US Army Corps of Engineers
Jacksonville District

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SAJ-2019-03300 (SP-RLT)

Published Oct. 31, 2019
Expiration date: 11/28/2019

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 Department of Transportation (FDOT), District 5

                       Attn: Ms. Casey Lyon

                       719 South Woodland Blvd.

                       Deland, Florida 32720

 

WATERWAY AND LOCATION:  The project is located in waters of the United States associated with freshwater wetlands that flow to Lake Monroe and the St. Johns River, a Traditional Navigable Waterway. The project site is located along Interstate 4 (I-4) from east of US 17/92 to east of SR 472, a distance of approximately 10.25 miles, in Sections 1, 2, 3, 9, 10, 11, 15 and 16 in Township 19 South, Range 30 East; Sections 1, 11, 12, 13, 14, 23, 24, 25, 35 and 36 in Township 18 South, Range 30 East; Sections 6, 7, 18 and 19 on Township 18 South, 31 East; and Section 36 in Township 17 South, Range 30 East, Seminole and Volusia Counties, Florida.

 

Directions to the site from Jacksonville are as follows:  Exit I-95 onto I-4. Head west on I-4 for approximately 17 miles to SR 434.  The project begins approximately 0.8 mile east of SR 472 and proceeds approximately 10.25 miles to US 17/92.

 

APPROXIMATE CENTRAL COORDINATES:            Latitude 28. 899085

                                                                                   Longitude -81. 28019

 

PROJECT PURPOSE:

 

Basic:  Linear transportation improvements.

 

Overall:  The overall project purpose is to construct roadway improvements within the I-4 corridor to reduce congestion, improve traffic operations, and improve public safety in the eastern portion of Seminole County and Volusia County.

 

EXISTING CONDITIONS:  The existing I-4 corridor consists of three 12-foot travel lanes in each direction.  The project limits include interchanges and stormwater facilities from east of US 17/92 to east of SR 472, a distance of approximately 10.25 miles.  The following paragraphs summarize the general land uses as well as the vegetative composition and hydrologic features of wetlands and surface waters in the project corridor, as provided by the applicant’s consultant.  The land uses were classified according to the Florida Land Use, Cover and Forms Classification System (FLUCFCS) (FDOT, 1999).

 

Upland Communities:

 

FLUCFCS 110/120/130: Low/Medium/High-Density Residential: These areas are found primarily in the central portion of the project corridor on both sides of the right-of way from Dirksen Drive and Debary Avenue to Saxon Boulevard.  This land use was also observed north of Saxon Boulevard on the east side of the right-of-way, and south of Graves Avenue on the west side of the right-of-way.  The majority of the dwellings along the project corridor consist of single-family homes.  Vegetation in this land use generally consists of lawn grasses and ornamental trees or shrubs.

 

FLUCFCS 110/120/140: Low/Medium/High-Density Commercial and Services: This land use consists of numerous types of businesses in malls and strip malls or as stand-alone establishments along the corridor.  Vegetation generally consists of landscaped ornamental shrubs or lawn grasses.

 

FLUCFCS 211: Improved Pasture: This land use consists of land which has been cleared, tilled, reseeded with specific grass types and periodically improved with brush control and fertilizer application. Vegetation generally consists of grasses with sparse trees.

 

FLUCFCS 213: Woodland Pastures:  These habitat type includes forested lands that have been partially cleared for the use as pasture.  Vegetation generally consists of grasses with sporadic tree coverage.

 

FLUCFCS 320: Shrub and Brushland: This land use consists of lands lacking a forested canopy and dominated by shrub and brush species.

 

FLUCFCS 330: Mixed Upland Non-Forested: This land use consists of upland habitat without canopy tree cover and dominated by a variety of understory and groundcover. 

 

FLUCFCS 413: Sand Pine: This land use consists of upland forest communities dominated by sand pine.

 

FLUCFCS 434: Upland Mixed-Coniferous/Hardwood: This land use consists of oaks, pine, and other species with no clear canopy dominance between hardwoods and conifers. 

 

FLUCFCS 740: Disturbed Lands: This land use consists of areas which have been changed due primarily to human activities other than mining.  Vegetation generally consists of a mix of numerous species of herbaceous and/or small woody trees and shrubs.

 

FLUCFCS 814: Roads and Highways: This land use consists all major and minor roads throughout the project corridor.  Vegetation generally consists of grasses and patches of trees or shrubs or landscaped ornamental vegetation.

 

FLUCFCS 837: Surface Water Collection Basins: This land use consists of upland areas used to collect excess stormwater runoff.  Vegetation generally consists of maintained grasses or in the case of permitted wet ponds vegetation may include fragrant water lily, hairgrass, and cattail.  These systems are permitted facilities designed to capture and treat stormwater.

