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SAJ-2019-02389(SP-JCM)

Published Sept. 4, 2019
Expiration date: 10/4/2019

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:  Larry Kupfer

                       Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority (VIWAPA)

                       P.O. Box 1450

                       St. Thomas, USVI  00804

 

WATERWAY AND LOCATION:  The project would affect navigable waters of the United States (WOTUS) at Krum Bay, St. Thomas, USVI.  The project would be located at Section 4 of Tract 4, Krum Bay No. 6, Southside Quarter, St. Thomas, USVI  00802.

 

Directions to the site are as follows:  From the Cyril E. King Airport take Airport Road East to the first road to the right, Highway 304.  Follow Highway 304 over the hill, the plant is to the right.

 

APPROXIMATE CENTRAL COORDINATES:

Latitude:     18.332192° N;

Longitude:  -64.961283° W

 

PROJECT PURPOSE:

Basic:  Shoreline stabilization and marine access for emergency response vessels.

Overall:  Stabilize the shoreline and construct a dock at the northwestern shore of Krum Bay to support the operation of emergency response vessels at VIWAPA’s Randolph E. Harley Plant. 

 

EXISTING CONDITIONS: 

The project area is within an industrial site all of which has been altered by filling, construction, renovation, and repair of the Power Plant. The terrestrial resources remaining consist of the remnants of a dry forest on the hillside and along the roadways. Within the developed areas of the Power Plant, vegetation is limited to weedy opportunistic species that have colonized low traffic areas and trees (coconuts, genips, mangos) planted by workers. There are no endangered terrestrial species within the plant nor does the Power Plant provide habitat for any terrestrial endangered species.

The shoreline at the project site is currently partially protected with riprap revetment. The site is also protected due to its location within Krum Bay. Significant shoreline erosion occurred in the project area during hurricanes Irma and Maria in September of 2017.  The proposed project site has been the long-term mooring area for the U.S. Navy Reverse Osmosis Barge.

The vast majority of Krum Bay has been highly impacted by man’s activities, and all of the area adjacent to the power plant has been altered. The offshore area has been dredged and the shoreline filled, and riprap revetment placed. NOAA’s NOS Benthic Habitat Map, Tile # 6 shows the inner reaches of Krum Bay as having been dredged. The map shows Krum Bay as having reef colonized bedrock along the outer shoreline of the point and partially into the bay. The inner portion of Krum Bay is shown as unknown. Within the area depicted as unknown, there is coral colonized riprap along the shoreline and scattered algal, seagrass and Halophila stipulacea colonization across the narrow sand/silt bay bottom.

Water quality within Krum Bay is degraded due to the presence of marine and industrial related activities in the area.

The northern portion of Krum Bay is impacted by numerous sunken boats, barges, and runoff from industrial activities. Hurricanes Irma and Maria resulted in more boats being sunk in the bay, and boats were piled up in the northern reaches of Krum Bay. Despite the activities, there are a few corals and sponges that have colonized the shoreline riprap. The amount of colonization increases significantly to the south near the shallow shelf surrounding the Power Plant Fuel Dock located close to the mouth of the bay, but the density of these species is very sparse in the inner bay. Within the project location there are only a few corals remaining on the riprap, none of which are ESA listed species and the offshore area where there is colonization is colonized by Halophila stipulacea, an exotic seavine species and a variety of macro-algal species.

According to benthic assessments conducted within Krum Bay during the past several years, the northern portion of Krum Bay is significantly disturbed and due to its constricted nature has the worst water quality within the bay. The narrow shoreline riprap in the area is minimally colonized partially due to impacts which have occurred during and since the hurricanes. Corals present on the riprap in the project area include Diploria strigosa, and Siderastrea siderea and a very few Porites astreoides. Immediately adjacent to the large R/O Barge and to the north there are no corals and the riprap is primarily colonized by algal species including Halimeda, Dictyota and filamentous greens. The water is extremely shallow immediately along the riprap and the sediment is a mix of silt and sand, and there is lots of debris along the shoreline. Nearshore there is limited algal colonizing especially under and around the barge due to shading in the shallow water. Beyond the shaded areas the bottom is colonized by a mixture of scattered Halophila stipulacea, Halimeda opuntia, Dictyota, Penicillus capitatus, Caulerpa and Udotea.

No hard bottom areas were found within the footprint proposed project site.  Hard bottom areas providing the essential features of the designated critical habitat for Acropora spp. (Elkhorn and Staghorn corals) are not present within the proposed project area or its immediate vicinity.  According to benthic surveys for another project (SAJ-2012-03296; SER-2015-16416), areas of colonized hard bottom and reefs providing the essential features for Elkhorn and Staghorn corals are only present at the mouth of Krum Bay, approximately 2000 linear feet from the project site.

