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: Reef Renewal, LLC
c/o Ken Neal Nedimyer
212 Silver Palm Avenue
Tavernier, FL 33070
WATERWAY AND LOCATION: The project would affect waters of the United States associated with the Atlantic Ocean. The project site is located within Federal open waters of the Atlantic Ocean, approximately 3.5 miles off the community of Tavernier, on the island of Key Largo, in the Florida Keys, Monroe County, Florida. (See enclosed Vicinity Map & Coordinates).
Directions to the site are as follows: From Harry Harris Beach County Park (MM± 93.5-Ocean), the nearest public boat ramp, the site is approximately 4 miles waterward, southeast (131 degrees), approximately 1.05 miles west of Snapper Ledge Reef and approximately 1.5 west of Pickles Reef.
APPROXIMATE CENTRAL COORDINATES: Latitude: 24.980656° North
Longitude : -80.438839° East
FOUR CORNER GEOGRAPHIC COORDINATES:
Corner 1: Latitude: 24.981031° North
Longitude: -80.438751° West
Corner 2: Latitude: 24.980566° North
Longitude: -80.438427° West
Corner 3: Latitude: 24.980275° North
Longitude: -80.438931° West
Corner 4: Latitude: 24.980743° North
Longitude: -80.439258° West
Lat/Long coordinates will be provided on the ORM2 summary page. Use this block to provide a brief narrative description of where the work in waters of the United States (WoUS) is located, i.e., name of waterbody and location in relation to an intersection. For unnamed waters, provide location in relation to nearest named water. A site map may also be referenced and attached.
Basic: The basic project purpose is to install additional temporary structures on a stablished coral nursery to cultivate corals and grow of sea urchin (diadema antellarum).
Overall: The overall project purpose is continuing development and work on a stablished coral nursery to cultivate corals and grow sea urchin (diadema antellarum) for the purpose of natural coral reef restoration and research in waters of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, Monroe County, Florida.
EXISTING CONDITIONS: The project site is located within federal open waters of the Atlantic Ocean, outside state waters. The project site is referred to as “Tavernier Coral Nursery” site. The Tavernier Coral Nursery is a stablished underwater coral nursery, previously permitted under SAJ-2019-00353. The project site consists of an area, approximately 0.92 acres on size with an outer dimension of 200’ by 200’, 40,000-square feet. Currently, the project site supports 160 structures, occupying approximately 1,535-square foot of the sea-bottom. The project site sea-bottom consists of a sand composition and has an average water depth of 30’. A new addition to this nursery site is the addition of four (4) sea urchin cages. The cages will be used to grow Diadema antellarum sea urchins for use in coral reef restoration projects. No natural occurring corals, hardbottom or seagrass were identified within the project area. The project site is within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (FKNMS) boundaries. The site was previously permit by the FKNMS under FKNMS Permit # 2019-025-A1.
PROPOSED WORK: The applicant seeks authorization for a 10-year permit to continue work and development of a stablished coral nursery site, previously permitted under SAJ-2019-00353. The proposed work consists of the temporary deployment of a maximum total of 254 structures, at any one time, within 40,000-square feet (200’ by 200’) (.92 acres) area to cultivate multiple coral species, including listed species, for the purpose of Aquatic Habitat Restoration, Enhancement, Establishment and Research Activities. The work involves temporarily deployment of equipment which includes coral nursery tree like structures, concrete block, ceramic disks, rebar and stakes, PVC pipes, duckbill sand anchors, lines, weights, floats, markers and tags. All corals will be cultivated on mid-water structures that will be tethered to the bottom with “duckbill” sand anchors. Subsurface buoys will hold the nursery structures at mid water and the structures will be buoyed at the top with foam floats. Additionally, the applicant seek authorization to deploy four (4), 8’ long by 2’wide and 2’ high, sea urchin cages on site to experiment on the grow of sea urchin (diadema antellarum).
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:
Due to the nature of the work, the applicant could not avoid conducting the proposed work within waters of the United States. The deployment of coral nursery structures is proposed on areas of sandy bottom only, areas that do not support hard bottom, corals and/or seagrass. Furthermore, the project has been designed to maintain safe navigability by maintaining a clearance between MLW and the top of any of the proposed structures. The project has been designed in a manner not to result on aggregation of material or discharge of any fill material that would alter the sea-bottom.
No materials will be dredged or discharged as a result of the proposed work.
COMPENSATORY MITIGATION – The applicant is not proposing mitigation because they are not proposing any dredge or fill of surface waters and all water impacts are temporary, waters will be restored to pre-disturbance following completion of the activity. Furthermore, the proposed activities should result in net increases in aquatic resource functions and services.
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 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) has determined the project may affect but is not likely to adversely affect (“MANLAA”) the West Indian manatee (Trichechus manatus). Since the proposal by the applicant is for in-water construction, potential impacts to the endangered West Indian manatee were evaluated using The Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District, and the State of Florida Effect Determination Key for the Manatee in Florida, April 2013 (Key). Use of the Key resulted in the following sequential determination: A > B > C > G > N > 0 > P (5), may affect, not likely to adversely affect “MANLAA”. This determination is partially based on the implementation of the Standard Manatee Conditions for In-Water Work, 2011. By letter dated April 25, 2013, the Corps received concurrence from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) regarding MANLAA determinations for the West Indian manatee in accordance with 50 CFR 402.14(b)1 and pursuant to the Key. No further coordination with the FWS is required.
The Corps has determined the proposed project may affect but is not likely to adversely affect (“MANLAA”) the Swimming green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas), loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) and their designated critical habitat, hawksbill sea turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata), kemps ridley sea turtles (Lepidochelys kempii), leatherback sea turtles (Dermochelys coriacea), Nassau grouper (Epinephelus striatus), Giant manta rays, smalltooth sawfish (Pristis pectinata), Blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus), humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae), fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus), sei whale (Balaenoptera borealis), right whale (Eubalaena glacialis), sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus), Acorpora sp. and its designated critical habitat, and corals species; (Dendrogyra cylindrus, Orbicella annularis, Orbicella faveolata, Orbicella franksi, Mycetophyllia ferox) species. A no effect determination was reached on smalltooth sawfish critical habitat. The Corps will request National Marine Fisheries Service concurrence with these determinations 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 40,000 square feet of submerged bottom utilized by various life stages of marine species. Our initial determination is that the proposed action would not have a substantial adverse impact on EFH or Federally managed fisheries in the Florida Keys. 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: Authorization from other government agencies may be required.
COMMENTS regarding the potential authorization of the work proposed should be submitted in writing to the attention of the District Engineer through the Miami Permits Section, 9900 Southwest 107th Avenue, Suite 203, Miami, Florida, 33176, within 30 days from the date of this notice (i.e. on or before September 23rd, 2021).
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, Gletys Guardia-Montoya at the letterhead address, by electronic mail at Gletys.Guardia-Montoya@usace.army.mil, or by telephone at 305-526-2515.
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.
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.