Public Notice Notifications

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Florida - This includes all public notices for projects being reviewed for Standard Permits within the State of Florida.

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SAJ-2019-00480 (SP-JPF)

Published Jan. 28, 2020
Expiration date: 2/18/2020
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:

The Chemours Company FC LLC
P.O. Box 753
Starke, FL 32091

WATERWAY AND LOCATION: The project would affect waters of the United States associated with headwater wetlands of the Santa Fe River (HUC 03110206), a tributary of the Suwannee River (HUC 031102). The project site is located south of State Road 230 and east of State Road 100, approximately four miles southeast of downtown Starke, in Sections 12, 13, and 24, Township 7 South, Range 22 East, Bradford County, and Sections 6, 7, 18, and 19, Township 7 South, Range 23 East, Clay County, Florida.

Directions to the site are as follows: From US 301 in Starke, take SR 230 east approximately 5.5 miles to Kingsley Road; take Kingsley approximately 0.4 mile east to the first right; take that road approximately 2.3 miles to the applicant’s facility to gain access to the project site.

Latitude 29.883858°
Longitude -82.051777°

Basic: To mine mineral sands
Overall: To mine mineral sands from identified deposits in the vicinity of the applicant’s existing Trail Ridge processing facilities

EXISTING CONDITIONS: The proposed mine site totals approximately 2884.4 acres. The majority of the proposed project area has historically been managed for silviculture and as such is in various stages of pine growth. Unpaved, graded roads cross the proposed project area to provide access for silviculture operations. Wetlands and ditches occur throughout the proposed project area, and portions of the wetlands have been subject to timber harvesting and replanted with pine for silviculture.

More specifically, the predominant existing land use is coniferous plantations (FLUCCS 441), covering 1216.91 acres. Additional upland land uses include 44.94 acres of dirt roads (8146), 117.06 acres of formerly mined lands/extractive (117.06), and xeric oak (28.16). and 27.10 acres of CR 228 (8144). Onsite wetlands and surface waters include 480.76 acres of wetland pine plantation (441W), 816.37 acres of various forested wetlands (611, 613, 621, and 630), 121.61 acres of shrub and herbaceous wetlands (631 and 641), and 47.67 acre of ditches and lakes (510d, 523, and 534).

The area surrounding the project area consists of the applicant’s mining and processing facilities to the north, additional pine plantations to the west and south, and Camp Blanding Joint Training Center to the east. Keystone Heights Airport is located one mile south of the project’s southern limit.

The project site also overlaps or is in the vicinity of several public and private parcels of conservation lands, as shown in the attached drawings.

PROPOSED WORK: The applicant seeks authorization to impact 740.45 acres of aquatic resources, including 710.59 acres of wetland impacts and 29.86 acres of impacts to ditches and other surface waters. The wetland impacts include 227.53 acres of impacts to wetland pine plantation areas. The attached site plans show the work as currently proposed.

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 states that there are no alternative sites that have the necessary mineral deposits that are not already active mines themselves. Onsite, the applicant states that the proposed mining area is necessary to provide an economically viable project.

The applicant states that the proposed mine plan avoids higher-quality onsite wetlands, and preserves flow ways that drain offsite to the Santa Fe River. The applicant proposes to implement best management practices to minimize impacts to avoided and offsite wetlands, including a perimeter berm around the active mining areas and use of existing culverted wetland crossings.

COMPENSATORY MITIGATION – The applicant has offered the following compensatory mitigation plan to offset unavoidable functional loss to the aquatic environment: The applicant states that the proposed impacts will result in a loss of 347.58 wetland functional units (using UMAM). To offset this loss the applicant proposes permittee-responsible onsite and offsite mitigation, specifically, the re-establishment of 710.59 acres of wetlands onsite in conjunction with reclamation as required by the state of Florida, the enhancement of 136.49 acres of onsite, avoided wetlands, and 65.54 acres of re-establishment of offsite wetlands at the applicant’s Florida Mine/Trail Ridge Mine, in conjunction with reclamation as required by the state of Florida. The offsite wetlands are not part of the mitigation for any Corps permits. The applicant states that the proposed mitigation provides 348.14 units of functional gain. A summary of the applicant’s compensatory mitigation plan, including the 12 components required by the 2008 Compensatory Mitigation Rule, is attached.

