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 Transportation (FDOT), District 5
Attn: Ms. Casey Lyon
719 South Woodland Blvd.
Deland, Florida 32720
WATERWAY AND LOCATION: The project would affect waters of the United States associated with Shingle Creek along an approximately 3.1 mile segment of SR 600 (US 17/92) from Pleasant Hill Road to Portage Street, in Sections 28, 32, and 33, Township 25 South, Range 29 East; Section 5, Township 26 South, Range 29 East, in Osceola County, Florida.
Directions to the site are as follows: From Jacksonville, go south on I-95, go west on I-4, take Florida’s Turnpike south, exit west onto Osceola Parkway, turn left onto Michigan Avenue, turn left on to John Young Parkway to the intersection with Portage Street.
APPROXIMATE CENTRAL COORDINATES: Latitude 28.268874°
Basic: Linear transportation improvements.
Overall: The overall project purpose is to construct roadway improvements to improve traffic capacity and safety improvements in northwestern Osceola County
EXISTING CONDITIONS: The existing SR 600 facility is a four lane roadway. Existing land uses along SR 600 include low density and high density residential, commercial, industrial, recreation and conservation. Future developments are planned near the project area and will impact the existing SR 600 level of service. SR 600 is a primary route for motorists traveling from the surrounding developed areas of Kissimmee to Orlando where existing traffic volumes range from 33,600 to 56,900 vehicles per day with an anticipated projected volume of 38,500 to 70,600 for Design Year 2030. As such, the existing system including intersections and roadway segments are anticipated to fail to operate at an acceptable level of service by 2030. The following paragraphs summarize the general land uses as well as the vegetative composition and hydrologic features of wetlands and surface waters in the project corridor, as provided by the applicant’s consultant. The land uses were classified according to the Florida Land Use, Cover and Forms Classification System (FLUCFCS) (FDOT, 1999).
FLUCFCS 140: Commercial and Services: This land use includes businesses located in mall, strip mall, or stand-alone establishments adjacent to the right-of-way. This category includes commercial businesses such as small shops, convenience stores, gas stations, shopping centers and various other commercial business found throughout the project corridor.
FLUCFCS 221: Improved Pasture: This category includes lands that have been cleared, tilled, reseeded with specific grass types and periodically improved and managed for brush control. Ponds, troughs, feed bunkers. Livestock may also be present. This land cover comprises a larger area centrally located within the project corridor.
FLUCFCS 310: Open Land: This category includes agricultural land uses where a specific intended use is not clearly apparent. Several wetland features more appropriately described as freshwater marsh or scrub-shrub wetlands are in areas mapped as open land.
FLUCFCS 740: Disturbed Land: This category includes lands that have been historically altered by human activity other than mining. Within the project corridor, several wetland systems were identified that are mapped as disturbed land including wetland W1.
FLUCFCS 814: Roads and Highways: This category includes the highways and local roads located in the project corridor including SR 600 and Pleasant Hill Road.
Wetland Communities and Surface Waters:
FLUCFCS 511, 512, 530: Streams, channels and reservoirs: These categories include natural and manmade surface water features such as Shingle Creek, West City Canal, roadside ditches and various stormwater ponds and other manmade reservoirs.
FLUCFCS 617: Mixed Wetland Hardwoods: This category includes wetland hardwood communities with a variety of hardwood species tolerant of hydric conditions. Within the project corridor, wetland hardwoods are associated with Shingle Creek.
PROPOSED WORK: The applicant seeks authorization to dredge and fill 4.27 acres of waters of the United States (surface waters and wetlands) to widen approximately 3.1 miles of SR 600 (US 17-92) from Pleasant Hill Road to Portage Street. The FDOT will widen the existing four-lane rural roadway to a six-lane divided urban roadway with a 22-foot median, 7-foot bike lanes and 5-foot sidewalks. The proposed work also includes the construction of a flyover bridge at the intersection of Pleasant Hill Road (FPN 418403-3-52-01).
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:
Avoidance and minimization measures have been implemented for this project in both the PD&E phase and design phase. The project will be constructed within the existing right-of-way of SR 600 and therefore will limit the wetland impacts to poor quality, historically disturbed wetlands without the need for additional right-of-way. Improvements to the Shingle Creek bridge will be constructed by adding the additional travel lanes to the inside of the existing lanes, so only those areas disturbed by the original bridge construction will be affected. Pond sites have been selected to the greatest extent practical to avoid wetlands.
