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) as described below:
APPLICANT: Clay County Board of County Commissioners
Attention: Richard Smith
477 Houston Street, 3rd Floor
Green Cove Springs, Florida 32043
WATERWAY AND LOCATION: The project site is located along County Road 218 for approximately 2.6 miles from Cosmos Avenue to Pine Tree Lane, in Sections 14, 15, 16, and 17, Township 5 South, Range 24 East, Middleburg, Clay County, Florida. The project would affect waters of the United States (wetlands and Section 10 waters) associated with Dillaberry Branch and North Fork Black Creek.
APPROXIMATE CENTRAL COORDINATES: Latitude 30.062889
Basic: The basic project purpose is linear transportation improvements.
Overall: The overall project purpose is to widen County Road 218 between Cosmos Avenue and Pine Tree Lane to improve public safety while adding traffic capacity in Middleburg, Clay County.
a. General: The overall project is 39.21 acres. The site has 4.23 acres of wetlands and would incur 3.15 acres of wetland impacts. The existing right of way for County Road 218 from Cosmos Avenue to Pine Tree Lane is dominated by roadside ditches and grass swales, surrounded by upland disturbed areas comprised of various grasses consisting of vasey grass (Paspalum urvillei), bahia grass (Paspalum notatum), and smutgrass (Sporobolus indicus), which are frequently mowed and maintained.
b. Soils: According to the current Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) web soil survey http://websoilsurvey.nrcs.usda.gov/app/WebSoilSurvey.aspx for Clay County, the project area for County Road 218 is comprised of nine soil types. Hydric and nonhydric soil designations are based on the Hydric Soils of Florida Handbook. Soils on site consist of Hurricane fine sand, 0 to 5% slopes (3, Non-Hydric), Ocilla loamy, fine sand, 0 to 5% slopes (4, Non-Hydric), Centenary fine sand, 0 to 5% slopes (7, Non-Hydric), Sapelo fine sand (9, Non-Hydric), Leon fine sand, 0 to 2% slopes (10, Non-Hydric), Sapelo-Urban land complex (23, Non-Hydric), Newman fine sand (47, Non-Hydric), Sapelo-Meadowbrook, frequently flooded (49, Hydric), Meadowbrook sand (65, Non-Hydric).
c. Vegetative Communities: The site consists of 4.23 acres of wetlands. The overall property encompasses six vegetative communities characterized by the Florida Land Use, Cover, and Forms Classification System (FLUCFCS). These communities are as follows:
(1) Pine Flatwoods (FLUCCS 4110) - 4.76 acres: This community is dominated by a dense over-story of slash pine (Pinus elliottii), an understory of scattered saw palmetto and gallberry. The groundcover includes scattered wiregrass (Aristida stricta), panic grass (Panicum tenerum), and broomsedge. Many larger animals are found where the flatwoods join other communities (ecotones), where nesting sites, den sites, food, and cover are provided. Pedestrian transects were conducted adjacent to these areas; no gopher tortoise burrows were observed, which is likely due to the dense pine litter and overgrown saw palmetto.
(2) Stream and Waterway (FLUCCS 5110) - 0.02 acre: This FLUCCS community comprises Dillaberry Branch.
(3) Drainage Ditches (FLUCCS 5120) – 4.55 acres: This FLUCCS community comprises a large portion of the project area and are considered other surface waters (OSW). The roadside drainage ditches are cut through both upland and wetland habitats dating back to the late 1950’s. The ditches vary in width, depth, and vegetation composition, but are all seasonally inundated. The interconnected ditches are located on both the north and south sides of the road in the existing rights-of-way, which eventually discharge offsite through a series of smaller ditches and a creek (i.e., Dillaberry Branch).
(4) Wetland Forested Mixed (FLUCCS 6300) – 3.74: This land cover is the dominant forested wetland community within the project area. Most of the wetlands within the project area (i.e., pond site locations) are characterized as mixed forested wetland with a >66% canopy cover including hardwoods and conifers. These systems have a closed-canopy forest of hydrophytic trees occurring on infrequently inundated hydric soils. The mixed species canopy includes loblolly pine (Pinus taeda), red maple (Acer rubrum), dahoon (Ilex cassine), swamp bay (Persea palustris), sweetbay (Magnolia virginiana), loblolly bay (Gordonia lasianthus), swamp laurel oak (Quercus laurifolia), water oak (Quercus nigra) with few scattered tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica). Shrubs are concentrated around the perimeter. Common species include Virginia willow (Itea virginica), swamp dogwood (Cornus foemina), swamp doghobble (Leucothoe racemosa), and fetterbush (Lyonia lucida). The herbaceous layer is variable and comprised of scattered southern shield fern (Thelypteris kunthii), cinnamon fern (Osmunda cinnamomeum), royal fern (Osmunda regalis), netted chain fern (Woodwardia areolata), with various types of vines including poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans), grapevine (Vitis rotundifolia), and laurel greenbrier (Smilax laurifolia).
