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: Towers Timber Company, LLC
Attn: Mr. Chris Ward
161 Hampton Point Drive, Suite 1
St. Augustine, Florida 32092
WATERWAY AND LOCATION: The project would affect waters of the United States associated with Six Mile Creek. The project site is located at 6700 County Road 16A, in Sections 7, 18 and 38, Township 6 South, Range 28 East, St. Augustine, St. Johns County, Florida.
Directions to the site are as follows: From Interstate-95 take Exit 323 and head west on International Golf Parkway. Proceed until the intersection with County Road 16 and turn to the right. Proceed straight onto County Road 16A. Proceed for 0.75-miles and the project site is on the right side of the county road.
APPROXIMATE CENTRAL COORDINATES: Latitude 29.984191°
Basic: The basic project purpose is single-family residential development.
Overall: The overall project purpose is single-family residential development within the Wards Creek Elementary School district.
EXISTING CONDITIONS: The existing vegetative communities and land uses have been characterized pursuant to the Florida Department of Transportation publication Florida Land Use, Cover and Forms Classification System (FLUCFCS).
1. Uplands 48.53 acres
a. Residential, Low Density (FLUCFCS 110) 1.88 acres - The property contains an existing farmhouse with adjacent sheds and a detached garage. The area surrounding these structures is a maintained yard. A small (0.10 acre) man-made pond is located behind the house
b. Improved Pasture (FLUCFCS 211) 3.45 acres - The western end of the property is improved pasture. The vegetation is dominated by Bahia grass (Paspalum notatum).
c. Row Crops (FLUCFCS 214) 37.12 acres - The majority of the property has been used for many years for growing row crops. This portion of the site contains a series of shallow field ditches between slightly raised planting beds.
d. Open Agricultural Land (FLUCFCS 260) 0.76-acre - The property contains two relatively small areas of open land that currently have an indeterminate use. The western area located north of the farmhouse is currently a field. The eastern area located near the cell tower is an overgrown field.
e. Pine Flatwoods (FLUCFCS 411) 4.08 acres - Most of the uplands located north of the agricultural field comprise pine flatwoods. The canopy in this area is dominated by slash pine (Pinus elliottii) along with scattered hardwoods such as water oak (Quercus nigra), laurel oak (Q. laurifolia) and southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora). The understory and ground cover vegetation are dominated by such species as saw palmetto (Serenoa repens), bitter gallberry (Ilex glabra) and bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum). The vegetation in the forested upland located to the west of the farmhouse along either side of the channelized drainage way has a canopy of slash pine mixed with southern magnolia, pignut hickory (Carya glabra), and various oaks, including scattered live oak (Quercus virginiana).
f. Powerline Easement (FLUCFCS 832) 1.24 acres - The property contains a cleared power line easement along the northern boundary. The vegetation within the cleared uplands includes such species as blackberry (Rubus sp.), dog fennel (Eupatorium sp.), broomsedge (Andropogon virginicus), bracken fern, and bitter gallberry.
g. Transmission Tower (FLUCFCS 821) - There is an existing cell phone transmission tower located near the northeast corner of the property. The tower pad is a square that is approximately 70 feet by 70 feet. The cell tower will remain after the property is developed, so it is considered an out parcel.
2. Wetlands and Other Surface Waters 9.48 acres
a. Channelized Stream (FLUCFCS 510) 0.37-acre - The property includes a section of channelized stream located west of the farmhouse. This drainage way has a deeply incised flow channel that appears to have been at least partially dredged decades ago and may have been incised further due to the increased volume of runoff from agricultural fields located upstream to the north. A portion of the onsite wetland is lined with concrete rubble that was placed by the owner many years ago to control erosion. This stream is one of the headwaters of Wards Creek and flows from northeast to southwest
b. Inland Ponds and Sloughs (FLUCFCS 616) 6.22 acres - The portion of the property located north of the agricultural field contains areas of forested wetland. These wetlands drain to the west and form part of the headwaters of a tributary of Wards Creek. The original hydrology of these wetlands has been altered by the adjacent system of drainage ditches. As a result, the wetlands may still have a seasonal high water table near the ground surface but typically do not hold standing surface water except in the lowest areas. The canopy in these wetlands is dominated by such species as pond cypress (Taxodium ascendens), blackgum (Nyssa sylvatica var. biflora), red maple (Acer rubrum), sweetbay (Magnolia virginiana), and slash pine. The understory and ground cover vegetation are relatively open and include such species as cinnamon fern (Osmunda cinnamomea), royal fern (O. regalis), Virginia chain fern (Woodwardia virginica), and fetterbush (Lyonia lucida). A narrow finger of drained forested wetland is located along the western edge of the channelized stream to the northwest of the farmhouse. This strip of wetland has scattered blackgum, sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) and red maple in the canopy.
c. Wet Pasture/Field (FLUCFCS 640) 2.20 acres - The power line easement along the northern property line contains areas of cleared, herbaceous wetlands. The vegetation in much of these areas is dominated by such species as red root (Lachnanthes caroliniana), soft rush (Juncus effusus), beakrush (Rhynchospora spp.), and various wet grasses.
PROPOSED WORK: The applicant seeks authorization to discharge clean-fill material into 0.46-acre of freshwater-forested wetlands and 0.52-acre of ditches to facilitate the construction of a single-family residential development consisting of 125 homes.
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 project was planned to avoid and minimize wetland impacts as much as possible while still achieving the project purpose. Almost all of the wetlands will not be disturbed. Only 0.46 acre or 5% of the wetlands are proposed for impact. The impacts are proposed to relatively narrow strips along the upper edge of the wetland that have been drained for many decades by an existing agricultural ditch. Eliminating all wetland impacts would result in dropping 14 lots, almost 11% of the projected lot yield, which would make the project economically unfeasible to develop.”
COMPENSATORY MITIGATION – The applicant has offered the following compensatory mitigation plan to offset unavoidable functional loss to the aquatic environment:
The applicant has proposed to obtain 0.26 freshwater-forested credits from “Fishtail Swamp Mitigation Bank”.
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 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. Our initial determination is that the proposed action would not have a substantial adverse impact on EFH or Federally managed fisheries in the St. Johns River or Six Mile Creek. 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 Jacksonville Permits Section, Post Office Box 4970, Jacksonville, Florida 32232-0019 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, Brad Carey, in writing at the Jacksonville Permits Section, Post Office Box 4970, Jacksonville, Florida 32232-0019; by electronic mail at firstname.lastname@example.org; or, by telephone at (904) 232-2405.
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.