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 & Light Company
Ms. Kathy Salvador
700 Universe Boulevard
Juno Beach, Florida 33408
WATERWAY AND LOCATION: The project would affect waters of the United States, including wetlands, associated with the M Canal. The project site is located on an undeveloped agricultural parcel, between Louise and 60th Streets, and Carol and 190th Streets, approximately 2.3-miles west of Seminole Pratt-Whitney Road, in Section 33, Township 42 South, Range 40 East, in unincorporated Palm Beach County, Florida.
Directions to the site are as follows: From the Palm Beach Gardens field office, take PGA Boulevard east and merge onto Interstate 95 South to Exit 77 for Northlake Boulevard (1.9-miles), turn right onto Northlake Boulevard (12-miles), turn left on Seminole Pratt Whitney Road (2.3-miles), turn right onto Orange Boulevard (2.0-miles), continue onto 70th Road N (1.0-mile), turn left onto 190th Street N/Hay’s Trail (50-feet), turn right onto 70th Road N (177-feet), turn left onto Antoinette Road (0.4-miles), the site is on the right.
APPROXIMATE CENTRAL COORDINATES:
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 Palm Beach County.
EXISTING CONDITIONS: The project site consists of approximately 646.2-acres of an active agricultural operation. On-site waters of the U.S, including wetlands, consist of exotic wetland hardwoods, agricultural ditches, and vegetated non-forested wetlands. The site is bordered by unpaved roads (Louise Street to the north, Carol Street to the west, Antoinette Road to the east, and 60th Street to the south), agricultural lands to the north, south, east, and west, and single-family dwellings to the east.
Upland communities comprise the majority of the project site at 525.6-acres and consist of other open lands (rural) and row crops. Row crops consist of 452.2-acres located throughout the site and are actively cultivated sugar cane (Saccharum officinarum) fields. Other open lands (rural) comprise 73.4-acres, located in the northwest portion of the project site. This area appears to consist of former row crop fields, both mowed and overgrown, and also contains a work building/office. The area is currently grazed by cattle and horses. Vegetation in this area consists of dog fennel (Eupatorium capillifolium), ragweed (Ambrosia spp.), goldenrod (Astereae spp.), beggar ticks (Bidens spp.), Brazilian pepper (Schinus terebinthifolia), and ruderal grasses.
The remainder of the 120.6-acres of the project site consists of waters of the U.S., including wetlands. One hundred twenty-five man-made agricultural ditches are located throughout the site, flowing both north-south and east-west, and comprise approximately 93.2-acres. In general, the ditches are from 5- to 30-feet wide and from 3- to 8-feet deep. There is no rooted vegetation in these linear ditches; however, thick mats of water lettuce (Pistia stratiotes) form on the water surface on a seasonal basis. Exotic wetland hardwoods comprise approximately 9.5-acres in two locations of the northwest portion of the site. Vegetation in these two areas consists of Brazilian pepper, primrose willow (Ludwigia repens), wax myrtle (Morella cerifera), Carolina willow (Salix caroliniana), fragrant flatsedge (Cyperus odoratus), duckweed (Lemnaceae spp.), and bracken fern (Pteridium spp.). Vegetated non-forested wetlands comprise approximately 17.9-acres in seven separate areas of the northwest portion of the project site. These areas support herbaceous vegetation consisting of torpedo grass (Panicum repens), alligator weed (Alternanthera philoxeroides), marsh pennywort (Hydrocotyle umbellata), and primrose willow.
PROPOSED WORK: The proposed project is the construction of a 74.5-megawatt solar photovoltaic energy center, including fixed solar arrays mounted on a racking system with inverters, transformers, substation, aerial and/or underground collection and distribution lines, unpaved access roads, stormwater management facilities, and a perimeter security fence. The proposed solar center will connect to FPLs existing transmission infrastructure to the southeast of the project site. The proposed project will have permanent fill impacts to a total of 37.08-acres of man-made agricultural ditches and 0.01-acres of non-tidal wetlands for the construction of solar arrays (pole supports), temporary impacts to 2.74-acres of non-tidal wetlands for the trenching of utility lines, and 7.46-acres of secondary impacts to non-tidal wetlands for constructing solar arrays within wetlands without the placement of fill.
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 proposed project maximizes utilization of previously disturbed agricultural uplands and avoids 99% of direct wetland impacts. Further minimization of wetland impacts is proposed through installation of solar panel arrays without grading in Wetland I. Impacts to Wetland I were selected over impacts to wetlands to the north and west due to its lower-quality habitat (Wetland I is dominated by primrose willow and torpedo grass).”
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 the purchase of 0.39 freshwater herbaceous credits from the Bluefield Ranch Mitigation Bank.”
CULTURAL RESOURCES: The Corps is not aware of historic property/properties within, or in close proximity to, the permit area. The Corps has initiated 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: The Corps assessed the project site for Federally listed species using the Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) Information for Planning and Consultation (IPaC) web site, information provided by the applicant, and all available GIS data within the Corps’ Resources at Risk (RAR) system, for purposes of complying with Section 7 of the ESA of 1973 (as amended).
The Corps has determined that the proposed project may affect the Eastern indigo snake (Drymarchon corais couperi) and may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect, the Audubon’s crested caracara (Polyborus plancus audubonii). The Corps will initiate formal consultation with the FWS pursuant to Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act by separate letter.
The Corps has also determined that the proposed project would have no effect on the Florida panther (Puma concolor coryi), southeastern beach mouse (Peromyscus polionotus niveiventris), West Indian manatee (Trichechus manatus), Everglade snail kite (Rostrhamus sociabilis plumbeus), Florida scrub-jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens), ivory-billed woodpecker (Campephilus principalis), Kirtland’s warbler (Setophaga kirtlandii), piping plover (Charadrius melodus), red knot (Calidris canutus rufa), red-cockaded woodpecker (Picoides borealis), American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus), hawksbill sea turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata), leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea), loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta), Bartram’s hairstreak butterfly (Strymon acis bartrami), Florida leafwing butterfly (Anaea troglodyte floridalis), Miami blue butterfly (Cyclargus thomasi bethunebakeri), beach jacquemontia (Jacquemontia reclinata), Florida prairie-clover (Dalea carthagenensis floridana), four-petal pawpaw (Asimina tetramera), Okeechobee gourd (Cucurbita okeechobeensis), tiny polygala (Polygala smallii), and Florida perforate cladonia (Cladonia perforata), or their designated, or proposed for designation, 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. The site does not contain EFH and the Corps’ initial determination is that the proposed action would not have a substantial adverse impact on EFH or Federally managed fisheries in the South Atlantic Region. 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 Palm Beach Gardens Permits Section, 4400 PGA Boulevard, Suite 500, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida 33410 or to the email address of the Project Manager noted below, 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, Mr. John Policarpo, in writing at the Palm Beach Gardens Permits Section, 4400 PGA Boulevard, Suite 500, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida 33410, by electronic mail at John.N.Policarpo@usace.army.mil, by facsimile transmission at (561) 626-6970, or by telephone at (561) 472-3518.
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 impacts, 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 that 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.