TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN: The Jacksonville District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) has received an application for a permit modification to permits SAJ-2015-02725 and SAJ-2016-00426 issued by Department of the Army pursuant to Section 404 of the Clean Water Act (33 U.S.C. § 1344) as described below:
APPLICANT: Blue Origin Florida, LLC
Orbital Launch System (OLS) Manufacturing Complex
Kevin Juntunen, Director of Facilities
8082 Space Commerce Way
Merritt Island, FL 32953
WATERWAY AND LOCATION: The project would affect wetlands and surface waters located within the Indian River Lagoon Watershed. The project is located within National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) John F. Kennedy Space Center (KSC); west of Space Commerce Way, in Section 1, Township 23 South, Range 36 East, Brevard County, Florida.
Directions to the site are as follows: From I-95, take Exit 215 and proceed east on SR 50 toward Titusville; turn right onto SR 405 East (Columbia Blvd.), and continue east on NASA Causeway, which becomes NASA Parkway W.; turn right onto Space Commerce Way and a gated entrance road to the site is located approximately two miles on the right.
APPROXIMATE CENTRAL COORDINATES: Latitude: 28.500766°
Basic: Commercial rocket manufacturing test site.
Overall: The overall project purpose is the development of a testing facility for manufactured rocket components within John F. Kennedy Space Center in Brevard County.
Existing Conditions: Historically, wetlands on the 139-acre Blue Origin Manufacturing North Campus subject parcel included herbaceous and forested wetlands. Conversion of uplands to citrus grove in the 1940’s resulted in east-west drainage ditches placed in the northern, central, and southern portions of the parcel, excavation in wetlands, and subsequent reductions in wetland water levels and hydroperiod. Construction of OLS Manufacturing North Campus and Blue Origin’s Launch Complex (LC) at LC-36/11 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station resulted in wetland impacts which were mitigated by constructing an approximately 54-acre wetland mitigation area in the southern third of the 139-acre parcel containing the North Campus development. The wetland mitigation area consisted of wetland enhancement and wetland creation.
The proposed 11.5-acre 2CAT project is located within the western portion of this mitigation area. Based on current site conditions, land cover classifications (Florida Land Use, Cover, and Forms Classification System (FLUCCS), Florida Department of Transportation, January 1999) include Exotic Hardwoods (FLUCCS Code 4220, 0.2.acres), Temperate Hardwoods (FLUCCS Code 4250, 0.6 acres), Surface Water (FLUCCS Code 5000, 0.1 acre), Mixed Wetland Hardwoods (FLUCCS Code 6170, 4.5 acres), Exotic Wetland Hardwoods (FLUCCS Code 6190, 0.18 acres), and Wet Prairie (FLUCCS Code 6430, 5.9 acres).
Exotic Hardwoods is an upland community dominated by Brazilian pepper (Schinus, terebinthifolia), guinea grass (Megathyrsus maximus) with scattered areas of beautyberry (Callicarpa americana), wild coffee (Psychotria spp.), cogongrass (Imperata cylindrica), crownbeard (Verbesina sp.), and caesarweed (Urena lobata).
The Surface Water community consists of an upland cut surface water canal with near vertical banks and vegetation limited to the bank of the canal.
Mixed Wetland Hardwoods have a canopy dominated by American elm (Ulmus americana), sugarberry (Celtis laevigata), laurel oak (Quercus laurifolia), cabbage palm (Sabal palmetto), and red maple (Acer rubrum). Herbaceous species include canna (Canna flacida), broomsedge (Andropogon sp.), winged loosestrife (Lythrum alatrum), marsh fleabane (Pluchea sp.), sand cordgrass (Spartina bakerii), sedges, and rushes.
Exotic Wetland Hardwoods vegetative community includes a dominant shrub/canopy of Brazilian pepper. Native species occur at a low density in these wetlands and include cabbage palm, red maple, saltbush (Baccharis halimifolia), Carolina willow (Salix caroliniana), and dayflower.
Wet Prairie community consists of enhanced natural wetlands, vegetation includes pickerelweed (Pontedaria cordata), spikerush (Eleocharis sp.), river hemp (Sesbania sp.), maidencane (Panicum hemitomon), duck potato (Sagittaria lancifolia), broomsedge, winged loosestrife, marsh fleabane, sand cordgrass, sedges, and rushes.
PROPOSED WORK: The applicant seeks authorization to place fill in 10.32 acres of waters of the United States (primary impact of 10.32 acres and secondary impact of 7.45 acres of wetlands) for construction of the 2CAT Facility.
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:
“Several design iterations were assessed to determine the orientation of the 2CAT facility. However, a 1,000-foot setback is required from existing facilities to protect from a failure at the test site and resulting percussion that could impact adjacent buildings. This setback requirement mandated that the facility be oriented north/south and placed in the southwest corner of Blue Origin’s 139-acre leased parcel. The access road width was designed to avoid and minimize impacts. The road alignment was kept to the west as much as practicable also in an effort to avoid and minimize wetland impacts.”
COMPENSATORY MITIGATION: The applicant has offered the following compensatory mitigation plan to offset unavoidable functional loss to the aquatic environment:
“Blue Origin proposes to use mitigation credits provided by Neoverde mitigation bank to offset the proposed 8.5 functional loss (FL). FL was calculated using the Uniform Mitigation Assessment Methodology with the assumption that the mitigation area has reached the success criteria set forth in the permits.”
