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 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 (33 U.S.C. §403) as described below:
APPLICANT: Martin County Board of County Commissioners
Attn: Jessica Garland
401 Southeast Monterey Road
Stuart, FL 34996
WATERWAY AND LOCATION: The project would affect waters of the United States associated with the Donaldson Reef Deployment location within the Atlantic Ocean. The project site is located approximately 3.74 nautical miles northeast of the St. Lucie Inlet, Martin County Florida.
Directions to the site are as follows: The northwest corner of the Donaldson Reef Deployment Ares is 3.74 nautical miles, bearing 31.05 degrees (true north) from the center of the St. Lucie Inlet.
APPROXIMATE CENTRAL COORDINATES:
Latitude (decimal degrees)
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Basic: Reef Habitat Enhancement
Overall: To provide additional deepwater reef habitat to create additional coral and fish habitat within the Donaldson Reef deployment area, Martin County, Florida.
PROJECT HISTORY: The Corps issued a permit for three artificial reef sites: Donaldson Reef, Ernst Reef, and Sirotkin Reef by standard permit SAJ-1995-04128 dated June 22, 1995. The permit was extended and expired on June 30, 2001. The Corps issued a modification on January 11, 2001. The Corps modified the permit on February 7, 2006 to extend the expiration date for all three reef locations to February 7, 2011. The permit was modified on December 15, 2009 to exclude monitoring of reefs in depths greater than 100 feet and instead only conduct fathometer surveys to document the locations. The Corps re-authorized the permit on January 14, 2011 for all three reef locations under SAJ-1995-04128 and again on July 26, 2016. The existing standard permit will expire on July 26, 2021.
The standard permit issued July 26, 2016 reduced the deployment area from 2,938 acres to 1,799 acres because the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) permit had expired. Since the project is greater than 3 miles from the coastline, a review under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act is not required.
The applicant has requested a reauthorization for the deployment of materials within the same footprint. Each of the artificial reef deployment areas have been assigned a separate SAJ number in the most recent application. The following SAJ numbers have been assigned to the three deployment areas as follow and will be coordinated under separate Public Notices:
Sirotkin Reef (east and west)
EXISTING CONDITIONS: The Donaldson Artificial Reef Deployment Area is roughly 1,799 acres in size. The benthic habitat within the boundaries consist of predominately unconsolidated sand substrate separated by bands of hardbottom and coral benthic habitats. The Donaldson artificial reef deployment area ranges in depths from 30 to 70 feet mean low water (MLW). A variety of reef materials have been deployed, since the issuance of the 1995 permit within the boundaries to create high and low profile reefs as shown in Figure 1. Deployed materials include concrete and steel scrap, bridge rubble, concrete reef modules, limestone rock, and sunken steel vessels. The previously authorized minimum clearance was 23 feet.
Figure 1. List of deployment locations located within Donaldson Artificial Reef Deployment Area.
PROPOSED WORK: The applicant seeks re-authorization to deploy a variety of artificial reef materials within the Donaldson Reef Deployment Area (total of 1,799 acres) for a period of ten years. Material may include concrete, limestone boulders, submerged vessels, and other approved marine substrate. Material placement will occur in areas devoid of hardbottom habitat and other benthic resources. The top of the reef material shall maintain a minimum vertical clearance of twice the height of the structure from the top of the deployed material relative to the MLW at all times and a minimum of 23 feet.
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:
Prior to all deployments and pre-construction survey of the reef placement area will be conducted to ensure there are no hardbottom resources present within the deployment site, or within a 50-foot buffer area around the site. If such resources are found, the deployment target will be relocated away from those resources, into an area that meets the criteria.
Reef structures, materials, and installation methods shall be designed and deployed to prevent entanglement and entrapment of listed species.
Reef materials or modules will weigh more than 500 pounds. Reef materials shall be clean and free from asphalt, creosote, petroleum, other hydrocarbons and toxic residues, loose free-floating material or other deleterious substances. All artificial reef materials and/or structures will be selected, designed, constructed, and deployed to create stable and durable marine habitat.
Applicant agrees to adhere to the Comply with JAXBO PDC’s for In-Water Activities, and the PDCs listed in Activity 7
Comply with the Standard Manatee Conditions for In-Water Work – 2011
All deployments will be conducted during daylight hours
COMPENSATORY MITIGATION –The applicant has provided the following explanation why compensatory mitigation should not be required:
Prior to every deployment marine and structural resource survey will be performed to ensure there are no impacts to resources within the area. Also, the Donaldson Reef Deployment area typically has a sandy bottom. Due the proposed avoidance measures, no compensatory mitigation should be required because there will be no impacts to hardbottom habitat, corals or seagrass.
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.
ENDANGERED SPECIES: The Corps has determined the proposed project may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect the West Indian Manatee (Trichechus manatus); Swimming sea turtles: (green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas), Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys kempii), Leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea), Hawksbill sea turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata), and Loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta)); smalltooth sawfish (Pristis pectinata); Loggerhead constricted migratory critical habitat; and Northern right whale (Eubalaena glacialis). The Corps will request U.S. Fish and Wildlife/National Marine Fisheries Service concurrence with this determination pursuant to Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act.
The Corps has determined the proposal would have no effect on any other listed threatened or endangered species or designated critical habitat.
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 1,799 acres of unconsolidated sand substrate separated by bands of hardbottom and coral benthic habitats. 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 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.
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 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 500, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, 33410 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, Jerilyn Ashworth, in writing at the Palm Beach Gardens Permits Section, 4400 PGA Boulevard, suite 500, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida 33410; by electronic mail at Jerilyn.Ashworth@usace.army.mil; or, by telephone at (561)472-3516.
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.