigo Snake Programmatic Effect Determination Key that the proposed project may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect the Eastern Indigo snake with the inclusion of the Standard Protection Measures for the Eastern Indigo Snake (2013).
The Corps will request U.S. Fish and Wildlife concurrence with these determination pursuant to Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act.
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 Panama City Permits Section, 1002 West 23rd Street, Suite 350, Panama City, Florida 32405 within 15 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, Mrs. Lisa S. Lovvorn, in writing at the Panama City Permits Section, 1002 West 23rd Street, Suite 350, Panama City, Florida 32405; by electronic mail at email@example.com; by facsimile transmission at (850) 872-0231; or, by telephone at (850) 763-0717, extension 27.
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: 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 of 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 decision, comments are used to assess impacts on endangered species, historic properties, water quality, general environmental effects, and the other public interest factors listed above. Comments are used in the preparation of an Environmental Assessment and/or an Environmental Impact Statement pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act 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.