(5) Wet Prairie (FLUCCS 6430) – 0.19 acre: This land cover is uncommon in the project area but is located within the existing ROW. This wetland type is typically seasonally flooded, as surface water persists throughout the rainy season. This herbaceous wetland community typically has less water than freshwater marsh with fewer aquatic plant species. The wet prairie includes scattered occurrences of netted chain fern, cinnamon fern, goldenrod (Solidago fistulosa), maiden cane (Panicum hemitomon), bushy bluestem, (Andropogon glomeratus), many flower marsh pennywort (Hydrocotyle umbellata), Asian coin wort (Centella asiatica), and road grass (Eleocharis baldwinii). In addition, during the rainy season this type of wetland has good suitability for usage by regionally common wading birds as well as common amphibians, reptiles, and fish.
(6) Roads (FLUCCS 8140) 25.95 acres: This land use includes roads and highways that exceed 100 feet in width over long segments and have four or more lanes and median strips. CR 218 is the county road within the project area and is mapped as Roads and Highways.
The applicant seeks authorization to place fill into a total of 3.15 acres of waters of the U.S. (wetlands and Section 10 waters) to widen County Road 218 and establish stormwater treatment ponds in an area that does not currently have stormwater treatment. The work associated with the road widening and establishment of stormwater ponds would affect mixed forested wetlands. Approximately 1.08 acres of wetlands would remain.
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 roadway improvement project has been designed to include construction activities within the existing right of way and/or within County owned property. All staging areas will be in uplands. Best management practices (BMPs) will be implemented to ensure no impacts to water quality adjacent to wetlands occur during construction. Because this is a linear project, impacts to other surface waters, wetlands, and portions of their buffers are unavoidable. To eliminate adverse impacts to the watershed, in-kind mitigation for the wetland impacts will be offset with the purchase of forested herbaceous wetland credits from the Loblolly Mitigation Bank.
COMPENSATORY MITIGATION – The applicant has offered the following compensatory mitigation plan to offset unavoidable functional loss to the aquatic environment:
The consultant worked with the applicant to avoid and minimize wetland impacts to the
maximum extent feasible. The proposed road improvements would include approximately 3.15 acres of wetland impacts. Wetland impacts remaining after practicable design modifications would be offset by offsite mitigation at Loblolly Mitigation Bank.
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.
Eastern Indigo Snake (Drymarchon corais couperi): Eastern Indigo Snake frequents several habitat types, including pine flatwoods, scrubby flatwoods, high pine, dry prairie, tropical hardwood hammocks, edges of freshwater marshes, agricultural fields, coastal dunes, and human-altered habitats. Therefore, this species could utilize the area encompassed by the ESA scope of analysis for this project. Gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus) burrows are commonly utilized as refuge from winter cold and/or desiccating conditions in xeric habitats; and, hollowed root channels, hollow logs, or burrows of rodents, armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus), or land crabs (Cardisoma guanhumi) provide shelter in wetter habitats. A recent evaluation of the project site indicated that there are no gopher tortoise burrows on site. In consideration of this information, the Corps utilized The Eastern Indigo Snake Programmatic Effect Determination Key, August 2013. Use of this key resulted in the sequence A-B-C-not likely to adversely affect, as the applicant has agreed to implement the Standard Protection Measures for the Eastern Indigo Snake, August 12, 2013. The FWS has indicated that they concur with determinations of not likely to adversely affect based on the key for eastern indigo snakes; and, that no additional consultation is necessary.
The Corps executed a Resources At Risk (RAR) report. The RAR did not indicate that the site is utilized by, or contains habitat critical to, any other federally listed threatened or endangered species. The Corps also reviewed geospatial data and other available information. The Corps has not received or discovered any information that the project site is utilized by, or contains habitat critical to, any other federally listed threatened or endangered 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 project would not affect marine nor estuarine habitat or EFH. Our initial determination is that the proposed action would not adversely affect EFH or federally managed fisheries in Dillaberry Creek or North Fork Black 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.
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.
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 Jacksonville Permits Section, Post Office Box 4970, Jacksonville, Florida 32232 within 30 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, Mark R. Evans, in writing at the Jacksonville Permits Section, Post Office Box 4970, Jacksonville, Florida 32232; by electronic mail at Terri.M.Mashour@usace.army.mil; by facsimile transmission at (904) 232-1940; or, by telephone at (904) 570-4512. Please note, due to office staffing precautions associated with CoVid-19, electronic mail correspondence is preferred.
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.