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SAJ-2015-01094 (SP-RLT)

Jacksonville District
Published Nov. 29, 2021
Expiration date: 12/29/2021

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) and Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 (33 U.S.C. §403) as described below:

APPLICANTS:  Florida Department of Transportation

                         Attn: James Poole, P.E.

                         3400 W. Commercial Blvd.

                         Ft. Lauderdale, Florida  33309


                         Palm Beach County

                         Attn: David Ricks, P.E.

                         2300 North Jog Road

                         West Palm Beach, Florida  33411

WATERWAY AND LOCATION:  The project would affect waters of the United States (WOTUS) including wetlands associated with the M-Canal (C-17 Canal), the Pond Cypress Natural Area (PCNA) and Grassy Waters Preserve (GWP).  The project site is located along State Road 7 and along a new proposed extension of SR 7, in an alignment north of the existing SR 7 in Sections 1, 12, 13, and 24, Township 43 South, Range 41 East; Sections 19, 30, and 31, Township 42 South, Range 42 East; and Section 6, Township 43 South, Range 42 East; Palm Beach County, Florida.

Directions to the site are as follows:  The project site is SR 7 from Okeechobee Boulevard to Northlake Boulevard. From the Florida’s Turnpike take the exit for Okeechobee Boulevard (CR 704) and travel west approximately 3.7 miles to SR 7; this is the project’s southern terminus.

APPROXIMATE CENTRAL COORDINATES:         Latitude           26.74622°

                                                                                 Longitude -80.20499°


Basic:  Linear transportation

Overall:  The overall project purpose is to provide a north-south transportation corridor between Okeechobee Blvd. and Northlake Blvd in order to improve regional connectivity, improve hurricane evacuation response, and meet traffic demands in northeastern Palm Beach County.

EXISTING CONDITIONS:  State Road 7 is an existing two-lane undivided roadway that currently terminates at 60th Street North.  The existing road runs north-south between the Pond Cypress Natural Area to the east and residential communities to the west (Segment 1).  The SR 7 Extension consist of constructing a new four-lane divided roadway from 60th Street North along the south side of the M-Canal with the Pond Cypress Natural Area to the south then turning north, bridging the M-Canal and Ibis Spillway, to one mile south of Northlake Boulevard; and widening of the existing one-mile section of SR 7 (2 to 4 lanes) up to Northlake Boulevard (Segment 2). 

The wetlands consist of freshwater open water, marsh, and forested systems.  Land use/land cover types in and around the roadway corridor were classified using the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) Florida Land Use, Cover and Forms Classification System (FLUCFCS, 1999).

The majority of land cover within the ROW is wetland (FLUCFCS 6000) and includes (in order of predominance): Hydric pine flatwoods (6250); freshwater marsh (6410); mixed wetland shrubs (6172);Streams and waterways (5100); and pine flatwoods (4110).  The remaining land cover consists of spoil mound (7430), and utilities, roads and highways (8100).

Some portions of the project area include nuisance/exotic species. Brazilian pepper (Schinus terebinthifolius) and melaleuca (Melaleuca quinquenervia) are the two notable nuisance species with presence exceeding 75 percent in some areas along the northern stretch north of the M-Canal.  Between 60th Street and M-Canal crossing, the most notable nuisance/exotic species is Australian pine (Casuarina equisetifolia).

PROPOSED WORK:  The applicant seeks authorization to discharge fill material over 57.04 acres of non-tidal wetlands along the existing 4.4-mile and proposed 4.1-mile roadway corridor.  The project includes the paving of two previously permitted lanes at the southern segment of SR 7 from Okeechobee Boulevard to 60th Street North (Segment 1); constructing a new four-lane divided roadway from 60th Street North along the south side of the M-Canal, bridging the M-Canal and Ibis Spillway, to one mile south of Northlake Boulevard; and widening of the existing one-mile section of SR 7 (2 to 4 lanes) up to Northlake Boulevard (Segment 2).  The proposed project design includes the creation of stormwater management facilities within the existing right-of-way for water quality treatment and flow attenuation. The design includes restoring and enhancing 47.35 acres of native habitat, removing nuisance/exotic vegetation from the project right-of-way, construction of a shared use path and wildlife passageways, and fencing for wildlife protection (FPID 229664-6/7-32.01).

AVOIDANCE AND MINIMIZATION INFORMATION: The applicants have provided the following information in support of efforts to avoid and/or minimize impacts to the aquatic environment:

Extensive evaluation was conducted on the proposed project during the course of the Project Development and Environment (PD&E) Study to examine ways to eliminate and reduce wetland impacts.  As part of the alternative analysis, four corridors were initially examined for the new alignment roadway segment, and public input was solicited during public meetings and hearings and with a commenting group of public agency representatives covering a wide variety of disciplines.  Once the corridor alignment was selected, various ways to reduce the typical section were considered for both the widening and new alignment segments.  Additionally, avoidance and minimization measures for wetland impacts were considered during the development and evaluation of stormwater management alternatives, and the use of new pond sites was eliminated.  The original estimate of 113.9 acres of wetland impacts was reduced by approximately 50%, through successive iterations and design refinements, to 57.04 acres.

