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SAJ-2019-03555 (SP-BJC)

Published July 16, 2020
Expiration date: 8/7/2020

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. Rick 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 is located near 560 Cheswick Oak Avenue, in Sections 9 and 10, Township 4 South, Range 25 East, Orange Park, Clay
County, Florida.

Directions to the site are as follows: From Interstate-95 take Exit 337 and head west. Proceed until Exit 12 and turn left onto Blanding Boulevard. Proceed south until the intersection of Argyle Boulevard and turn right. Proceed until the intersection of Cheswick Oak Avenue and turn left. The project site is at the very end of this roadway.

APPROXIMATE CENTRAL COORDINATES:  Latitude 30.164835°
                                                                          Longitude -81.798291°

PROJECT PURPOSE:

Basic: The basic project purpose is residential development.

Overall: The overall project purpose is residential development in Northeast Clay County, Florida.

EXISTING CONDITIONS: The 220.23-acre property includes 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) as described below.

A. Uplands 52.90 acres East Phase and 68.27 acres West Phase

1. Pine Flatwoods (FLUCFCS 411) 34.91 acres East Phase and 38.63 acres West Phase - Many of the uplands comprise pine flatwoods. The current property owner has recently timbered these areas and has harvested most of the merchantable trees. The existing canopy comprises 3 scattered slash pine (Pinus elliottii) and loblolly pine (P. taeda) mixed with various hardwoods such as water oak (Quercus nigra), laurel oak (Q. laurifolia), live oak (Q. virginiana), sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua), and southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora). The ground cover vegetation is dominated by such species as saw palmetto (Serenoa repens), bitter gallberry (Ilex glabra), and bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum).

2. Improved Pasture (FLUCFCS 211) 5.64 acres East Phase and 24.02 acres West Phase - Many of the uplands comprise improved pasture. The dominant vegetation is centipede grass (Eremochloa ophiuroides) and bahia grass (Paspalum notatum) mixed with varying amounts of early successional weeds such as dogfennel (Eupatorium sp.), smut grass (Sporobolus indicus) and frogfruit (Phyla nodiflora).

3. Agricultural Land (FLUCFCS 210) 0.14 acre East Phase and 0.78 acre West Phase - The western phase contains a building which has been used as an office and temporary cabin for the current property owners. This land use includes a driveway and parking area and yard around the building.

4. Hardwood – Conifer Mixed (FLUCFCS 434) 12.21 acres East Phase - The east phase contains two areas of upland forest with a canopy dominated by various hardwoods such as live oak, laurel oak, sweetgum, and red maple (Acer rubrum) mixed with lesser amounts of loblolly pine. The understory and ground cover vegetation include such species as staggerbush (Lyonia ferruginea), tree sparkleberry (Vaccinium arboreum), beauty berry (Callicarpa americana), spikegrass (Chasmanthium sessiliflorum), and bracken fern.

5. Temperate Hardwoods (FLUCFCS 425) 4.84 acres West Phase - The west phase contains an area of hardwood forest that is comprised mostly of live oaks. Cattle frequently use this area for shade. Understory and ground cover vegetation include such species as greenbriar (Smilax spp.) and muscadine grape (Vitis rotundifolia).

6. Transmission Line (FLUCFC 832) - A cleared transmission line easement extends in a north/south direction between the east phase and west phase. An unpaved road parallels the transmission line.

B. Wetlands and Other Surface Waters 38.08 acres East Phase and 60.98 acres West Phase

1. Inland Ponds and Sloughs (FLUCFCS 616) 20.17 acres East Phase and 17.43 acres West Phase - The deeper wetlands in both phases may be characterized as inland ponds and sloughs. The “ponds” are depressional areas that hold shallow standing water during the rainy season. The “sloughs” are contiguous strands that form part of the headwaters of Little Black Creek. Portions of the sloughs are periodically inundated when the adjacent creek channels overflow. The upper edges of the sloughs are seepage slopes that are regularly saturated to the ground surface. The canopy in these areas includes such species as pond cypress (Taxodium ascendens), myrtle leaf holly (Ilex myrtifolia), blackgum (Nyssa sylvatica), red maple, American elm (Ulmus americana), laurel oak, and sweetgum. Certain areas contain large amounts of Chinese tallow (Triadica sebifera). The understory and ground cover vegetation includes such species as Virginia chain fern (Woodwardia virginica), netted chain fern (W. areolata), sedges (Carex spp. and Cyperus spp.), sphagnum moss (Sphagnum sp.), and various wet grasses (Panicum spp.). The eastern end of the east phase contains an area of hydric hardwood hammock. The canopy in this area is dominated by such species as laurel oak, water oak, sweetgum, American holly (Ilex opaca), American elm, musclewood (Carpinus caroliniana), and swamp chestnut oak (Quercus michauxii). The understory and ground cover vegetation include such species as dwarf bluestem (Sabal minor), pipestem (Agarista populifolia), and spikegrass. This area has a layer of clay beginning at the ground surface which keeps the seasonal high water table elevated for extended periods of time.

2. Hydric Pine Flatwoods (FLUCFCS 625) 17.42 acres East Phase and 26.16 acres West Phase - A large percentage of the wetlands in both phases may be characterized as hydric pine flatwoods. The canopy in these areas is dominated by such species as slash pine and loblolly pine mixed with lesser amounts of sweetgum and myrtle leaf holly. The understory and ground cover vegetation is relatively open and is dominated by such species as beakrush (Rhynchospora spp.), various wet grasses, and marsh fleabane (Pluchea sp.). These areas have a seasonal high water table at or near the ground surface during the rainy season.

3. Wet Pasture (FLUCFCS 640) 6.74 acres West Phase - The west phase contains a number of areas of wet pasture. The dominant vegetation in these areas includes such species as carpet grass (Axonopus sp.), torpedo grass (Panicum repens), alligator weed (Alternanthera philoxeroides), soft rush (Juncus effusus), and buttonweed (Diodia viriginiana). Historically, these areas may have comprised hydric pine flatwoods. The seasonal high water table is at or near the ground surface.

4. Borrow Pit (FLUCFCS 534) 9.20 acres West Phase - The west phase contains a man-made borrow pit. The water in this pit is always a very murky brown color and appears to have very poor water quality due to the runoff from the adjacent cow pasture.

5. Ditches (FLUCFCS 510) 0.49 acre East Phase and 1.45 acres West Phase - The east and west phase contains sections of man-made drainage ditches that are intermittently wet during the year.

PROPOSED WORK: The applicant seeks a 10-year authorization to discharge clean-fill material into 8.69 acres of palustrine-forested wetlands and 10.03 acres of other waters of the U.S. to facilitate the construction of single-family residential development 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 development was designed to avoid impacts to the higher quality wetlands except for the minimum impacts needed for road crossings. Impacts to other wetlands are limited primarily to small transitional areas required to achieve the project purpose.”

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 (WRAP). No mitigation was assessed for impacts to sections of upland-cut ditches or to the man-made pond. Mitigation for the proposed impacts will be accomplished through the purchase of WRAP credits from Longleaf 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 (Drymarchon corais couperi). The Corps will use The Eastern Indigo Snake Programmatic Effect Determination Key, August 2013, to make our determination.

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.

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.

COMMENTS AND QUESTIONS concerning this application should be directed to the project manager, Mr. Brad Carey, in writing by electronic mail at brad.j.carey@usace.army.mil; or, by telephone at (904) 232-2405 within 21 days from the date of this notice.

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.