US Army Corps of Engineers
Jacksonville District

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SAJ-2018-03592, SAJ-2018-01107, SAJ-2018-03591 (SP-DCM)

Published Dec. 28, 2018
Expiration date: 1/28/2019

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:  Mr. Gregory Rhymer

                      Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority (VIWAPA)

                      P.O. Box 1450

                      St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands  00804-1450

 

WATERWAY AND LOCATION:  The project would affect waters of the United States associated with the Caribbean Sea and the Pillsbury Sound.  The project would include five corridors extending from Krum Bay to St. Thomas Harbor (St. Thomas, USVI), St. Thomas Harbor to Bovoni Bay (St. Thomas, USVI), Bovoni Bay to Red Hook Bay (St. Thomas, USVI), Little St. James to Great St. James (private offshore cays to the east of St. Thomas, USVI), and Frank Bay to Coral Bay (St. John, USVI).  The proposed corridors would have landing sites at the Randolph Harley Power Plant, on the western margin of Krum Bay; at the shoreline to the east of the docks of the Havensight Cruise Ship Port, on the eastern margin of St. Thomas Harbor; at the base of a road on the southern side of the Bovoni Landfill, between Bovoni Bay and Stalley Bay; at the eastern side of Red Hook Pond, on the northern margin of Red Hook Bay; at the shoreline on the northeast side of Little St. James; at the shoreline on the eastern margin of Shallow Bay, northeast side of Great St. James; at the southern end of Frank Bay, on the western side of St. John; and at the southeast margin of Coral Bay, on the eastern side of St. John, as depicted in the attached drawings.

 

APPROXIMATE CENTRAL COORDINATES:   

 

SAJ-2018-01107 (SP-DCM): Krum Bay – St. Thomas Harbor Corridor, St. Thomas Harbor - Bovoni Bay Corridor, and Bovoni Bay – Red Hook Bay Corridor

 

Krum Bay – St. Thomas Harbor Corridor     

Krum Bay Landing Site:  Latitude: 18.32752°; Longitude: -64.96185°

St. Thomas Harbor Landing Site:  Latitude: 18.33062°; Longitude: -64.92447°

 

St. Thomas Harbor - Bovoni Bay Corridor   

St. Thomas Harbor Landing Site:  Latitude: 18.33060°; Longitude:  -64.92445°

Bovoni Bay Landing Site:  Latitude: 18.31020°; Longitude: -64.88703°                                                  

 

Bovoni Bay – Red Hook Bay Corridor

Bovoni Bay Landing Site:  Latitude: 18.30997°; Longitude: -64.88685°  

Red Hook Bay Landing Site:  Latitude: 18.32808°; Longitude: -64.84728°

 

SAJ-2018-03591 (SP-DCM):  Little St. James – Great St. James Corridor

Little St. James Landing Site:  Latitude: 18.30182°; Longitude: -64.82405°  

Great St. James Landing Site:  Latitude: 18.31257°; Longitude: -64.82555°                    

 

SAJ-2018-03592 (SP-DCM):  Frank Bay – Coral Bay Corridor

Frank Bay Landing Site:  Latitude: 18.32753°; Longitude: -64.79847°

Coral Bay Landing Site:  Latitude: 18.33155°; Longitude: -64.70638°

 

PROJECT PURPOSE: 

 

Basic:  Electric power/ fiber optic utility line system

 

Overall:  To improve the existing submarine power transmission and telecommunication cable infrastructure in the U.S. Virgin Islands, by expanding the service area and providing redundant power/telecommunication sources in the islands of St. Thomas, St. John, Little St. James and Great St. James, as to better serve their people.      

 

EXISTING CONDITIONS: 

 

Krum Bay - St. Thomas Harbor Corridor:  The information provided by the applicant indicates that two power/telecommunication cables exist along this corridor, which would be crossed by the proposed cable.  The Krum Bay landing site already exists within VIWAPA’s Randolph Harley Power Plant facility, whereas the St. Thomas Harbor landing would be built in uplands as part of this project.  The Environmental Sensitivity Index (ESI) Maps depict that shoreline habitats in the vicinity of the Krum Bay Landing consist of sheltered, solid man-made structures.  In addition, the ESI Maps depict that shoreline habitats at the proposed St. Thomas Harbor landing consist of fine-to medium-grained sand beaches.  The NOAA’s Benthic Maps illustrate that benthic habitats along the general vicinity of the proposed cable corridor include reef/colonized bedrock, seagrass (10-30%, 70-90%, and continuous cover), reef/patch reef, reef/colonized pavement, reef/linear reef, macroalgae/patchy (50-90% cover), and sand.            