Avoidance and minimization measures pertaining to wetlands, protected species, and other wildlife include the following:

  • Using retained earth walls to reduce embankment footprint;
  • Reducing the median width from 42 feet down to 15.5 feet from 60th Street North to Northlake Boulevard (this is the minimum width allowed per FDOT design and safety standards);
  • Eliminating the need to use entire project right-of-way by redesigning the stormwater system from wet detention to dry detention, thereby reducing the width of drainage treatment areas from 175 feet down to +/- 30 feet;
  • Eliminating the south side drainage swale, south of the M-Canal;
  • Eliminating a proposed pond site located within the FDOT rangeline right-of-way, just south of the curve before the M-Canal crossing, due to the additional associated wetland impacts and resulting bifurcation of the Pond Cypress Natural Area and the Water Catchment Area;
  • Eliminating the 6-foot sidewalks and 6-foot bike lanes from both sides of the roadway (24 feet) and replacing these features with one shared use path (12 feet);
  • Using the existing SR 7 county road (between Northlake Boulevard and the entrance to the Ibis residential development) by placing the alignment as far west as possible;
  • Lowering the design elevation profile;
  • Incorporating specialized wildlife sensitive lighting, and limiting lighting to the roundabouts and intersections, resulting in minimal lighting within the natural areas;
  • Reducing the potential for secondary impacts to wetlands in the Water Catchment Area by placing the alignment as far west as possible;
  • Reducing the potential for water quality impacts within Ibis Preserve and the Water Catchment Area by eliminating discharge of treated stormwater to the Ibis Lakes System;
  • Incorporating on-site enhancement, restoration, and preservation of wetlands within the FDOT ROW north of the M-Canal that will not only negate the potential for roadway-related secondary impacts in the Water Catchment Area, but provide improved habitat in natural areas positioned directly west of the Water Catchment Area, and eliminate the nuisance species seed source that is currently immediately adjacent to the Water Catchment Area; and
  • Including wildlife fencing and wildlife connectivity features to allow the safe passage of wildlife between the Water Catchment Area and Ibis Preserve, and along the M-Canal.

Through these avoidance/minimization efforts, the following benefits are being realized:

  • Reduced roadway typical section footprint;
  • Onsite restoration and enhancement of native habitats within a 47.351-acre portion of transportation ROW and protection with a conservation easement, will prevent future widening to the east;
  • Approximately 50% reduction of total wetland impact acres (approximately 114 acres of wetland impacts were identified in the early PD&E phase and through minimization measures they were reduced to approximately 57 acres as shown in this application);
  • North of M-Canal, approximately 85% impact reduction within native-dominated higher quality marshes and 92% impact reduction within hydric pine;
  • South of M-Canal, approximately 33% impact reduction within native-dominated higher quality marshes and 20% impact reduction within hydric pine;
  • Reduced impact to high quality herbaceous marsh snail kite foraging habitat where snail kites have been observed foraging by project personnel conducting biological surveys from nearly 10 acres to approximately 0.7 acres (93% reduction);
  • Reduced median width from 60th St to Northlake Boulevard by 63% prevents widening to the inside, restricting the roadway to only four lanes in the future;
  • This reduced median width results in an approximate 36% decrease in direct wetland impacts, thereby eliminating approximately 40 acres of direct wetland impacts;
  • Reduced secondary impacts in the Water Catchment Area wetlands as a result of providing on-site wetland restoration, enhancement, and preservation on the easternmost approximate 146+ feet of FDOT ROW north of the M-Canal;
  • Minimized impacts to wildlife through sensitive structure design, use of appropriate fencing (that includes slats installed at the bottom of the fence to prevent small wildlife from passing through and reduce vehicular lighting impacts), heightened barrier wall on the M-Canal bridge and approach, and vegetated buffers to lessen the potential for vehicular strike impacts to birds;
  • Construction of wildlife passageways at the M-Canal and the Ibis Mitigation Area spillway structure at elevation 17.99’ (NGVD) that will allow wildlife connectivity between natural areas;
  • Improvement in the quality of wildlife foraging, roosting, and nesting habitat in the 47.351-acre on-site mitigation area; and
  • Reduced impact to wildlife through placement of the alignment as far north and west as possible within the ROW.

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

The compensatory mitigation being proposed to offset the 57.04 acres of direct wetland and surface water impacts and the associated secondary impacts will be provided through the following:

  1. Credit allocation at Loxahatchee Mitigation Bank.
  2. Allocation of units at Palm Beach County’s Pine Glades Permittee-Responsible Off-Site Mitigation Area (PROMA);


  3. Allocation of units at SFWMD’s Dupuis Reserve PROMA; and


    In addition to the compensatory mitigation above, the applicants are providing 47.35 acres of habitat wetland creation, restoration, and enhancement within on-site right-of-way which includes forested wetland restoration and creation, herbaceous wetland restoration and creation, freshwater marsh enhancement, shrub wetland enhancement, hydric pine enhancement, upland preservation, and wetland transitional area restoration.

