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: Emerald Investment Holdings, LLC
605 S. Freemont Avenue, Suite B
Tampa, FL 33606
WATERWAY AND LOCATION: The project would affect waters of the United States associated with the St. Sebastian River-Vero Beach Main Canal Frontal Hydrologic Basin (10-digit Hydrologic Unit Code (0308020303)) and the Melbourne Tillman Canal-St. Johns River Hydrologic Basin (10-digit Hydrologic Unit Code (0308010104)). The project is located on both sides of I-95 and north of Willowbrook Drive in Palm Bay, Brevard County, Florida. The project is further located in Sections 1, 2, 3, 10, 11, and 12; Township 30 South; Range 37 East.
Directions to the site are as follows: From Interstate 95 take S.R 514 (Malabar Rd) east to Babcock St SE and travel south back over I-95 approximately 7.5 miles to Willowbrook Dr. travel east on Willowbrook Dr (dirt road) onto the site.
APPROXIMATE CENTRAL COORDINATES:
Basic: Multimodal (residential, commercial, educational, recreational) Development
Overall: Construct a multimodal development with direct access to I-95 in southern Brevard County, Florida.
Existing Conditions: The 1,573 acres site is bisected by I-95 with 895.7 acres on the west side of I-95 and 677.4 acres on the east side. The site has been assessed utilizing the Florida Land Use, Cover, and Forms Classification System (FLUCFCS), which organizes most of the major categories of communities and land uses into particular descriptions, each corresponding to a different code number. The description is as follows:
Open Land (190)
An area along the southern property line, west of Interstate-95, has been labeled as Open Land. This area supports a dirt roadway and other disturbed areas that were associated with borrow pit activities and agricultural practices. Vegetation is dominated by bahiagrass, Bermudagrass, sandspur, Spanish needles, dog fennel, ragweed, and other opportunistic weedy species.
Pine Flatwoods (411)
The vast majority of the uplands throughout the project area supports Pine Flatwoods. Although variations in vegetative density and composition occur within this community type, the vegetation here is dominated by a canopy of slash and longleaf pine that is interspersed by live oak and scrub oaks that shade saw palmetto, gallberry, rusty lyonia, shiny lyonia, wiregrass, wax myrtle, shiny blueberry, tarflower, broomsedge, southern fox grape, and catbrier.
Scrubby Flatwoods (411A)
Several areas within the southern and northern portions of the western side support Scrubby Flatwoods. These areas are dominated by a sparse canopy of slash and longleaf pine that are over scrub oaks, saw palmetto, rusty lyonia, tarflower, shiny blueberry, and patches of wiregrass and open sand.
Xeric Oak (421)
Abutting the Scrubby Flatwoods mentioned above, areas dominated by a Xeric Oak community are characterized by areas of open sugar sand and vegetation similar to the Scrubby Flatwoods with the addition of rosemary and with a lesser percentage of pines in the canopy.
Electrical Power Transmission Lines (832)
A relatively narrow swath of land in the southwest corner of the project site supports an occasionally maintained power line easement that is dominated by bahiagrass and other opportunistic herbaceous species.
Streams and Waterways (510)
Several manmade swales exist on site. These swales, designated as Non-RPW’s, are dominated by torpedograss, sedges, bahiagrass, smartweed, capeweed, pickerelweed. All of these systems eventually funnel surface water into Sottile Canal, the nearest RPW.
Mixed Wetland Hardwoods (617)
A large Mixed Wetland Hardwood system is located on the west side of Interstate-95 in the northern one-third of the site. This system is dominated by red maple, bald cypress, loblolly bay, sweet bay, cabbage palm, and sweet gum that shades wax myrtle, saw palmetto, sawgrass, cinnamon fern, Virginia chain fern, swamp fern, royal fern, duck potato, pickerelweed, sand cordgrass, bladderwort, and catbrier.
Numerous Cypress strands and heads are spread throughout the project site. These areas are dominated by bald cypress with lesser amounts of bay trees, cabbage palms, and red maples that shade sawgrass, sand cordgrass, wax myrtle, cinnamon fern, Virginia chain fern, sparse Brazilian pepper and cajeput, swamp fern, royal fern, duck potato, pickerelweed, maidencane, sandweed, and catbrier.
Hydric Flatwoods (625)
Hydric Flatwoods meander through large swaths of the site, particularly on the eastern portion, east of Interstate-95. These areas are dominated by slash pine that shade blue maidencane, sandweed, sand cordgrass, sawgrass, dahoon holly, yellow-eyed grass, maidencane, marsh fleabane, bog button, redroot, meadow beauty, and an assortment of sedges and rushes.
Wetland Scrub (631)
Two areas near the bisecting St. Johns Heritage Parkway on the west side of the site have been classified as Wetland Scrub. These areas are dominated by a shrubby community that supports fairly dense wax myrtle and saltbush over hatpins, blue maidencane, sandweed, coinwort, marsh pennywort, and chalky bluestem.
Freshwater Marsh (641)
Several freshwater marshes are located throughout the project area, on both sides of the Interstate. Variations of vegetative density and composition exist within these systems, but the most dominant species include maidencane, chalky bluestem, sawgrass, yellow eyed grass, duck potato, sandweed, pickerelweed, smartweed, beakrush, coinwort, and road grass.
Wet Prairie (643)
Relatively small areas of Wet Prairie communities exist throughout the project area on both sides of the Interstate. These areas are dominated by blue maidencane, meadow beauty, roadgrass, hatpins, and torpedo grass.
