TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN: The Jacksonville District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) has received an application for a modification of a Department of the Army (DA) permit pursuant to Section 404 of the Clean Water Act (33 U.S.C. §1344) as described below:
APPLICANT: South Florida Water Management District
3301 Gun Club Road
West Palm Beach, Florida 33406
WATERWAY AND LOCATION: The project would affect waters of the United States associated with canals and agricultural ditches. The project site is located in Sections 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 10, 11, Township 48 South, Range 34 East, Hendry County, Florida.
Directions to the site are as follows: Travel west on SR 80 W/US-98. Continue onto US-27 N. Turn left onto County Road 835/Evercane Road and continue to follow county Road 835 for 30 minutes. Turn left and travel for 1 minute. Final destination is a slight right.
APPROXIMATE CENTRAL COORDINATES:
Basic: The basic project purpose is expansion of an existing berm.
Overall: The overall project purpose is expansion of an existing berm to improve vehicular access associated with an overall environmental restoration and mitigation project.
EXISTING CONDITIONS: The overall C-139 Annex is approximately 17,904 acres in size and is located in Hendry County, Florida. The Annex property is generally bounded by the L-3W/Deer Fence Canal and Obern Farm to the north, the L-3 Canal and the SFWMD’s stormwater treatment area (STA) 6 and the Compartment C STA Everglades restoration project to the east, the Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation to the south, and the L-28 Interceptor North Feeder Canal and McDaniel Ranch to the west. The site contains the following communities: 1. Depression marshes; 2. Hardwood Forests and Cypress Swamps; 3. Hammocks; 4. Impoundments; 5. Other Surface Waters/Jurisdictional Ditches; and 6. Citrus Groves. The site has the potential to provide habitat for the following wildlife: American swallow-tailed kite, Audubon's crested caracaras, Everglade snail kites, Florida black bears, Florida burrowing owls, Florida panthers, Florida sandhill cranes, limpkins, mottled ducks, southeastern American kestrels, short-tailed hawks, southern bald eagles, wood storks, and several other long-legged wading bird species such as little blue herons, great egrets and white ibis.
The southernmost section of the Annex property contains the Sam Jones – Abiaki Prairie C-139 Annex Restoration Project (Restoration Project).
PROJECT HISTORY: The Corps issued a DA permit on October 23, 2015 for the Phase I footprint (2,800 acres) of the Restoration Project. Authorization for Phase I consists of the placement of 32,800 cubic yards of fill within 10.5 acres of lateral canals and the placement of 557,140 cubic yards of fill within 101 acres of farm ditches. The Corps issued the DA permit for Phase II on June 24, 2020 (4,938 acres), which authorized the discharge of fill material within 398.52 acres of waters of the United States (5.16 acres of wetlands and 393.36 acres of surface waters).
PROPOSED WORK: The proposal is to modify the Phase II permit to widen the southern seepage berm to allow for improved vehicle access for maintenance. The widening results in an overall increase of 1.74 acres of wetland impact.
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 berm expansion is the minimum necessary to improve vehicle access and safety during construction and maintenance activities within the adjacent restoration/mitigation area. Due to the nature of the surrounding area, it is not possible to widen the berm in uplands instead of wetlands.
COMPENSATORY MITIGATION –The applicant has provided the following explanation why compensatory mitigation should not be required: No mitigation is proposed as the overall project is a wetland restoration project. The filling of ditches will improve the hydrology on site returning the 4,938-acre area back to historic conditions. The existing citrus grove and ditches will be replaced by a natural herbaceous wetland habitat, which was the natural wetland habitat historically, and will be improved hydrologically. Therefore, the unavoidable impacts to aquatic resources, including the proposed 1.74 acres of additional impact requested in the proposed modification, will be offset by the overall restoration of the 7,812- acre footprint.
CULTURAL RESOURCES: The Corps is aware of historic property/properties within or in close proximity of the permit area. The Corps will initiate consultation with the State Historic Preservation Office and those federally recognized tribes with concerns in Florida and the Permit Area, and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation as applicable pursuant to 33 CFR 325, Appendix C and Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, by separate letter.
ENDANGERED SPECIES: The US Fish and Wildlife Service issued a Biological Opinion (BO) for the C-139 Annex Restoration/Mitigation/Abiaki Prairie Project for Phase I and II on January 13, 2020. It contains mandatory terms and conditions to implement the reasonable and prudent measures that are associated with “incidental take” specified in the BO. Authorization under this permit modification request is conditional upon compliance with all of the mandatory terms and conditions associated with incidental take of the subject BO.
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. No EFH is located within or areas affected by the project. 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.
COMMENTS regarding the potential authorization of the work proposed should be submitted in writing to the attention of the District Engineer through the RD-Mine Team, Attention: Dianne Rosensweig, 10117 Princess Palm Avenue, Suite 120, Tampa, Florida 33610 within 15 days from the date of this notice.
The decision whether to issue or deny this permit modification 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, Dianne Rosensweig, in writing at the West Permits Branch, Mine Team,10117 Princess Palm Avenue, Suite 120, Tampa, Florida 33610; by electronic mail at Dianne.M.Rosensweig@usace.army.mil; by facsimile transmission at (813)769-7061; or, by telephone at (813)769-7069.
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 modification 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.
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.