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: Highlands County Board of County Commissioners
4344 George Boulevard
Sebring, FL 33875
WATERWAY AND LOCATION: The project would affect waters of the United States associated with ditches that discharge to Canal C-41A. The project site is located off of Driggers Road, in Section 4, Township 37 South, Range 31 East, Lake Placid, Highlands County, Florida.
Directions to the site are as follows: From Sebring, Florida proceed south on US 27 to SR 98. Turn east on SR 98 toward the town of Lorida and proceed approximately 14 miles until reaching the intersection of CR 621. Turn south on 621 and follow it 10 miles until reaching Driggers Road (a dirt road) which extends east from 621. Turn on Driggers road and follow it 2 miles to the end where you must turn south along the east side of the canal and carefully follow the access road an additional 0.7 miles to reach the NW corner of the 400 acre project site.
APPROXIMATE CENTRAL COORDINATES: 27.284047°
Basic: Water Quality Improvements
Overall: Construct a stormwater treatment and reuse impoundment in the Istokpoga Marsh Watershed Improvement District.
EXISTING CONDITIONS: The 400 acre site is an existing pasture/agricultural field bisected by ditches and adjacent to Canal C-41A. Adjacent properties consist of similar pasture/agricultural fields.
PROJECT HISTORY: This project was originally noticed on November 9, 2017. However, due to changes in onsite wetland jurisdiction the Corps is re-noticing the activity with corrected impact numbers (see below). Original public notice included only 3.96 acres of ditch impacts.
PROPOSED WORK: The applicant seeks authorization to construct a 326-acre stormwater impoundment to reduce phosphorus loading into downstream waters. Work will include the construction of an earthen berm that will require the placement of fill in 3.96 acres of ditches and the loss of 6.33 acres of wetlands due to stormwater treatment.
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 IMWID Cell II project is an environmental improvement project and, therefore, every effort was made during the design phase to minimize possible environmental impacts.
COMPENSATORY MITIGATION – The applicant has provided the following explanation why compensatory mitigation should not be required: The applicant stated no mitigation should be required as the project will result in net improvements to the watershed. Wetlands will be included in the stormwater management system and may be occasionally flooded. The project results will effectively mitigate the issue of the high-nutrient laden water being discharged through Channel B from the agricultural area into Lake Okeechobee.
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 State Historic Preservation Officer and those federally recognized tribes with concerns in Florida and the Permit Area.
ENDANGERED SPECIES: The Corps has preliminarily determined the proposed project may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect the Audubon’s Crested Caracara and the Everglades Snail Kite. The Corps has requested U.S. Fish and Wildlife concurrence with this determination pursuant to Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act.
The Corps has preliminarily determined the proposal may affect the Eastern Indigo Snake. The Corps has requested initiation of formal consultation with the Fish and Wildlife Service pursuant to Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act by separate letter.
The Corps has preliminarily determined the proposal would have no effect on the Florida Bonneted Bat, Florida Scrub-jay, Florida Grasshopper Sparrow, or Wood Stork as there is no suitable habitat for these species on site.
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 Gulf of Mexico or Atlantic Ocean. 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 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 Tampa Permits Section, 10117 Princess Palm Avenue, Suite 120, Tampa, Florida 33610 within 15 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, Candice Wheelahan, in writing at the Tampa Permits Section, 10117 Princess Palm Avenue, Suite 120, Tampa, Florida 33610; by electronic mail at Candice.M.Wheelahan@usace.army.mil; by facsimile transmission at (813)769-7061; or, by telephone at (813)769-7064.
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.