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) and Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 (33 U.S.C. §403) as described below:
APPLICANT: Mr. Richard A. Difede, President
Gold Coast Yachts, Inc.
9010 Estate Salt River
Christiansted, St. Croix, USVI 00820
WATERWAY AND LOCATION: The project would affect waters of the United States associated with Christiansted Harbor and a drainage way that discharges into the harbor. The project would be located at Plot 211 Estate Golden Rock, and immediately adjacent navigable waters of Christiansted Harbor, Route 74 (intersection with Breeze Way), Christiansted, St. Croix, USVI.
Directions to the site are as follows: From Christiansted Downtown, take King Street (west) to Northside Road. At the intersection with Route 74, turn right and continue driving until you reach the intersection with Breeze Way. The project site would be located to your left, on the corner of Route 74 and Breeze Way.
APPROXIMATE CENTRAL COORDINATES: Latitude: 17.751333°
Basic: Boat manufacturing facility with dock and launch ramp
Overall: Consolidate Gold Coast Yachts’ separate existing facilities in St. Croix into a new state-of-the-art boat manufacturing facility including dock and launch ramp.
EXISTING CONDITIONS: The proposed project area is located at the western margin of Christiansted Harbor, on the northern coast of the island of St. Croix. The parcel of land where the proposed facility would be built adjoins the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority’s Richmond Power Plant to the east, the Club St. Croix resort to the west, Christiansted Harbor to the north, and Route 74 to the south. According to the information provided by the applicant, this property has been previously altered by the clearing of vegetation and placement of fill associated with the construction of the Club St. Croix resort and the Christiansted Bypass. A deeply incised drainage way runs along the east margin of the property and discharges directly into Christiansted Harbor. There is a dirt road within the property that extends down to the beach towards the Club St. Croix property. Most of the property is either unvegetated or covered by herbaceous vegetation. There are a few scattered white manjack (Cordia alba) and jujube (Ziziphus mauritiana) trees within the property and along the drainage way together with individuals of Leucaena leucocephala. A littoral woodland primarily composed of Portia tree (Thespesia populnea) fringes the coastline. A few scattered white mangrove trees (Laguncularia racemosa) occur in the area where the drainage way discharges into the harbor. There is a very narrow beach along the shoreline in the immediate project area.
The information provided by the applicant indicates there was a dock extending from the shoreline in the proposed project area, which was destroyed by Hurricane Hugo in 1989. Rip-rap was installed off the shoreline adjacent to the dock. A few pilings from the old dock structure and the associated rip-rap remain in place. Debris from the dock also remain scattered throughout the area. The NOAA’s Benthic Maps depict benthic habitats in the immediate vicinity of the proposed project area as dominated by Reef/Colonized Pavement towards the shoreline and by seagrass (continuous cover) off the shoreline. However, an environmental assessment report provided by the applicant, which includes the results of a benthic survey conducted on April 2018 for the proposed project area, indicates that no colonized pavement occur in the immediate vicinity of the project area. The results of the survey revealed the presence of seagrass bed patches (with large blowouts), mostly comprised by Thalassia testudinum and to a lesser extent by Syringodium filiforme and Halodule beudettei, in the immediate vicinity of the project area, occupying between 70-80% of the area. Also, large amounts of dead seagrass were observed near the shore during the survey. According to the report, continuous dense seagrass beds (comprised by T. testudinum, S. filiforme, Halophila stipulacea and H. beaudettei) occur offshore and outside of the proposed project area. In addition, the report indicates that coral colonization, primarily by Porites porites and P. astreoides and to a lesser extent by Siderastrea radians and Diploria strigosa, were observed on the scattered debris and rocks, as well as on the remnant dock pilings and the associated rip-rap. Loose coral colonies were also observed within the seagrass beds. No federally protected corals were found in the vicinity of the proposed project area.
