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: Florida Power & Light Company
Ms. Kathryn S. Salvador
700 Universe Boulevard
Juno Beach, Florida 33408
WATERWAY AND LOCATION: The project would affect waters of the United States, including wetlands, associated with Youngs Creek and Elder Branch. The project site is located on an undeveloped parcel, on the south side of the intersection of Bradenton-Arcadia and Wauchula Roads, within Sections 2, 3, 10, 11, and 12, Township 35 South, Range 22 East, in Myakka City, Manatee County, Florida.
Directions to the site are as follows: From the Palm Beach Gardens field office, take PGA Boulevard west approximately 5.8-miles, turn right onto FL-710 West for approximately 46.7-miles, turn left onto FL-70/NE Park Street for approximately 3-miles, turn right onto US-98 N for 42.2-miles and continue straight on FL-66 W for 25-miles. Turn right onto US-17 N for 0.5-miles, turn left onto FL-64 W for 18.6-miles, the site is on the left.
APPROXIMATE CENTRAL COORDINATES: Latitude 27.448333°
Basic: The basic project purpose is the generation of power.
Overall: The overall project purpose is to provide 74.5-megawatts of solar photovoltaic power generation in FPLs service territory within Manatee County.
EXISTING CONDITIONS: The project site consists of approximately 811.66-acres of abandoned agricultural lands. On-site waters of the U.S., including wetlands, consist of freshwater mixed forests, vegetated non-forested wetlands, and agricultural ditches (linear wetlands and/or open waters). The site is bordered by agricultural lands to the south, east, and west, and State Road 64 and Wauchula Road to the north; a north-south oriented electric transmission line corridor runs through the western portion of the project site.
Upland communities comprise the majority of the project site at 488.01-acres and consists of abandoned agricultural lands. The crops are no longer in production and the lands have been overgrown by upland grasses. Vegetation includes a dominance of broomsedge bluestem (Andropogon virginicus), cogongrass (Imperata cylindrica), Bahiagrass (Paspalum notatum), bermudagrass (Cynodon dactylon), limpograss (Hemarthria altissima), guinea grass (Urochloa maxima), false fennel (Eupatorium leptophyllum), hairy indigo (Indigofera hirsuta), caesarweed (Urena lobata), danglepod (Sesbania herbacea), Mexican primrose willow (Ludwigia octovalvis), and bushy bluestem (Andropogon glomeratus); there is no over-story on these lands. The electric transmission line corridor comprises approximately 1.71-acres of the site and vegetation in this area is consistent with the abandoned agricultural lands.
The remainder of the 321.94-acres on site consists of waters of the U.S., including wetlands. Seven vegetated non-forested wetland areas comprise 117.05-acres and are located throughout the site. These areas are dominated by shrub and emergent wetland vegetation, including cogongrass, limpograss, Bahiagrass, torpedo grass (Panicum repens), broosedges, and cattail (Typha spp.), Peruvian primrose willow (Ludwigia peruviana), Mexican primrose willow, false-willow (Baccharis spp.), Brazilian pepper (Schinus terebinthifolia), danglepod, elderberry (Sambucus nigra), saw palmetto (Serenoa repens), and wax myrtle (Morella cerifera). Agricultural and rim ditches, consisting of both linear wetlands and open waters, comprise approximately 5.1-acres; of this acreage, approximately 0.46-acres are linear conveyances that contain no wetland vegetation or persistent flow of water, and thus are not considered waters of the United States. Vegetation in these areas consists mostly of nuisance species such as Peruvian primrose willow, Mexican primrose willow, cattail, false-willow, Carolina willow (Salix caroliniana), Virginia chainfern (Woodwardia virginica), and water lettuce (Pistia stratiotes). Mixed forested wetlands comprise 199.79-acres of the site, and consist of red maple (Acer rubrum), sweetbay (Magnolia virginiana), laurel oak (Quercus laurifolia), and dahoon holly (Ilex cassine) in the over-story, with elderberry, Peruvian primrose willow, Mexican primrose willow, false-willow, Carolina willow, saw palmetto, and Brazilian peeper in the mid-story.