 

Wetland Communities and Surface Waters:  

 

The seven (7) wetland land cover classifications found within or adjacent to the project corridor are described below with their FLUCFCS and U.S Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) classifications.   

 

FLUCFCS 510: Streams and Waterways

USFWS R2UB6: Riverine, Lower Perennial Unconsolidated bottom, Organic:

 

This land use designates rivers, creeks, canals, and other linear water bodies.  The St. Johns River resumes its course at the mouth of Lake Monroe, approximately where I-4 crosses from Seminole County to Volusia County over a bridge.  I-4 also crosses Padgett Creek, which is a small tributary to Lake Monroe. 

 

FLUCFCS 513: Ditches and Swales

USFWS PEM1F: Palustrine, Emergent, Persistent, Semi-permanently Flooded:

 

This habitat type includes man made linear water bodies such as ditches.  Several created drainage ditches occur within the project study area.  Ditches are typically colonized by pennywort (Hydrocotyle umbellata), maidencane (Panicum hemitomon), primrose willow (Ludwigia peruviana), cattail (Typha latifolia), dog fennel (Eupatorium capillifolium), elderberry (Sambucus canadensis), and Carolina willow (Salix caroliniana).

 

This land use designates rivers, creeks, canals, and other linear water bodies.  The St. Johns River resumes its course at the mouth of Lake Monroe, approximately where I-4 crosses from Seminole County to Volusia County over a bridge.  I-4 also crosses Padgett Creek, which is a small tributary to Lake Monroe. 

 

FLUCFCS 520: Lakes

USFWS PAB4F: Palustrine, Aquatic Bed, Floating Vascular, Semi-permanently Flooded:

 

Lakes include extensive inland water bodies, excluding reservoirs.  Typical lake vegetation includes fragrant water lily (Nymphaea odorata), spatterdock (Nuphar lutea), cattail, primrose willow, water-ferns (Azolla spp. and Salvinia spp.), little bluestem (Amphicarpum muehlenbergianum), and hairgrass (Eleocharis spp.). 

 

FLUCFCS 617: Mixed Wetland Hardwoods

USFWS PFO1C: Palustrine, Forested, Broad-Leaved Deciduous, Seasonally Flooded:

 

Mixed Wetland Hardwoods are wetland hardwood communities which are composed of a large variety of hardwood species tolerant of hydric conditions yet exhibit an ill-defined mixture of species.  Vegetation typical to this community includes sweetgum, loblolly pine (Pinus taeda), laurel oak (Quercus laurifolia), water oak (Quercus nigra), and American elm (Ulmus americana) with lesser components southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora), red maple (Acer rubrum), and Carolina willow.  The understory is primarily composed of hardwood seedlings and saplings as well as blackberry (Rubus spp.), gallberry (Ilex glabra), yellow jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens), and wild grape (Vitus spp.). 

 

FLUCFCS 618: Willow and Elderberry

USFWS PSS1C: Palustrine, Scrub-Shrub, Broad-Leaved Deciduous, Seasonally Flooded:

 

Willow and Elderberry is a community where these species are dominant.   Additional vegetation within this wetland habitat type is primarily composed of saltbush (Baccharis halimifolia), swamp rosemallow (Hibiscus grandifloras) and wax myrtle. The understory is primarily a mix of many herbaceous species including dog fennel, blackberry, primrose willow (Ludwidgia peruviana), and wild grape.

 

FLUCFCS 630: Wetland Forested Mixed

USFWS PFO1C: Palustrine, Forested, Broad-Leaved Deciduous, Seasonally Flooded:

 

Wetland Forested Mixed includes mixed wetland forest communities in which neither hardwoods or conifers achieve a 66 percent dominance of the crown canopy. Vegetation within this wetland habitat type is primarily composed of slash pine, bald cypress, laurel oak, Carolina willow, and black gum (Nyssa sylvatica) with minor components of pop ash (Fraxinus caroliniana), cabbage palm, red maple, and sweetgum. The understory is primarily composed of salt bush, wax myrtle, and wild grape with some areas of floating aquatic vegetation including duckweed (Lemna spp.), and water-ferns.

 

FLUCFCS 641: Freshwater Marshes

USFWS PEM1F: Palustrine, Emergent, Persistent, Semi-permanently Flooded:

 

Freshwater Marshes consist of areas dominated by herbaceous wetland plant species with surface water present for extended periods during the growing season.  Vegetation within this wetland habitat type is primarily composed of maidencane, lanceleaf arrowhead (Sagittaria lancifolia), cattails, fragrant water lily, pickerelweed (Pontederia cordata), St. John’s wort, broomsedge (Andropogon sp.) and lemon bacopa (Bacopa caroliniana).

