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: Joseph Zidron
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
Border Patrol & Air and Marine Program Management Office
24000 Avila Road, Suite 5020
Laguna Niguel, CA 92677
WATERWAY AND LOCATION: The project would affect waters of the United States associated with the Caribbean Sea at Bahía de Ponce. The project site would be located within the premises of the U.S. Border Patrol & Air and Marine facility at 41 Bonaire Street, Playa Ward, Municipality of Ponce, Puerto Rico.
Directions to the site are as follows: From San Juan, take Highway PR-52 (South) towards Ponce. When you reach Ponce, take exit 99 A to State Road PR-1 (towards Ponce Centro); then, turn left onto State Road PR-2. At the intersection of PR-2 with Hostos Avenue, turn left and continue driving towards Playa de Ponce. At the end of Hostos Avenue, turn left onto Bonaire Street and drive east for about 130 m. The project site would be located to your right side.
APPROXIMATE CENTRAL COORDINATES:
Basic: Docking space and marine access for boats
Overall: Replace and improve the existing pier and boat launching ramp at the U.S. Border Patrol & Air and Marine facility in Ponce, to provide safer working conditions for CBP personnel, and adequately support CBP’s mission.
EXISTING CONDITIONS: The proposed project site is located in the vicinity of a small inlet at the northeast margin of Bahía de Ponce, in the southern coast of Puerto Rico. The shoreline along the proposed project area is rip-rapped and has very limited or no vegetation growth. According to the information provided by the applicant, other existing structures along the shoreline in the immediate vicinity of the project site include a concrete boat ramp that is in very poor condition, the remains of a small concrete dock that was damaged and displaced during recent hurricane events, and a wooden pier that was temporarily installed in the original location of the concrete dock, all of which are part of the U.S. Border Patrol & Air and Marine facility. The NOAA’s Benthic Habitat Maps do not indicate the presence of seagrass or any other sensitive benthic resources, such as corals, reefs or hardbottom, in the general vicinity of the project area. However, benthic habitat surveys conducted for the proposed project in August 2016 and July 2018 revealed that that the footprint of the proposed pier and the immediately surrounding areas are dominated by seagrass beds, predominantly comprised of Halodule wrightii, and to a lesser extent of a mixture of H. wrightii and Halophila decipiens. The benthic surveys also revealed that the footprint of the proposed boat ramp and its immediately adjacent areas are dominated by soft silty muck and sandy bottom devoid of seagrass. The benthic survey information provided by the applicant further indicates that the submerged portions of the rip-rap bordering the shoreline along the project site are predominantly colonized by macroalgae (including Caulerpa sp. and Dictyota sp., among others) and hard coral colonies of Siderastrea siderea and Solenastrea bournoni. No colonies of federally protected corals were observed in the vicinity of the project area. With regards to federally protected sea turtles, fishes, and mammals, the proposed project site lies within the distributional range of the federally protected Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata), Leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea), and Green (Chelonia mydas) sea turtles, the federally protected Nassau grouper (Epinephelus striatus) and scalloped hammerhead shark (Sphyrna lewini), and the federally protected Antillean manatee (Trichechus manatus manatus).
PROPOSED WORK: The applicant seeks authorization to construct a new concrete pier and boat ramp within the premises of the U.S. Border Patrol & Air and Marine facility in Ponce, Puerto Rico, as replacement for existing deteriorated dock and boat ramp structures that no longer adequately support the agency’s mission and operations.
The proposed boat ramp would be approximately 56 ft long x 15 ft wide, and would consist of reinforced rigid pavement slabs that would be placed on fill made of compacted subgrade and crushed aggregate base course material. The new boat ramp structure would occupy the footprint of the current ramp (which measures 36 ft long x 12 ft wide), but would be 3 ft wider and 20 ft longer than the existing ramp. Rip-rap would be installed over geotextile around the perimeter of the new ramp structure. Prior to commencing the construction of the boat ramp, a temporary U-shaped cofferdam consisting of sheet piles would be installed around the proposed boat ramp area by vibratory hammer (or alternatively by impact hammer), and the area within the cofferdam would be pumped dry. Once the area has been dewatered, the remains of the old concrete dock, the temporary wooden pier, and the existing ramp would be demolished and removed from the project area. A section of the existing rip-rap immediately adjacent to the boat ramp location would also be temporarily removed and replaced after the new ramp has been built. Upon completion of the boat ramp construction, the cofferdam would be removed. The proposed activities associated with the construction of the boat ramp would require the discharge of fill material into approximately 0.02 acres of waters of the U.S.