 

According to a benthic survey conducted for the proposed project, both landward terminuses of the proposed cable corridor consist of rip-rapped shoreline.  The survey indicates that the rip-rap at the Krum Bay terminus is sparsely colonized by Siderastrea siderea and Diploria strigosa.  In addition, the survey indicates that the proposed cable would extend from the rip-rapped shoreline in Krum Bay onto a sandy shelf colonized by Halophila stipulacea before dropping into a deeper uncolonized channel.  In relation to the St. Thomas Harbor terminus, the survey indicates there are no federally protected corals in the vicinity of the area.  The survey further indicates that the sea bottom in the first 15ft offshore from the St. Thomas Harbor shoreline is covered with small rocks and cobbles overgrown by turf algae and macro algae; the sea bottom in the next 15ft offshore is covered with piles of larger rocks overgrown by macro algae; and farther seaward there is a sea bottom area covered with scattered larger rocks and sparsely distributed corals, including S. siderea, Porites astreoides, S. radians, Millepora spp, Favia fragum, D. strigosa, and Solenastrea bournoni.  Farther offshore the sea bottom becomes colonized by Thalassia testudinum, with a small amount of Syringodium filiforme and H. stipulacea.  The proposed cable corridor would be located primarily in areas of sand, seagrass and an area of rubble/colonized pavement off Muhlenfels Point (southeast corner of St. Thomas Harbor), where a few widely scattered colonies of the federally protected Orbicella spp. and other corals occur.  According to the applicant, this proposed cable segment has been routed to avoid coral reefs and hardbottom areas to the maximum extent possible, and would effectively avoid all existing scattered corals along the area.

 

St. Thomas Harbor - Bovoni Bay Corridor:  According to the information provided by the applicant, no submarine cables exist along this proposed corridor.  Existing conditions at the St. Thomas Harbor landing were described above.  The proposed Bovoni Bay landing would be built in uplands as part of this project, and would be located to the west of an existing wastewater treatment plant (Mangrove Lagoon WWTP) outfall line.  The ESI Maps indicate that the shoreline at the Bovoni Bay landing site consist of gravel beach.  Both the referenced outfall line and the shoreline in this area were rip-rapped as part of the construction of the WWTP facilities.  All the corals in the area were transplanted from the site in the late 1990’s.  However, corals have recolonized the area.  The benthic survey information provided for this corridor indicate there is scattered rock and exposed bedrock immediately seaward from the rip-rap, followed by a seagrass dominated sea bottom area primarily comprised by S. filiforme and to a lesser extent by Halodule beaudettei and T. testudinum.  Corals species that have colonized the rip-rap and rock/bedrock include:  Millepora spp., Diploria labyrinthiformis, Gorgonia ventalina, Porites astreoides, S. siderea, Agaricia agaricites, S. radians, D. strigosa, Stephanocoenia intersepta, Montastrea cavernosa, A. prolifera, and the federally protected Orbicella annularis, Acropora palmata and Dendrogrya cylindrus.  There is also a single colony of the federally protected D. cylindrus within the seagrass dominated sea bottom adjacent to the rip-rap, immediately north of the proposed cable corridor.  The applicant has explained that the cable would be lain to avoid these federally protected coral species.  Seagrass beds adjacent to the shoreline would also be avoided to the maximum extent possible, by lain the cable in an existing uncolonized halo along the WWTP outfall line, to the west of the rip-rap covered outfall line.  The NOAA’s Benthic Maps illustrate that benthic habitats in the vicinity of the proposed corridor include reef/linear reef, seagrass (10-30%, 50-70%, 70-90% and continuous cover), reef/colonized pavement, reef/patch reef, macroalgae/patchy (50-90% cover), and sand.  However, according to the benthic survey, benthic habitats in offshore areas along this proposed corridor would mainly consist of uncolonized and seagrass colonized sandy sea bottom areas and rubble/colonized pavement (off Mulhenfels Point).  The proposed cable route would avoid all federally protected corals, as well as other corals occurring along this area.     

         

Bovoni Bay – Red Hook Bay Corridor:  Several active and inactive telecommunication and power cables, and a water line exist along this proposed corridor, all of which would be crossed by the proposed cable.  According to the information provided by the applicant, no other obstructions exist along the corridor.  Existing conditions at the Bovoni landing site are as described above.  From the Bovoni landing point, the cable would come out into the water on the western side of the Mangrove Lagoon WWTP effluent pipeline following just to the east of the proposed St. Thomas Harbor – Bovoni cable.  The cable would then turn east and would continue its route passing close to, but avoiding hardbottom/reef areas and/or scattered corals associated with Packet Rock, Cow and Calf Rocks, Red Point, and Cabrita Point (off the south and southeast coast of St. Thomas).  The cable would pass over uncolonized and sparsely colonized pavement on the eastern side of Current Cut (between St. Thomas and Great St. James).  After passing Cabrita Point, the cable route would turn west paralleling several cables into the existing Red Hook landing.  The benthic survey conducted for this corridor indicates that benthic habitats in the subtidal zone at the Red Hook landing consist of loose rubble and some patches of T. testudinum.  Beyond the subtidal zone, and moving further offshore, benthic habitats consist of large boulders and rocks, with scattered colonization by federally protected corals (including O. annularis, O. faveolata, and A. palmata), other corals (such as S. siderea, S. radians, D. strigosa, and F. fragum), octocorals (G. ventalina and other species), zoanthids (Palythoa), sponges (Aplysina fulva, Ircinia strobilina, and other species), sea urchins (Diadema antillarum, Echinometra lucunter), and macro and turf algae.  Beyond the colonized rock shelf, the sea bottom is dominated by seagrass (both T. testudinum and S. filiforme) with scattered sand patches.  The proposed cable would be lain to the north of the existing lines/cables sharing the landing, and to the south of the hardbottom (colonized rock shelf) areas.

