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SAJ-2020-04080 (SP-RLT)

Published Dec. 17, 2020
Expiration date: 1/7/2021

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):

 

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 Bonnet Creek.  The proposed project site is located along I-4 from west of State Road 535 to Central Florida Parkway in Sections 11, 12, 14, 15, 22, and 27; Township 24 South; Range 28 East, Orange County, Florida.

 

Directions to the site are as follows:  From Jacksonville, go south on I-95, go west on I-4 for approximately 62 miles to Central Florida Parkway.  The project begins at Central Florida Parkway.

 

APPROXIMATE CENTRAL COORDINATES:         Latitude           28.397247°

                                                                                 Longitude -81.487493°

 

PROJECT PURPOSE:

 

Basic:  Linear transportation improvements.

 

Overall:  The overall project purpose is to construct a new interchange to connect Daryl Carter Parkway (DCP) to the widened I-4 in southwestern Orange County.

 

EXISTING CONDITIONS:  The total project area is 196.54 acres, with 1.50 acres of wetlands and 6.76 acres of other surface waters.  The project uplands total 188.28 acres and consist of open land, croplands and pasture, tree plantation, shrub and brushland, transportation, commercial and services, and residential areas.  The onsite vegetation within the wetlands includes slash pine (Pinus elliottii), black gum (Nyssa aquatica), bald cypress (Taxodium distichum), sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua), sweet bay (Magnolia virginiana), red maple (Acer rubrum), fetterbush (Lyonia lucida), cinnamon fern (Osmunda cinnamomea), and netted chainfern (Woodwardia aerolata).  The existing area surrounding the project area consists of pine and mesic oak habitat.  The onsite vegetation includes slash pine, loblolly pine (Pinus taeda), southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora), live oak (Quercus virginiana), laurel oak (Quercus laurifolia), water oak (Quercus nigra), saw palmetto (Serenoa repens), gallberry (Ilex glabra), and bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum).  Approximately 6.76 acres of other surface waters occur within the project area and consist of a mix of stormwater conveyance ditches and lakes.

 

PROPOSED WORK:  The applicant seeks authorization to impact 8.26 acres of waters of the U.S. (wetlands and surface waters) by permanent dredge and fill of 1.50 acres of non-tidal wetlands and 6.76 acres of temporary impacts to surface waters (stormwater drainage features) for the addition of ramps to interconnect the existing DCP Interchange with the previously permitted widening of I-4 Beyond the Ultimate (BtU) Segment 1 (SAJ-2019-00278 (SP-RLT) dated September 17, 2019, FPN 431456-1-52-01).  The proposed intersection would be a Diverging Diamond Interchange (DDI) with ingress and egress to both eastbound and westbound I-4 (FPN 441113-1-52-01). 

 

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:

 

All six (6) onsite wetlands and thirty-three (33) OSWs are considered jurisdictional by the USACE.  Proposed wetland impacts total 1.50 acres in association with the proposed activities and will require mitigation.  Proposed OSW impacts total 6.76 acres.  In-kind replacement and/or construction of new stormwater management features will sufficiently offset impacts to OSWs.  Therefore, no mitigation is proposed for OSW impacts.

 

The proposed reconstruction and widening of I-4 BtU (Segment 1) are intended to improve the level of service and enhance safety for the traveling public.  Roadway design criteria set forth by FDOT and the AASHTO limit opportunities to avoid or minimize adverse wetland impacts within the existing I-4 ROW.  In addition, areas proposed for impact are already considered to be of low to moderate quality and although these systems may be hydrologically connected, they remain generally isolated from larger more regionally significant systems or have been constructed through upland soils.  A large percentage of the jurisdictional communities within the project corridor have been altered or have experienced degradation by the presence of the existing I-4 travel lanes, routine maintenance of the ROW and general edge effect experienced by wetlands near disturbed environments.

 

Project corridor planning modifications included the use of existing stormwater management ponds, relocation and/or reconfiguration of proposed stormwater management ponds to avoid impacts to jurisdictional wetlands to the greatest extent practical while maintaining safety and function.

 

COMPENSATORY MITIGATION – The applicant proposes the purchase of 0.87 credits from either the federally approved Southport Ranch Mitigation Bank (SAJ-2009-01047) and/or the federally approved Reedy Creek Mitigation Bank (SAJ-1995-07852).

 

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 2014 for the I-4 Beyond the Ultimate (BtU) Segment 1, FPN 431456-1-52-01.  Results of the survey indicated that the proposed project would have no effect on resources listed or eligible for listing in the NRHP.  The survey results were subsequently submitted to the Division of Historical Resources on April 28, 2016 for evaluation and concurrence, the response dated June 23, 2016 indicated concurrence with the survey findings.