CULTURAL RESOURCES: The US Army Corps of Engineers (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 executed a Resources At Risk (RAR) report for the area of the proposed project. The RAR indicated that the proposed project “may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect” eastern indigo snake (Drymarchon corais couperi), and “not likely to adversely affect” wood stork (Mycteria americana). The site is located within the consultation area for Atlantic salt marsh snake (Nerodia clarkii taeniata), Florida scrub-jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens), West Indian Manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris) and piping plover (Charadrius melodus). The Corps determined there would be “no effect” on these species. The Corps has determined the proposal would have “no effect” on any other federally listed threatened or endangered species or designated critical habitat.
EASTERN INDIGO SNAKE: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has not identified any critical habitat or consultation areas for the eastern indigo snake. Based on the Eastern Indigo Snake Effect Determination Key (dated January 25, 2010; August 13, 2013 Addendum), the Corps determination sequence resulted in A>B>C>D>E, “not likely to adversely affect”. This result is based on the determination that the project is not located in open water or salt marsh, the permittee agrees to use the Standard Protection Measures for the Eastern Indigo Snake (dated August 12, 2013) during site preparation and project construction, and the presence of less than 25 acres of xeric habitat and fewer than 25 active/inactive gopher tortoise burrows on the project site. No gopher tortoise burrows have been documented in the Action Area and the area is surrounded by unsuitable wetland habitat. The Corps has USFWS concurrence for the proposed activities through use of the aforementioned determination key. In consideration of the information noted above, the Corps determined the project would “not likely to adversely affect” this species.
WOOD STORK: In Florida, all wood stork rookeries are mapped and monitored by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). During breeding season (October to May), a 1,500-m (0.9-mi) primary “no disturbance zone” surrounding the colony is required until all young have fledged the nest. Additionally, a 2,500-m (1.6-mi) secondary zone is required for foraging and roosting, in which minimal disturbance is allowed. The proposed project is within the Core Foraging Area (CFA) of wood stork rookery CR524 and the project supports Suitable Foraging Habitat (SFH). The Corps has determined pursuant to the “Wood Stork Effect Determination Key” (September 2008), the proposed project is “not likely to adversely affect” the species. The Corps determination sequence was A>B>C>D>E, NLAA. The project will provide SFH compensation within the Service Area of a Service-approved wetland mitigation bank or wood stork conservation bank preferably within the CFA or consist of SFH compensation within the CFA consisting of enhancement, restoration or creation in a project phased approach that provides an amount of habitat and foraging function equivalent to that of impacted SFH. The Corps has USFWS concurrence for the proposed activities through use of the aforementioned determination key. In consideration of the information noted above, the Corps determined the project would “not likely to adversely affect” this species.
ATLANTIC SALT MARSH SNAKE: The Corps has evaluated the proposed project with regards to its potential effects on Atlantic salt marsh snake (Nerodia clarkii taeniata). The Atlantic salt marsh snake inhabits coastal salt marshes and mangrove swamps. Specifically, it occurs along shallow tidal creeks and pools, in a saline environment ranging from brackish to full strength. It is often associated with fiddler crab burrows. These conditions do not present themselves in the Action Area. In consideration of the location of the project site and the information noted above, the Corps determined the project would have “no effect” on this species.
FLORIDA SCRUB-JAY: The Corps has determined the proposed project will have “no effect” on the Florida Scrub-jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens). The Florida scrub-jay inhabits sand pine and xeric oak scrub, and scrubby flatwoods, which occur in some of the highest and driest areas of Florida – ancient sandy ridges that run down the middle of the state, old sand dunes along the coasts, and sandy deposits along rivers in the interior of the state. These conditions do not present themselves within the action area. In consideration of the location of the project site and the information noted above, the Corps determined the project would have “no effect” on this species.
WEST INDIAN MANATEE: The Corps has evaluated the proposed activities and their potential to affect the West Indian Manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris). Project is not located in waters accessible to manatees and does not directly or indirectly affect manatees. Pursuant to review of the “State of Florida Effect Determination Key for the Manatee in Florida” (April 2013), a review of the Manatee key resulted in the following sequential determination: A, “no effect”. The Corps has USFWS concurrence for the proposed activities through use of the aforementioned determination key. In consideration of the information noted above, the Corps determined the project would have “no effect” on this species.
PIPING PLOVER: The Corps has determined the proposed project is not within critical habitat for the piping plover. No foraging or roosting habitat exists within the Action Area. A review of the ebird.org database revealed that no piping plovers have been observed in the area over the last 5 years. The proposed project will not disturb or disrupt essential activities such as foraging and roosting and therefore will not jeopardize the continued existence of these species. In consideration of the location of the project site and the information noted above, the Corps determined the project would have “no effect” on this 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 proposal would impact approximately 10.33 acres of freshwater wetlands and surface waters which ultimately discharge to the Indian River Lagoon and Banana River. The Corps initial determination is that the proposed action would not have a substantial adverse impact on EFH or Federally managed fisheries in these waters. 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 Corps has not verified the extent of Federal jurisdiction.
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 Cocoa Permits Section, 400 High Point Drive, 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, John Baehre, in writing at the Cocoa Permits Section, 400 High Point Drive, Cocoa, Florida 32926, by electronic mail at John.M.Baehre@usace.army.mil or by telephone at (321)504-3771 extension 13.
IMPACT ON NATURAL RESOURCES: Preliminary review of this application indicates that an Environmental Impact Statement will not be required. 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. By means of this notice, we are soliciting comments on the potential effects of the project on threatened or endangered species or their habitat.
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 of 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 decision, comments are used to assess impacts on endangered species, historic properties, water quality, general environmental effects, and the other public interest factors listed above. Comments are used in the preparation of an Environmental Assessment and/or an Environmental Impact Statement pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act 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.