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) and Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 (33 U.S.C. §403) as described below:
APPLICANT: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
Attn.: Katherine Burke
620 South Meridian Street
Tallahassee, Florida 32399
WATERWAY AND LOCATION: The project would affect waters of the United States associated within Lake Okeechobee, Okeechobee County, Florida 33328.
Directions to the site are as follows: From Okeechobee, FL take US 441 south for 3.3 miles. Turn right onto FL-78 west for 4.9 miles. Turn left onto Bream Avenue. Continue straight onto Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail. Follow Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail for 2.5 miles. Destination is on left approximately 2 miles into Lake Okeechobee.
APPROXIMATE CENTRAL COORDINATES:
Basic: The basic project purpose is ecological restoration.
Overall: The overall project purpose is ecological restoration in Lake Okeechobee, Okeechobee County, Florida.
EXISTING CONDITIONS: The project site is along a spoil berm adjacent to where Pearce Canal meets Lake Okeechobee, which is adjacent to marsh wetland habitat as well as shallow freshwater habitat containing tape grass (Vallisneria spiralis) beds.
PROPOSED WORK: The proposed project is to remove 1.1 miles of the side cast spoil berm consisting of approximately 28,000 cubic yards of mineral soil material (rock, shell, and sand). The material will be removed to base elevation of the natural lake bottom. Approximately 14,850 cubic yards of the excavated material will be used to construct a proposed shorebird nesting island within open waters. The proposed shorebird nesting island will be approximately 1.5 acres at a base elevation. The remaining material excavated from the spoil berm removal, approximately 13,150 cubic yards, will be transported to the existing upland spoil area located at Yankee Point.
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:
• Only clean fill materials will be used
• Erosion control measures will be used during construction
• Removal of the berm will re-establish natural hydrology
• Fill material will be used to create shorebird nesting habitat
• Fill material not used for the shorebird nesting island will be placed in an upland location
• Adherence to the Eastern Indigo Snake and Manatee Construction Conditions during work activities
COMPENSATORY MITIGATION –
The applicant has not proposed mitigation since the project will not result in a loss of aquatic resources.
The Corps is not aware of any known historic properties within the permit area. 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 if applicable, those federally recognized tribes with concerns in Florida and the Permit Area.
The Corps has determined the proposed project may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect the Everglade snail kite (Rostrhamus sociabilis plumbeus) and designate critical habitat, Florida bonneted bat (Eumops floridanus), eastern indigo snake (Drymarchon couperi), West Indian Manatee (Trichechus manatus), and wood stork (Mycteria americana); and will have no effect on the Florida grasshopper sparrow (Ammodramus savannarum floridanus) and Audubon's Crested Caracara (Caracara plancus audubonii). The Corps will request concurrence with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife pursuant to Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act:
May affect, not likely to adversely affect:
Everglade snail kite (Rostrhamus sociabilis plumbeus): The project is located within the species consultation area, designated critical habitat, and priority management zone. The project proposed is to impact 1.5 acres of foraging habitat for the snail kite consisting of shallow, open waters for the proposed shorebird island. Additionally, the project will result in the removal of a man-made berm, which would re-establish the area’s natural hydrology and create marsh habitat. Temporary construction activities may disturb snail kites, if present in the area. Nesting potential is not likely in this area, as while nesting habitat includes herbaceous vegetation such as sawgrass, cattail, giant bulrush, and reed, the berm is high in elevation then the adjacent marsh. Additionally, no nests have been observed or documented on the berm at this time.
Florida bonneted bat (Eumops floridanus): The action area is located within the Florida bonneted bat consultation area. Using the 2019 Consultation key for the Florida bonneted bat, the following pathway results in 1a., 2b., 13a., 14b.; may affect, not likely to adversely affect with programmatic concurrence.
Wood stork (Mycteria americana): The action area is located within 12.71 miles of one wood stork nesting colony according to the google earth RAR layers. The site includes temporary periods of ponding which would provide wood stork foraging habitat. Using the 2010 Wood Stork Key, the following pathway results in A, B, C, E; not likely to adversely affect.
Eastern indigo snake (Drymarchon couperi): Use of The Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s Indigo Snake Key dated 1 August 2017 resulted in a path of A-B-C-D-E, not likely to adversely affect. A determination of “not likely to adversely affect” was made for the Indigo snake includes the special conditions for the Eastern Indigo Snake Protection Measures during construction and the permit will be conditioned such that all gopher tortoise burrows, active or inactive, shall be evacuated via methods pursuant to FWC excavation guidance prior to site manipulation in the vicinity of the burrows. Additionally, holes, cavities, and snake refugia other than gopher tortoise burrows shall be inspected each morning before planned site manipulation of a particular area with work stopping if an indigo snake is discovered. With an outcome of “not likely to adversely affect (NLAA)” as outlined in the key, the requirements of Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act are fulfilled for the eastern indigo snake and no further action is required.
West Indian Manatee (Trichechus manatus): Since the proposal by the applicant is for in-water construction, potential impacts to the threatened West Indian manatee were evaluated using The Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District, and the State of Florida Effect Determination Key for the Manatee in Florida, April 2013 and associated 2019 Addendum (Key). Use of this Key produced the sequential determination A-B-C-G-N-O-P-Paragraph 5 - may affect, not likely to adversely affect (MANLAA). This determination is based on the applicant implementing the “Standard Manatee Conditions for In-Water Work, 2011.” The project is not located within manatee designated critical habitat, important manatee areas, or warm water aggregation areas.
Florida grasshopper sparrow (Ammodramus savannarum floridanus): The project is located within the species consultation area. Habitat for the Florida grasshopper sparrow has been described as dry prairie that is relatively open and low in stature. The habitat consists of treeless, relatively poorly-drained grasslands that have a history of frequent fires. The prairie vegetative community is typically dominated by saw palmetto and dwarf oaks. The project is located in open water and not in any of the above types of habitats, therefore the Corps has determined that the project will have no effect on the species
Audubon's Crested Caracara (Caracara plancus audubonii): The project is located within the species consultation area. The project is in open water does not include the species nesting or foraging habitat which consists of large expanses of pastures, grasslands, or prairies dotted with numerous shallow ponds and sloughs and single or small clumps of live oaks, cabbage palms, and cypress, therefore the Corps has determined that the project will have no effect on the species.
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 is located within Lake Okeechobee. Our 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.
EFFECTS ON CORPS CIVIL WORKS PROJECTS: Pursuant to Section 14 of the Rivers and Harbors Act (33 USC 408), the Corps’ Regulatory Division will coordinate with the Corps’ Engineering Division to determine whether or not the proposed project will impact a Corps’ Civil Works project, and whether or not 408 approval is required.
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 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, Christian Karvounis, in writing at the Palm Beach Gardens Permits Section, 4400 PGA Boulevard, Suite 500, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida 33410; by electronic mail at Christian.G.Karvounis@usace.army.mil; or, by telephone at (561)-472-3508.
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.