COMPENSATORY MITIGATION – The applicant proposes the purchase of 1.80 Modified-Wetland Rapid Assessment Procedure (M-WRAP) credits from the federally approved Florida Mitigation Bank (SAJ-1996-03573).
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. A Cultural Resources Assessment Survey was conducted by others during the PD&E Study in 2007 entitled Cultural Resources Assessment Survey of the SR 600 (US 17/92/John Young Parkway) PD&E Study, Osceola County, Florida (Florida Master Site File Survey No. 15716). An updated survey was also conducted during the more recent design phase and pond site alternatives analysis.
The project is located within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) Consultation Areas for Crested caracara (Polyborus plancus audubonii), Everglades snail kite (Rostrhamus sociabilis plumbeus), Florida grasshopper sparrow (Ammodramus savannarum floridanus), Florida scrub jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens), red-cockaded woodpecker (Picoides borealis), wood stork (Mycteria americana), Florida bonneted bat (Eumops floridanus), and eastern indigo snake (Drymarchon corais couperi).
The Corps has determined the proposed project would have no effect for the Snail kite, grasshopper sparrow, scrub jay, Florida bonneted bat (FBB) and red-cockaded woodpecker. The Corps has determined the proposed project is not likely to adversely affect the Indigo snake, wood stork, and crested caracara.
Eastern Indigo snake: The potential impacts to the endangered Eastern Indigo snake were evaluated using The Eastern Indigo Snake Programmatic Effect Determination Key, August 2013. Use of the Eastern Indigo snake key resulted in the following sequential determination: A > B > C > D > E “not likely to adversely affect” the Eastern Indigo snake. This is due to the applicant proposing to follow the FWS approved Standard Protection Measures for the Eastern Indigo Snake during the clearing and construction phases of the project. Also, the proposed project will impact less than 25 acres of xeric habitat supporting less than 25 active and inactive gopher tortoise burrows.
Wood Stork: The Corps has made the determination of not likely to adversely affect for the wood stork. The Corps has concurrence with this determination pursuant to The Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, South Florida Ecological Services Office and State of Florida Effect Determination Key for the Wood Stork in South Florida Key, May 2010 (Wood Stork Key). Use of the Wood Stork Key resulted in the following sequential determination: A > B > C > E > NLAA. The project lies within the buffer for the Lake Russell, 612048 Reedy Creek, and a third “no name” colony site. This is due to the applicant proposing to provide mitigation at an approved mitigation bank which is within the appropriate CFA and of matching hydroperiod of the proposed impacts, and the project is not contrary to the Habitat Management Guidelines for the Wood Stork in the Southeast Region. Given the above information, the Corps has determined that the proposed project “may affect but is not likely to adversely affect” the wood stork.
Everglades snail kite: Kite foraging habitat consists of relatively shallow wetland vegetation, either within extensive marsh systems, or in lake littoral zones. Emergent vegetation, including spike rushes, maidencane, and bulrushes, are important components of habitat because they allow apple snails to occupy the area. Dense, thick vegetation is not optimal for snail kite foraging because kites cannot readily see apple snails to capture them, and if vegetation is too sparse, apple snails may not be able to survive or reproduce. Kites nest in a variety of vegetation types, including both woody vegetation such as willows, cypress, pond apple, and even exotic invasive species such as melaleuca. Kites usually nest over open water, and this helps protect nests from mammalian predators such as raccoons. Nests can be very well hidden. The height of a nest is usually about 1-3 meters above the water. Kites almost always nest in areas with good foraging habitat nearby, and most foraging occurs in marshes immediately surrounding the nest. Its preferred habitat is lowland freshwater marshes mostly in the watersheds of the Everglades, Lakes Okeechobee and Kissimmee, and the upper St. Johns River. Critical habitat was designed for the snail kite in 1977, but it’s located well south of the project. This species is greatly affected by water levels, dispersing great distances during drought years. There is no documentation of this species in or near the project, nor is suitable habitat located in or near the project, therefore the Corps determination for the proposed project is “no effect” to the snail kite.
Florida grasshopper sparrow: The Corps has determined the project would have no effect on the sparrow. The project lies within the consultation area for the sparrow, but the proposed work is located in an area not considered suitable habitat for the sparrow.
