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: The Wood Development Company of Jacksonville
Attn: Mr. James Wood
414 Old Hard Road, Suite 502
Fleming Island, Florida 32003
WATERWAY AND LOCATION: The project would affect waters of the United States associated with Black Creek. The project site is located at 2429 Sandridge Road, in Sections 23, 24, 25, and 26, Township 5 South, Range 25 East, Green Cove Springs, Clay County, Florida.
Directions to the site are as follows: From Interstate-95, take Exit 337 onto Interstate-295. Proceed until Exit 10 and turn left towards Orange Park, Florida. Proceed south on U.S. Highway 17 until the intersection of County Road 209 and turn right. Proceed over the railroad tracks and turn right immediately. Proceed until the intersection of County Road 739B and turn left. Proceed until the intersection of Dairy Lane and turn left onto the project site.
APPROXIMATE CENTRAL COORDINATES: Latitude 30.044260°
Basic: The basic project purpose is residential development.
Overall: The overall project purpose is single-family residential development in geographical area among and between Lake Asbury and Green Cove Springs, Florida city limits.
EXISTING CONDITIONS: The 291.17-acre property includes existing vegetative communities and land uses that have been characterized pursuant to the Florida Department of Transportation publication Florida Land Use, Cover and Forms Classification System (FLUCFCS) and are described below.
A. Uplands 227.05 acres
1. Improved Pasture (FLUCFCS 211) 197.94 acres - The majority of the property comprises improved pasture vegetated primarily with bahia grass (Paspalum notatum). Various other herbaceous species also occur such as Vasey grass (Paspalum. urvillei), dogfennel (Eupatorium sp.), Indian hemp (Sida rhombifolia), and tropical soda apple (Solanum viarum). The pastures are currently being leased for cattle grazing.
2. Dairies (FLUCFCS 252) 4.31 acres - Portions of the property contain the remains of buildings and livestock enclosures that were used for a commercial dairy operation. These buildings are now abandoned and mostly demolished.
3. Residential, Low Density (FLUCFCS 110) 4.03 acres - Portions of the property contain single-family residences that served as housing for employees of the commercial dairy operation and their families.
4. Pine-Mesic Oak (FLUCFCS 414) 20.77 acres - The eastern half of the property contains scattered areas of pine-mesic oak forest. These areas historically comprised pine flatwoods. Some of the flatwoods appear to have been converted to pasture decades ago and subsequently naturally reforested. The canopy in these areas is dominated by loblolly pine (Pinus taeda) and slash pine (Pinus. elliottii) mixed with various hardwoods such as live oak (Quercus virginiana), water oak (Quercus nigra), laurel oak (Quercus laurifolia), southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora), and sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua). The understory and ground cover vegetation varies and includes such species as bitter gallberry (Ilex glabra), saw palmetto (Serenoa repens), beauty berry (Callicarpa americana), pokeweed (Phytolacca americana), muscadine grape (Vitis rotundifolia), greenbriar (Smilax spp.), and bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum).
B. Wetlands 56.62 acres
1. Inland Ponds and Sloughs (FLUCFCS 616) 47.42 acres - The property contains portions of four-forested wetland sloughs. The lowest areas regularly contain shallow standing water during the rainy season. A large percentage of the wetlands comprise seepage slope that has a seasonal high water table at or near the ground surface but normally does not contain standing water. The canopy in the lower areas is dominated by such species as blackgum (Nyssa sylvatica var. biflora), red maple (Acer rubrum), pond cypress (Taxodium ascendens), sweetbay (Magnolia virginiana), and loblolly bay (Gordonia lasianthus). The seepage slope wetlands have a canopy that also includes such species as slash pine, pond pine (Pinus serotina), sweetgum, water oak, and laurel oak. Chinese tallows (Triadica sebifera) are located in areas along the upper edges of the seepage slope adjacent to the improved pastures. Understory and ground cover vegetation in the forested wetlands includes such species as cinnamon fern (Osmunda cinnamomea), netted chain fern (Woodwardia areolata), Virginia chain fern (W. virginica), buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis), fetterbush (Lyonia lucida, waxmyrtle (Morella cerifera), bamboo vine (Smilax laurifolia), and sphagnum moss (Sphagnum sp.).
2. Wet Pasture (FLUCFCS 640) 9.20 acres - Portions of the pasture have a seasonal high water table at or near the ground surface. The vegetation in these areas is highly impacted by cattle grazing and is dominated by early successional species such as torpedo grass (Panicum repens), smartweed (Polygonum sp.), alligator weed (Alternanthera philoxeroides), carpet grass (Axonopus affinis), sedges (Carex spp. and Cyperus spp.), and Asian coinwort (Centella asiatica). Certain areas have almost 100% coverage by an invasive species of grass, brook crowngrass (Paspalum acuminatum).
C. Other Surface Waters 7.50 acres,
1. Borrow Pits (FLUCFCS 740/524) 7.36 acres - The property contains six man-made ponds. The two ponds closest to the main dairy facility were likely used as settling ponds that received manure-enriched runoff. These ponds were periodically dredged out and the sediment spread onto upland portions of the pasture. The other ponds were used for watering livestock and occasionally used as a source of fill dirt for maintaining trail roads. The water quality in all of these ponds is highly degraded due to runoff from the adjacent cow pastures and heavy use by cattle. Three of the ponds (P1, P2 and P5) were excavated entirely in uplands and do not have any direct hydrologic connection to downstream wetlands or other surface waters.
2. Drainage Ditches (FLUCFCS 510) 0.14 acre - The property contains two man-made drainage ditches that were used to drain the pastures.
PROPOSED WORK: The applicant seeks authorization to discharge clean-fill material into 5.48 acres of wet pasteur and 4.83 acres of other waters of the U.S. to facilitate the construction of a 771-lot single-family residential development. The project includes a recreational facility, 20 stormwater retention 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 impacts are to low quality cow pasture.”
COMPENSATORY MITIGATION – The applicant has offered the following compensatory mitigation plan to offset unavoidable functional loss to the aquatic environment:
“The proposed impacts have been evaluated pursuant to the Wetland Rapid Assessment Procedure and the Uniform Mitigation Assessment Methodology. Mitigation for the proposed impacts will be accomplished through the purchase of credits from a local mitigation bank.”
CULTURAL 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 those federally recognized tribes with concerns in Florida and the Permit Area.
ENDANGERED SPECIES: The Corps has determined the proposed project may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect the eastern indigo snake. The Corps utilized The Eastern Indigo Snake Programmatic Effect Determination Key, August 2013. Use of this key resulted in the sequence A-B-C-D-E-may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect, as the applicant has agreed to implement the Standard Protection Measures for the Eastern Indigo Snake, August 12, 2013. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has indicated that they concur with determinations of may affect, not likely to adversely affect based on the key for eastern indigo snakes; and, that no additional consultation is necessary.
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 Black Creek. 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 AND QUESTIONS regarding the potential authorization of the work proposed should be directed to the project manager, Mr. Brad Carey, in writing by electronic mail to firstname.lastname@example.org; or, by telephone at (904) 232-2405.
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.
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.