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 (SHPO) and those federally recognized tribes with concerns in Florida and the Permit Area. This project was reviewed by the SHPO and concurrence was received on July 21, 2011. A Cultural Resource Assessment Survey (CRAS)re-evaluation was sent to the SHPO on February 18, 2021 stating that no historic properties will be affected by the proposed project; the SHPO concurred with this determination on March 2, 2021.

ENDANGERED SPECIES:  Audubon’s crested caracara (Polyborus plancus audubonii); Florida scrub jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens); red-cockaded woodpecker (Picoides borealis) Eastern indigo snake (Drymarchon couperii corais); woodstork (Mycteria americana), Everglade snail kite (Rostrhamus sociabilis plumbeus), Florida Bonneted Bat (Eumops floridanus)

Audubon’s crested caracara/Florida scrub jay/Red-cockaded woodpecker: The project occurs within the consultation area of the Audubon’s crested caracara (Polyborus plancus audubonii), Florida scrub jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens), and red-cockaded woodpecker. (Picoides borealis).  No critical habitat or foraging or nesting/denning habitat occurs in the project area for these three species, therefore, the project would have “no effect” on these species.

Eastern Indigo snake:  The potential impacts to the endangered Eastern Indigo snake were evaluated using The Eastern Indigo Snake Programmatic Effect Determination Key, August 2017.  Use of the Eastern Indigo snake key resulted in the following sequential determination: A > B > C > D > E “not likely to adversely affect” the Eastern Indigo snake.  This is due to the project impacting less than 25 acres of xeric habitat (scrub, sandhill, or scrubby flatwoods).  Also the applicant proposes to follow the FWS approved Standard Protection Measures for the Eastern Indigo Snake during the clearing and construction phases of the project.

Wood stork:  Based upon review of the Wood Stork Key for South Florida dated May 18, 2010, the proposed project results in the following sequential determination: A > B > C > E > = “may affect” the wood stork. This determination is based on the need to determine if the compensatory mitigation provides adequate suitable foraging habitat compensation for the proposed wetland impacts., The FWS concluded that the proposed habitat mitigation was sufficient, and that the project may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect the wood stork. The current design further reduces impacts to woodstork suitable foraging habitat and the applicants are providing appropriate mitigation.

Everglades snail kite: The USFWS issued a Biological Opinion for the project on November 13, 2014; the USFWS finds that the construction and operation of the proposed action is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of the Everglade snail kite (Rostrhamus sociabilis plumbeus). The proposed project is located outside of critical habitat designated for the snail kite. 

Specifically for the snail kite, implementation of a project-specific snail kite management plan will occur prior to and during construction. This plan includes monitoring for nesting activity during construction and for five years post-construction, guidance for construction scheduling, and contractor education. 

In addition, compensatory mitigation for snail kite foraging, nesting, and roosting/perching habitat impacts is being proposed in addition to what is required for compensatory wetland mitigation. The proposed impacts to an estimated 57.04 acres of snail kite foraging, nesting, and perching/roosting habitat will be mitigated through a multi-faceted approach that includes compensation for direct and indirect habitat impacts, wetland preservation and conservation, an endowment to ensure management of preserved lands in perpetuity, and nest/bird protection during construction.  The plan includes preservation of 213+ acres of native wetland and upland habitats within three sections of the Rangeline: 1) Okeechobee Boulevard to the M-Canal; 2) Northlake Boulevard to SR 710; and 3) North of PGA Boulevard to Jupiter Farms. In addition, the remaining 47.35 acres of on-site habitats (largely wetlands) will be enhanced and placed under conservation easement, for an overall conservation benefit of 264+ acres.

Florida Bonneted Bat: The Consultation Area for the Florida bonneted bat was expanded in 2019 and the modified consultation area includes the project area. Acoustic surveys were undertaken between December 2020 and February 2021. The USFWS Florida Bonneted Bat Consultation Key was consulted and the proposed project resulted in the following sequential determination: 1a > 2a> 3b > 6b = “No Effect” on the Florida bonneted bat; therefore, consultation with the USFWS is not required. The USFWS reviewed the key results and concurred with the finding on April 9, 2021.

Protection measures will be implemented by the applicants to address federally and state protected species during the course of construction and these species will further be supported in perpetuity through establishment of conservation easement areas and long term exotics removal. These measures are outlined in the permit application and supporting documents.

SECTION 408:  Based on available information, 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.  The Corps would document any Section 408 requirements relevant to the crossing of the M-Canal (C-17 Canal) and the stormwater outflow to the north of Northlake Blvd.

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 lines have previously 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 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, Mr. Randy Turner, in writing at the Panama City Permits Section, 415 Richard Jackson Blvd, Suite 411 Panama City, FL 32407; by electronic mail at, or by telephone at 850-763-0717 ext. 3.

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.