US Army Corps of Engineers
Jacksonville District

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SAJ-2018-02192 (SP-BJC)

Published May 31, 2019
Expiration date: 6/24/2019

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:  Southeast Investment, LLC
                       c/o The Ferber Company
                       Attn: Mr. Tom Mundy
                       151 Sawgrass Corners, Suite 202
                       Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida 32082

WATERWAY AND LOCATION: The project would affect waters of the United States associated with Trout Creek. The project site (reference Attachment 1) is located near 4530 Race Track Road, in Section 1, Township 5 South, Range 27 East; and Section 36, Township 4 South, Range 27 East, St. Johns, St. Johns County Florida. The affected waters of the United States (wetlands) are associated with Trout Creek.

Directions to the site are as follows: From Interstate-95 take Exit 333 and head south on State Road 9B. Proceed until the exit for St. Johns Parkway and take the exit ramp north (right). Proceed until the intersection of Race Track Road. The project site is on the left.

APPROXIMATE CENTRAL COORDINATES:  Latitude 30.102757°
                                                                          Longitude -81.543619°

PROJECT PURPOSE:

Basic: The basic project purpose is mixed-use development.

Overall: The overall project purpose is mixed-use development along Race Track Road between State Road 9B and State 13.

EXISTING CONDITIONS: The existing vegetative communities have been characterized pursuant to the Florida Department of Transportation publication Florida Land Use, Cover and Forms Classification System (FLUCFCS) (reference Attachment 2).

A. Uplands 35.17 acres

1. Pine Flatwoods (FLUCFCS code 411) 35.17 acres

All of the uplands comprise of pine flatwoods. The canopy is dominated by slash pine (Pinus elliottii) along with scattered hardwoods, such as water oak (Quercus nigra), laurel oak (Q. laurifolia) and southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora). The understory and ground cover vegetation are dominated by saw palmetto (Serenoa repens), bitter gallberry (Ilex glabra), bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum), and blueberry (Vaccinium myrsinites).

B. Wetlands 35.39 acres

The property contains four wetland areas: W1 (22.70 acres), W2 (6.33 acres), W3 (5.29 acres), and W4 (1.07 acres). Wetlands W2 and W3 are surrounded by uplands with no direct surface water connection to contiguous wetlands. The Corps has indicated that these two wetlands are considered to be “adjacent” to wetlands W1 and W4 which connect offsite to the headwaters of Trout Creek.

1. Inland Ponds and Sloughs (FLUCFCS code 616) 11.59 acres

The highest quality wetland onsite (majority of W1) is a forested slough that extends along the southern boundary and forms a headwater of Trout Creek. This wetland regularly holds shallow water that drains to the west. The canopy is dominated by species including pond cypress (Taxodium ascendens), blackgum (Nyssa sylvatica var. biflora), red maple (Acer rubrum), and sweet bay (Magnolia virginiana). The understory and ground cover vegetation are dominated by such species as buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis), Virginia willow (Itea virginica), lizard’s tail (Saururus cernuus), and royal fern (Osmunda regalis).

2. Bay Swamp (FLUCFCS code 611) 6.10 acres

The northern edge of wetland W1 comprises a broad seepage slope of bay swamp. The canopy in this area is dominated by loblolly bay (Gordonia lasianthus) mixed with lesser amounts of slash pine and pond pine (Pinus serotina). The understory and ground cover vegetation are dominated by species including fetterbush (Lyonia lucida) and cinnamon fern (Osmunda cinnamomea).

3. Bay Swamp/Hydric Pine Flatwoods (FLUCFCS code 611/625) 5.01 acres

The western end of wetland W1comprises a mixture of bay swamp and hydric pine flatwoods. The seasonal high water table in this area is at or near the ground surface due to ground water seepage. The vegetation in the hydric pine flatwoods includes a canopy dominated by slash pine and scattered loblolly bay and an understory and ground cover dominated by saw palmetto and bitter gallberry.

4. Wetland Forested Mixed (FLUCFCS code 630) 2.60 acres

The eastern portion of wetland W2 comprises a depressional, isolated wetland. The canopy is dominated by such species as blackgum, laurel oak, pond cypress, red maple, and slash pine. The understory and ground cover vegetation are relatively open and is dominated by Virginia chain fern (Woodwardia virginica).

5. Slash Pine Swamp Forest (FLUCFCS 627) 2.95 acres

Portions of wetlands W2, W3 and W4 comprise shallow depressional wetlands with a canopy dominated by slash pine mixed with lesser amounts of loblolly bay and myrtle leaf holly (Ilex myrtifolia). These areas hold shallow puddled water during the rainy season or are saturated to the ground surface. The understory and ground cover vegetation are relatively open and are dominated by such species as broomsedge (Andropogon sp.), wire grass (Aristida sp.), yellow-eyed grass (Xyris spp.), and red root (Lachnanthes caroliniana). Wetlands W2 and W3 are isolated, while wetland W4 continues offsite to the west.

