US Army Corps of Engineers
Jacksonville District

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SAJ-2019-01066 (SP-MRE)

Published July 1, 2019
Expiration date: 7/30/2019

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) and Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 (33 U.S.C. §403) as described below:

APPLICANT:  Florida Public Utilities
                       Attn: Mr. John Burke
                       1705 7th Street
                       Winter Haven, Florida 33880

WATERWAY AND LOCATION:

The project would affect waters of the United States (wetlands) associated with Mill Creek (a tributary to the St. Marys River), Alligator Creek, Boggy Creek, and Plummer Creek (tributaries to the Nassau River). The project corridor is located within Sections 1, 7, 8, 9, 10, and 11, Township 1 North, Range 24 East; Sections 31, 30, 29, 51, 47, 21, 42, 15, 43, 14, 13, and 42, Township 2 North, Range 25 East; Sections 1, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, and 11, Township 2 North, Range 26 East; and Sections 7, 8, 9, and 42, Township 2 North, Range 27 East, Nassau County, Florida.

The proposed alignment begins along Crawford Road at an existing utility easement (buried pipe/cable and overhead powerlines) and future proposed regulator tap station, which would connect the proposed pipeline to an existing pipeline, at latitude 30.519613, longitude
-81.951656. The alignment then continues approximately 5 miles east along Crawford Road then turns east on to US Highway 301 and continues 16 miles east/northeast through Callahan, Florida. The alignment turns south on to Semper Fi Drive, crosses Interstate 95, and continues east along Mentoria Road. The alignment turns east from Mentoria Road through a forested area adjacent to Harper Chapel Road. The alignment turns north at the Nassau County Veterans Services and continues east along William Burgess Boulevard before turning south on to Harvester Street. The alignment continues south along Harvester Street and then turns east along Clyde Higginbotham Road and Commercial Park Drive. The alignment reaches its terminus near the intersection of Commercial Park Drive and Highway 17 in Yulee, Florida, at latitude 30.603861, longitude -81.598041, where it would connect to an existing pipeline.

PROJECT PURPOSE:

Basic: The basic project purpose is the transmission of natural gas.

Overall: The overall project purpose is the transmission of additional natural gas to eastern Nassau County.

EXISTING CONDITIONS: The proposed corridor traverses numerous vegetative community types identified by the Florida Land Use, Cover, and Forms Classification System (FLUCFCS). The jurisdictional aquatic FLUCFCS community types affected by the project are listed in tables associated with the project drawings.

PROPOSED WORK:

The applicant seeks authorization to temporarily affect wetlands through the discharge of fill material, permanently affect wetlands through the conversion of forested wetlands to herbaceous wetlands, and use horizontal directional drill (HDD) techniques to traverse under navigable waters of the United States to install a 16-inch high pressure steel pipe that would transport natural gas. The project would result in temporary impacts to 23 jurisdictional wetlands and 11 jurisdictional streams; and, permanent impacts to 33 jurisdictional wetlands (wetland conversion) within the project corridor.

The proposed pipeline would cross under two navigable waters - Alligator Creek and Mill Creek. The pipeline also would cross under the existing road culvert of a third navigable water, Plummer Creek. This work would be accomplished using HDD and the pipeline would be drilled to a minimum depth of 10 feet below the bottom of the stream channels.

The proposed pipeline would be installed using three different methods (open trench cut, jack and bore, and HDD). A majority of the temporary and permanent disturbances would occur within existing roadway right-of-way (ROW) and temporary easements and workspaces adjacent to the ROW. Approximately 1.3 miles of the eastern section of the proposed alignment would be routed alongside an existing un-paved road (Crawford Road) along silvicultural lands.

Temporary impacts associated with this project are a result of pipeline installation by open trench construction methodology. For these impacts, no permanent fill would be discharged and the disturbed wetlands would be returned to pre-existing contours. Across the project corridor, a total of 4.23-acres of jurisdictional wetlands and 0.21-acres of jurisdictional streams would be temporarily impacted.

Permanent impacts associated with this project are a result of wetland conversation from forested to herbaceous conditions to maintain a permanent easement. For these impacts, no permanent fill would be discharged and the disturbed wetlands would returned to pre-existing contours but these systems would be converted to herbaceous wetlands. Across the project corridor, a total of 7.13-acres of jurisdictional wetlands would be cleared and wetland type converted. Compensatory mitigation is proposed for these impacts (see below).

