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: Florida Power and Light Company
Attn: Ms. Loretta Cranmer
700 Universe Boulevard
Juno Beach, Florida 33408
WATERWAY AND LOCATION: The project would affect waters of the United States (wetlands) associated with the St. Marys River. The project site is located near 9025 Claude Harvey Road, in Sections 21, 22, 23, 26, 27, 28, and 34, Township 2 South, Range 21 East, Glen St. Mary, Baker County, Florida.
Directions to the site are as follows: From Interstate-10 take Exit 333 and turn North on George Taber Boulevard. Proceed until the intersection of U.S. Highway 90 and turn left. Proceed until the intersection of County Road 139B and turn right. Proceed until the intersection of Claude Harvey Road and turn right. Proceed for 1-mile and the project site is on your right.
APPROXIMATE CENTRAL COORDINATES: Latitude 30.294458°
Basic: The basic project purpose is the generation of power.
Overall: The overall project purpose is to provide 74.5 megawatts of solar photovoltaic power generation within Baker County.
EXISTING CONDITIONS: The project site encompasses a generalized land use/cover type identified by the Florida Land Use, Cover, and Forms Classification System (FLUCFCS).
a. Wetland Forested Mixed (FLUCFCS code 630) 19.53 acres – The community vegetation includes loblolly bay (Gordonia lasianthus), sweet bay (Magnolia virginiana), slash pine (Pinus elliottii), pond cypress (Taxodium ascendens), blackgum (Nyssa sylvatica), red maple (Acer rubrum), swamp bay (Persea palustris) water oak (Quercus nigra), wax myrtle (Morella cerifera) fetterbush (Lyonia lucida), high bush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum), St. Johns wort (Hypericum perforatum), dahoon holly (Ilex cassine), gallberry (Ilex glabra) myrtle holly (Ilex myrtifolia), Virginia chain fern (Woodwardia virginica), cinnamon fern (Osmundastrum cinnamomeum), chalky bluestem (Andropogon virginicus), yellow-eyed grass (Xyris sp.), spikerush (Eliocharis sp.) sphagnum moss (Sphagnum sp.) bogbutton (Lachnocaulon sp.), bunched beaksedge (Rhynchospora cephalantha), maidencane (Panicum hemitomon), and Carolina redroot (Lachnanthes caroliniana)
b. Freshwater Marsh (FLUCFCS code 641) 0.87-acre – The community vegetation includes St. Johns wort, gallberry, dahoon holly, maidencane (Panicum hemitomon), Carolina redroot, chalky broomsedge, virginia chain fern, spikerush, spadeleaf (Centella erecta), bunched beaksedge, yellow-eyed grass, and meadow beauty (Rhexia mariana).
c. Upland Pine Plantation (FLUCFC code 411) 639 acres – The community vegetation includes slash pine.
PROPOSED WORK: The applicant seeks authorization to discharge clean-fill material into 3.86 acres of freshwater-forested wetlands to facilitate the construction of a 74.5-megawatt solar generation facility and associated infrastructure.
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:
“Efforts to avoid and minimize wetland and surface water impacts initially focused on selection of a site that maximized acreage of uplands and provided opportunities to co-locate with existing infrastructure (transmission lines, access roads) to reduce the area of required construction disturbance. Within the selected Site, further avoidance and minimization efforts focused upon locating the construction area, to maximize utilization of previously disturbed agricultural uplands and avoid higher-quality connected wetlands.”
COMPENSATORY MITIGATION – The applicant has offered the following compensatory mitigation plan to offset unavoidable functional loss to the aquatic environment:
“Unavoidable wetland impacts will be compensated through purchase of 0.05 federal credits from the Brandy Branch 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.
a. Eastern Indigo Snake (Drymarchon corais couperi): May Affect Not Likely to Adversely Effect; Programmatic Consultation - The Corps has determined the proposed project may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect the Eastern Indigo Snake. The species 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 area encompassed by the Endangered Species Act scope of analysis for this project. 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. A survey of the project site identified six gopher tortoise burrows on the overall property. 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-E-may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect, as the applicant has agreed to implement the Standard Protection Measures for the Eastern Indigo Snake, August 12, 2013. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has indicated that they concur with determinations of may affect, not likely to adversely affect based on the key for eastern indigo snakes; and, that no additional consultation is necessary.
b. Red-cockaded Woodpecker: No Effect - Habitat for Red-cockaded Woodpeckers typically incorporates mature pine woodlands; and, optimal habitat is characterized as a broad savanna with a scattered overstory of large pines and a dense groundcover containing a diversity of grass and shrub species. Nesting and roosting occur in cavity trees that are almost exclusively old, living, flat-topped pine trees. The project site does not encompass typical or optimum habitat; or, trees capable of supporting cavities because of recent silviculture activities. Further, as significant forested habitat is located near the project site, it is likely that this species would only opportunistically forage at the site, which the development of the site would not preclude. In consideration of the information noted above the Corps has determined the proposed project would have no effect on the Red-cockaded Woodpecker.
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. Marys 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 32232-0019 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, Brad Carey, in writing at the Jacksonville Permits Section, Post Office Box 4970, Jacksonville, Florida 332232-0019; by electronic mail at email@example.com; 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.