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: EastGroup Properties, LP
Attn: Mr. Ben Rogers
400 W. Parkway Place, Suite 100
Ridgeland, Mississippi, 39157
WATERWAY AND LOCATION: The ±121 acre Horizon West Commercial Park project would affect waters of the United States associated with the Kissimmee hydrologic subbasin. This site is located on the east/northeast side of the Sinclair Road and N. Old Lake Wilson Road intersection; within Section 23; Township 25 South; Range 27 East; in Kissimmee, Osceola County, Florida.
Directions to the site are as follows: From the Cocoa Permits Section, proceed west on FL-528 to Interstate 4. Take I-4 west to SR 429. Take SR 429 north to Sinclair Road. Take Sinclair Road east to N. Old Lake Wilson Road and the project will be on the east side of N. Old Lake Wilson Road.
APPROXIMATE CENTRAL COORDINATES:
Basic: Commercial industrial park
Overall: Construction of a commercial industrial park with the Osceola County Horizons West Sector Plan.
EXISTING CONDITIONS: On-site land use types/vegetative communities were identified utilizing the Florida Land Use, Cover and Forms Classification System, Level III (FLUCCS, FDOT, 1999). The on-site upland land use types/vegetative communities include:
411 Coniferous Plantations
The majority of the site is most consistent with the Coniferous Plantations (411) FLUCFCS classification. The vegetative species identified within this community consists of slash pine (Pinus elliotti), black cherry (Prunus serotina), citrus (Citrus sp.), persimmion (Diospyros virginiana), laurel oak (Quercus laurifolia), live oak (Quercus virginiana), cabbage palm (Sabal palmetto), passion flower (Passiflora incarnata), pricklypear (Opuntia humifusa), fingergrass (Eustachys perraea), guineagrass (Urochloa maxima), caesarweed (Urena lobata), cogongrass (Imperata cylindrica), skyblue lupine (Lupinus diffusus), ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia), winged sumac (Rhus copallinum), dog fennel (Eupatorium capillifolium), greenbrier (Smilax sp.), muscadine grapevine (Vitis rotundifolia), and beautyberrry (Callicarpa americana).
740 Disturbed Lands
The southeastern quarter and the far southwestern corner of the property are best described as Disturbed Lands (740). There is a large spoil pile located in the southeastern corner of the property. Vegetatively this community type is comprised of Bahia grass (Paspalum notatum), guineagrass (Urochloa maxima), cogongrass (Imperata cylindrica), air potato (Dioscorea bulbifera), beautyberry (Callicarpa americana), muscadine grapevine (Vitis rotundifolia), dog fennel (Eupatorium capillifolium), Brazilian pepper (Schinus terebinthifolia), Chinaberry (Melia axedarach), cabbage palm (Sabal palmetto), saltbush (Atriplex pentandra), rose natalgrass (Melinis repens), and Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia).
832 Electrical Power Transmission Lines
The center of the site has a road and power transmission lines that lead to a power station immediately east of the subject parcel. This area is classified as Electrical Power Transmission Lines (832). Vegetation includes cogongrass (Imperata cylindrica), elderberry (Sambucus nigra), bahia grass (Paspalum notatum), rose natalgrass (Melinis repens) and Carolina willow (Salix caroliniana).
The property has one (1) small pond that is best classified as Reservoirs (530) on the southern boundary. The pond is predominantly open water, but vegetation within the ponds includes cattail (Typha sp.), duckweed (Landoltia punctata), sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua), maidencane (Panicum hemitomon), torpedo (Panicum repens), spatterdock (Nuphar advena), cabbage palm (Sabal palmetto), water oak (Quercus nigra), and wax myrtle (Morella cerifera).
615 Streams and Lakes Swamps
The property has two (2) areas that are best classified as Streams and Lake Swamps (615). Vegetation within these two system include swamp bay (Persea palustris), water oak (Quercus nigra), cabbage palm (Sabal palmetto), pond pine (Pinus serotina), sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua), dahoon holly (Ilex cassine), saw palmetto (Serenoa repens), Virginia chain fern(Woodwardia virginica), air potato (Dioscorea bulbifera), red maple (Acer rubrum), muscadine grapevine (Vitis rotundifolia), and old world climbing fern (Lygodium microphyllum).
641 Freshwater Marshes
The northern portion of the site contains a Freshwater Marsh (641). Vegetation within this system includes maidencane (Panicum hemitomon), muscadine grapevine (Vitis rotundifolia), buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis), beautyberrry (Callicarpa americana), way myrtle (Morella cerifera), red maple (Acer rubrum), arrowhead (Saggittaria latifolia), Carolina redroot (Lachnanthes caroliana), slash pine (Pinus elliotti), dotted smartweed (Persicaria punctata), softrush (Juncus effusus), Carolina willow (Salix caroliniana), and Peruvian primrosewillow (Ludwigia peruviana).
PROPOSED WORK: The applicant seeks the authorization of fill in 7.09 acres of waters of the United States for commercial development on the ± 121 acre Horizon West Commercial Park
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:
“From a planning perspective of the surrounding areas, those lands to the immediate south and west are predominantly residential development; those to the north are associated with an old golf course; and those to the east are associated with the Diversified C&D Landfill, wetlands contiguous with Reedy Creek and Interstate 4.
