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), Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 (33 U.S.C. §403), and 14 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 (33 U.S.C. §403) as described below:
South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD)
Attn: Nimmy Jeyakumar
3301 Gun Club Road
West Palm Beach, FL. 33403
WATERWAY AND LOCATION: The project would affect waters of the United States associated with L-39 levee. The project site is located on the L-39 levee between Water Conservation Area (WCA) 1 and WCA 2, approximately 0.15 miles west of the Loxahatchee Road terminus, in Palm Beach County, Florida.
Directions to the site are as follows: The L-39 Levee forms the southwest boundary of WCA-1 and separates it from WCA-2. The project location is an existing turnaround area approximately midway between the S-10A structure and the east of the levee.
APPROXIMATE CENTRAL COORDINATES: Latitude: 26.3575°
Basic: The basic project purpose is flood control
Overall: The overall project purpose is flood control of the Everglades Protection Area and Water Catchment Area 2 (WCA-2).
EXISTING CONDITIONS: The immediate project area is a manmade levee approximately 50 feet wide in the work area. There are two boat ramps east of the project site and two boat ramps west of the project site. The levee is located between WCA 1 and WCA 2. WCA 2 is part of the Everglades & Francis S. Taylor Wildlife Management Area and contains signature Everglades sawgrass marsh, interspersed with tree islands. Ownership is mixed, with State, SWFMD and private ownership. The State leases portions of its land to the Miccosukee Indian Tribe. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission manages the areas and conducts hunts for waterfowl, deer and small game.
WCA 1 is the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Refuge. The SFWMD owns the conservation area and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) manages it as a refuge. The 147,392-acre main area of the refuge lies west of the levee and is accessible by boat. It receives water from STA-1E and STA-1W and from direct rainfall. Water can be discharged from WCA-1 north to the C-51 canal using the STA-1 East and STA-1 West bypass structures G-301 and G-300, east to the Hillsboro Canal via the S-39 structure and south to WCA-2A through the S-10 structures. Water supply releases to the Lake Worth Drainage District are made through the two structures (G-94A and G-94C) and, on rare occasion, to STA-2 via bypass structure G-338. A labyrinth of small tree islands set in a matrix of wet prairies, sawgrass ridges and aquatic slough communities comprising about 98%of the refuge characterizes its interior. The western and southern portions of the refuge open up to large expanses of sawgrass prairie, interspersed with prairie, slough, and tree island communities more typical of other portions of the Everglades. The refuge also contains a 400-acre cypress swamp.
WCA-2 is a sawgrass wetland of 210 square mile and a component of the C&SF Project. In 1961 the L-35B levee was built along the southeast portion, dividing WCA-2 into WCA-2A and WCA-2B to reduced seepage from WCA-2A.
High rainfall events during the month of May 2018 caused high water conditions and flooding in the Everglades Protection Area, including WCA 2, posing an immediate threat to wildlife, public health, safety or welfare. As a result of these threats, on June 20, 2018, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) issued an Emergency Final Order (OGC NO.: 18-1066) authorizing the SWFMD and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to make temporary operational changes, and temporarily suspending requirements for permits and other specific state authorizations.
The Corps issued Nationwide permit(s) for the temporary installation of three 42-inch pumps through the L-39 levee on August 24, 2017 and June 22, 2018. These actions were to facilitate emergency conveyance of the water to the S-39 structure so it can be pumped to tide via the Hillsboro Canal in response to potential flooding from high rainfall.
PROPOSED WORK: The applicant seeks authorization to install three (3) 42-inch permanent discharge pipes through the L-39 levee structure to which temporary emergency pump units may be connected. A total of 978 cubic yards of riprap will be placed along the canal ban over a 6,406 square foot area (3,616 square feet below the MHWL and 2,790 square feet above the MHWL (total of 6,406 square feet). Each of the three 42-inch pipes have a capacity of 100 cfs (300 cfs total). Under certain high-water conditions, that pose an immediate threat to wildlife, public health, safety, and/or welfare, emergency pumps will temporarily direct water from the Everglades Protection Area and WCA-2 to WCA-1, where it will be discharged to tide via the Hillsboro Canal through the S-39 structure.
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 proposed project will eliminate the repeated disturbance of the L-39 levee by constructing a permanent structure to which temporary pump units may be connected, from the upland portion of the L-39 levee, whenever these conditions occur. The new location will allow space for equipment while allowing traffic across the structure. The design includes closure provisions for times when pumps are not required. Vegetation clearing will be minimized to the greatest extent practicably needed to complete the pipe installation. Best management practices (turbidity barriers, etc.) will be utilized throughout the duration of the construction activity.
Emergency pumping operations will be implemented in a manner that will minimize detrimental impacts (including harmful flooding and degradation of water quality) to the environment, the public, to adjacent properties, and to downstream receiving waters to the greatest extent possible consistent with the hydrological and biological restoration goals of the Everglades Forever Act (Section 373.4592, F.S.) and the Florida Bay Restoration Act.
COMPENSATORY MITIGATION: The applicant has provided the following explanation why compensatory mitigation should not be required: Riprap being utilized for the pipe infrastructure will be installed along the canal banks, therefore, no adverse environmental and/or wetland impacts are anticipated, and no compensatory mitigation is required.
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 Everglade snail kite (Rostrhamus sociabilis plumbeus) and its designated critical habitat, the Eastern indigo snake (Drymarchon corais couperi), the Florida Bonneted Bat (Eumops floridanus), and the Wood Stork (Mycteria Americana). The Corps will request U.S. Fish and Wildlife concurrence with this determination pursuant to Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act by separate letter.
ESSENTIAL FISH HABITAT (EFH): There is no EFH within the project area, therefore the proposed action would have no impact on EFH or Federally managed fisheries in the South Atlantic Region.
SECTION 408: The applicant will require permission under Section 14 of the Rivers and Harbors Act (33 USC 408) because the activity, in whole or in part, would 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 STE 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, Linda C. Knoeck, in writing at the Palm Beach Gardens Permits Section, 4400 PGA Boulevard STE 500, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida 33410, by electronic mail at Linda.C.Knoeck@usace.army.mil.
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.