 

PROPOSED WORK:  The applicant seeks authorization to dredge and/or fill 31.27 acres of waters of the United States (surface waters and wetlands) in order to perform roadway improvements along I-4 from east of US 17/92 to east of SR 472, a distance of approximately 10.25 miles.  In addition, the project would incur approximately 11.94 acres of secondary wetland impacts.  The proposed improvements to I-4 include the addition of two new express lanes in each direction, resulting in a total of ten dedicated lanes; associated entry and exit ramps; stormwater facilities; the addition of a new interchange with I-4 providing direct access only to the express lanes that is proposed to be constructed about halfway between Saxon Boulevard and SR 472; and the construction of the proposed Rhode Island Road that connects Veterans Memorial Parkway to I-4 (FPN 408464-2-32-01).

 

AVOIDANCE AND MINIMIZATION INFORMATION – This project has been designed to avoid and minimize wetlands to the greatest extent practicable.  This project had a Project Development and Environmental (PD&E) study that evaluated alternative designs for the roadway improvements that would reduce impacts to wetland resources.  During this study, multiple design alternatives were explored in order to reduce or eliminate adverse impacts to wetlands that were found to be unfeasible from an engineering perspective.  Transportation safety standards for side slopes, turn radii, additional lanes and widths and availability of parcels for stormwater management facilities necessitate these impacts and were all evaluated as part of the design.  The proposed reconstruction and widening of I-4 is designed to improve the level of service and enhance safety for the traveling public.  In meeting the FDOT and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Standards (AASHTO) roadway design criteria, the ultimate condition build-out of the I-4 mainline presents little opportunities to avoid or minimize adverse wetland impacts within the existing I-4 ROW and alternative interchange designs.  In addition, the wetlands and other surface water systems within the mainline ROW are of low to moderate quality, generally isolated from larger more regionally significant systems, or have been constructed through upland soils.  A large percentage of the jurisdictional communities within the ROW have been altered or have experienced degradation by the presence of the existing I-4 travel lanes, routine maintenance of the ROW and general edge effects experienced by wetlands near built environments.

 

COMPENSATORY MITIGATION – The applicant proposes the purchase of 17.44 freshwater herbaceous and forested Uniform Mitigation Assessment Method (UMAM) credits from approved wetland mitigation banks.

 

CULTURAL RESOURCES:  The Corps is not aware of recorded historic resources within the permit area.  By letter dated February 25, 2016, the FDOT provided updated Cultural Resource Assessment Surveys (CRAS) and associated environmental documents as part of the updates of the I-4 expansion Project Development and Environmental (PD&E) Studies.  The FDOT requested the letter and accompanying documentation be forwarded to the SHPO for review and comment.  It was the opinion of FDOT, District 5 that the proposed undertaking, that included Segment 4 of I-4, will have no adverse effect on resources listed or eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP).  By document stamp, dated May 23, 2016 the SHPO concurred with the FDOT’s findings and recommendations and CRAS report (DHR No. 2016-1348).

 

ENDANGERED SPECIES:  The project is located within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) Consultation Areas for Florida scrub jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens), Everglade snail kite (Rostrhamus sociabilis plumbeus), West Indian Manatee (Trichechus manatus), Red-cockaded Woodpecker (Picoides borealis), wood stork (Mycteria americana); and potential habitat for the eastern indigo snake (Drymarchon corais couperi).

 

Scrub jay:  The Florida scrub-jay lives only in the scrub and scrubby flatwoods habitats of Florida.  This type of habitat grows only on nearly pure, excessively well-drained sandy soils, and occurs along present coastlines in Florida, on paleodunes of the high central ridges and other ancient shorelines of the Florida Peninsula, and inland on scattered alluvial deposits bordering several major rivers.  By letter dated July 5, 2016, the USFWS issued a Biological Opinion (BO) based on a biological assessment for this project and its effects on the Florida Scrub-Jay that was submitted by the FDOT and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).  The USFWS issued a BO that determined the proposed project is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of the Florida Scrub-Jay.

 

The Corps has determined the proposed project is not likely to adversely affect the Everglades snail kite, Eastern Indigo snake, wood stork, and manatee.