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 applicant examined multiple potential routes for the proposed pipeline; and, determined that the final proposed route avoided wetlands and stream systems to the maximum extent practicable. In addition, the applicant indicates that the work proposed is the minimum necessary to install the proposed pipeline.

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

Compensatory mitigation for the proposed permanent impacts will be accomplished through the purchase of 0.69 credits wetland credits from a federally approved mitigation bank.

CULTURAL RESOURCES:

The applicant’s agent conducted a desktop survey and review of the pipeline corridor for historic, cultural, and archaeological resources within the pipeline study area. Research of the Florida Master Site File (FMSF) identified 29 previous cultural resources surveys, two of which parallel/overlap significant portions of the route. One survey found two archeological sites, neither of which was considered eligible for NRHP listing, and the other survey found 38 architectural and other above ground historic resources, including eight historic bridges and one culvert. None of the individual identified resources were considered eligible for NRHP listing.

Inspections of the FMSF records located 10 previously recorded archaeological sites. Eligibility recommendations are unknown. Searches of the FMSF identified nine historic bridges and 10 historic resource groups. The nearest NRHP eligible bridge is located roughly 460 meters from the proposed pipeline route. The nearest NRHP eligible historic standing structures are positioned roughly 300 and 290 meters from the pipeline route, respectively. The Florida Railroad and Harts Road are eligible resource groups that directly bisect the property.

The Corps will initiate consultation with the State Historic Preservation Office and those federally recognized tribes with concerns in Florida and the Permit Area, 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:

Red Cockaded Woodpecker (Picoides borealis): The project corridor traverses the consultation area identified by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the Corps for this species. Therefore, this species could utilize the area encompassed by the ESA scope of analysis for this project. Habitat for Red Cockaded Woodpecker typically incorporates mature pine woodlands (not wetlands); 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 corridor does not encompass typical or optimum habitat; or, trees capable of supporting cavities. Further, as significant forested habitat is located near the project corridor, it is likely that this species would only opportunistically forage within the project corridor, which the installation of the proposed pipeline would not preclude. Therefore, the Corps concludes that the project would have no effect on this species.

Wood Stork (Mycteria americana): The project corridor traverses a portion of the Core Foraging Area of the Pumpkin Hill (594105) Wood Stork colony. Therefore, this species could utilize the area encompassed by the ESA scope of analysis for this project. However, the project would not adversely affect suitable foraging habitat for Wood Stork. In consideration of this information, the Corps utilized The Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Jacksonville Ecological Services Field Office and State of Florida Effect Determination Key for the Wood Stork in Central and North Peninsular Florida, September 2008, to determine potential effects upon this species. Use of this key resulted in the sequence A-B-no effect. The FWS has indicated that they concur with determinations of no effect based on the key for Wood Storks; and, that no additional consultation is necessary.

Manatee (Trichechus manatus): This species could be present within the stream systems traversed by the project corridor. However, within those stream systems that could support manatee, the applicant would utilize HDD. Therefore, unless there is a frac-out, the Corps concludes that the project would have no effect on this species. In consideration of potential frac-outs, The Corps reviewed the project utilizing The Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District, and the State of Florida Effect Determination Key for the Manatee in Florida, April 2013. Use of this key resulted in the sequence A-B-C-G-N-O-P5-may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect. The Corps partially based this determination on the implementation of the Standard Manatee Conditions for In-Water Work, 2011, which the frac-out plan incorporates.

Eastern Indigo Snake (Drymarchon corais couperi): This 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 ESA 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 recent survey of the project corridor identified two areas supporting less than 25 active/inactive gopher tortoise burrows. 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 FWS 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.

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 and/or estuarine systems nor EFH. Our initial determination is that the proposed action would not adversely impact on EFH or federally managed fisheries in the St. Marys River or Nassau 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 Corps is currently evaluating the proposed delineation of aquatic resources, including wetlands, and the extent of Federal jurisdictional.

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 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 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. The Corps will review/evaluate any requests; and, determine whether or not a public hearing will be held.