 

ENDANGERED SPECIES: 

 

The Federal Highway Administration assigned, and FDOT assumed, all responsibilities under federal environmental laws, including those under the Endangered Species Act. FDOT is the lead agency for ESA consultation for federal-funded projects.

 

This project is federally funded and the FDOT as the lead agency consulted with the USFWS during the PD&E.  The applicant has indicated that a USFWS Biological Opinion (BO) (dated August 26, 2016) was completed.  The Corps will review the BO and adopt the effect determinations pursuant to Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act.

 

The project is located within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) Consultation Areas for Audubon’s crested caracara (Polyborus plancus audubonii), Everglades snail kite (Rostrhamus sociabilis plumbeus), Florida scrub jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens), red-cockaded woodpecker (Picoides borealis), wood stork (Mycteria americana), sand skink (Neoseps reynoldsi), and eastern indigo snake (Drymarchon corais couperi).

 

The FDOT has determined the proposed project would have no effect for the Crested caracara, Snail kite, scrub jay, and red-cockaded woodpecker.  The FDOT has determined the proposed project is not likely to adversely affect the sand skink, Indigo snake and wood stork.

 

Crested caracara:  Although the project area is within the consultation area for the caracara, the wetland impacts are linearly adjacent to the existing roadway and the birds are now rarely found as far north as Orlando.  Also, no foraging or nesting/denning habitat occurs in the project area for this species, therefore the FDOT determination is that the project would have “no effect” on these species.

 

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.  Nests are usually located in a low tree or shrub at the water’s edge. The main staple of their diet is the apple snail, lending to their name.  No observations of snail kites have been documented within or near the project corridor.  Nesting snail kites have been documented significantly southeast of the project in Kissimmee at both Lake Tohopekiliga and East Lake Toho.  No known adequate nesting or foraging habitat is located adjacent to the project area, either within the proposed right-of-way or pond site areas, therefore the FDOT determination for the proposed project is “no effect” to the snail kite.

 

Scrub jay:  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.  No appropriate habitat for the species exists near the project area, and none were observed during listed species surveys or other field work conducted by the applicant’s consultant.  The project abuts the existing I-4 corridor which is surrounded by residential and commercial development and wetlands, severely restricting colonization by emigrating birds from outside colonies.  Therefore, the FDOT has determined that the proposed 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 FDOT determination for the proposed project is “no effect” to the woodpecker.

 

Sand skink:  Suitable habitat was identified within the project area and includes pine plantation, active or inactive citrus groves, pastures, residential developments, and neglected vegetative cover like old fields and overgrown scrub.  Pedestrian surveys were conducted as part of the original PD&E study in December 1996 – December 1997, but no evidence indicating the presence of the sand skinks was observed.  Based on a review of the 2016 ESBA, FDOT completed a re-evaluation of the PD&E for the proposed project area, which included a soil investigation performed by a state certified soil scientist to confirm suitable skink habitat within the project corridor.  Coordination with USFWS staff during the PD&E re-evaluation study indicated that a skink cover board survey would need to be performed over all areas of suitable soil coverage within the project footprint.  The PD&E study identified several areas within the Orange County portion of the project that required additional surveys.  Cover board surveys were conducted in all areas identified as having suitable soils. The cover board surveys were conducted according to the USFWS Survey Protocol for Peninsular Florida for the Sand Skink and Blue- tailed Mole Skink (USFWS, 2012) during March, April, and May 2014.  No sign of sand skinks was observed during the 2014 surveys.  Subsequent design changes after the completion of the 2014 survey necessitated a supplemental survey over several new areas in 2015.  However, no sign of sand skinks was observed during the 2015 survey.  The applicant has indicated that a USFWS Biological Opinion (BO) (dated August 26, 2016) was completed which resulted in FDOT committing to offset impacts by providing compensatory mitigation at a Service-approved conservation bank at a 2:1 ratio.   

 

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 FDOT has made the determination of not likely to adversely affect for the wood stork.  The FDOT 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).  Based upon review of the Wood Stork Key for South Florida, dated May 18, 2010, the proposed project resulted in the following sequential determination: A > B > C > D > E = “not likely to adversely affect” the wood stork.  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 FDOT has determined that the proposed project “may affect but is not likely to adversely affect” the wood stork.

 

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 1.50 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 Bonnet 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:  Bonnet Creek in Orange County is a Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 (33 U.S.C. §403) navigable water, however, Bonnet Creek is not a federally maintained navigation channel. There are no Section 10 waters within the project’s limits of construction.

 

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 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.