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 Department of Environmental Protection
Division of Recreation and Parks
Lignumvitae Key Botanical State Park
c/o Janice Duquesnel
77200 Overseas Highway
Islamorada, FL 33036
WATERWAY AND LOCATION: The project would affect waters of the United States associated with the Florida Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. The project site is the Lignumvitae Key Submerged Land Managed Area (LKSLMA) which encompasses 10,000 acres of submerged land surrounding the islands of Lignumvitae Key Botanical State Park, Indian Key Historic State Park and Shell Key Preserve State Park. The LKSLMA covers two management zones, Lignumvitae Key Botanical State Park and Lignumvitae Key Aquatic Preserve and falls within the boundaries of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, Monroe County, Florida.
Directions to the site are as follows: From Miami, drive south on U.S. 1 Overseas Highway to approximately mile marker 77.5, the project site can be accessed from land via Indian Key Fill at 77500 Overseas Highway or from the Lignumvitae Key land-based facility at 77200 Overseas Highway, Islamorada, Monroe County, Florida 33036.
NW corner bayside: 24.905° N -80.73° W
NW corner oceanside: 24.882° N -80.688° W
NE corner bayside: 24.949° N -80.65° W
NE corner oceanside: 24.895° N -80.663° W
SW corner bayside: 24.873° N -80.707° W
SW corner oceanside: 24.873° N -80.69° W
SE corner bayside: 24.905° N -80.652° W
SE corner oceanside: 24.874° N -80.651° W
Basic: The basic project purpose is to restore seagrass beds.
Overall: The overall purpose is to restore topography where impacts to seagrass beds have occur and restore seagrass beds for marine habitat enhancement within LKSLMA, Monroe County, Florida.
EXISTING CONDITIONS: The LKSLMA encompasses 10,000 acres surrounding the islands of Lignumvitae Key Botanical State Park, Indian Key Historic State Park and Shell Key Preserve State Park. Seagrass habitat in LKSLMA consists of 8,400 acres with the remaining 1,600 acres comprised of hardbottom, composite, and unconsolidated habitats (Florida Department of Environmental Protection 2012). LKSLMA covers two management zones, Lignumvitae Key Botanical State Park and Lignumvitae Key Aquatic Preserve and both zones fall within the boundaries of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (FKNMS), Monroe County, Florida. LKSLMA is Managed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Recreation and Parks. Seagrass species found in LKSLMA include turtle grass (Thalassia testudinum), manatee grass (Syringodium filiforme), shoal grass (Halodule wrightii). Coral species idendified within the LKSLMA include, finger coral (Porites spp.), rose coral (Manicina areolata), ivory bush coral (Oculina diffusa) and other stony corals. Other species identified utilizing the areas include, lobster (Panulirus argus), shrimp (Penaeus duorarum), stone crab (Menippe mercenaria), bonefish (Albula vulpes), tarpon (Megalops atlanticus), loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta), green turtle (Chelonia mydas), Atlantic bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncantus) and West Indian manatee (Trichechus manatus). Shallow seagrass beds in LKSLMA are delineated by “No Motor Zone” signs which mark areas of the seagrass flats that are off limits to motorized vessels; however, grounding events still occur. Within LKSLMA, all seagrass flats that are four feet in depth or less at mean high water are closed to combustion engines. Mooring buoys are maintained in areas that are heavily used as anchorage areas to prevent damage to the seagrass beds. Additionally, two boating safety zones exist near in the channels near the fills and are designated as “Slow Speed Minimum Wake Areas”. Restoration of the seagrass habitat is necessary to prevent further deterioration of the submerged communities in LKSLMA. Temporary short-term presence of bird stakes on restoration site are used to encourages birds to roost on the stakes and when they defecate into the water, a spike of nutrients results (Kenworthy et al. 2000). The nutrients enhance the natural expansion of shoal grass (Halodule wrightii) which is the pioneer seagrass species, and which responds favorably to this short-term increase in nutrients. This also aids in the stabilization of the seagrass beds for the establishment of turtle grass (Thalassia testudinum), the climax species. Since 2005, there are fifty seagrass restoration projects, forty of which have achieved the restoration goal of 50% seagrass cover. This is an 80% success rate. In addition to seagrass recruitment, macroalgae and coral species have been documented including Porites spp., Manicina areolata, and Favia fragum.
PROPOSED WORK: The applicant seeks authorization for a 20-year permit to continue conducting seagrass restoration work within the 10,000 acres of shallow seagrass habitat areas of the LKSLMA, specifically to:
Conduct topographic restoration by placing a maximum of 800 cubic yards, per year, of clean fill material in the form of native limerock-0.25” pea gravel mixed with Limerock screening.
To temporally install a maximum of 650 bird stakes within the LKSLMA. The bird stakes will be constructed either 6' in length or 10' in length depending upon the restoration site. These stakes will be 4” diameter PVC pipe with a 2”x 4” wood block and will be installed approximately 10" above mean high line (MHWL). Bird stakes will be removed when the seagrass cover reaches a density of at least 50% or if the conditions indicate that the presence of the bird stakes has created a bloom of undesirable algae causing detrimental impact to the restored site and/or the surrounding seagrass flat.
