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: St. Lucie County
Attn: Mr. James Oppenborn
3150 Will Fee Road
Fort Pierce, Florida 34982
WATERWAY AND LOCATION: The project would affect waters of the United States associated within the Atlantic Ocean. The project site is located at an artificial reef site off the coast of Hutchinson Island, St. Lucie County, Florida.
Directions to the site are as follows: The northwest corner is located 5.6 nautical miles, bearing 61 degrees (true north) from the center of Ft. Pierce inlet
APPROXIMATE CENTRAL COORDINATES:
Latitude 27.53504° (27° 32’ 06.15” North) Longitude -80.19558° (80° 11’ 44.11” West)
Latitude 27.41416° (27° 32’ 25.18” North) Longitude -80.00050° (80° 10’ 37.46” West)
Latitude 27.38000° (27° 31’ 06.74” North) Longitude -80.06000° (80° 11’ 22.75” West)
Latitude 27.39900° (27° 31’ 25.77” North) Longitude -80.00033° (80° 10’ 57.89” West)
Basic: To construct artificial reefs.
Overall: To construct artificial reefs near the Fort Pierce inlet in St. Lucie County.
EXISTING CONDITIONS: The artificial reef sites are located on the floor of the Atlantic
Ocean. The sites were selected due to the lack of hardbottom or corals. St. Lucie
County has utilized the Fort Pierce Sportfishing Club Site (Offshore Site) and the Lee E.
Harris Memorial Site (North County Nearshore Site) and has successfully deployed 38
reefs at the two sites. St. Lucie County has documented that loggerhead sea turtles
utilize the artificial reefs at depths of 90 feet of water and 60 feet of water. Other
species identified at the reefs include the ivory tree corals, striped croaker, lemon
sharks, and large groupers. On 11 February 2016, the Corps authorized the placement of a variety of reef-friendly material at the artificial reef site.
PROPOSED WORK: The applicant requests a 5 year time extension to complete carrying out the activities authorized within the permit that was issued 11 February 2016 under the same file number, which includes placing a variety of reef-friendly
material at the artificial reef sites. Material may include concrete, limestone boulders,
submerged vessels and other approved marine substrate. If a vessel would be
proposed as an artificial reef, the applicant would be required to obtain written
authorization from the Corps prior to deployment so that the Corps can ensure the reef
material complies with appropriate federal standards including United States
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), United States Maritime Administration
(MARAD) “National Guidance: Best Management Practices for Preparing Vessels
Intended to Create Artificial Reefs”, and United States Coast Guard (USCG)
navigational regulations. The applicant would submit a pre-deployment notification to
the Corps and include a cargo manifest describing the material proposed for
deployment. Material placement will occur in areas devoid of any benthic resources.
Each reef would maintain a minimum navigational clearance of one-half the height of
the water column from the top of the deployed material relative to Mean Lower-Low Water (MLLW) line.
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 reefs will be deployed on sand/shell substrate with no natural hardbottom or existing vegetation. Pre-deployment and post-deployment dives will accompany every deployment so as to ensure no impacts to biological or cultural resources will occur. Pre-deployment dives will also be conducted within 2 weeks prior to the deployment. If any resources are found to exist at the deployment location, the deployment location shall be moved a minimum of 300 feet to prevent impacting existing resources. The applicant shall not deploy any vessel as artificial reef material unless they submit a project-specific deployment plan and receive written authorization from the Corps. The applicant would be required to submit a cargo manifest prior to deployment and provide a pre-deployment notification to the Corps prior to deployment. The applicant would also be required to notify the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FFWCC) of a planned deployment no less than 30 days prior to deployment.”
COMPENSATORY MITIGATION –
The applicant has provided the following explanation why compensatory mitigation should not be required:
The project will not adversely affect aquatic 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, if applicable, those federally recognized tribes with concerns in Florida and the Permit Area.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS): Use of the 2013 Manatee Key results in the following pathway: A, B, C, D, E, N P “Paragraph 4.” The Corps has determined the proposed project may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect the West Indian Manatee (Trichechus manatus). The Corps has received programmatic concurrence from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with this determination pursuant to Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act.
National Marne Fisheries Service (NMFS): The Corps has determined the proposal may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect the North Atlantic Right Whale (Eubalaena glacialis), Smalltooth sawfish (Pristis pectinate), and swimming green, hawksbill, Kemp’s Ridley, leatherback, and loggerhead sea turtles (Chelonia mydas, Eretmochelys imbricate, Lepidochelys kempii, Dermochelys coriacea, and Caretta caretta). The project will not adversely modify any species’ designated critical habitat. The Corps has received programmatic concurrence via JaxBO from the National Marine Fisheries Service with this determination pursuant to Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act.
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 create artificial reefs on barren ocean bottom utilized by various life stages of penaeid shrimp complex, reef fish, stone crab, spiny lobster, migratory/pelagic fish, and snapper/grouper complex. Our initial determination is that the proposed action would not have a substantial adverse impact on EFH or Federally managed fisheries in the Atlantic Ocean.
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 Palm Beach Gardens Permits Section, 4400 PGA Boulevard, Suite 50, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida 33410 within 15 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, Christian Karvounis, in writing at the Palm Beach Gardens Permits Section, 4400 PGA Boulevard, Suite 500, Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33410; by electronic mail at Christian.G.Karvounis@usace.army.mil; or, by telephone at (561)-472-3508.
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.