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 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 (33 U.S.C. §403) as described below:
APPLICANT: Charlotte County Board of County Commissioners
C/o Parks and Natural Resources Department
Attn: Roger Debruler Jr
514 East Grace St
Punta Gorda, FL 33950
WATERWAY AND LOCATION: The project would affect waters of the United States associated with the installation of an artificial reef. The proposed project site is located in the Gulf of Mexico off Charlotte County, Florida, approximately 3.25 nautical miles from Stump Pass at a bearing of 304 degrees.
DIRECTIONS TO SITE: The proposed project is accessible by boat 3.25 nautical miles from Stump Pass at a heading of 304 degrees and 1.6 nautical miles from Englewood’s Public Beach at a heading of 270 degrees.
LATITUDE & LONGITUDE: The four corners and the center point of the proposed reef are described below.
Center 26.92503°/-82.39250° (26°55.502’N/82°23.550’W)
NW Corner 26.92830°/-82.39455° (26°55.698’N/82°23.673’W)
NE Corner 26.92830°/-82.39044° (26°55.698’N/82°23.426’W)
SW Corner 26.92182°/-82.39455° (26°55.309’N/82°23.673’W)
SE Corner 26.92182°/-82.39044° (26°55.309’N/82°23.426’W)
Basic: Construct an artificial reef.
Overall: Construct an artificial reef which will provide long-term enhancement of local fishery resources, habitat, and diving attraction while honoring military service in the Gulf of Mexico adjacent to Charlotte County.
EXISTING CONDITIONS: A total of five benthic surveys were conducted on August 14, 2018 and September 19 and 25, 2018 using cave reels in expanded circles from a static point (boat anchor). The center of the site is at 82 23.550 W Longitude, 26 55.502 N Latitude. No live bottom communities were found. No benthic invertebrates other than Calico clams (Macrocallista maculata), Pen shell (Atrina sp.), Seastars (Luidia sp.), or Sand dollars (Mellita sp.) were noted. Bottom composition was medium to coarse sand with 85% of the sand graded at 0.25mm grain size or greater. Metal probes were inserted six to eight inches into the sand before reaching compacted sand or rock cap. Depth within the proposed reef area varies between 26 and 33 feet.
PROPOSED WORK: The applicant seeks authorization to construct an artificial reef that will consist of pre-approved various materials of opportunity in approximately 92 acres of sandy bottom.
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: Charlotte County shall maintain a minimum clearance of -15 feet of navigation relative to Mean Low Lower Water (MLLW) and the top of any deployed structure. The depth at the reef site is -23 to -35 feet relative to MLLW depending on the location. All personnel shall be informed about protected species (sea turtles and marine mammals) and the requirement of a watch and the stoppage of work when present. The project involves artificial reef creation for the long-term enhancement of the local fishery and habitat in offshore waters near Stump Pass, Charlotte County, Florida. There are no proposed impacts to live bottom or aquatic resources.
COMPENSATORY MITIGATION – The applicant has provided the following explanation why compensatory mitigation should not be required:
Compensatory mitigation should not be required for governmental projects paid for by the public. Additionally there are no adverse impacts associated with the project; the project is for long-term enhancement of local fishery resources, habitat, and to honor military service.
CULTURAL RESOURCES: The Corps has determined that the activity is of such limited scope there is little likelihood of impact upon a historic property; therefore, the proposed project would have “No Potential to Cause Effect”.
The Corps has determined the proposed project may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect the West Indian manatee (Trichechus manatus), Smalltooth sawfish (Pristis pectinata), Green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas), Loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta), and Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys kempii). No designated critical habitat is present in the proposed project area.
The Corps has made the determination of “may affect, not likely to adversely affect” (MANLAA) for the West Indian manatee. The Corps has concurrence with this determination pursuant to The Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District, and the State of Florida Effect Determination Key for the Manatee in Florida, April 2013 (Manatee Key). Use of the Manatee Key resulted in the following sequential determination: A>B>C>G>N>O>P>5 MANLAA, with no further consultation necessary. This determination is based on the applicant following the Standard Manatee Conditions for In-Water Work, 2011 for the proposed activity.
The Corps evaluated the proposed work utilizing National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS)’s Jacksonville District’s Programmatic Biological Opinion (JAXBO) dated 20 November 2017. The JAXBO analyzes the effects from 10 categories of minor in-water activities occurring in Florida and the U.S. Caribbean on sea turtles (loggerhead, leatherback, Kemp's ridley, hawksbill, and green); smalltooth sawfish; Nassau grouper; scalloped hammerhead shark, Johnson's seagrass; sturgeon (Gulf, shortnose, and Atlantic); corals (elkhorn, staghorn, boulder star, mountainous star, lobed star, rough cactus, and pillar); whales (North Atlantic right whale, sei, blue, fin, and sperm); and designated critical habitat for Johnson's seagrass; smalltooth sawfish; sturgeon (Gulf and Atlantic); sea turtles (green, hawksbill, leatherback, loggerhead); North Atlantic right whale; and elkhorn and staghorn corals in accordance with Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act. Based on past permitting practices of the Corps and review of consultations with similar in-water construction activities, Project Design Criteria (PDCs) were identified in the JAXBO that typically have been applied to permitted in-water construction activities. These PDCs ensure effects of in-water construction activities are minimal in nature and do not result in adverse effects to listed species or to essential features of designated CH. For this verification, the Corps conducted a project specific review to ensure that all of the PDCs were met. In accordance with the project-specific review process established in the JAXBO, a PDC checklist, certification that the activity meets the applicable PDCs, and supporting documentation for the proposed activity were emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com on 16 October 2018 to supersede PDC A7.14.
The Corps has completed programmatic consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) pursuant to Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act and no further consultation is necessary with FWS. Programmatic consultation will still be required from NMFS for superseding the Jacksonville Biological Opinion for the open water distance of two thirds the height relative to the reef structure at MLLW and increasing the area in size from 40 acres to 92 acres.
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 92 acres of natural sand bottom utilized by various life stages of benthic and pelagic species. 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 Fort Myers Permits Section, 1520 Royal Palm Square Blvd, Suite 310, Fort Myers, FL 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, Steven Rabney, in writing at the Fort Myers Permits Section, 1520 Royal Palm Square Blvd, Suite 310, Fort Myers, FL 33919; by electronic mail at firstname.lastname@example.org; or, by telephone at (239) 334-1975 x0009.
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.