Florida scrub jay: The project lies within the consultation area for the scrub jay, but the habitat type within the project site is not preferable for the species. The Florida scrub-jay lives only in the scrub and scrubby flatwoods habitats of Florida. This type of habitat grows only on nearly pure, excessively well-drained sandy soils, and occurs along present coastlines in Florida, on paleodunes of the high central ridges and other ancient shorelines of the Florida Peninsula, and inland on scattered alluvial deposits bordering several major rivers. This species' habitat is dominated by a layer of evergreen oaks: myrtle oak (Quercus myrtifolia) and/or Archbold oak (Q. inopina), sand live oak (Q. geminata), Chapman oak (Q. chapmanii), and runner oak (Q. minima)], rusty lyonia (Lyonia ferruginea), and Florida rosemary (Ceratiola ericoides). This layer is rarely greater than two meters in height, except where fire has been suppressed. Ground cover is sparse, dominated by saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) and sand palmetto (Sabal etonia). Bare sand patches are essential for foraging and acorn-caching. Slash pines (Pinus elliottii) and sand pines (P. clausa) are widely scattered with usually less than 15 percent cover. See Section 2.3, the existing conditions do not contain nesting or foraging habitat for this species. In consideration of this information, the Corps determined that the project would have “no effect” on this species.
Red-cockaded woodpecker: The project lies within the consultation area for the woodpecker, but the habitat present at the project site does not support foraging or nesting habitat for the species. The woodpecker lives and forage in mature pine forests, specifically those with longleaf pines averaging over 80 to 120 years old and loblolly pines averaging 70 to 100 years old. The red-cockaded woodpeckers live in groups with a breeding pair and as many as four helpers, usually male offspring from the previous year. Each group needs about 200 acres of old pine forest to support its foraging and nesting needs. Therefore, the Corps determination for the proposed project is “no effect” to the woodpecker.
Florida bonneted bat: The FBB, listed by both the FWC and USFWS as Endangered, is the largest species of bat in Florida. These bats forage in a variety of habitats including tropical hardwoods, pinelands, mangroves and manmade habitats such as golf courses. An acoustic survey for the Florida bonneted bat was performed with forested wetlands proposed for impact in April 2020. No Florida bonneted bats were observed or recorded during the survey. The potential impacts to the endangered FBB were evaluated using Florida Bonneted Bat Consultation Guidelines, October 2019. Use of the FBB Consultation Key resulted in the following sequential determination: 1a. > 2a. > 3b. > 6b. = “no effect” on the FBB.
Crested caracara: The project was coordinated with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) in December 2015, and approval of the observation stations and survey protocol was received on 13 January 2016. Species specific surveys were conducted for the project from January 2016 to April 2016. A breeding pair of caracaras were observed engaged in nest building behavior within a cabbage palm tree located approximately 750 feet southeast of the proposed projects right-of-way. The USFWS Conservation Guidelines for the caracara establishes habitat management zones within 985 feet from a nest tree (the primary zone) and 4,920 feet from a nest tree (the secondary zone). Sightings of a breeding pair of caracaras were documented during the surveys, however the pair’s attempt to establish a viable nest was unsuccessful presumably due to harassment by other birds of prey observed during the survey period. Subsequently, surveys to determine if nest construction was completed revealed that the potential nest tree had been destroyed and the availability of suitable nesting trees within the 985 foot protection zone is limited. As such, it is anticipated that the proposed project would not significantly alter foraging habitat and would not result in an adverse impact to the caracara. The Corps initiated Section 7 ESA Informal consultation on 17 January 2019.
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 4.27 acres of forested wetlands and surface waters utilized by various life stages of species. Our initial determination is that the proposed action would not have a substantial adverse impact on EFH or Federally managed fisheries in the Shingle 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.
Navigation: Shingle Creek in Osceola and Orange Counties is a Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 (33 U.S.C. §403) navigable water, however, Shingle Creek is not a federally maintained navigation channel.
SECTION 408: The applicant will not require permission under Section 14 of the Rivers and Harbors Act (33 USC 408) because the activity, in whole or in part, would not alter, occupy, or use a Corps Civil Works project.
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/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 Panama City Permits Section, 415 Richard Jackson Boulevard, Suite 411, Panama City Beach, Florida 32407 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, Mr. Randy Turner, in writing at the Panama City Permits Section, 415 Richard Jackson Boulevard, Suite 411, Panama City Beach, Florida 32407, by electronic mail at Randy.L.Turner@usace.army.mil or by telephone at (904) 232-1670.
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.