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: St. Johns County School District
Attn: Mr. Paul Rose
40 Orange Street
St. Augustine, Florida 32084
WATERWAY AND LOCATION: The project would affect waters of the United States associated with Mill Creek. The project is located at 5750 State Road 16, in Section 38, Township 6 South, Range 28 East, St. Augustine, St. Johns County, Florida.
Directions to the site are as follows: From Interstate-95 take Exit 323 and head west on International Golf Parkway. Proceed for approximately 2 miles and the project site is on the right side of International Golf Parkway, just before the Mills Creek Elementary School.
APPROXIMATE CENTRAL COORDINATES: Latitude 29.968967°
Basic: The basic project purpose is institutional development.
Overall: The overall project purpose is the construction of a high school to serve the geographical area of west central St. Johns County.
EXISTING CONDITIONS: The 70.06-acre property contains land use/land cover types communities were classified using the Florida Department of Transportation, Florida Land Use, Cover and Forms Classification System (FLUCFCS, 1999).
a. Improved Pasture (FLUCFCS 211) 58.96 acres – The majority of the site has been used for agricultural purposes since approximately 1960. Review of aerial imagery indicates that the site has been used to grow row crops and as cattle pasture at various intervals over time. The site is currently planted with pasture grasses, predominantly bahia grass (Paspalum notatum), with inclusions of tropical soda apple (Solanum viarum), dog fennel (Euparotium capillifolium), and yellow thistle (Cirsium horridulum).
b. Live Oak (FLUCFCS 427) 2.2 acres – Forested uplands between the pasture and adjacent wetland system are dominated by a canopy of live oak (Quercus virginiana) with inclusions of sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua), loblolly pine (Pinus taeda), laurel oak (Quercus laurifolia), and Chinese tallow (Triadica sebifera). This area is heavily grazed by cattle. Remnant groundcover vegetation includes bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum), blackberry (Rubus spp.), and dog fennel.
c. Streams and Waterways (FLUCFCS 510) 0.92-acre – A series of ditches were constructed when the property was converted to agricultural use. These ditches have been maintained to facilitate drainage. Vegetation within these ditches includes bahia grass, soft rush (Juncus effusus), torpedo grass (Panicum repens), alligator weed (Alternanthera philoxeroides), and maidencane (Panicum hemitomon).
d. Lakes less than 10 acres (FLUCFCS 524) 0.23-acre – A open-water feature is located in the northern corner of the property within the wetlands. This feature is man-made. Littoral vegetation includes soft rush and torpedo grass.
e. Reservoirs less than 10 acres (FLUCFCS 534) 1.34 acres – A previously permitted stormwater management facility is located in the southern corner of the project area. This pond was constructed pursuant to SJRWMD Permit No. 21489-10 in 2006.
f. Wetland Forested Mixed (FLUCFCS 630) 6.41 acres – The northwestern portion of the property is bounded by Mill Creek. Forested wetlands associated with the Mill Creek floodplain extend into the property and are dominated by a canopy of bald cypress (Taxodium distichum), tupelo (Nyssa biflora), loblolly pine (Pinus taeda), sweetgum, red maple (Acer rubrum), water oak (Quercus nigra), Chinese tallow, and laurel oak. The groundcover vegetation has been impacted by cattle grazing. Remnant groundcover species include netted chainfern (Woodwardia areolata), beakrush (Rhynchospora spp.), smartweed (Polygonum spp.), maidencane, shield fern (Dryopteris floridana), and soft rush.
PROPOSED WORK: The applicant seeks authorization to discharge fill material into 1.12 acres of freshwater-forested wetlands and 0.92-acre of ditches to facilitate the construction of a high school, athletic facilities, parking, stormwater management ponds and associated infrastructure.
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 proposed project avoids and minimizes wetland impacts to the most practicable extent. Only minor wetland impacts will result from the proposed project in order to construct the surface water management system. All other alternative sites would require additional wetland impacts or are not available for purchase. The proposed impacts are to the upper reach of the wetlands associated with Mill Creek. The proposed plan avoids impacts to the channelized portion of the creek and wetland areas immediately adjacent to the primary channel. The wetlands proposed for impact have been degraded by years of cattle grazing, eliminated the majority of groundcover species and adversely impacting the water quality within the system.”
COMPENSATORY MITIGATION – The applicant has offered the following compensatory mitigation plan to offset unavoidable functional loss to the aquatic environment:
“The proposed project will incur 1.12-acres± of direct wetland impacts that require mitigation. Impacts to drainage conveyances (ditches) within the pasture will not be mitigated. Mitigation will be accomplished through the purchase of 0.68 UMAM credits from an in-basin mitigation bank. The name of the mitigation bank will be provided upon selection of the mitigation provider.”
The Corps is aware of historic property/properties within or in close proximity of the permit area. The Corps will request 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 letter.
The Corps has determined the proposal would have no effect on any 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 not have a substantial adverse impact on EFH or Federally managed fisheries in the St. Johns River. 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 not 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 Jacksonville Permits Section, Post Office Box 4970, Jacksonville, Florida 32232 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, Brad Carey, in writing at the Jacksonville Permits Section, Post Office Box 4970, Jacksonville, Florida 32232; by electronic mail at email@example.com; or, by telephone at (904) 232-2405.
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.