Current and historic aerials reviewed for the general vicinity of the proposed Horizon West Commercial Park project site show the majority of the land area as agricultural lands, much as it has been dating back to the 1940’s. From the late 1940’s to the mid-1950’s the property appears to have been utilized as improved pasture. Sometime in the mid- to late-1950’s, the property was converted to citrus grove; with the exception of a small portion of the central-eastern uplands that would later be associated with the Diversified C&D Landfill. The property was utilized as citrus grove through the late 1980’s when the citrus was most likely killed off by the freezes of 1984 and 1988. It should also be noted that it appears the operation of the landfill had started by the mid-1980’s. Sometime in the mid- to late-1990’s the property was cleared and converted to the currently utilization of a pine plantation. Also, you begin to see the beginnings of residential development in the area. By the mid-2000’s it appears that the landfill had ceased operations. No real changes to the property have occurred since its conversion to pine plantation. The majority of the residential development to the south and southeast appears to have been constructed around 2015.
In an effort to bring higher quality commercial development to this area of Osceola County, the County has expressed support of development along this portion of N. Old Lake Wilson Road. As such, the proposed Horizon West Commercial Park project site is the best candidate site for the type of development. This notion is based on the site’s location, current zoning, future land uses, presence of utilities, current ownership, and minimized impacts to higher quality on-site wetlands/surface waters.”
COMPENSATORY MITIGATION: The applicant has offered the following compensatory mitigation plan to offset unavoidable functional loss to the aquatic environment:
“Mitigation to offset the functional losses incurred via the project’s 7.09 acres of direct wetland impact will consist of the purchase of mitigation credits from Reedy Creek Mitigation Bank. As detailed in the attached M-WRAP, the above described 7.09 acres of direct wetland impact account for a total of 4.81 units of functional loss (FL). In order to offset these losses, a total of 4.81 federal mitigation bank credits (M-WRAP) are to be purchased from the RCMB.”
The applicant provided the Corps with a cultural resources assessment survey (CRAS) to identify and evaluate cultural resources within the proposed permit area. After review, the Corps will make an effect determination and initiate 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.
ENDANGERED SPECIES: The Corps has completed preliminary federally listed species affect determinations which include the following:
The Corps has determined the proposed project “may affect” the Eastern Indigo Snake. Based on the South Florida Ecological Services Eastern Indigo Snake Effect Determination Key (dated August 1, 2017, revise July 2017), the Corps determination sequence is as follows: A (The project is not located in open water or salt marsh.) > B (The permit will be conditioned for use of the Service’s standard Protection Measures for the Eastern Indigo snake during site preparation and construction) > C (The project will impact 25 acres or more of eastern indigo snake habitat) = May Affect. The Corps will initiate formal consultation with FWS.
The Corps has determined the proposed project “may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect” the Wood Stork and its designated critical habitat. The Corps completed an evaluation of the project based upon the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) South Florida Ecological Services Field Offices Programmatic Concurrence for use with the Wood Stork (January 2010). Use of the Key for Wood Stork resulted in the following sequential determination: A (The project is more than 0.47 miles from a colony site.) > B (Project impacts SFH > 0.5 acres) >C (Project impacts to SFH within a Core Foraging Area of a colony site) >d (Project impacts to SFH have been avoided and minimized to the extent practicable, and compensation (Service approved mitigation bank or as provided in accordance with Mitigation Rule 33 CFR Part 332) for unavoidable impacts is proposed in accordance with the CWA section 404 (b)(I) guidelines and habitat compensation replaces the foraging value matching the hydroperiod of the wetlands affected and provides foraging value similar to, or higher than, that of impacted wetlands) = “not likely to adversely affect” for wood storks. The Corps has FWS concurrence for the proposed activities through the use of the aforementioned determination key.
The Corps has determined the proposed project “may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect” sand skink (Neoseps reynoldsi) or blue-tailed mole skink (Eumeces egregious lividus). The project site has suitable habitat with skink soils occurring at elevations above 82 feet. The applicant provided the results of a coverboard survey which followed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Sand and Bluetail Mole Skink Conservation Guidelines (April 4, 2012). Approximately 700 (2’x2’) coverboards were distributed in suitable sand skink habitat (i.e., open sandy areas) found within the property starting on April 3, 2019 and ending on May 5, 2019. No skinks were observed during the survey. The Corps is seeking concurrence on this determination.
Pursuant to interim guidance provided by the USFWS in an email dated November 22, 2019 from the USFWS State Supervisor (subject: Approved distances for consultations involving indigo snakes) the USFWS has identified interim guidance on how to determine when an eastern indigo snake is reasonably certain to occur. The distance assigned for areas south of the frost line is 0.62 miles from a known occurrence location. In this case the closest known occurrence is approximately 6.09 miles from the project site, and therefore falls outside the zone of reasonable occurrence. The Corps will include the requirement to follow the “Standard Protection Measures for the Eastern Indigo Snake” as a special condition of the permit. Pursuant to the interim guidance, no further consultation is required. The Corps is seeking concurrence on this determination.
Based on existing habitat types, the Corps preliminarily determined the project will have no effect on: Audubon’s Crested Caracara (Caracara plancus audubonii), Everglades Snail Kite (Rostrhamus sociabilis plumbeus), red-cockaded woodpecker (Leuconotopicus borealis), Florida grasshopper sparrow (Ammodramus savannarum floridanus), and Florida scrub jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens).
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 7.09 acres of freshwater wetlands and surface waters which ultimately discharge to the Kissimmee River. Our initial determination is that the proposed action would not have a substantial adverse impact on downstream 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 (NMFS).
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 will be required from the South Florida Water Management District.
COMMENTS regarding the potential authorization of the work proposed should be submitted in writing to the attention of the District Engineer through the Cocoa Permits Section, 400 High Point Drive, Suite 600, Cocoa, Florida 32926, 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, Brandon J. Conroy, in writing at the Cocoa Permits Section (address above), by electronic mail at email@example.com or by telephone at (321) 504-3771 x11.
IMPACT ON NATURAL RESOURCES: Coordination with FWS, EPA, the NMFS, 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 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.
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.