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: Reserve Homes Ltd., LP
c/o John Csapo
4807 PGA Boulevard
Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33418
WATERWAY AND LOCATION: The project would affect waters of the United States associated within the C-24 within the Cow Creek watershed (HUC 03090206). The site is located within Sections 3, 4, 5, and 6, Township 36 South, Range 39 East and Sections 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, and 34, Township 37 South, Range 39 East. More precisely, the project site is located east of Glades Cut Off Road, and West of I-95, Port St. Lucie, St. Lucie County, Florida.
Directions to the site are as follows: Proceed on I-95 to exit 120 (Crosstown Parkway) and turn to head west on Crosstown Parkway approximately one mile. The project site is located on the north side of Crosstown Parkway.
APPROXIMATE CENTRAL COORDINATES:
Basic: The basic project purpose is to construct a residential development.
Overall: The overall project purpose is to construct a residential development and associated infrastructure to serve eastern St. Lucie County, Florida.
EXISTING CONDITIONS: The Verano property totals 3,023 +/- acres. The property is a fallow citrus groves and the majority of the land cover is comprised of abandoned citrus groves, some of which have been converted to pasture. An extensive canal, ditch, and swale system exists on the site, a remnant of the citrus operation. Several small, isolated wetlands are found mainly in the western portion of the property.
A Department of the Army permit issued on April 1, 2005 authorized impacts to 23.78 acres of wetlands and 236 acres of non-wetland Waters of the U.S. This permit authorized 8400 cubic yards of fill in 2.78 acres of jurisdictional wetlands north of C-24 and 101640 cubic yards of fill in 21 acres of jurisdictional wetlands south of C-24. The permit also authorized the fill of 107 acres of agricultural ditches and a 129 acre above ground reservoir. Under this permit, development had begun and the permittee has completed 2.78 acres of wetland impacts and 35.3 acres of WOTUS impacts. As a result, 21.0 acres of wetlands and 200.7 acres of non-wetland WOTUS remain on the property, and are the subject of this permit application.
The lands surrounding the project area consist of similar agricultural lands and residential development.
PROPOSED WORK: The applicant seeks re-authorization to place approximately 383,691-cubic yards of fill in 21.0 acres of wetlands and 200.7 acres of non-wetland waters.
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 has provided the following information in support of efforts to avoid and/or minimize impacts to the aquatic environment: Several alternative sites and site plans were considered for this project. An alternative analysis was conducted in 2005, consistent with the requirements of 40 CFR Section 230.10 (“Section 404(b)(1) Guidelines”), and evaluated several alternatives available to the applicant at that time. The site analysis and review of mitigation criteria in 33 CFR 332 determined that additional avoidance of the small, isolated wetland areas on the project site and the preservation of these areas would not likely be successful. These wetland areas are remnant, low quality, isolated areas and are not in close proximity to one another, and would thus be further isolated by the proposed development upon completion of the project. The ecological value for fish and wildlife would further reduced by the surrounding development to a point that would be equivalent to the loss of function due to direct impacts.
The project does include the avoidance and preservation of a 38.62-acre parcel which comprises 6.45 acres of wetland and 32.17 acres of upland area. This preservation area is located at the southern portion of the project, west of I-95 and northeast of the C-24 canal.”
COMPENSATORY MITIGATION – The applicant has offered the following compensatory mitigation plan to offset unavoidable functional loss to the aquatic environment:
As this project was previously permitted, the impacts to 23.78 acres of wetlands and 236 acres of WOTUS were previously authorized and have already been fully mitigated by the purchase of 20 federal freshwater herbaceous credits from Bluefield Ranch Mitigation Bank in December 2004. The applicant also has preserved in perpetuity, a 38.62 acre on-site mitigation area. The mitigation area is routinely maintained and in good condition.
The Corps is aware of historic property/properties within or in close proximity of the permit area. The applicant conducted an updated Cultural Resource Assessment Survey (CRAS) over the remaining undeveloped portions of the property in July 2017. The Corps will initiate consultation with the State Historic Preservation Office and if applicable, those federally recognized tribes with concerns in Florida and the Permit Area as applicable pursuant to 33 CFR 325, Appendix C and Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, by separate letter.
