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: Seminole County Attn: Mr. Matt Hassan 100 E 1st Street Sanford, Florida 32771
WATERWAY AND LOCATION: Construction of New Oxford Road in Fern Park would affect Waters of the United States (WoUS) associated with the Lake Jesup Basin, which is part of the Upper St. Johns River Watershed (HUC 03080101). The project center point is located at approximately 28.654289°,-81.342461° in Sections 17 and 18, Township 21 South, Range 30 East in Seminole County, Florida.
Directions to the site are as follows: Take I4 north and exit at 414/Maitland Boulevard. Travel east approximately 2 miles and exit at 92/Orlando Avenue. Travel north for approximately 1.4 miles and the site is adjacent to the southeast side of the Lowes shopping center.
APPROXIMATE CENTRAL COORDINATES: Latitude: 28.654289° - Longitude: -81.342461°
Basic: Extend roadway.
Overall: Extend roadway as part of a county designated community redevelopment area.
EXISTING CONDITIONS: The project is construction of a new road in Fern Park that would connect Oxford Road and Highway 17. The construction would occur on an undeveloped parcel with one 5.82 acre forested wetland and one 0.67 acre herbaceous wetland as well as 1.88 acres of surface waters. The jurisdictional boundaries of the wetlands were determined by hydric soils, hydrophytic vegetation, and hydrologic indicators in accordance with Chapter 62-340.300 of the Florida Administrative Code and using the criteria set in the US Army Corps of Engineers Wetland Delineation Manual (1987) and Atlantic and Gulf Coastal Plain Regional Supplement (2008).
PROPOSED WORK: The applicant seeks authorization to fill 8.37 acres of WoUS construction of a new road and associated stormwater facilities.
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:
“As part of the project planning and design processes, a variety of roadway alignments and upland development plans were considered, some (initially) with less environmentally damaging layouts (see Figure 8 above). However, existing roadway alignments and property/development configurations restricted the proposed New Oxford segment immensely. When considering the adjacent Community Redevelopment Area (CRA) and long term development plan, practicable options were extremely limited. While the evaluated design alternatives may have been technically feasible, as a result of the specific terms of the public/private redevelopment partnership, traffic engineering studies, political commitments to rehabilitate blighted areas, and expectations for economic revitalization borne by the County, an overwhelming emphasis was placed on economic viability of the project and the associated secondary benefits. Several economic analyses, extensive traffic studies, and 20 years of complicated public workshopping with multiple stakeholders were all integral to the decision-making process which ultimately selected the current roadway alignment and conceptual redevelopment plans within Fern Park’s designated Mixed Use Redevelopment Area. This design was selected as the alternative that would provide the greatest likelihood of project success and neighborhood revitalization needed to justify the expenditure of significant public funds. Ultimately, any potential environmental benefit that could have reasonably been anticipated through some form of careful impact avoidance would have been negligible and was far outweighed by the specific project purpose (revitalization of a blighted neighborhood that was first developed decades earlier).
Secondary to roadway alignment, the County considered a number of other design elements which might result in lesser wetland impacts. Incorporation of littoral shelves into the stormwater pond design was evaluated but found to unacceptably compromise treatment capabilities because of the substantially reduced permanent pool volume that resulted. Preservation of a portion of the existing wetland to either side of the roadway was also considered, but the bisected on-site wetland would have dramatically reduced the ecological value of the already-compromised system, and would not have been stable or viable in the long term as the area would have been subjected to continuous, increased secondary impacts over time (see applicants handbook 10.3.1.2).
