US Army Corps of Engineers
Jacksonville District

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SAJ-2018-03124 (SP-MRE)

Published Feb. 27, 2019
Expiration date: 3/20/2019

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 404 of the Clean Water Act (33 U.S.C. §1344) as described below:

APPLICANT:  Grand Creek Partners LLC
                       161 Hampton Point Drive, Suite 1
                       St. Augustine, Florida 32092

WATERWAY AND LOCATION: The project would affect waters of the United States (wetlands) associated with Petty Branch, a tributary to the St. Johns River. The project site is contiguous to, and west of, the intersection of Old Palm Valley Road (County Road 210) and Longleaf Pine Parkway; and, is formed by several properties (St. Johns County Property Appraiser Parcel Identification Numbers 010080-0000, 010080-0020, 010090-0000, 010090-0032, and 010510-0010), in Sections 32 and 40, Township 5 South, Range 27 East, and Section 43, Township 6 South, Range 27 East, St. Johns County, Florida.

APPROXIMATE CENTRAL COORDINATES:  Latitude 30.016600°
                                                                          Longitude -81.613946°

PROJECT PURPOSE:

Basic: The basic project purpose is residential development.

Overall: The overall project purpose is the establishment of a residential subdivision serving the housing market in northwest St. Johns County.

EXISTING CONDITIONS:

Soils: The Soil Survey of the St. Johns County, Florida identifies eleven soil types at the project site. These soil types are Adamsville fine sand (map unit 01), Astatula fine sand, 0 to 8 percent slopes (map unit 02), Holopaw fine sand, frequently flooded (map unit 47), Myakka fine sand (map unit 03), Pomona fine sand (map unit 09), Pottsburg fine sand (map unit 40), Riviera fine sand, frequently flooded (map unit 36), Samsula muck (map unit 26), Sparr fine sand, 0 to 5 percent slopes (map unit 44), Tavares fine sand, 0 to 5 percent slopes (map unit 06), and Winder fine sand, frequently flooded (map unit 48). The project drawings include a depiction of the approximate locations of these soils.

Vegetative communities: The applicant’s ecological agent identified nine vegetative communities, as characterized by the Florida Land Use, Cover, and Forms Classification System (FLUCFCS), at the project site. These nine communities are Pine Flatwoods (FLUCFCS code 411), Longleaf Pine – Xeric Oak (FLUCFCS code 412), Pine – Mesic Oak (FLUCFCS code 414), Xeric Oak (FLUCFCS code 421), Temperate Hardwoods (FLUCFCS code 425), Mixed Wetland Hardwoods (FLUCFCS code 617), Hydric Pine Flatwoods (FLUCFCS code 625), Wetland Forested Mixed (FLUCFCS code 630), and Borrow Areas (FLUCFCS code 742).

1. Pine Flatwoods: This community comprises much of the eastern portion of the site. Dominant vegetation includes slash pine (Pinus elliottii), bitter gallberry (Ilex glabra), saw palmetto (Serenoa repens), and wax myrtle (Myrica cerifera).

2. Longleaf Pine – Xeric Oak: This community has a canopy of longleaf pine (Pinus palustris), live oak (Quercus virginiana), and turkey oak (Quercus laevis). The understory and groundcover are vegetated with turkey oak, live oak, saw palmetto, wire grass (Aristida stricta), prickly-pear cactus (Opuntia humifusa), and bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum).

3. Pine – Mesic Oak: This community has a mixed canopy of laurel oak (Quercus hemispherica) and slash pine. The understory is vegetated with scattered saw palmetto and bitter gallberry. Groundcover is limited and includes scattered bracken fern.

4. Xeric Oak: This community has a canopy of live oak and turkey oak. The understory and groundcover are vegetated with turkey oak, live oak, saw palmetto, wire grass, prickly-pear cactus, and bracken fern.

5. Temperate Hardwoods: Southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora), live oak, water oak (Quercus nigra), and laurel oak dominate the canopy of this community.

