TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN: The Jacksonville District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) proposes to modify and reauthorize Regional General Permit SAJ-92 (RGP) 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:
PROPOSAL: To simplify and expedite the processing of Department of the Army permits, the Jacksonville District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) proposes to modify and reauthorize the RGP. The RGP would authorize activities required for the construction of projects with a Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and/or Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) approved Environmental Document [Categorical Exclusion (CE), Environmental Assessment (EA), Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), or State Environmental Impact Report (SEIR)] including capacity improvements where dredge and fill impacts do not result in the loss of greater than 5.0 acres of non-tidal and limited tidal impacts to waters of the United States (wetlands, surface waters and navigable waters) for any 1-mile segment of roadway length as measured from the beginning of the project, up to a maximum loss of 50 acres of waters of the United States per project. This includes Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise (FTE) projects with an approved state Environmental Document. The RGP would only authorize projects with impacts to tidal waters which meet the limitations of the Project Design Criteria (PDCs) as stated in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District’s Programmatic Biological Opinion (JAXBO). Indirect (secondary) impacts associated with projects authorized under this RGP would be assessed, however, indirect impact acreages would not count toward the impact acreage limits (5.0 acres/1-mile and 50 acres total) within this RGP. The RGP would not authorize construction of a new alignment (non-existing roadway). All projects reviewed for authorization by the proposed permit must be located within the geographic boundaries of FDOT and the FTE.
BACKGROUND: On November 22, 2006, the Corps authorized the RGP for use in non-tidal waters of the U.S., excluding non-tidal wetlands adjacent to tidal waters, within the operation areas of FDOT Districts 2, 3, 5 and the FTE within the same boundaries as FDOT Districts 2, 3, and 5. On August 25, 2008, the geographic scope of the RGP was expanded to include the entire operation areas of the FDOT and FTE, excluding Monroe County. On August 25, 2013 the RGP expired. On April 8, 2015 the RGP was reauthorized and modified to expand its applicability to include linear transportation projects which have been reviewed through FDOT’s Efficient Transportation Decision Making Process (ETDM) and/or a Project Development and Environment (PD&E) Study subsequent to 2010 with a maximum acreage of 50 acres of loss of waters of the U.S. per project.
In addition, the RGP underwent technical revisions to clarify and update several special conditions. The revisions included clarification to allow utilization in non-tidal waters of the U.S. (wetlands and surface waters) for non-capacity and capacity improvement projects. The term “capacity” was redefined as “to express the maximum number of vehicles or persons that can pass a point on a roadway during a given time period under prevailing roadway and traffic conditions”. A capacity improvement project is normally implemented by the addition of through travel lanes. Non-capacity improvement projects may include safety improvements, maintenance, bike lane/sidewalk additions. On September 1, 2015, The RGP was modified to clarify that mitigation for unavoidable impacts to waters of the U.S. must be accomplished by conforming to the provisions of the 2008 Compensatory Mitigation for Losses of Aquatic Resources regulations (33 CFR Part 332) and to make the mitigation hierarchy consistent with 33 CFR Part 332.3(b). The RGP will expire on April 8, 2020.
The term "general permit" means a Department of the Army authorization that is issued on a nationwide or regional (District) basis for a category of activities which are substantially similar in nature and cause only minimal individual and cumulative impacts. General permits are a way to reduce the burden of the regulatory program on the public and ensure timely issuance of permits while effectively administering the laws and regulations which establish and govern the program. General permits are reviewed every five years. In most instances, anyone complying with the conditions of the general permit can receive project specific authorization. Anyone not complying with the conditions of a general permit may still receive authorization via a standard permit, but the application must be individually evaluated and coordinated with third parties, including the Federal and state resource agencies. Review of an application for a standard permit takes additional time to complete.
The Corps is currently a participating member in the Efficient Transportation Decision Making (ETDM) Process. The ETDM Process was developed in Florida in response to Section 1309 of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) and Congress' call to streamline environmental reviews for transportation projects and reduce unnecessary duplication of effort and added costs often associated with the current process for reviewing and approving projects. The overall intent of the ETDM Process is to integrate a balanced consideration of inputs to the sociocultural (human) and the natural environments within the decision-making process, or from another source. ETDM is a new methodology for delivering transportation projects. ETDM links land use, transportation, and environmental resource planning initiatives within a community through very early, interactive, and meaningful involvement of resource agencies and the public. Please go to the following website for detailed information describing the ETDM process: https://etdmpub.fla-etat.org/est/ and click on the ETDM Program Information tab/ Overview.
CULTURAL RESOURCES: Prior to verification for any project under the proposed SAJ-92; the Applicant (FDOT, FTE or others) shall provide the Corps with copies of the concurrence documents from the State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO) and the Tribal Historic Preservation Officers where applicable.
ENDANGERED SPECIES: Effects determinations will be made on a case by case basis for each application evaluated for verification by SAJ-92. In many cases the consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and/ or the National Marine Fisheries Service – Protected Resources Division (NMFS-PRD) will have been completed prior to submittal of an application to the Corps. The Corps will consult with the FWS and/ or NMFS-PRD programmatically or by separate letter on a case by case basis when applicable. The consultation process will be completed prior to any verification by SAJ-92.
ESSENTIAL FISH HABITAT (EFH): Our initial determination is that the proposed action would not have a substantial adverse impact on EFH or federally managed fisheries in the State of Florida. 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 – Habitat Conservation Division (NMFS-HCD). The Corps will consult with the NMFS-HCD by separate letter on a case by case basis when applicable.
AUTHORIZATION FROM OTHER AGENCIES: Water Quality Certification may be required from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and/or a state Water Management District.
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 reauthorize this permit will be based on an evaluation of the possible 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 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.
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 RGP. Any comments received will be considered by the Corps to determine whether to modify and reauthorize SAJ-92. 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.
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.
The RGP is under review for the purpose of reauthorization. Revisions to several special conditions are proposed. A copy of the RGP as proposed for re-authorization is attached.
COMMENTS regarding the proposal should be submitted in writing to the attention of the District Engineer through the North Branch, Panama City Permits Section, 415 Richard Jackson Boulevard, Suite 411, Panama City Beach, Florida, 32407 within 20 days from the date of this notice.
QUESTIONS concerning this proposal should be directed to the project manager, Cynthia Ovdenk, in writing at 415 Richard Jackson Boulevard, Suite 411, Panama City Beach, Florida, 32407; by electronic mail at firstname.lastname@example.org; or, by telephone at (850) 287-2045.