6. Hydric Pine Flatwoods (FLUCFCS code 625) 7.14 acres

Bordering wetlands W2, W3, and W4 are relatively broad areas of poorly drained pine flatwoods. The canopy in these areas is dominated by slash pine. The understory and ground cover are dominated by dense bitter gallberry and scattered high bush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum). The seasonal high water table in these areas typically range from 3 to 6 inches below the ground surface.

PROPOSED WORK: The applicant seeks authorization to discharge clean-fill material into 12.77 acres of freshwater-forested wetlands to facilitate a mixed-use development (commercial and multiple-family residential) (reference Attachment 3).

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 permit applicant designed the project to almost completely avoid impacts to the highest quality wetland onsite, which is the large forested slough extending along the southern boundary (wetland W1). One small dredging impact (0.08 acre) is required for the outfall for the stormwater pond. The wetlands in the northern half of the property (12.69 acres) are being proposed for impact. It was not practicable to avoid impacting these other wetlands due to the nature of the proposed land uses and road access.

1. Road Access

The main access point into the development will be from Race Track Road. This entrance road will line up with the traffic light at Celestina Parkway on the north side of Race Track Road. Celesta Parkway serves as the entry into the Celestina subdivision that contains hundreds of high-end single-family lots. The entrance road will extend through wetland W3 and continue to the southwest, serving as the divide between the townhome development to the west and the apartment development to the east. Even if none of the commercial frontage along Race Track Road were developed, this entrance road would sever wetland W3 in half. For a development of this size and nature, St. Johns County has required there to be a second entrance road connecting to St. Johns Parkway. This road will run between the commercial and office area and the multi-family area, extending through wetland W2. North bound and southbound traffic on St. Johns Parkway can use this second entrance road to access the property. However, traffic exiting the development cannot turn north on St. Johns Parkway. St. Johns County has required this design to direct the main traffic flow to exit at the light on Race Track Road at Celestina Parkway versus overloading the light at St. Johns Parkway. Even if none of the commercial and office frontage along Race Track Road were developed, this secondary entrance road would sever wetland W2 in half. Three additional access driveways are proposed along Race Track Road, which will be for right-in and right-out access. The total length of frontage along this road is approximately 2,070 feet. Neighborhood scale commercial developments along this much frontage requires additional access points for eastbound traffic, particularly during morning commutes. Minor amounts of wetland impact will be required to construct these other access points.

2. Stormwater Pond

There is an existing stormwater pond located along the eastern edge of the property. This pond serves to treat stormwater runoff from the adjacent section of St. Johns Parkway. The pond is owned and operated by the Durbin Crossing Community Development District (CDD) and is subject to a drainage easement in favor of St. Johns County. The configuration of the existing pond limits the use of the adjacent property, particularly to the south as the width of the upland between this pond and wetland W1 is around 100 to 150 feet on average, and the length of this upland is approximately 430 feet. The permit applicant determined that the best use of the area abutting the existing pond is the stormwater pond required for the development. The proposed stormwater pond will require dredging 2.3 acres of wetland W2 and dredging 0.08 acre of wetland W1. The normal water level of the pond is designed at elevation +15 feet. The elevations in the adjacent portion of wetland W2 to the north range from elevation +17 feet to +16 feet. Even if the remaining portion of wetland W2 to the north were not directly impacted, this wetland would inevitably be drained by the adjacent stormwater pond and the existing stormwater pond.

3. Other Impacts

Portions of wetlands W2, W3, and W4 will be impacted for construction of apartment buildings, townhome units, commercial and office buildings, and adjacent parking lots and driveways. Eliminating these other impacts would decrease the yield for the overall project, making it uneconomical to develop. Leaving isolated remnant pockets of wetland surrounded by intensive commercial, office, and multi-family development would also not be practicable. Other than certain species of birds, aquatic and wetland dependent species would not likely travel through such development between any remnant wetland pockets and the slough to the south (wetland W1). Further avoidance and minimization of wetland impacts was, therefore, determined to not be practicable.”

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

“Based on UMAM, construction of the project will result in 7.36 units of relative ecological loss. As mitigation for the proposed impacts, the permit applicant will purchase a combination of 2.85 UMAM credits from Town Branch Mitigation Bank, 2.84 UMAM credits from Star 4 Mitigation Bank, and 1.67 UMAM credits from Fish Tail Swamp Mitigation Bank.”

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 determined the proposal would have no effect on any listed threatened or endangered species or designated critical habitat.

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 Trout Creek. 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 Jacksonville Permits Section, Post Office Box 4970, Jacksonville, Florida 32232-0019 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, Brad Carey in writing at the Jacksonville Permits Section, Post Office Box 4970, Jacksonville, Florida 32232-0019; by electronic mail at brad.j.carey@usace.army.mil; 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.