 

Little St. James - Great St. James Corridor:  The information provided by the applicant indicates there is an existing landing site at the beach located on the north coast of Little St. James, which serve as landing for an existing power cable coming from Great Bay, St. Thomas.  This landing would also service the proposed cable.  The Great St. James landing site would be constructed in uplands as part of this project.  Both landings would be located on cobble beaches.  The benthic survey information provided for this project corridor describes the sea bottom in the subtidal zone near the Little St. James cobble beach landing as pavement sparsely colonized by corals, octocorals, zoantids, sponges, and turf algae.  Colonies of the federally protected O. annularis and O. faveolata, as well as of other corals (such as A. prolifera, D. strigosa, S. siderastrea, and P. astreoides) were identified in this area.  There are also abundant dead coral skeletons in this area, which create high relief areas to the north and south of the existing cable.  The benthic survey information also describes the presence of a shallow hardbottom (bedrock) area on the north side of the bay where the Little St. James landing is located, which is sparsely colonized by O. annularis, O. faveolata, P. astreoides, S. siderea, and A. prolifera, among others.  According to the applicant, the proposed cable has been routed to the north of the existing cable (and running parallel to it) and to the south of the shallow hardbottom on the north side of the bay, to avoid the federally protected coral colonies that were identified in this area.  Farther offshore from the colonized hardbottom near the Little St. James landing, the cable has been routed to stay within sandy sea bottom, uncolonized pavement, and sand channels within colonized pavement until reaching Shallow Bay in Great St. James.  The Great St. James landing site would be located on a narrow cobble beach on the eastern side of Shallow Bay to avoid a fringing reef extending along the western side of the bay, which is densely colonized by federally protected coral species, including O. annularis, O. aveolata, O. franksi, A. palmata, and A. cervicornis.  The benthic survey indicates that the sea bottom on the eastern side of the bay is dominated by seagrass (T. testudinum).  The cable would be landed through a channel along the middle of the bay over seagrass, and would come ashore midway along the eastern shoreline.  Seagrass becomes mixed with cobble in the shallows adjacent to the cobble beach.     

 

Frank Bay - Coral Bay Corridor:  A landing site exists at the southern end of Frank Bay, St. John.  Several existing cables come into this landing site.  There is also a water line in the vicinity of the landing, which services the existing Frank Bay intake structure.  From the landing point, the proposed cable would come off the shoreline south of all the other existing cables and the water line, as to avoid crossing any of these structures.  The benthic survey information provided indicates that the proposed cable would cross a narrow (~ 5ft wide) band of uncolonized hardbottom followed by an area of uncolonized cobble near the shoreline, before going offshore into sand, where it would cross through an area of dense seagrass (T. testudinum with scattered intermixed S. filiforme).  Along the proposed route, the cable would stay north of the hardbottom and scattered boulders associated with Mingo Rock (off the southwest margin of St. John) before turning south and then east to continue its way along waters approximately 90ft deep off the southern coast of St. John.  The cable would turn north around Ram’s Head, Eagle Shoals and Leduck Island (on the southeast margin of St. John) avoiding all surrounding hard bottom areas.  The cable would then turn to the northwest avoiding the hard bottom associated with Johnston Reef, which is colonized by federally protected coral species (A. palmata, O. annularis, O. faveolata, and D. cylindrus), before turning southwest to the proposed landing site in Coral Bay.  The cable would approach the landing point through dense seagrass beds (comprised by T. testudinum, S. filiforme, and H. stipulacea) within the bay, and would emerge onto a narrow sandy beach to be hand buried to a roadside retaining wall.   