The riprap along the shoreline of Krum Bay is sparsely colonized by Siderastrea radians, S. siderea, Diploria strigosa, Porites astreoides, Porites porites, D. labyrinthiformis, Orbicella annularis, Montastrea cavernosa and Millepora complanata and M. alcicornis. There is some extremely sparse Thalassia testudinum and Syringodium fileforme in the most southern areas of the bay. Most of the area off shore of the riprap was colonized by scattered algae, Halimeda, Caulerpa, Penicillus, Acanthophora, and Laurencia. The area is now dominated by the seavine Halophila stipulacea. The algae Padina and Sargassum are present on the riprap. There are a large number of horseshoe feather dusterworms (Pomatostegus stellatus) on the riprap. The white snowball urchin (Tripnuestes ventricosis) was seen in some abundance.

A fringing reef composed of coral colonized boulders starts near the Power Plant Fuel Dock which extends from the shoreline out to the edge of the slope into the sand channel. The amount of hard substrate increases moving to the south. To the north of the pier, the hard bottom between the riprap and the shelf is less than 10% until approaching the shelf edge where it increases to 80%. From the pier southward, the hardbottom increases from 50% to 80% on the upper shelf with scattered areas of lower abundance. The slope edge hardbottom remains at 80% and higher to the south of the project areas. The amount of coral and sponge colonization of the hard bottom varies greatly throughout the project area. With regards to ESA listed corals, Orbicella annularis is relatively abundant on the shallower areas of the shelf and upper slope as is Orbicella faveolata, and Orbicella franksi is present primarily along the deeper reef edge. The amount of live tissue on these corals varies widely.  Siderastrea seems most prevalent in the shallows near the riprap and on the riprap boulders which have fallen into the sand below. The reef is colonized by Porites astreoides, Porites porites, Dichocoenia stokesii, Mycetophyllia sp. Diploria labyrinthiformis, Eusmilia fastigiata and Montastrea cavernosa. Sponges are extremely common throughout the area including Agelas sp, Aplysina fulva, Amphimedon complanata, Callyspongia sp., Aiolchroia crassa, Ircinia sp., Xestospongia muta, Niphates digitalis, and Spheciospongia vesparium.

The pier piles have some of the densest colonization because they enjoy relatively better water quality due to their position in the water column up off the bottom where sediments are frequently resuspended by docking and passing vessels. The pier is highly colonized by corals, sponge, tunicates, and algae. Sponges are the most abundant colonizer including Agelas sp, Aplysina fulva, Amphimedon complanata, Amphimedon compressa, Callyspongia sp., Aiolchroia crassa, and Ircinia sp. Coral is present in less abundance and noted were Diploria strigosa, Diploria labyrinthiformis, Porites astreiodes, and Porites porites.

Three federally listed rare and endangered sea turtle species are known to occur in the offshore waters and can be found within the project area. These include: hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata), leatherbacks (Dermochelys coriacea) and green turtles (Chelonia mydas). Hawksbills sea turtles and green sea turtles have been seen with some frequency over the years during the surveys associated with the VIWAPA facility. A hawksbill turtle was seen during the surveys for the dock and bulkhead.

Finally, the ESA listed threatened Nassau grouper, Epinephelus striatus, was not seen in the project area but have been seen farther out in the bay around the fuel pier and on the shallow shelf.

 

PROPOSED WORK:  The applicant seeks authorization to install a 250 ft. long bulkhead from the northern end of Krum Bay southward, which would encapsulate the existing eroded shoreline.  The pile cap elevation along the bulkhead would be at 8 ft. and a planked walkway would be constructed along the seaward edge of the bulkhead.  The bulkhead would utilize Purloc 4.3 composite sheet piles and would have 12 inches in diameter HD Pearson Piles on 6 ft. centers along the outside of the bulkhead.  There would be a total of 42 piles and 42 8” diameter timber piles attached to a continuous 12-inch timber pile dead-man.  The dead-man timber piles would be attached with tie rods to the piles fronting the sheet pile wall.  Clean granular fill would be discharged behind the sheet pile wall.  The construction of the bulkhead would require discharging approximately 93 cubic yards of fill material in approximately 297.5 sq. ft. (0.007 acres) of navigable waters of the U.S.  The sheet pile wall would be installed landward of the highest tideline for 165 ft. and seaward of the highest tide line for 85 ft.  Where it extends beyond the MHW line in the northern area it extends a maximum of 5 ft., and to the south it extends a maximum of just under a foot at its farthest distance from highest tide line.

