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SAJ-2020-04228 (SP-EPS)

Jacksonville District
Published April 23, 2021
Expiration date: 5/13/2021

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) as described below:

APPLICANT:      Santa Rosa Development LLC

                           19108 South Augusta

                            Baton Rouge, LA 70810

WATERWAY AND LOCATION:  The project would affect waters of the United States associated with Santa Rosa Sound.  The project site is located north of Gulf Blvd, just west of Paradise Point Drive in Section 32, Township 02 South, Range 26 west, Navarre Beach, Santa Rosa County.    

APPROXIMATE CENTRAL COORDINATES:         Latitude      30.380763°

                                                                                 Longitude  -86.874831°

PROJECT PURPOSE:

Basic:  Recreational vehicle park.

Overall:  The overall purpose is to provide a recreational vehicle park with access to Santa Rosa Sound and/or the Gulf of Mexico.

EXISTING CONDITIONS:  The total site acreage for the development is 22.03 acres.  Wetlands comprise 4.46 acres of the total parcel.  Currently the subject property exists largely as coastal interdunal swale and upland beach dune habitats.  Each ecological community is further described in the following paragraphs. 

Interdunal Swale Community

The coastal interdunal swale community identified within the property includes marshes, moist grasslands, and damp flats that form in linear depressions between successive dune ridges or as broad shallow flats.  The composition of the plant community structure is largely depending on the frequency of inundation.  Wetter areas are dominated by needle rush (Juncus roemerianus) and salt marsh cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora), while shallower areas have a diverse mixture of herbs, including southern umbrella sedge (Fuirena scirpoidea), Carolina redroot (Lachnanthes caroliana), spadeleaf (Centella spp.), and broomsedge (Andropogon virginicus).  The damp flats are dominated by hairawn muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris), lovegrass (Eragrostis spp.), saltmeadow cordgrass (Spartina patens), and Gulf Coast spikerush (Eleocharis cellulosa). 

Upland Beach Dune

The upland beach dune community is sparsely vegetated with a variety of herbaceous coastal specialist plants such as seaoats (Uniola paniculata), bitter panicgrass (Panicum amarum), saltmeadow cordgrass (Spartina patens), seacoast marsh elder (Iva imbricata), seashore paspalum (Paspalum vaginatum) and seashore dropseed (Sporobolus virginicus).

PROPOSED WORK:  The applicant seeks authorization to impact 0.44 acres of wetlands associated with the development of 171 recreational vehicle parking spaces,

associated roadways, and stormwater management facilities for a recreational vehicle park.  The development plan would require the placement of 2,260 cubic yards of fill material within 0.44 acres of wetlands to facilitate site geometry.  Mitigation would consist of the onsite creation of 0.67 acres of freshwater emergent marsh and the preservation and management of 4.01 acres of high qualify freshwater/estuarine emergent wetlands, all created wetlands, and 1.18-acre of uplands that would remain post development.  A conservation easement would be used to ensure perpetual conservation.  Secondary impacts to approximately 0.767-acre of onsite wetlands would be expected through effects from adjacent development.  This includes those wetlands not afforded a 50-ft buffer from development.  Retaining walls would be used to reduce slopes and direct wetland impacts.

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:

Impacts to jurisdictional wetlands cannot be avoided due to the size and location of the wetlands.  The project has minimized direct impacts by designing and limiting the project footprint to those necessary to construct the project, the meander of internal roadway and RV parking pad locations to avoid large contiguous wetland resources, and incorporation of vertical retaining walls along the limits of fill to eliminate the need for side slopes.  The vertical retaining walls will also reduce cumulative and secondary impacts to wetlands and will remain post development.

COMPENSATORY MITIGATION – The applicant has offered the following compensatory mitigation plan to offset unavoidable functional loss to the aquatic environment:

A functional assessment for the proposed direct and indirect wetland impacts associated with the project was provided.  UMAM worksheets for proposed wetland impacts were appended to the permit application.  The UMAM assessment calculated functional loss through direct wetland impacts at 0.3550 Functional Units (FU) while functional loss through indirect wetland impacts was 0.1050 FU for a total of 0.46 Functional Unit loss.

The proposed project is not located within the service area of a state or federally approved mitigation bank or an approved in-lieu fee program; therefore permittee-responsible mitigation using a watershed approach is the only option available to the applicant.  

The project is located entirely within the Santa Rosa Island 12-digit hydrologic unit code watershed boundary which is part of the larger Pensacola Bay watershed (HUC 8 – 03140105). The project will directly impact approximately 0.44 acres of freshwater emergent wetlands (FLCFCS 641).  Additionally, the project will indirectly impact approximately 0.787 acres of the same freshwater emergent wetlands.

The form of mitigation proposed to offset project related wetland impacts is wetland creation and preservation of existing upland and wetland communities that will remain post development.  Preservation was deemed appropriate via the evaluation of several key parameters including but are not limited to, surrounding landscape composition, state designation of important lands for preservation, a threatened landscape type, lands important for threatened, endangered, rare, and other priority aquatic species, lands important for water quality or quantity threats, and lands subject to development threats. 

Four wetland creation polygons are proposed immediately adjacent to wetland polygon A.  These four polygons total 0.67 acres which presently exists as sparsely vegetated open beach habitat.  The creation work will include the removal of existing in-situ soils such that the newly excavated site matches the elevation of adjacent wetlands.  The newly graded wetland creation areas will be planted with native herbaceous species, predominantly marsh hay (Spartina patens), black needle rush (Juncus romerianus), salt grass (Distichlis spicata), seashore dropseed (Sporobolus virginicus), and smooth cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora).  Revegetation of the graded areas will be accomplished with bare root or potted individuals, sourced from a commercial nursery.  Plants will be installed 2-ft. on center throughout the creation areas. 

The mitigation plan also includes the preservation and management of 4.01 acres of existing high-quality freshwater/estuarine emergent wetlands and 1.18 acres of high-quality beach dune habitat.  The wetland creation and wetland/upland preservation will increase the site’s relative capacity for primary production, wildlife habitat, and support of characteristic vegetation functions. The capacity of physical and biological functions should generally increase as a result of the increase in habitat diversity (by converting selected areas of sparsely vegetated open beach to emergent wetlands); the increase in native plant species in the herbaceous wetland areas; and the increase in depressional features that will hold water on the site longer.

UMAM assessment suggests a functional gain of 0.448 FU from wetland creation activities assuming a time lag of 1.14 and a risk factor of 1.5.  The preservation of 4.01 acres of high-quality on-site wetlands suggests a functional gain of 0.027 FU assuming a preservation adjustment factor of 0.4 and upland preservation a functional gain of 0.040 FU assuming a preservation adjustment factor of 0.4.   Total functional gain associated with the mitigation activities total 0.515 FU.

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 proposal may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect the eastern indigo snake (Drymarchon couperi).  The Corps will request U.S. Fish and Wildlife concurrence with this determination and any others 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 impact approximately 0.44-acre of interdunal wetlands hydrologically connected to tidal waters utilized by various life stages of shrimp, reef fish, red drum, and coastal migratory/pelagic fish.  Our initial determination is that the proposed action would not have a substantial adverse impact on EFH or Federally managed fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico.  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.  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 Pensacola Permits Section, 41 N. Jefferson Street, Pensacola, FL 32502 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, Ed Sarfert, in writing at the Pensacola Permits Section, 41 N. Jefferson Street, Pensacola, FL 32502; by electronic mail at edward.p.sarfert@usace.army.mil; by facsimile transmission at (850)433-8160; or, by telephone at (850)439-9533. 

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.