 

PROPOSED WORK:  The applicant seeks authorization to install five submarine electrical (69kV) cables with fiber optic capacity in navigable waters of the United States.  The first cable segment would be installed from Krum Bay to St. Thomas Harbor, and would connect VIWAPA’s Randolph Harley Power Plant with the West Indies Company’s Havensight Cruise Ship Terminal to supply electrical service to the cruise ships while they are at port.  The second cable segment would be installed between St. Thomas Harbor and Bovoni Bay, and would connect the Havensight landing to a new proposed landing at Estate Bovoni.  This new landing would allow a future power generation facility to be developed in uplands in the Bovoni area to serve as a redundant power source for St. Thomas.  The third cable segment would be installed from Bovoni Bay to Red Hook Bay, and would connect the Bovoni landing to the existing landing in Red Hook.  This cable segment would provide a redundant power connection to the east end of St. Thomas and to St. John (since there are already two existing cables between Red Hook and Frank Bay, St. John).  The fourth cable segment would be installed from Frank Bay (west end of St. John) to Coral Bay (east end of St John), and would connect the existing Frank Bay landing with a proposed landing in Coral Bay, as to provide a redundant power connection to the eastern end of St. John.  The last and fifth cable segment would be installed from a bay on the north end of Little St. James to Shallow Bay, Great St. James.  This cable segment would connect Little St. James (which is serviced by a power cable coming from Great Bay, St. Thomas) to Great St. James, which currently relies on its own power generation systems.  Please refer to the attached drawings, which illustrate the exact location of the proposed cable corridors.   

 

The proposed cables would be “free laid” along the sea floor.  At the proposed landing points, the cable installation vessel (or barge, depending on the water depth at each particular site) would be positioned off the shore at an appropriate water depth to prevent any bottom disturbance.  The vessel would be maintained in place by dynamic positioning, thus anchoring would not be required.  Once the vessel/barge is in place, the corresponding cable would be pulled with a rope and floated ashore (with large floats) from the vessel/barge into a beach manhole or other landing connection, where it would be secured at the beach joint.  In deeper waters seaward from the shore, the cable would be floated and positioned over the pre-marked route by divers, who would assist during the cable laying operations to ensure the cables avoid corals and other sensitive benthic organisms where present.  The divers would remove the floats from the cable one at a time, allowing the cable to settle to the seafloor with sufficient slack to allow for limited repositioning, if necessary.  Upon completion of the cable installation activities, articulated pipe would be installed to cover and secure the cables to the sea floor in the shallow areas near the landing sites.  The entire installation operation would take approximately two weeks per cable.

 

CULTURAL RESOURCES:  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 USVI State Historic Preservation Officer.

 

ENDANGERED SPECIES:  The Corps has determined that the proposed project may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect the federally protected Green (Chelonia mydas), Loggerhead (Caretta caretta), Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata) and Leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea) sea turtles, and the federally protected West Indian Manatee (Trichechus manatus).  Similarly, the Corps has determined that the proposed project may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect the federally protected Blue (Balaenoptera musculus), Fin (Balaenoptera physalus), Humpback (Megaptera novaeangliae), Sei (Balaneoptera borealis) and Sperm (Physeter microcephalus) whales, as well as the federally protected Nassau grouper (Epinephelus striatus), Giant manta ray (Manta birostris), Oceanic white tip shark (Carcharinus lonigmanus) and Scalloped hammerhead shark (Sphyrna lewini).  In addition, the Corps has determined that the proposed project may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect the federally protected Mountainous star (Orbicella faveolata), Lobed star (Orbicella annularis), Boulder star (Orbicella franksi), Elkhorn (Acropora palmata), Staghorn (Acropora cervicornis) and Pilar (Dendrogyra cylindrus) corals.  Finally, the Corps has determined that the proposed project may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect the designated critical habitat for Elkhorn and Staghorn corals.  Via separate letter the Corps will request U.S. Fish and Wildlife and National Marine Fisheries Service concurrence with these determinations, as appropriate, pursuant to Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act. 

 

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 sandy, rocky and hard marine bottom, which may be utilized by various life stages of some of the federally managed species within the U.S. Caribbean.  Our initial determination is that the proposed action would not have a substantial adverse impact on EFH or federally managed fisheries in the Caribbean Sea.  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, Habitat Conservation Division.

 

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. 

 

AUTHORIZATION FROM OTHER AGENCIES:  A Coastal Zone Management (CZM) consistency certification from the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR), Coastal Zone Management Program, will be required for this project.

 

COMMENTS regarding the potential authorization of the work proposed should be submitted in writing to the attention of the District Engineer through the Antilles Permits Section, Fund. Angel Ramos Annex, Suite 202, 383 F.D. Roosevelt Ave., San Juan, Puerto Rico  00918, 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 water of the United States.  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, Mrs. Deborah J. Cedeño-Maldonado, in writing at the Antilles Permits Section, Fund. Angel Ramos Annex, Suite 202, 383 F.D. Roosevelt Ave., San Juan, Puerto Rico  00918, by electronic mail at Deborah.J.Cedeno-Maldonado@usace.army.mil, or by telephone at (787) 289-7036. 

 

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 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.