6. Mixed Wetland Hardwoods: This community occurs in two portions of the site. Dominant vegetation includes red maple (Acer rubrum), sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua), laurel oak, and cinnamon fern (Osmunda cinnamomea).

7. Hydric Pine Flatwoods: Slash pine dominates this wetland community. The groundcover is a mix of numerous herbaceous species.

8. Wetland Forested Mixed: Cypress (Taxodium spp.), slash pine, tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica ver. biflora), red maple, and laurel oak dominate this community.

9. Borrow Areas: Three borrow pits are located on the property.

PROPOSED WORK: The applicant seeks authorization to discharge clean fill material over 0.82 acres of wetlands to facilitate the establishment of a residential subdivision with associated features such as, but not limited to, infrastructure, stormwater treatment systems, and utilities.

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 work affecting wetlands generally is associated with road crossings and utilities. The central wetland, contiguous to Petty Branch, is the highest quality system encompassed by the project site and would largely remain intact, surrounded by a protective upland buffer. The applicant indicates that the work proposed is the minimum necessary to completely access the site and establish an economically viable project.

COMPENSATORY MITIGATION – The applicant has offered the following compensatory mitigation plan to offset unavoidable functional loss to the aquatic environment:

The applicant’s ecological agent submitted a Uniform Mitigation Assessment Method (UMAM) quantifying and qualifying the loss of wetland functions and services associated with the work proposed. The UMAM calculates that loss as 0.57 units. Therefore, the applicant proposed the purchase of 0.57 UMAM-based credits from a federally approved UMAM-based mitigation bank with a service area encompassing the project site. The applicant has not specifically identified the mitigation bank from which credits would be purchased.

CULTURAL RESOURCES: The Corps is not aware of any known historic properties within the permit area. Heritage Cultural Services, LLC, conducted a cultural resource assessment survey of the project site. The associated report Phase I Cultural Resource Assessment Survey of the Grande Creek Development, St. Johns County, Florida (January 2019) indicates that the survey of the site did not identify any archeological, historical, or cultural resources; and, concludes that the development of the property has no potential to effect sites listed in, or eligible for listing in, the National Register of Historic Places. The Corps is currently evaluating the report. 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.

ENDANGERED SPECIES:

Eastern Indigo Snake (Drymarchon corais couperi) frequents several habitat types, including pine flatwoods, scrubby flatwoods, high pine, dry prairie, tropical hardwood hammocks, edges of freshwater marshes, agricultural fields, coastal dunes, and human-altered habitats. Therefore, this species could utilize the project site. Gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus) burrows are commonly utilized as refuge from winter cold and/or desiccating conditions in xeric habitats; and, hollowed root channels, hollow logs, or burrows of rodents, armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus), or land crabs (Cardisoma guanhumi) provide shelter in wetter habitats. In consideration of the potential presence of eastern indigo snake habitat, the Corps utilized The Eastern Indigo Snake Programmatic Effect Determination Key, August 2013. Use of this key resulted in the sequence A-B-C-D-may affect, as the applicant has agreed to implement the Standard Protection Measures for the Eastern Indigo Snake, August 12, 2013 but the project would adversely affect more than 25 acres of xeric habitat. Through separate correspondence, the Corps will coordinate our determination with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and initiate consultation under the Endangered Species Act.

The Corps executed a Resources At Risk (RAR) report. The RAR did not indicate that the site is utilized by, or contains habitat critical to, any other federally listed threatened or endangered species. The Corps also reviewed geospatial data and other available information. The Corps has not received or discovered any information that the project site is utilized by, or contains habitat critical to, any other federally listed threatened or endangered species.

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 project would not affect marine or estuarine habitat. Our initial determination is that the proposed action would not have an adverse impact on EFH or federally managed fisheries in the St. Johns River. 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 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, Mark R. Evans, in writing at the Jacksonville Permits Section, Post Office Box 4970, Jacksonville, Florida 32232; by electronic mail at mark.r.evans@usace.army.mil; by facsimile transmission at (904)232-1940; or, by telephone at (904)232-2028.

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.