 

In addition, an “L” shaped dock for emergency response vessels would be constructed to an elevation of 4 ft. above the water.  The 14 ft. wide dock would extend 40 ft. perpendicular to the shore before turning south for 100 ft.  The dock would be supported by 134 HD Pearson Piles with 12 inches in diameter, and would have 1.5 inches x 1.5 inches FRP (Fiberglass Re-enforced Panel) Open Grated Decking.  The dock would have cross bracing at every pile bent.  The dock would have a surface area of 1764 sq. ft.  Three boat lifts would be placed along the seaward side of the dock capable of lifting vessels 27 ft., 32 ft. and 34 ft. of length.  The lifts would be platform lifts requiring 2 angle track I-beams each.

 

The shoreline sheet piles and dock piles would be driven from a barge mounted crane using a vibratory hammer.  The bulkhead tie-back piles would be installed from land, the granular back fill would be also placed from the land, and the sidewalk would be constructed on shore.

 

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 bulkhead was selected in part because it is one of the most disturbed portions of Krum Bay.  The proposed dock would utilize grated decking to allow for light penetration through the dock to facilitate survival and growth of Submerged Aquatic Vegetation (SAV) under and around the dock.  The use of boats lifts to raise of the vessels above the water line would also facilitate light penetration around the dock.  Also, the proposed dock supporting piles and bulkhead sheet piles would be installed with a vibratory hammer instead that with an impact hammer to minimize potential acoustic effects to marine species.  A double set of turbidity barriers would be installed completely enclosing the work area before the commencement of any work. These barriers would be of proper length, 1ft. from the seafloor. These curtains would be maintained throughout the project. If at any time during the construction turbidity issues arise additional turbidity measures would be implemented which could include additional curtains, slowing of work and/or stopping work to allow turbidity to return to ambient.  In addition, a Water Quality Monitoring Plan would be implemented to ensure any turbidity and sedimentation generated during project construction avoids and minimizes as much as possible adjoining aquatic habitats.  Prior to any in-water work, all coral colonies located within 10 ft. of the proposed project footprint would be relocated to nearby areas and monitored to ensure their survival.  It is anticipated that less than 10 coral colonies would be transplanted.  During construction the contractor would be required to implement NOAA’s Sea Turtle and Smalltooth Sawfish Construction Conditions and Vessel Strike Avoidance Measures, as well as USFWS recommended measures to prevent potential impacts to the West Indian Manatee.

 

COMPENSATORY MITIGATION:  The applicant has provided the following explanation why compensatory mitigation should not be required:

Because of the limited environmental impact and due to the beneficial environmental impact of being able to rapidly respond to oil spills no compensatory mitigation is proposed.

 

CULTURAL RESOURCES:  The Corps has determined that the permit area has been extensively modified by previous work and there is little likelihood a historic property may be affected.  Therefore, the proposed project would have “No Potential to Cause Effect” to historic properties.

 

ENDANGERED SPECIES:  The Corps has determined that the proposed project would have no effect on nesting individuals of federally listed sea turtles.  The Corps has also determined that the proposed project may affect but is not likely to adversely affect the federally listed threatened West Indian Manatee (Trichechus manatus).  Similarly, the Corps has determined that the proposed project may affect but is not likely to adversely affect swimming individuals of the federally listed threatened Green (Chelonia mydas) and Loggerhead (Caretta caretta) sea turtles, and the federally listed endangered Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata) and Leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea) sea turtles.  The Corps has further determined the proposed project may affect but is not likely to adversely affect the federally listed threatened Nassau grouper (Epinephelus striatus).  In addition, the Corps has determined that the proposed project may affect but is not likely to adversely affect the federally listed threatened Mountainous star (Orbicella faveolata), Lobed star (Orbicella annularis), and Boulder star (Orbicella franksii) coral species.  Finally, the Corps has determined that the proposed project may affect but is not likely to adversely affect the designated critical habitat for Elkhorn and Staghorn corals.  Via separate letter the Corps will request U.S. Fish and Wildlife and National Marine Fisheries Services 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 of 1996.  According to information provided by the applicant, the proposed project would impact approximately 0.05 acres of marine bottom, which may be utilized by various life stages of federally managed species within the U.S. Caribbean.  Based on the available information, the Corps 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. 

 

AUTHORIZATION FROM OTHER AGENCIES:  A Water Quality Certificate from the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Planning and Environmental Resources, Division of Environmental Protection (DPNR-DEP) would 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. Angel Ramos Annex, 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 (WOTUS).  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, Edgar W. Garcia, in writing at the Antilles Permits Section, Fund. Angel Ramos Annex, Suite 202, 383 F.D. Roosevelt Ave., San Juan, Puerto Rico  00918, by electronic mail at edgar.w.garcia@usace.army.mil  or by telephone at (787) 729-6905. 

 

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, aesthetics, 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 of 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 decision, comments are used to assess impacts on endangered species, historic properties, water quality, general environmental effects, and the other public interest factors listed above.  Comments are used in the preparation of an Environmental Assessment and/or an Environmental Impact Statement pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act 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 Coastal Zone Management 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.