The project is within the range and consultation area of the threatened Audubon’s crested caracara (Polyborus plancus audobonii), eastern indigo snake (Drymarchon corais couperi), Everglade snail kite (Rostrhamus sociabilis plumbeus), Florida grasshopper sparrow (Ammodramus savannarum floridanus), Florida scrub jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens), red-cockaded woodpecker (Picoides borealis), and wood stork (Mycteria americana). Consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) would occur by separate letter.
• May affect, but is not likely to adversely affect the threatened Audubon’s crested caracara. Nesting or foraging habitat for the caracara consists of large expanses of pastures, grasslands, or prairies dotted with numerous shallow ponds and sloughs and single or small clumps of live oaks, cabbage palms, and cypress. Portions of the site may contain suitable habitat for the caracara. According to information available from FWS South Florida Ecological Services Office (SFESO), the closest known nest is 2.36 miles from the proposed Project. A species survey conducted according to FWS’ guidelines will be requested
• The project site is located in an area where the eastern indigo snake may occur. The Corps has determined the proposal may affect the eastern indigo snake. The 3023-acre project site contains 25 acres or more of potential eastern indigo snake habitat. By use of the FWS revised Eastern Indigo Snake Key dated August 1, 2017, the following key sequence A>B>C would result in a “May Affect” determination. The applicant will agree to conditions requiring that all gopher tortoise burrows, active or inactive, will be excavated prior to site manipulation in the vicinity of the burrow. If an eastern indigo snake is encountered, the snake must be allowed to vacate the area prior to additional site manipulation in the vicinity. Any permit will also be conditioned such that holes, cavities, and snake refugia other than gopher tortoise burrows will be inspected each morning before planned site manipulation of a particular area, and, if occupied by an eastern indigo snake, no work will commence until the snake has vacated the vicinity of proposed work.
• May affect, but is not likely to adversely affect the Everglade snail kite. The project is within the consultation areas. Suitable habitat for snail kites consists of freshwater marshes, wet prairies, and the shallow vegetated edges of lakes (natural and man-made) where apple snails can be found. Based on the description of the project area, suitable habitat for this species may be present on site. Additionally, suitable forage (apple snails) have been observed on site. Based on the above information, the Corps has determined that the project may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect the snail kite. A species survey conducted according to FWS’ guidelines will be requested.
• No effect to the Florida Grasshopper Sparrow. The project is located within the species consultation area. However, suitable habitat (dry prairie that is relatively open and low in stature, treeless, relatively poorly-drained grasslands that have a history of frequent fires) is not found on site.
• No effect to the Florida scrub jay. The project is located within the species consultation area. Suitable habitats for the scrub-jay are not only the more “classic” xeric oak scrub, scrubby pine flatwoods, scrubby coastal strand, and sand pine scrub, but also include: improved, unimproved, and woodland pastures, citrus groves, rangeland, pine flatwoods, longleaf pine xeric oak, sand pine, sand pine plantations, forest regeneration areas, sand other than beaches, disturbed rural land in transition without positive indicators of intended activity, and disturbed burned areas. The project is not located in any of these types of habitats.
• Not Likely to Adversely Affect the wood stork. The applicant has proposed compensation for wetland impacts through the use of onsite wetland mitigation. By use of the FWS Wood Stork Key dated January 25, 2010 and the May 18, 2010 addendum, the following key sequence A>B>C>E would result in a “Not Likely to Adversely Affect” (NLAA) determination. Any loss of wood stork foraging biomass resulting from the proposed activity has been compensated for through the purchase of 20 freshwater herbaceous mitigation credits from Blue Field Ranch Mitigation Bank. The site was evaluated using the Wetland Rapid Assessment Procedure.
• May affect, but not likely to adversely affect the Red-cockaded woodpecker. Suitable nesting habitat for the red-cockaded woodpecker include pine stands, or pine-dominated pine/hardwood stands, with a low or sparse understory and ample old-growth pines. Based on the project area description, the project area may contains suitable habitat. A species survey conducted according to FWS’ guidelines will be requested.
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 21.0 acres of freshwater wetlands and 200.7 acres of non-wetland waters. Our initial determination is that the proposed action would not have a substantial adverse impact on EFH or Federally managed fisheries in the South Atlantic Region. 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 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 Palm Beach Gardens Permits Section, 4400 PGA Boulevard Suite 500, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida 33410 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, Trey Fraley, in writing at the Palm Beach Gardens Permits Section, 4400 PGA Boulevard Suite 500, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida 33410; by electronic mail at email@example.com, or, by telephone at (561) 472-3526.
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.