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:
4954 Royal Gulf Circle
Fort Myers, Florida 33966
WATERWAY AND LOCATION: The project would affect waters of the United States associated with the Imperial River. The project site is located on the south side of Corkscrew Road, in Sections 29, 30, 31, and 32; Township 46 South; Range 27 East, Lee County, Florida.
Directions to the site are as follows: Take I-75 to Corkscrew Road. Exit east onto Corkscrew Road. Travel approximately 7.7 miles east, the project site is on the south side of the road between Six L’s Farm Road and Carter Road.
APPROXIMATE CENTRAL COORDINATES:
Basic: Single family residential development.
Overall: Construct a single-family residential subdivision with a commercial parcel in southeast Lee County.
EXISTING CONDITIONS: The property is currently an active citrus grove and row crop operations with scattered areas of remnant native forested uplands and wetlands that have been highly degraded by reduced hydroperiod and infestation by exotic plants. Extensive ditching and berms have been constructed on the property. The existing area surrounding the project area consists of agricultural lands to the southeast, low-density, single-family residences, and Carter Road to the east; low density, single family residences, and Six L’s Farms Road to the west; and Panther Island Mitigation Bank to the south.
A total of 34 vegetative associations and land uses (i.e., FLUCFCS codes) were identified on the subject property. The Project’s existing land uses include active citrus groves, row crops, fallow crop land, disturbed land, forested uplands, and wetlands with varying degrees of exotic infestation. The dominant land cover types on the property include Citrus Grove (FLUCFCS Code 221) (54.3 percent) and Row Crops (FLUCFCS Code 214) (19.6 percent). Corps jurisdictional wetlands constitute a total of 92.45± acres or approximately 4.32 percent of the Project site, while Corps non-jurisdictional wetlands constitute a total of 51.31± acres or approximately 2.40 percent of the project site. Additionally, Corps jurisdictional Waters total 78.95± acres (approximately 3.69 percent), while Corps non-jurisdictional surface waters total 22.32± acres (approximately 1.04 percent). The prominent wetland features are cypress and cypress/pine/cabbage palm habitats with varying degrees of exotic infestation.
The Project site contains 92.45± acres of Corps jurisdictional wetlands and 51.31± acres of Corps non-jurisdictional wetlands. In addition, the site contains 78.95± acres of Corps jurisdictional “water of the U.S.” (Waters) and 22.32± acres of Corps non-jurisdictional surface waters. The non-jurisdictional wetland and surface waters are per Approved Jurisdictional Determination (AJD) No. SAJ-2016-00942 (JD-RWR) issued for the Pepperland Ranch portion of the Project.
PROPOSED WORK: The applicant seeks to transfer the original permit to TPL–Land–Sub, LLC and to modify the existing Verdana Corps permit (No. SAJ-2016-01332 (SP-ACM)) to add the adjacent Pepperland Ranch and CAM40 properties, thus, increasing the Verdana project acreage from 1,461± acres to 2,138± acres and modify the previously approved site plan. Development of the proposed Project will require discharge of dredged or fill material in 10.53± acres of Corps jurisdictional Waters and 14.25± acre of Corps non-jurisdictional surface waters. This results in a decrease of 13.53± acres of Corps jurisdictional Waters impacts from the previously permitted Verdana project. The Waters proposed for impact consists primarily of man-made drainage ditches associated with the existing agricultural operations (i.e., citrus grove and row crops).
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 new site plan decreases 13.53± acres of Corps jurisdictional Waters impacts from the previously permitted Verdana project.
The proposed Project will preserve, enhance, and restore 92.45± acres of existing Corps jurisdictional wetlands and 51.31± acres of Corps non-jurisdictional wetlands within the site per Lee County indigenous preserve requirements. In addition to preserving the existing wetlands, the proposed Project will restore 1,034.71± acres of existing uplands, Waters, and non-jurisdictional surface waters per Lee County indigenous vegetation requirements and create 23.58± acres of buffer lakes along the perimeter of the development area. Thus, the Project’s conservation area totals 1,202.05± acres and includes the preservation, enhancement, and restoration of 143.76± acres of existing wetlands, restoration of 1,034.71± acres of existing uplands, Waters, and non-jurisdictional surface waters, and creation of 23.58± acres of buffer lakes. The conservation area will be placed under conservation easement to Lee County and South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD).