 

Snail kite:  Kite foraging habitat consists of relatively shallow wetland vegetation, either within extensive marsh systems, or in lake littoral zones.  Emergent vegetation, including spike rushes, maidencane, and bulrushes, are important components of habitat because they allow apple snails to occupy the area.  Dense, thick vegetation is not optimal for snail kite foraging because kites cannot readily see apple snails to capture them, and if vegetation is too sparse, apple snails may not be able to survive or reproduce.  Kites nest in a variety of vegetation types, including both woody vegetation such as willows, cypress, pond apple, and even exotic invasive species such as melaleuca.  Kites usually nest over open water, and this helps protect nests from mammalian predators such as raccoons.  Nests can be very well hidden, or quite obvious. The height of a nest is usually about 1-3 meters above the water.  Kites almost always nest in areas with good foraging habitat nearby, and most foraging occurs in marshes immediately surrounding the nest.  Its preferred habitat is lowland freshwater marshes mostly in the watersheds of the Everglades, Lakes Okeechobee and Kissimmee, and the upper St. Johns River.  Critical habitat was designed for the snail kite in 1977, but it’s located well south of the project. This species is greatly affected by water levels, dispersing great distances during drought years.  There is no documentation of this species in or near the project, however, there is suitable habitat located in or near the project, therefore the Corps determination for the proposed project is “may affect, but not likely to adversely affect” to the snail kite.  The FDOT indicated in the Environmental Summary enclosure to the application the USFWS concurred with FDOT’s determination that the project may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect the Everglades snail kite in the USFWS Biological Opinion (BO).  The Corps will request this document or request USFWS concurrence with a “may affect, but not likely to adversely affect” determination pursuant to Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act.

 

Eastern Indigo snake:  The potential impacts to the endangered Eastern Indigo snake were evaluated using The Eastern Indigo Snake Programmatic Effect Determination Key, August 2013.  Use of the Eastern Indigo snake key resulted in the following sequential determination: A > B > C > D > E “not likely to adversely affect” the Eastern Indigo snake.  This due to the existence of less than 25 potentially occupied and abandoned gopher tortoise burrows observed within the project area.  Also the applicant proposes to follow the FWS approved Standard Protection Measures for the Eastern Indigo Snake during the clearing and construction phases of the project.

 

Wood Stork:  This species typically inhabits freshwater and brackish wetlands, primarily nesting in cypress and mangrove swamps.  They can be found foraging in shallow water in freshwater marshes, wet prairies, narrow tidal creeks, and flooded tidal pools, as well as roadside ditches and pasturelands.  The proposed project is within the buffer of one wood stork nesting colonies.  Also the proposed project would impact 31.27 acres of forested and herbaceous wetlands and surface waters which exhibit the parameters of suitable foraging habitat for the wood stork.  Based upon review of the Wood Stork Key for Central and North Peninsular Florida dated September 2008, the proposed project resulted in the following sequential determination: A > B > C > D > E= “not likely to adversely affect” the wood stork.  This is due to the applicant proposing to provide mitigation at an approved mitigation bank which is within the appropriate CFA and of matching hydroperiod of the proposed impacts, and the project is not contrary to the Habitat Management Guidelines for the Wood Stork in the Southeast Region.  Given the above information, the Corps has determined that the proposed project may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect the wood stork.

 

Manatee:  Use of The Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District, and the State of Florida Effect Determination Key for the Manatee in Florida, April 2013 resulted in the following sequential determination:  A > B > C > G >  N > O > P = “may affect, not likely to adversely affect.”  This determination is based on the applicant following the standard manatee construction precautions for the proposed activity.  By letter dated 25 April 2013, the FWS stated that for proposed in-water activities analyzed with the April 2013 version of this key in which the Corps reaches a “may affect, not likely to adversely affect” determination with respect to the manatee and/or its designated critical habitat, the FWS hereby concurs with the Corps determination in accordance with 50 CFR 402.14(b)1 and no further consultation with the FWS is required.

 

 

Woodpecker:  The project abuts the existing I-4 corridor which is surrounded by residential and commercial development and wetlands.  The woodpecker live and forage in mature pine forests, specifically those with longleaf pines averaging over 80 to 120 years old and loblolly pines averaging 70 to 100 years old. The red-cockaded woodpeckers live in groups with a breeding pair and as many as four helpers, usually male offspring from the previous year.  Each group needs about 200 acres of old pine forest to support its foraging and nesting needs.  There are no pine stands in or adjacent to the project area and the remnant pines are too young for nesting by red-cockaded woodpeckers. Therefore the Corps determination for the proposed project is “no effect” to the woodpecker.

 

ESSENTIAL FISH HABITAT (EFH):  This notice initiates consultation with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) on EFH as required by the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act 1996.  The proposal would impact approximately 29.66 acres of tidal freshwater wetlands utilized by various life stages of white shrimp (Litopenaeus setiferus).  Our initial determination is that the proposed action may adversely affect EFH or Federally managed fisheries in the Lake Monroe, St. Johns River, and Padgett Creek.  By letter dated June 16, 2016, the NMFS provided the FDOT with recommendations and comments in reference to EFH impacts and compensatory mitigation.  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 not 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 Panama City 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, Mr. Randy Turner, in writing at the Panama City Permits Section, Post Office Box 4970, Jacksonville, Florida 32232, by electronic mail at Randy.L.Turner@usace.army.mil, by fax at (904) 232-1904, or by telephone at (904) 232-1670.

 

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.