Borrow Areas (742)
A previously permitted Borrow Pit is located near the southwest corner of the site and an FDOT pond is located just east of Interstate-95, southeast of the interchange. The majority of these communities, both classified as Borrow Areas, are open water while the edges are dominated by cattails, torpedograss, maidencane, roadgrass, bulrush, bahiagrass, and pickerelweed.
PROPOSED WORK: The applicant seeks authorization to fill 101.69 acres of waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) (50.38 acres of wetlands and 1.33 acres of surface waters on the east side, and 48.95 acres of wetlands and 1.03 acres pf surface waters on the west side) for the construction of the proposed multimodal development. The proposed phased development includes infrastructure (roadways and stormwater management facilities), residential, commercial (office, retail), educational, recreational, and health-related development. The applicant has requested a 10 year permit due to the size and complexity of the project.
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:
“Impacts to wetlands and other surface waters will result from the construction of Emerald Lakes. The applicant considered practicable design modifications which would reduce or eliminate adverse impacts to wetlands and other surface waters. The positioning of the abutting interchange and bisecting parkway partially dictate the applicant’s ability to avoid and reduce wetland impacts while still being able to develop the project site into a profitable venture. The applicant has planned Emerald Lakes considering environmental impacts which included potential impacts to wetlands, wetland quality, wildlife occurrences, existing habitat quality, and floodplains. Avoidance of impacts to higher quality wetlands that provide corridors to native wildlife was an important criterion in the selection of the wetland preservation plan proposed.
As stated previously, proposed wetland impacts on the east side of Emerald lakes equate to 50.38-acres (out of the 336.54-acres of USACE jurisdictional wetlands) while direct wetland impacts proposed within the western side of Emerald Lakes total approximately 48.95-acres (out of the 263.76-acres of USACE jurisdictional wetlands). These proposed wetland impacts represent an impact of approximately 15 percent of the present wetlands on the east side of Emerald Lakes and an impact of approximately 19 percent of the present wetlands on the west side of Emerald Lakes. Conversely, the applicant is proposing to preserve approximately 85 percent of the wetlands on the east side of Emerald Lakes and 81 percent of the wetlands on the west side of Emerald Lakes. The majority of the proposed wetland impacts are associated with development surrounding the newly developed interchange.”
COMPENSATORY MITIGATION: The applicant has offered the following compensatory mitigation plan to offset unavoidable functional loss to the aquatic environment:
“To mitigate for the proposed federally jurisdictional wetland impacts, the applicant is proposing to complete off-site mitigation via the purchase of wetland mitigation bank credits from federally approved mitigation bank(s), currently proposed to be Basin 22 Mitigation Bank for all proposed impacts in HUC 03080203 (68.206 credits) and Lake Washington Mitigation Bank for all proposed impacts in HUC 03080101 (12.592 credits) for a total of 80.798 credits.”
CULTURAL RESOURCES: The US Army Corps of Engineers (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 has determined the proposed project may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect, the Red-cockaded woodpecker (Picoides borealis), and the wood stork (Mycteria americana). The Corps has determined that the proposed project may affect the Florida Scrub jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens) and the Eastern indigo snake (Drymarchon corais couperi).
Based on a biological opinion completed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) for the FDOT St Johns Heritage Parkway Interchange project, the USFWS concurred with the Corps determination that the project may effect, but is not likely to adversely affect the Red-cockaded woodpecker. The results of field surveys and inspections identified no cavities or siting’s within the project area. As such, the Corps will request concurrence from the USFWS on the same determination for this project as well.
The proposed activity is within the Core Foraging Area (CFA) of a wood stork rookery; the project supports marginally Suitable Foraging Habitat (SFH) for wood stork. Based on the Effect Determination Key for the Wood Stork in Central and North Peninsular Florida (dated September 2008), the Corps’ determination sequence was A>B>C>D>E = “may affect but is not likely to adversely affect”. The determination is supported by SFH compensation provided within the service area of a mitigation bank, and provides an amount of habitat and foraging function equivalent to that of impacted SFH; and is not contrary to the Service’s “Habitat Management Guidelines for the Wood Stork in the Southeast Region”. No further consultation is required.
Eastern Indigo Snake
Based on the Eastern Indigo Snake Effect Determination Key (dated January 25, 2010; August 13, 2013 Addendum), the Corps determination sequence resulted in A>B>C D= “may affect”. This determination is based on the project not being located in open water, the applicant adhering to the “Standard Protection Measures for the Eastern Indigo Snake” (dated August 12, 2013) and the presence of more than 25 active and inactive gopher tortoise burrows, holes, and refugia within the work area where a snake could be buried or trapped and injured during project activities. Indigo snakes have been documented within 1 mile of the south end of the site on the Micco Scrub Sanctuary. The Corps will initiate consultation with the USFWS pursuant to Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act.
Florida Scrub jay
During the permitting of the interchange, scrub jays were observed within a half mile of the proposed interchange on the west side of this property. The Corps has made a determination that this project may affect the scrub jay and will initiate consultation with the USFWS pursuant to Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act.
The Corps has determined the proposal would have no effect on any other listed threatened or endangered species or designated 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. Our initial determination is that the proposed action would have no impact on EFH. 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 Cocoa Permits Section, 400 High Point Drive, Suite 600, Cocoa, Florida 32926 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, John Palmer, in writing at the Cocoa Permits Section, 400 High Point Drive, Suite 600, Cocoa, Florida, 32926, by electronic mail at John.Palmer@usace.army.mil, by fax at (321) 504-3803, or by telephone at (321) 504-3771 extension 10.
IMPACT ON NATURAL RESOURCES: Preliminary review of this application indicates that an Environmental Impact Statement will not be required. 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. By means of this notice, we are soliciting comments on the potential effects of the project on threatened or endangered species or their habitat
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 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 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.