PROPOSED WORK: The applicant seeks authorization to construct a new boat manufacturing facility consisting of seven 1-level metal buildings (Component Shop/Infusion Building, Assembly Building 1, Assembly Building 2, Office/Lunch Room and Inventory Building, Maintenance Building, Training Building, and a small Guard House), a parking area, a boat launching ramp, and a wooden dock. The proposed facility would also include two sediment settling ponds (to control runoff from the site) and a graveled road/access way to the launch ramp and dock. The proposed project design respects the existing topography of the site and, for the most part, would not alter the existing drainage way. The construction of the proposed facility’s parking lot and entrance drive would require the discharge of fill material into approximately 0.051 acres of waters of the United States (existing drainage way).
The proposed wooden dock would be 180’ long x 12’ wide, and would have a 100’ long x 10’ wide “L” end. The dock would be built immediately adjacent to the remnants of the previous dock, to the west of the existing rip-rap, and would connect to a graveled roadway in uplands. The dock would be supported by 52 12” in diameter wooden pilings that would be installed by jetting. Some of the remnant pilings of the previous dock structure would be removed as part of the project construction activities, and it would also be done by jetting. The seaward end of the proposed dock would maintain a clearance of about 3’ from the mean high tide line (MHTL), and would be located at a water depth of about 3’. Water depths along the proposed dock’s footprint would range from about 0’ to 3’. The dock construction activities would require the use of small vessels. The proposed boat launching ramp (launching path) would consist of a designated area immediately west of the proposed dock, and would not require any excavation, discharges, construction activities or improvements. The proposed dock and launching ramp are specifically intended for commissioning and sea trials of new boats manufactured at the facility.
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 information provided by the applicant indicates the proposed project has been designed and configured as to avoid the existing drainage way within the project property and the associated wetland vegetation (including the white mangrove trees occurring in the area where the drainage discharges into the harbor) to the maximum extent practicable. In addition, potential project impacts to seagrass beds have been minimized by limiting the footprint of the proposed dock and boat launch ramp to an area with patchy seagrass cover (thus avoiding adjacent dense seagrass bed areas with continuous cover), and by designating an unimproved shoreline area for use as boat launching ramp instead of building a concrete boat ramp structure. In order to further prevent/minimize potential impacts to seagrass beds and corals, the applicant is proposing to implement a mitigation plan consisting of the transplant of approximately 1800 square feet of seagrass within the footprint of the proposed dock to adjacent seagrass beds located to the north of the project area and the relocation of 45 corals present in the immediate project area to existing hardbottom areas to the east of the proposed dock. Additional measures that would be implemented to prevent and/or minimize potential project impacts to the aquatic environment include: installation and maintenance of a double set of turbidity barriers around the in-water work area during the pile jetting activities; monitoring of water quality on a daily basis during the pile jetting activities (to ensure the barriers are effectively controlling turbidity and determine whether implementation of other measures is necessary); installation of erosion control fencing around the project area; and construction of temporary sediment catch basins (to collect and control runoff across the site).
COMPENSATORY MITIGATION – The applicant has offered the following compensatory mitigation plan to offset unavoidable functional loss to the aquatic environment:
No further mitigation measures other than the above-mentioned transplant of seagrass and relocation of corals present within the project footprint have been offered by the applicant.
CULTURAL RESOURCES: The Corps is aware of historic property/properties within or in close proximity of the permit area. The Corps will initiate consultation with the USVI State Historic Preservation Office, and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, as applicable, pursuant to 33 CFR 325, Appendix C and Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, by separate letter.
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 Nassau grouper (Epinephelus striatus) and the Scalloped hammerhead shark (Sphyrna lewini). 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 approximately 0.072 acres of sandy marine bottom (colonized by seagrass and some corals), 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. The jurisdictional line has not been verified by Corps personnel.
AUTHORIZATION FROM OTHER AGENCIES: A Coastal Zone Management (CZM) consistency certification from the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Planning and Natural Resources, Division of Coastal Zone Management (DPNR-CZM), will be required for this project. A Water Quality Certificate from the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Planning and Natural Resources, Division of Environmental Protection (DPNR-DEP), will also be required.
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. Ángel Ramos Annex Bldg., 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 waters 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. Ángel Ramos Annex Bldg., 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.