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) and Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 (33 U.S.C. §403) as described below:
APPLICANT: Mr. Jaime Pabón
Aerostar Airport Holdings, LLC
P.O. Box 38085
San Juan, Puerto Rico 00937
WATERWAY AND LOCATION: The project would affect waters of the United States, including wetlands associated with La Torrecilla Lagoon. The project site is located at Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport, along the north side of the existing Runway 8-26 and at the southeast of Runway 8-26’s eastern end, Cangrejo Arriba Ward, Municipality of Carolina, Puerto Rico.
Directions to the site are as follows: Going east along PR-26 (Ramón Baldorioty de Castro Avenue) from San Juan to Carolina, take exit PR-17 east to the right side toward the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (LMMIA).
APPROXIMATE CENTRAL COORDINATES: Latitude 18.4496°
Basic: Re-shaping trapezoidal drainage channel and removal of mangrove-wetland vegetation.
Overall: To return the hydraulic capacity and trapezoidal configuration of channel A, and to achieve a Runway Object Free Area (ROFA) of Runway 8-26 to enhance safety at the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport to comply with Federal Aviation Administration design safety requirements.
EXISTING CONDITIONS: The wetland system consists of a mangrove forest - saltwater and freshwater system. Channel A runs parallel along the north side of Runway 8-26. Based on information provided by the applicant, channel A is a man-made channel constructed to manage stormwater from the LMMIA conveying it outside the airfield toward the La Torrecilla Lagoon. Over the years, accumulation of sediments and development of mangrove fringe have occurred along channel A due to the lack of maintenance of this channel. The hydraulic capacity of the channel has been lost, which results in flooding of the LMMIA airfield. The existing area surrounding the project area consists of main runway of the LMMIA and its airfield.
PROPOSED WORK: The applicant seeks authorization to perform the following works: dredging (cut) approximately 10.49 acres of wetlands located at the mangrove fringe along the north side of channel A; removal of sediments and obstructions from existing interconnecting pipes at channel A; the discharge of approximately 17,046 cubic yards of fill material on approximately 13.19 acres of wetlands, from this total approximately 9.59 acres are mostly mangrove vegetation and 3.6 acres are open-waters (open waters to be filled will remain as open waters of channel A) to reach the elevation contours to return the trapezoidal configuration of the north side of channel A; and additionally, the clearing and grubbing only of approximately 0.71 acres of wetlands in some sections along the north side of channel A. As part of the works to be conducted at the LMMIA, the project also includes the clearing of approximately 0.88 acres of mangrove trees (mangrove trees would be cut to runway safety area ground level and without removing its roots) at the southeast of Runway 8-26’s eastern end (Drawing CF-3). These works are also to enhance safety at the airport in compliance with the 400 feet runway object free area (ROFA) requirements from the center of Runway 8-26 toward each side (north and south) of the center of the runway. The dimensions of channel A to be improved are approximately 8,327 linear feet long and the width varies from 80.29 feet to 112.81 feet. Approximately two feet of sediments from the bottom of channel A would be removed, as well as mangrove-wetlands vegetation. This channel ends at the old submerged burrow pit. The graded banks of channel A will be armored with articulated concrete blocks and the bottom of the channel will be earthen. The fill material will be obtained from local offsite borrow sources within the San Juan area.
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 applicant stated that the proposed project has been designed to avoid and minimize impacts to wetlands and surface waters to the maximum extent practicable. Avoidance of impacts at some sections of the existing wetlands will not allow applicant achieves project’s purpose, and will contribute that periodic airfield flooding and encroachment of the ROFA by vegetation persist, and also, the LMMIA would remain out of compliance with the FAA airport design criteria if no action is taken. To minimize impacts on the aquatic environment, the proposed discharge of fill material in wetlands is limited to fulfill project’s purpose: the trapezoidal configuration of channel, and the ROFA safety requirements. Access for equipment to continue maintenance on channel will be constructed in adjacent uplands to be filled/improved.
COMPENSATORY MITIGATION – The applicant has offered the following compensatory mitigation plan to offset unavoidable functional loss to the aquatic environment:
The applicant has offered to conduct the following activities as compensatory mitigation: the removal of dead trees and the trees that are blocking the water flow from La Torrecilla Canal at the Piñones State Forest Reserve (No dredging or unearthing of roots is proposed); the restoration of approximately 7.5 acres of wetlands within a parcel of land of approximately of 33.40 acres at the Piñones State Forest by planting 7,500 seedlings or trees between 1-3 feet of red, black, and white mangroves and other tree seedlings; the enhancement and conservation of 5 acres of wetlands at a parcel of land of Hacienda Campo Rico by the creation of 2.5 acres of mangrove islands and 2.5 acres of open waters and channels connected to the existing wetlands, and the conservation of additional 5 acres of wetlands at Hacienda Campo Rico.
CULTURAL RESOURCES: The Federal Aviation Administration is the lead federal agency for the proposed project for complying with this component. By letter dated August 2, 2017, the State Historic Preservation Office determined that no historic properties will be affected by this project.
ENDANGERED SPECIES: The Federal Aviation Administration is the lead federal agency for the proposed project for complying with this component. By letter June 19, 2019, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service informed to the Federal Aviation Administration that the airport property did not provide suitable habitat for federally listed species under their purview.
ESSENTIAL FISH HABITAT (EFH): The Federal Aviation Administration is the lead federal agency for the proposed project for complying with this component. The Federal Aviation Administration determined in September 2019, that the proposed project is not likely to adversely affect essential fish habitat.
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: A Water Quality Certification is required from the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources – Point Sources Permit Division, and a Coastal Zone Management Certificate is required from the Puerto Rico Planning Board.
COMMENTS regarding the potential authorization of the work proposed should be submitted in writing to the attention of the District Engineer through the Antilles Permits
Section, at email@example.com or Fund. Angel Ramos Annex BLDG., Suite 202, 383 F.D. Roosevelt Ave., San Juan, Puerto Rico 00918 or 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, Carmen G. Román, in writing at the Antilles Permits Section, Fund. Angel Ramos Annex BLDG., Suite 202, 383 F.D. Roosevelt Ave., San Juan, Puerto Rico 00918; by electronic mail at firstname.lastname@example.org; or by telephone at (787) 370-3482.
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.