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: VF II, LLC
c/o Alex Muxo
7900 Glades Road, Suite 402
Boca Raton, FL 33432
WATERWAY AND LOCATION: The project would affect waters of the United States associated with freshwater wetlands within the St. Lucie River watershed. The project site is located east of Florida’s Turnpike and South of Becker Road within Section 34, Township 37 south, Range 40 east, Port St. Lucie, St. Lucie County, Florida.
Directions to the site are as follows: Take Exit 138 (Becker Road), turn left (east) on Becker Road and proceed east for 0.1 miles. Turn right (south-southeast) on Southbend Boulevard, go straight at the roundabout (2nd exit). The project site is located ahead.
APPROXIMATE CENTRAL COORDINATES:
Basic: The basic overall purpose is to construct a mixed-use development.
Overall: The overall project purpose is to construct a mixed-use development including residential housing and commercial facilities in the Port St. Lucie area of St. Lucie County, Florida.
EXISTING CONDITIONS: The project site contains 59.1 acres, of which 55 acres are uplands and 4.1 acres are freshwater wetlands.
The upland habitats are comprised of pine flatwoods, Brazilian pepper thickets, and previously disturbed lands. The pine flatwoods habitats are dominated by slash pine, scattered live oak, and cabbage palm trees, with an understory of saw palmetto, wax myrtle, downy rose myrtle and gallberry. Melaleuca, earleaf acacia, and Australian pine trees are also found scattered in the pine flatwoods habitat. The Brazilian pepper dominated areas are located along the southern property boundary where there is spoil material from the C-23 Canal excavation.
The wetlands contain plant species such as broom sedge, bluestem, beakrush, yellow-eyed grass, meadow beauty, bog button, chain fern and swamp fern.
The surrounding areas are comprised of the Florida's Turnpike on the west, the C-23 canal and its embankment to the south, a commercial development to the north and residential housing to the east.
PROPOSED WORK: The applicant seeks authorization to fill 4.1 acres of freshwater wetland to construct a mixed-use development to include residential and commercial use buildings and associated infrastructure within the 59.1 acre parcel.
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 applicant has proposed to fill all of the wetlands on the site. The wetlands are in fair to poor ecological condition due to the hydrological alteration of the site and surrounding area which is bounded by the C-23 Canal to the south and the Florida’s Turnpike to the west. As a result of these altered hydrological conditions, the chances for long term success of preservation and management of the small wetlands are limited.
COMPENSATORY MITIGATION – The applicant has offered the following compensatory mitigation plan to offset unavoidable functional loss to the aquatic environment:
The unavoidable impacts to Wetland Waters of the U.S. will be offset via the purchase of mitigation credits from Bluefield Ranch Mitigation Bank.
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 if applicable, those federally recognized tribes with concerns in Florida and the Permit Area.
The project is within the range and consultation area of the threatened Audubon’s crested caracara (Polyborus plancus audobonii), threatened eastern indigo snake (Drymarchon corais couperi), endangered Everglade snail kite (Rostrhamus sociabilis plumbeus), endangered Florida grasshopper sparrow (Ammodramus savannarum floridanus), threatened Florida scrub jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens), endangered red-cockaded woodpecker (Picoides borealis), and threatened wood stork (Mycteria americana).
• Not likely to adversely affect the threatened Audubon’s crested caracara: Nesting or foraging habitat for the caracara consists of large expanses of pastures, grasslands, or prairies dotted with numerous shallow ponds and sloughs and single or small clumps of live oaks, cabbage palms, and cypress. There are no suitable nesting areas on the site due to the lack of suitable trees. Portions of the project site contain open herbaceous areas, but these areas are small and surrounded by forested uplands. Therefore, they are not likely to support foraging. . According to information available from United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) South Florida Ecological Services Office (SFESO), the closest known nest is over 10 miles from the proposed Project. Therefore, the
• May affect the threatened eastern indigo snake: The project site is located in an area where the eastern indigo snake may occur. The 59.1-acre project site contains 25 acres or more of potential eastern indigo snake habitat. By use of the FWS revised Eastern Indigo Snake Key dated August 1, 2017, the following key sequence A>B>C would result in a “May Affect” determination. However, based on a lack of eastern indigo snake sighting in the area and coordination with USFWS reviewers the Corps has determined the project may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect the species. The applicant will agree to conditions requiring that all gopher tortoise burrows, active or inactive, will be excavated prior to site manipulation in the vicinity of the burrow. If an eastern indigo snake is encountered, the snake must be allowed to vacate the area prior to additional site manipulation in the vicinity. Any permit will also be conditioned such that holes, cavities, and snake refugia other than gopher tortoise burrows will be inspected each morning before planned site manipulation of a particular area, and, if occupied by an eastern indigo snake, no work will commence until the snake has vacated the vicinity of proposed work. Therefore, the Corps has determined that this project may affect the eastern indigo snake.
