Public Notice Notifications

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Florida - This includes all public notices for projects being reviewed for Standard Permits within the State of Florida.

Antilles - This includes all public notices for projects being reviewed for Standard Permits within the Antilles area (this includes Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands).

Tropical Storms & Other Emergencies - These public notices provide information on procedures for emergency permitting requirements due to specific tropical storm events or other emergency situations.

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SAJ-2022-00270 (SP-CGR)

USACE Jacksonville District Regulatory
Published Jan. 25, 2022
Expiration date: 2/24/2022
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. Rafael Machargo
Secretary, Department of Natural and Environmental Resources
San José Industrial Park
1376 Ave. Ponce de León
San Juan, Puerto Rico 00926

WATERWAY AND LOCATION: The project would affect waters of the United States associated with Caribbean Sea. The project sites (5) are located at East of Palominos Island near of Bajo Blake within the Arrecifes de la Cordillera Natural Reserve, Municipality of Fajardo, Puerto Rico.

Directions to the site are as follows: From San Juan take the Baldorioty de Castro Avenue to Carolina, exit at expressway PR-66 to Fajardo, turn right at State Road PR-3, turn left at road PR-194 and turn left at road PR-195 toward the old Fajardo’s Ferry Ports Terminal. The project sites are located to East side of Palominos Island, at the east coast of Puerto Rico, near the coast of Fajardo. The accessibility is only by boat.

APPROXIMATE CENTRAL COORDINATES:

Site 1 (CP.1): Latitude: 18.34370° Longitude: -65.54550°

Site 2 (CP.2): Latitude: 18.34615° Longitude: -65.54653°

Site 3 (CP.3): Latitude: 18.34075° Longitude: -65.54141°

Site 4 (CP.4): Latitude: 18.34206° Longitude: -65.54073°

Site 5 (CP.5): Latitude: 18.34287° Longitude: -65.54230°




PROJECT PURPOSE:

Basic: Artificial Reefs Modules.

Overall: To enhance rugosity of the sea bottom, production and aggregation of sport fish species, and increase settlement of coral larvae and other marine biota.

EXISTING CONDITIONS: The proposed sites are located within the Arrecifes de la Cordillera Natural Reserve. Based on the results of the benthic study, the type of substrate that dominates the seabed across the proposed five sites is mostly 100% sandy. The existing depths range at the project sites is from 65 feet to 75 feet. Near the selected sites, between Palominos Island and Bajo Blake, the applicant has already installed in two areas approximately 50 artificial reefs on a sandy bottom at a depth of 60 feet. These existing artificial reef complexes named “Blake 1 (Manhole AR) and Blake 2 (Reef Ball)” are located in the 18 20.421N -65 32.389W and 18 20.225N -65 32.347W coordinates (central point of the project), respectively and each overs an approximate area of 900 square meters. In nautical chart number 25663 of NOAA (Passage of San Juan to Puerto of Humacao and western part of Isla de Vieques), a polygon is identified as an area with existing artificial reefs and named "Obstn Fish Haven".

PROPOSED WORK: The applicant seeks authorization to deploy a total of five (500) hundred artificial reef (ARs) structures to be located in five different sites on a sandy sea floor in navigable waters of the United States. The five sites are located at a distance of approximately 500 feet or more from each one. Each proposed site will contain 100 artificial reefs modules or units in five AR groups composed by a clearance and boundary square-shaped zones measuring each 70m x 70m. Each of the five AR groups will have four groups at the corners with 4 artificial reefs modules or units in each corner, and one group in the center, with 4 artificial reefs modules or units. The set of 4 artificial reefs units or modules will cover an area of 225 square meters or 0.054 acres of the maritime bottom. Each of the five groups will be formed with a total of 20 prefabricated AR units or modules, resulting in 100 artificial reefs modules per site. Approximately 4 meters will be left between each unit of artificial structure. The area of maritime bottom to be covered by the artificial reefs modules or units for each site is approximately 1.36 acres. The total volume in cubic yards for each artificial reef is 1.37 yd3 for Pyramid reef, 1.15 yd3 for Manhole reef, 0.54 yd3 for Layer cake reef and 1.80 yd3 for Modified block. The total volume of all five hundred (500) artificial reefs is 607.50 yd3 . The distance from the top of these structures to the water surface (or the authorized minimum clearance) is 58.5 ft for areas with 65 ft depth and 68.5 ft for areas with 75 ft depth. Each unit of artificial reef structures will be anchored to the sandy sea bottom using Helix brand, helix Jr. type anchors.

These artificial reefs modules will consist of a non-polluting and durable low pH and 5,000 psi with micro silica concrete layers, constructed to ensure that they will remain intact for many years submerged in a marine environment. The AR unit shall be massive with sufficient weight (approximately from 4,000 to 7,000 lbs.) to withstand storms, current surges without lateral displacement. Also, AR unit shall be designed for minimal bearing pressure on the seabed to minimize sinking in soft mud and will have a rough texture to enhance marine growth. The pyramid module will have an open top of 36 inches and measures: 2.36 m long x 1.83 m tall x 2.36 m wide; the manhole module will have a hole at the top of 39.3-inches and measures 1.37 m long x 1.37 m tall x 1.37 m wide; the layers cake module measures 0.91 m base diameter x 1.98 m tall, and the modified block measures 2.13 m long x 1.68 m tall x 2.13 m wide, and its base is formed and supported by two (2) side walls and two (2) open walls in which these open sides are 0.61 meter in height and 1.22 meter long with an entrance and an exit. A second story of the same structure is added to the top, which provides a complex reef for habitat and protection for juveniles and other animals. Also, using limestone rocks attached to the layers will provide space for coral larvae to settle. The holes (pyramid module and manhole module) allow sea turtles to escape or exit easily. Each structure design is planned to be safe for any marine life and allows water flow as well space for fish and marine life to settle and travel through these modules. This project has a federal aid grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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 artificial reefs structures will be constructed on land and transported to the shoreline of Fajardo where they will be placed on a barge for transportation to the project site. These structures will be placed always on seabed and will not be thrown from the surface to prevent its fall into another area. If there is a need to relocate any of the structures, compressed air lifting bags will be used to float the unit to avoid dragging of the structures on the seabed and preventing unwanted movement of sediments in the water column.

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

The applicant has provided the following explanation why compensatory mitigation should not be required: Due to the nature of the project, which is to provide new maritime habitat that enhance the aggregation and production patterns of marine fishes.

CULTURAL RESOURCES: The lead federal agency is the US Fish and Wildlife Service to ensure compliance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA).

ENDANGERED SPECIES: The lead federal agency to determine compliance with Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act is the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

ESSENTIAL FISH HABITAT (EFH): The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the lead federal agency to determine compliance with the essential fish habitat (EFH) provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA).

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.

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, Fund. Angel Ramos, Annex Bldg.,Suite 202, 383 F.D. Roosevelt Ave., San Juan, Puerto Rico 00918, and to the project manager at: carmen.g.roman@usace.army.mil, 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 carmen.g.roman@usace.army.mil; 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.

WATER QUALITY CERTIFICATION: This public notice serves as the notification to the EPA pursuant to section 401(a)(2) of the Clean Water Act. Water Quality Certification is required from the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources.

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.