The proposed concrete pier would be built at the southern margin of the U.S. Border Patrol & Air and Marine facility’s property, immediately west of the inlet where the proposed boat ramp would be located. The proposed pier would measure approximately 205 ft long x 10 ft wide, and would be connected to an existing pavement area in uplands. The pier would have a pre-cast concrete deck, and would be supported by 14 18-inches in diameter steel piles (two of which would be installed in uplands) and six concrete pile caps. Four 18-inches in diameter steel mooring dolphin piles would be installed at both sides of the pier, two on each side. The piles would be installed using vibratory and/or impact hammer, and would be filled with reinforcing rebar and grout. Water depths along the proposed pier’s footprint would range from about 0 ft to 6.5 ft. The construction of the pier would require the temporary removal and subsequent replacement of a section of shoreline rip-rap, which would result in the discharge of fill material into approximately 0.03 acres of waters of the U.S. The proposed pier construction activities would require the use of vessels.
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:
In an effort to avoid and minimize impacts to the aquatic environment, the proposed boat ramp would be built in the same location and would overlap the footprint of the currently existing ramp. Also, the boat ramp would occupy a sea bottom area devoid of seagrass and other sensitive benthic resources. Potential sedimentation/ turbidity impacts to sensitive benthic resources (particularly seagrass) in the vicinity of the project area associated with the construction of the boat ramp would be prevented and/or minimized through the installation of a cofferdam around the proposed boat ramp area prior to commencing construction. 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 24 square feet of seagrass within the footprint of the proposed pier supporting piles to adjacent seagrass beds in the immediate project area and the relocation of about 6-8 corals present in the project footprint to adjacent shoreline rip-rap areas. Additional measures that would be implemented to avoid/minimize potential project impacts to the aquatic environment include: (1) installation of silt curtains and turbidity barriers around the in-water work areas during project construction; (2) development and implementation of a Sedimentation and Erosion Control Plan (to control and prevent pollutants and stormwater from entering the aquatic environment; (3) use of a plywood block/cushion during the driving of piles by impact hammer (to minimize potential acoustic impacts to swimming sea turtles); (4) and construction of the pier following the current Corps/NMFS dock construction guidelines to the extent practicable (that is, the pier would be built as to have 5.7 ft of height above mean high water, northeast-southwest orientation, and a minimum of 30 ft of spacing between piles).
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.
CBP, who is the lead federal agency for this proposal, completed the required consultation with the P.R. State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO) for potential project impacts to historic properties, pursuant to Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. As a result of said consultation, via letter dated April 3, 2018, the SHPO expressed their belief that the proposed project would have no adverse effect on the historic district of Playa de Ponce.
In its role as lead federal agency for this proposal, CBP completed the required consultations with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife (USFWS) and NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service, Protected Resources Division (NMFS-PRD), for potential impacts of the proposed project on federally protected species, pursuant to Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act. As a result of these consultations, via letters dated November 1, 2018 and June 21, 2019, the USFWS and NMFS-PRD respectively concurred with the CBP’s determinations that the proposed project may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect any federally protected species and/or designated critical habitat under their purview.
ESSENTIAL FISH HABITAT (EFH): As the lead federal agency for this proposal, CBP completed the consultation with the NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service, Habitat Conservation Division (NMFS-HCD), for potential project impacts to EFH, pursuant to the requirements of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act 1996. Through letter dated June 20, 2019, NMFS-HCD concurred with CBP’s determination that the proposed project would have no adverse effect on EFH, subject to the development and implementation of a seagrass transplant and coral relocation plan in coordination with them.
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 P.R. Planning Board would be required for this project. A Water Quality Certification from the P.R. Environmental Quality Board would 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 Puerto Rico, a Coastal Zone Management Consistency Concurrence is required from the Puerto Rico Planning Board.
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.