• Not likely to adversely affect the endangered Everglade snail kite: The project is within the consultation areas. Kite foraging habitat consists of relatively shallow wetland vegetation, either within extensive marsh systems, or in lake littoral zones. Snail kite nesting substrate is typically located over open water at a distance of approximately 150 meters from the edge of water to provide protection to the nest. There are no open water areas or marshes within the site that meet this criteria. While there are some suitable areas for foraging on site, it does not appear that the site contains a suitable hydroperiod to support suitable forage (apple snails) for the snail kite. Therefore, the Corps has determined that this project is not likely to adversely affect the Everglades snail kite.
• No effect to the endangered Florida Grasshopper Sparrow: The project is located within the species consultation area. However, suitable habitat (dry prairie that is relatively open and low in stature, treeless, relatively poorly-drained grasslands that have a history of frequent fires) is not found on site. Therefore, the Corps has determined that this project would have no effect on the Florida grasshopper sparrow.
• No effect to the threatened Florida scrub jay. The project is located within the species consultation area. Suitable habitats for the scrub-jay are not only the more “classic” xeric oak scrub, scrubby pine flatwoods, scrubby coastal strand, and sand pine scrub, but also include: improved, unimproved, and woodland pastures, citrus groves, rangeland, pine flatwoods, longleaf pine xeric oak, sand pine, sand pine plantations, forest regeneration areas, sand other than beaches, disturbed rural land in transition without positive indicators of intended activity, and disturbed burned areas. The project is not located in any of these types of habitats. Therefore, the Corps has determined this project would have no effect on the Florida scrub jay.
• Not Likely to Adversely Affect the threatened wood stork. The applicant has proposed compensation for wetland impacts through the use of onsite wetland mitigation. By use of the FWS Wood Stork Key dated January 25, 2010 and the May 18, 2010 addendum, the following key sequence A>B>C>E would result in a “Not Likely to Adversely Affect” (NLAA) determination. Any loss of wood stork foraging biomass resulting from the proposed activity will be compensated for through purchase of appropriate mitigation credits from a federally approved mitigation bank. A wood stork foraging biomass analysis has been prepared to evaluate the appropriateness of the proposed habitat compensation. Therefore, the Corps has determined this project is not likely to adversely affect the wood stork.
• No effect to the endangered Red-cockaded woodpecker. The project area does not contain suitable Red-cockaded woodpecker habitat (open woodlands with large old growth pines, limited subcanopy, and abundant native bunchgrass and forb groundcover). The pines present on site are not mature suitable cavity trees due to historic clearing for agricultural purposes. Dense subcanopy is present throughout the site due to a lack of fire control. There are no recorded Red cockaded woodpecker populations within 0.5 miles of the project. Therefore, the Corps has determined the proposal would have no effect on endangered red-cockaded woodpecker.
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. The proposal would impact approximately 4.1 acres of freshwater wetlands. Our initial determination is that the proposed action would not have an impact on EFH or Federally managed fisheries in the South Atlantic Region because the site contains only freshwater wetlands. 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 Palm Beach Gardens Permits Section, 4400 PGA Boulevard, Suite 500, Palm Beach Gardens, FL 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, Trey Fraley, in writing at the Palm Beach Gardens Permits Section, 4400 PGA Boulevard, Suite 500, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida; by electronic mail at Robert.H.Fraley@usace.army.mil or, by telephone at (561)472-3526.
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.