CULTURAL RESOURCES: The applicant provided a copy of a June 26, 2019 letter from the State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO) (DHR File No. 2018-0132-B), stating that the SHPO concurred with a determination that the proposed project will have no effect on cultural resources listed, or eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places, or otherwise of archaeological, historical, or architectural significance within the study area. The Corps notes that the referenced review did not constitute a review under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act.

Therefore, 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 project area has suitable habitat for the wood stork (Mycteria americana), Florida scrub jay, and the eastern indigo snake (Drymarchon corais couperi). Camp Blanding, to the east, has documented occurrences of scrub jays, and multiple populations of red-cockaded woodpeckers (Picoides borealis) (RCW). The Santa Fe River downstream of the project area supports populations of the Suwannee moccasinshell (Medionidus walker) and oval pigtoe (Pleurobema pyriforme) freshwater mussels, and critical habitat for the oval pigtoe.

The furthest upstream extent of the oval pigtoe critical habitat, which overlaps with a unit of the proposed critical habitat for the Suwannee moccasinshell, is greater than eight miles downstream of the project site. The Corps notes that the primary headwaters for the Santa Fe River are Lake Santa Fe and the Santa Fe Swamp, and that the applicant’s proposed mine plan avoids the larger wetland flow ways on the project site. Based on available information, the Corps has determined that the proposed project would have no effect on the oval pigtoe and its critical habitat, or on the Suwannee moccasinshell.

The project is outside of the core foraging area of any wood stork colonies, and the applicant states that no wood storks have been observed foraging onsite. Using the September 2008 effect determination key for the wood stork in central and north peninsular Florida (A-B-C-D), the Corps has determined the proposed project may affect but is not likely to adversely affect the wood stork; no further coordination is necessary.

The applicant conducted informal scrub jay surveys in October 2012, and documented no individual birds or calls. The applicant states that the onsite habitat is not optimal. Based on the information provided, the Corps has determined that the project may affect but is not likely to adversely affect the scrub jay.

The project area does not have suitable nesting habitat for RCWs. The applicant conducted informal foraging area surveys in November 2012 and documented no birds or calls. Based on the information provided, the Corps has determined that the project may affect but is not likely to adversely affect the RCW.

Based on ground surveys, the applicant estimates that the site has approximately 122 gopher tortoise burrows, as well as areas of xeric habitat (scrub, sandhill or scrubby flatwoods). The applicant has agreed to the use of the standard protection measures for the eastern indigo snake. Using the January 25, 2010 effect determination key for the eastern indigo snake, as updated August 13, 2013 (A-B-C-D), the Corps has determined that the proposal may affect the eastern indigo snake.

By separate letter, the Corps will request U.S. Fish and Wildlife (USFWS) concurrence with the determinations for the scrub jay and RCW, and request initiation of formal consultation for the eastern indigo snake, pursuant to Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act by separate letter.

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 inland freshwater wetlands. Our initial determination is that the proposed action would not have a substantial adverse impact on EFH or Federally managed fisheries. 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. Corps personnel verified the jurisdictional line with a Preliminary Jurisdictional Determination dated May 17, 2019.

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 Mining Team, 10117 Princess Palm Avenue, Suite 120, Tampa, FL 33610 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 Fellows, in writing at the Mining Team, 10117 Princess Palm Avenue, Suite 120, Tampa, FL 33610; by electronic mail at; by facsimile transmission at (813)769-7061; or, by telephone at (813)769-7070.

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.