To install Shoal grass planting units. Planting units will consist of individual plugs or a grouping of plugs with a minimum of four short shoots and two apical meristems. Planting units will be attached to sod staples with a biodegradable twist tie and installed by hand. They will be installed 0.5 meters from bird stakes between April 1 and June 30 to maximize the chance for survival.
To replace and expand the existing one hundred (100) 4” diameter, single PVC piles signs with two hundred and thirty (230) 3” diameter double PVC piles within LKSLMA. Navigation is controlled within the existing management authority of the park and the aids to navigation (ATON). The park will continue to maintain and replace any damaged signs and buoys.
Annual monitoring will be conducted until the desired goal of 50% seagrass cover is achieved and will include photo documentation and Braun-Blanquet coverage abundance and density values of seagrass species, coral species, and macroalgal species. All monitoring reports will be submitted to the FDEP District Office in Hobe Sound, Florida, the South Florida Water Management District, the Army Corp of Engineers, and the funding source or sources.
Prior to the start of construction, turbidity barriers would be deployed and would remain in place until all construction induced turbidity has subsided and water clarity has returned to preconstruction conditions. Work is in U.S. navigable waters in accordance with the enclosed site plans and supplemental information (16 pages).
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 fill material will be mixed and rinsed off site, on an upland area, to minimize turbidity generated during discharge. To prevent disturbance to the surrounding, undamaged seagrass bed, the contractor will load the fill material onto a small barge with a moveable containment unit that allows for control during installation of the fill. A crew member will remain in the water directing the flow of the fill material to ensure that the entire fill is placed in the injury feature and not in the adjacent seagrass flat. Fill material will only be placed on bare substrate where no, hardbottom, corals or vegetative recruitment has occurred. If hardbottom, coral aggregation, vegetative recruitment, whether macroalgae or seagrass, is observed, the placement of fill material will cease, and the project managers will be contacted to evaluate a new course of action at the restoration site.
Turbidity patterns will be monitored to ensure that the amount of turbidity generated falls within standards set forth in Section 62-4.244(1)(g) F.A.C. This Code allows for mixing zones of up to 125,600 square meters to be established for in coastal waters “unless a lesser area is necessary to prevent significant impairment of a designated use.” Due to the sensitive nature of the submerged resources in LKSLMA the duration and concentration of turbidity plumes should be kept to a minimum as much as possible. A mixing zone of approximately 10,000 ft² will be established for individual sites and visual monitoring will be conducted.
The job should be stopped and SFWMD and the Corps shall be notified if any of the following occur:
Plumes larger than 10,000 square feet are generated and persist during the job.
Plumes do not dissipate with one hour of work stoppage.
Prior to the start of construction, turbidity barriers would be deployed and would remain in place until all construction induced turbidity has subsided and water clarity has returned to preconstruction conditions.
COMPENSATORY MITIGATION – The applicant has offered the following compensatory mitigation plan to offset unavoidable functional loss to the aquatic environment: If mitigation is required by the Army Corps of Engineers the appropriate mitigation will be determined with a UMAM and payment made to Keys Restoration Fund.
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 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) has determined the project may affect but is not likely to adversely affect (“MANLAA”) the West Indian manatee (Trichechus manatus). Since the proposal by the applicant is for in-water construction, potential impacts to the endangered 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 (Key). Use of the Key resulted in the following sequential determination: A > B > C > G > N > 0 > P (5), may affect, not likely to adversely affect “MANLAA”. This determination is partially based on the implementation of the Standard Manatee Conditions for In-Water Work, 2011. By letter dated April 25, 2013, the Corps received concurrence from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) regarding MANLAA determinations for the West Indian manatee in accordance with 50 CFR 402.14(b)1 and pursuant to the Key. No further coordination with the FWS is required.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) has determined the project may affect but is not likely to adversely affect (“MANLAA”) the American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus).
The project is located within American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) consultation area. According to the 28 October 2014 American Crocodile Key, the property does not support suitable nesting habitat for the crocodile. Use of the Key resulted in the sequence #2 may affect, not likely to adversely affect. Therefore, the Corps has reached a “may affect not likely to adversely affect” determination on the American crocodile and its suitable nesting habitat.
The Corps has also determined the project activities “may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect” (MANLAA) the Green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas), loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta), hawksbill sea turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata), Kemp's Ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys kempii) leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea), Smalltooth Sawfish (Pristis pectinata), Nassau grouper (Epinephelus striatus), Acropora spp. and its designated critical habitat; and corals species (Mycetophyllia ferox, Dendrogyra cylindrus, Orbicella annularis, Orbicella faveolata, Orbicella franksi). The Corps will request National Marine Fisheries Service's concurrence with this determination pursuant to Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act by separate letter.
The Corps has determined that the project will have “no effect” on any other listed threatened or endangered species, and/or designated critical habitat. Pursuant to Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act, no further consultation is required.
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 8,400 acres of submerged aquatic bottom utilized by various life stages of marine invertebrates and migratory pelagic fish. Our initial determination is that the proposed action would not have a substantial adverse impact on EFH or Federally managed fisheries in the Florida Keys. 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 Miami Permits Section, 9900 Southwest 107th Avenue, Suite 203, Miami, Florida, 33176, within 30 days from the date of this notice (i.e. on or before September 30, 2020).
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, Gletys Guardia-Montoya at the letterhead address, by electronic mail at Gletys.Guardia-Montoya@usace.army.mil, or by telephone at 305-526-2515.
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.