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: John Hall Charities of Clay County, Incorporated
Post Office Box 395
Green Cove Springs, Florida 32043
WATERWAY AND LOCATION: The project would affect waters of the United States (wetlands) associated with Dudley Branch, a tributary to Johnson Slough. The project site is contiguous to Kingsley Avenue near its intersection with Plainfield Avenue (Clay County Property Appraiser Parcel Identification Number 41-04-26-019406-000-00), in Section 41, Township 4 South, Range 26 East, Orange Park, Clay County, Florida.
APPROXIMATE CENTRAL COORDINATES: Latitude 30.166648°
Basic: The basic project purpose is commercial development.
Overall: The overall project purpose is the establishment of a commercial facility within the central area of the City of Orange Park.
The property encompasses approximately 6.13 acres, of which approximately 3.5 acres are uplands and 2.63 are wetlands or other surface waters. The site encompasses 8 communities identified by the Florida Land Use, Cover, and Forms Classification System (FLUCFCS).
Pine/Hardwood Forest (FLUCFCS code 434): The majority of the uplands are pine/hardwood forest. The canopy in this community includes slash pine (Pinus elliottii), water oak (Quercus nigra), pignut hickory (Carya glabra), cabbage palm (Sabal palmetto), and southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora). Ground cover vegetation includes Carolina laurel cherry (Prunus caroliniana), greenbrier (Smilax spp.), and bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum).
Open Land (FLUCFCS code 190): There are three areas that are characterized as open land, which were historically cleared and maintained as fields. The area in the southwest corner of the property still is regularly mowed. The other two areas have revegetated and are currently overgrown with such herbaceous weedy species as goldenrod (Solidago sp.) and Spanish needles (Bidens pilosa) along with scattered saplings of slash pine and southern red cedar (Juniperus silicicola) and bushes of wax myrtle (Morella cerifera).
Open Land (FLUCFCS code 410/429): The southeast corner of the property contains an area that may be characterized as a stand of wax myrtle mixed with young slash pine. This area most likely had been part of the previously mowed field but has revegetated more strongly with bushes and pines.
Spoil (FLUCFCS code 734): In the early 1970’s the portion of Dudley Branch located on the property was dredged and converted into a canal. Spoil from this excavation was partially deposited along the eastern edge in a series of spoil piles. These areas of spoil subsequently revegetated and currently are covered by such species as live oak (Quercus virginiana), black cherry (Prunus serotina), Carolina laurel cherry, and water oak. Sections of abandoned concrete pipe are scattered in this vicinity.
Ditch/Channel (FLUCFCS code 510): The portion of Dudley Branch that was excavated in the early 1970’s is depicted on the project drawings as a man-made channel. Two small man-made ditches connect into Dudley Branch from the east. These ditches appear to have been created by a previous property owner in order to drain an onsite wetland area. These smaller ditches are relatively shallow and frequently are dry during the year.
Mixed Wetland Hardwoods (FLUCFCS code 617): Most of the wetlands onsite may be classified as mixed wetland hardwoods. The canopy includes red maple (Acer rubrum), laurel oak (Quercus laurifolia), water oak, sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua), blackgum (Nyssa sylvatica var. biflora), and sweet bay (Magnolia virginiana). Ground cover vegetation includes cinnamon fern (Osmunda cinnamomea), royal fern (Osmunda regalis), Virginia willow (Itea virginica), and dwarf bluestem (Sabal minor). Portions of the proposed fill area had been cleared in the recent past, as evidenced by historic aerial photography and the existing species composition. This area contains young red maple mixed with Chinese tallow (Sapium sebiferum). The ground cover in much of this area is dominated by taro (Colocasia esculenta).
Wetland Scrub (FLUCFCS code 631): The southeast corner of the property contains a wetland area dominated by wax myrtle and saltbush (Baccharis halimifolia). This area is saturated at or near the ground surface during the rainy season but is not normally inundated. Historically this area may have comprised the upper edge of a seepage slope wetland that bordered the main slough of Dudley Branch. The previous property owner had filled most of this seepage slope prior to 1970 and cleared and maintained the rest as mowed field. The ditches were cut to lower the water table and drain this area.
Stormwater Pond (FLUCFCS code 524): The northeastern region of the property encompasses a stormwater treatment pond.
PROPOSED WORK: The applicant seeks authorization to discharge clean fill material over a total of 0.6 acre of wetlands and other surface waters to facilitate the construction of a commercial building and a parking area. The overall project also would expand the existing stormwater pond to accommodate additional storage and treatment of surface waters from the proposed area of development.
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 applicant examined five properties (including the proposed site); and, determined that the proposed site was the only viable property for the project. The onsite wetlands protrude into the developable uplands encompassed by the property; and, as such, due to the location, size, and orientation of the onsite wetlands, the applicant expressed an opinion that the total avoidance of work affecting wetlands was not practical. The applicant also indicated that the proposed building and parking area are the minimum size necessary to obtain an economically viable project.
COMPENSATORY MITIGATION – The applicant has offered the following compensatory mitigation plan to offset unavoidable functional loss to the aquatic environment:
The applicant’s ecological agent submitted a Wetland Rapid Assessment Procedure (WRAP) quantifying and qualifying the loss of wetland functions and services associated with the work proposed. The WRAP calculated the functional loss as 0.29 units. Therefore, as compensatory mitigation, the applicant would purchase 0.29 credits from the Loblolly Mitigation Bank (SAJ-2002-07493), which is a federally approved mitigation bank with a service area encompassing the project site.
CULTURAL RESOURCES: The Corps has determined the permit area has been extensively modified by previous work and there is little likelihood a historic property may be affected.
ENDANGERED SPECIES: The Corps has determined the proposal would have no effect on any 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 not affect marine or estuarine habitat nor EFH. Our initial determination is that the proposed action would have no impact on EFH or federally managed fisheries in the St. Johns River. 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 Corps previously verified the delineation of wetlands encompassed by the project site.
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 Jacksonville 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, Mark Evans, in writing at the Jacksonville Permits Section, Post Office Box 4970, Jacksonville, Florida 32232; by electronic mail at email@example.com; by facsimile transmission at (904)232-1940; or, by telephone at (904)232-2028.
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.