PROPOSED WORK: The proposed project is the construction of a 74.5-megawatt solar photovoltaic energy center, including solar arrays mounted on a racking system with inverters, transformers, substation, aerial and/or underground collection and distribution lines, unpaved access roads, stormwater management facilities, and a perimeter security fence. The proposed solar center will connect to FPLs existing Keentown-Sunshine 230-kilovolt (kV) transmission line located in the western portion of the property. The proposed project will have permanent fill impacts to 0.1602-acres of palustrine emergent wetlands, 0.90-acres of man-made agricultural ditches, and 0.46-acres of non-jurisdictional linear conveyances, and secondary impacts to 5.89-acres and 2.05-acres of palustrine emergent wetlands due to shading from the solar arrays and lack of an upland buffer, respectively.
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:
“All efforts have been made to avoid and minimize impacts to wetlands and surface waters to the extent feasible. FPL designed the solar energy center to capitalize on opportunities to utilize available interconnection capacity within their existing transmission lines. The portion of wetlands proposed for impact area of low quality and historically impacted. A minimum of 45 foot to 65 foot buffer is provided between each wetland, isolated and connected, respectively. Overall, the applicant has designed the project to have a minimal adverse effect on wetland resources. Compensation for unavoidable wetland impacts will be the purchase of credits at an approved Mitigation Bank.”
Since the applicants’ initial submittal, they have reduced the amount of proposed impacts to waters of the U.S. from 8.10-acres to a total of 7.41-acres, as detailed above.
COMPENSATORY MITIGATION – The applicant has offered the following compensatory mitigation plan to offset unavoidable functional loss to the aquatic environment:
The applicant originally proposed to compensate for unavoidable impacts to waters of the U.S., including wetlands, by purchasing 1.06 palustrine emergent wetland credits from the Myakka Mitigation Bank. However, as discussed above, project modifications have reduced the amount of required compensatory wetland mitigation to 0.85 palustrine emergent wetland credits.
CULTURAL RESOURCES: The Corps is aware of historic property/properties within, or in close proximity to, the permit area. The Corps has initiated consultation with the State Historic Preservation Office and those federally recognized tribes with concerns in Florida and the Permit Area, and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, as applicable, pursuant to 33 CFR 325, Appendix C and Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, by separate letters dated November 18, 2019.
ENDANGERED SPECIES: The Corps assessed the project site for Federally listed species using the FWS’ Information for Planning and Consultation (IPaC) web site and all available GIS data within the Corps’ Resources at Risk (RAR) system, for purposes of complying with Section 7 of the ESA of 1973 (as amended). The IPaC system generated a list of 14 species within Manatee County.
The Corps had determined that the proposed project may affect, but is not likely to affect, the American wood stork (Mycteria americana) and Audubon’s crested caracara (Polyborus plancus audubonii), and may affect the Eastern indigo snake (Drymarchon corais couperi). The Corps has initiated formal consultation with the Fish and Wildlife Service/National Marine Fisheries Service pursuant to Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act by separate letter dated November 5, 2019.
The Corps has also determined that the proposed project would have no effect on the West Indian manatee (Trichechus manatus), Eastern black rail (Laterallus jamaicensis), Florida grasshopper sparrow (Ammodramus savannarum floridanus), Florida scrub-jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens), piping plover (Charadrius melodus), red knot (Calidris canutus rufa), red-cockaded woodpecker (Picoides borealis), green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas), loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta), Gulf sturgeon (Acinpenser oxyrinchus desotoi), Florida golden aster (Chrysopsis floridana), pygmy fringe-tree (Chionanthus pygmaeus), and Florida perforate cladonia (Cladonia perforata), or their designated, or proposed for designation, 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. The site does not contain EFH and the Corps’ initial determination is that the proposed action would not have a substantial adverse impact on EFH or Federally managed fisheries in the South Atlantic Region. 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, Florida 33410 or to the email address of the Project Manager noted below, 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. John Policarpo, in writing at the Palm Beach Gardens Permits Section, 4400 PGA Boulevard, Suite 500, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida 33410, by electronic mail at John.N.Policarpo@usace.army.mil, by facsimile transmission at (561) 626-6970, or by telephone at (561) 472-3518.
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 impacts, 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 that 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 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.