As mentioned earlier, the proposed project design does however replace much of the physicochemical function of the existing wetland area through engineered stormwater storage and treatment which will be provided largely in the same footprint as the existing system. It was decided that a design that retained more wetland or habitat-specific features and functions within the CRA excessively compromised the viability of the redevelopment project to a degree that far exceeded the extremely limited ecological benefits that could be realized through incorporation of any additional on-site avoidance and/or preservation measures. This New Oxford Road/Fern Park redevelopment project results in impacts to all 6.49 acres of existing wetlands within the project area (2.89 acres will be dredged to become surface waters, and 3.60 acres will be filled for development), but represents a far more ecologically desirable project overall due to the fact that it represents a well-planned mixed-use redevelopment which revitalizes a blighted, urbanized, and ecologically degraded area within a designated redevelopment corridor than, per se, a sprawling single family residential development in more remote and somewhat ecologically intact rural/agricultural lands elsewhere within the basin”
COMPENSATORY MITIGATION – The applicant has offered the following compensatory mitigation plan to offset unavoidable functional loss to the aquatic environment:
“The County is proposing to purchase 4.19 freshwater forested mitigation credits from the Colbert-Cameron Mitigation Bank (CCMB) in addition to 1.86 UMAM units from Wildwood Trails to satisfy State mitigation requirements at a 36% out of basin vs 64% in basin ratio to satisfy SJRWMD requirements. An additional .25 mitigation credits will be purchased from the CCMB to satisfy Federal mitigation requirements (4.44 total)”
The Corps determined the proposed project would have no adverse effect to historic properties. This determination was after review of a Resource at Risk analysis which did not indicate additional review needed for cultural resources.
Wood Stork: The Corps has determined the proposed project may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect the Wood Stork and its designated critical habitat. The Corps completed an evaluation of the project based upon the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) North Florida Ecological Services Field Offices Programmatic Concurrence for use with the Wood Stork (September 2008). Use of the Key for Wood Stork resulted in the following sequential determination: A (The project is more than 2,500 feet from a colony site.) > B (Project impacts SFH) >C (Impacts to SFH > 0.5 acres) >D (Project impacts to SFH within a Core Foraging Area of a colony site) >E (Project provides SFH compensation within the Service Area of a Service-approved wetland mitigation bank or wood stork conservation bank preferably within the CFA, or consists of SFH compensation within the CFA consisting of enhancement, restoration or creation in a project phased approach that provides an amount of habitat and foraging function equivalent to that of impacted SFH) = “not likely to adversely affect” for wood storks. The Corps has FWS concurrence for the proposed activities through the use of the aforementioned determination key.
Eastern Indigo Snake: The Corps has determined the proposed project may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect the Eastern Indigo Snake and its designated critical habitat. Based upon review of the Corps and Service’s Eastern Indigo Snake Programmatic Effect Determination Key (dated August 13, 2013), the proposed project resulted in the following sequential determination: A (The project is not located in open water or salt marsh.) >B (The permit will be conditioned for use of the Service’s Standard Protection Measures for the Eastern Indigo Snake during site preparation and protection construction.) >C (There are gopher tortoise burrows, holes, cavities, or other refugia where a snake could be buried or trapped and injured during project activities) >D (The project will impact less than 25 acres of xeric habitat supporting less than 25 active and inactive gopher tortoise burrows) >E (Permit will be conditioned such that all gopher tortoise burrows, active or inactive, will be evacuated prior to site manipulation in the vicinity of the burrow. If an indigo snake is encountered, the snake must be allowed to vacate the area prior to additional site manipulation in the vicinity. Any permit will 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 indigo snake, no work will commence until the snake has vacated the vicinity of proposed work) = “not likely to adversely affect” for the Eastern indigo snake. The permit will be conditioned with the Standard Construction Guidelines for the Eastern Indigo Snake. No further consultation was required.
Based on existing habitat types, the Corps’ preliminarily determined the project will have no effect on Everglades Snail Kite (Rostrhamus sociabilis plumbeus), and Florida scrub jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens).
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 0.76 acres of WoUS which ultimately discharge to Lake Jesup. Our initial determination is that the proposed action would not have a substantial adverse impact on EFH or federally managed fisheries in the downstream waters. 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.
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 Cocoa Permits Section, 400 High Point Drive, Suite 600, Cocoa, Florida 32926, 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, Brandon J. Conroy, in writing at the Cocoa Permits Section, 400 High Point Drive, Suite 600, Cocoa, Florida 32926; by electronic mail at firstname.lastname@example.org; by facsimile transmission at (321) 504-3803; or, by telephone at (504) 321-3771 x11.
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 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.