COMPENSATORY MITIGATION – The applicant has provided the following explanation why compensatory mitigation should not be required: The 1.06± acres of wetlands authorized for impact per the Verdana Corps permit have been eliminated with the proposed site plan for Verdana Village. No wetland impacts will occur as a result of the proposed project; therefore, no compensatory mitigation is proposed modification to an existing authorization.
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 will request U.S. Fish and Wildlife concurrence with the following determinations pursuant to Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act:
Eastern Indigo Snake: The Corps has made the determination of not likely to adversely affect for the Eastern indigo snake (Drymarchon corais couperi) and its designated critical habitat. The Corps has concurrence with this determination pursuant to The Eastern Indigo Snake Programmatic Effect Determination Key, January 2017 (Indigo Snake Key). Use of the Eastern Indigo Key resulted in the following sequential determination: A-B-C-NLAA. This determination is based on the applicant following Standard Protection Measures for the Eastern Indigo Snake, February 2004.
Wood Stork: The Corps has made the determination of not likely to adversely affect for the wood stork (Mycteria americana). The Corps has concurrence with this determination pursuant to The Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, South Florida Ecological Services Field Office and State of Florida Effect Determination Key for the Wood Stork in South Florida, January 2010 (Wood Stork Key). Use of the Wood Stork Key resulted in the following sequential determination: A-B-C-D-NLAA. The project does not lie within any colony sites, and does not permanently affect suitable foraging habitat (SFH).
Florida Panther: The Corps has completed an evaluation of the impacts the work may have on the Florida Panther (Puma concolor coryi). The Corps utilized The Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, South Florida Ecological Services Field Office and State of Florida Panther Effect Determination Key, February 19, 2007 (Panther Key). Use of the Panther Key resulted in the following sequential determination: A>C -May Effect since the project is located within the Florida panther focus area and is greater than one acre and will increase traffic in the area.
Red-Cockaded Woodpecker: According to the FWCC database of documented occurrences of listed species, there are no documented red-cockaded woodpecker (RCW) (Picoides borealis) colonies within the Project’s vicinity. The nearest documented RCW colonies are located approximately 13 miles southwest and 14 miles northwest of the site. No RCWs or cavities in live pine trees have been documented on-site during protected species surveys and other fieldwork conducted on the Project site by the applicant. Additionally, high levels of exotic vegetation and dense native vegetation in the understory generally preclude much of the existing habitat from supporting RCWs. Suitable RCW habitat on the Project site such as hydric pine with low exotic levels will be preserved. Therefore, the determination is MANLAA on the RCW.
Everglades Snail Kite: Critical habitat has been designated for the Everglade snail kite (Rostrhamus sociabilis plumbeus). No Everglade snail kites have been documented on the Project site. The Project is not located adjacent to or within the designated critical habitat and will have no impact on designated critical habitat for the Everglade snail kite, although it does lie within the western extent of the species’ consultation area. The proposed federal action will have no effect on the Everglade snail kite.
Crested Caracara: Crested caracara (Polyborus plancus audubonii) have been documented on-site during a protected species survey conducted by the applicant and subsequent nesting season surveys performed in 2016 and 2019. During these surveys, no nests or nesting behavior was documented. Additionally, there are very few suitable cabbage palms located within the Project’s existing agricultural lands for utilization by the caracara for nesting; and, given the nature of row crop and citrus grove support operations, potential foraging habitat is limited. Therefore, the proposed determination for is MANLAA on the crested caracara.
Florida Bonneted Bat: No Florida bonneted bats (Eumops floridanus) have been documented on-site or in the general vicinity of the Project during protected species surveys conducted on the Project site by the applicant. In addition, cavity tree surveys and inspections of cavities on the Project site found no Florida bonneted bats. Due to the lack of known cavities, however presence of habitat, the determination is MANLAA for the bonneted bat.
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 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 District Engineer through the 1520 Royal Palm Square, Suite 310, Ft. Myers, Florida 33919 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, Allison C. Murphy, in writing at the Ft. Myers Permits Section, 1520 Royal Palm Square Blvd., Ft. Myers, Florida, 33919; by electronic mail at Allison.C.Murphy@usace.army.mil; by facsimile transmission at (239)334-0797; or, by telephone at (239)334-1975 ext. 0008.
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.