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: Florida Department of Transportation, District 7
Attn: Joel Johnson
11201 N McKinley Drive
Tampa, Florida 33612
WATERWAY AND LOCATION: The project would affect waters of the United States associated with Old Tampa Bay. The project starts just west of the Hillsborough River, through the Westshore Interchange, to Howard Frankland Bridge (HFB) Causeway. The project also includes the Veteran Connector (SR 60 north from Westshore Boulevard becoming SR 589 (Veterans Expressway) and continuing north of Independence Parkway along Old Tampa Bay in Tampa, Hillsborough County Florida.
Directions to the site are as follows: From the USACE Tampa Office, turn left on SR 574 (Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd); take SR 574 to I-4 W (approximately 3 miles), merge
onto I-275 S towards St Petersburg.
APPROXIMATE CENTRAL COORDINATES: Latitude: 27.947951°
Basic: Linear Transportation.
To upgrade the safety and efficiency of the existing I-275, SR 589 and SR 60 corridors that service the Tampa urban area while maintaining access to surrounding communities. The project is to relieve traffic congestion, improve system linkages and multimodal connections.
Overall: The project includes widening the Howard Frankland Bridge (HFB) causeway to connect to the HFB improvements currently under construction, the addition of general lanes and express/managed lanes on the causeway (requiring relocation of the existing seawall to the north of the causeway), placement of toll operation facilities, and construction of architectural features adjacent to the causeway required by the Urban Beautification Guidelines. The project includes new express lanes near the SR 60 interchange south to and from I 275, a new toll ramp into Tampa International Airport (TIA) across Fish Creek, and the addition of general use lanes west of Westshore Boulevard. TBN Segment 5 includes the addition of express lanes in the center of existing constructed lanes (no wetland or OSW impacts). The Veterans Connector (SR 60 & SR 589) includes construction of express lanes between existing constructed lanes. Stormwater management facilities (SMFs) are already permitted and mostly constructed under previous projects.
Estuarine and mangrove habitats are located along the HFB causeway (I-275) The wetland system consists of a saltwater system. The onsite vegetation consists of a mix of upland species such as Brazilian pepper on the upper slopes of the causeway and mangrove and seagrass communities in the aquatic environment.The existing area surrounding the project area consists of commercial businesses.
PROPOSED WORK: The project will result in direct seagrass impacts of 7.83 ac (3.72 units FL) and secondary seagrass impacts of 1.43 ac (0.21 units FL), direct mangrove impact of 8.68 ac (4.64 units FL) and secondary mangrove impacts of 1.28 ac (0.13 units FL), and direct salt marsh impact of 0.05 ac (0.03 units FL) and 0.15 ac (0.01 units FL) of secondary salt marsh impacts.
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:
Specific impact avoidance / minimization elements have been incorporated into the project design. These include the following:
Retention walls are proposed in the area of WL 1 and WL 7 to minimize side slopes. Express lanes are proposed in median areas between existing roadways to avoid impacts to adjacent wetlands or surface waters where feasible. Erosion and Sediment controls and other best management practices (BMPs) will be implemented to contain impacts to the study area and minimize impacts to adjacent areas. During the design-build process, further efforts will be made to reduce the footprint within seagrass, wetlands or surface waters to the greatest extent practicable.
The seawall replacement to the north of the causeway is a continuation of the permitted HFB. The alignment to the north side of the causeway was located in such a way as to minimize impacts to the south side where there was an increased presence of more dense seagrass communities. The Segment 4 project continues those improvements, matching the HFB’s widening to the north. However, because seagrasses and mangroves are located immediately adjacent to the causeway, impacts to these resources were unavoidable.
The use of silt screens, floating turbidity barriers, and other sediment/erosion control devices will be utilized to minimize impacts to the bay, seagrasses, and other resources beyond the project limits. The FDOT will require the contractor to identify seagrass resources adjacent to the project limits limits-of-construction with the direction to install and maintain floating buoys to ensure that construction activities will not cause unacceptable, adverse secondary impacts.
COMPENSATORY MITIGATION – The applicant has offered the following compensatory mitigation plan to offset unavoidable functional loss to the aquatic environment:
Mitigation for 3.93 units of FL of direct and secondary seagrass impacts is proposed to be provided through the functional gain units obtained through the Old Tampa Bay Water Quality Improvement Project (OTB WQIP). Mangrove mitigation for a total of 4.77 units of FL will be provided through purchase of mitigation bank credits from the Mangrove Point Mitigation Bank. Salt marsh mitigation for a total of 0.04 units of FL will be provided through the purchase of mitigation bank credits from the Tampa Bay Mitigation Bank.
CULTURAL RESOURCES: A Cultural Resource Assessment Survey (CRAS) was conducted as part of the FDOT’s Tampa Interstate Study (TIS) Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) of 1996 and the TIS Supplemental Environmental Impact
Statement (SEIS) of 2020.The purpose of the CRAS was to locate and identify any cultural resources within the Area of Potential Effect (APE) and to assess their significance in terms of eligibility for listing in the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). The CRAS was conducted in accordance with the requirements set forth in 36 CFR Section 60.4. Both the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO) have reviewed and approved the CRAS conducted for this project. On June 10, 2019, the SHPO concurred that the project results in a finding of no adverse effect.
ENDANGERED SPECIES: Coordination with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) was conducted during the project’s PD&E phase. The USFWS reviewed the project’s Tampa Interstate Study (TIS) Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) of 1996 and the TIS Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) of 2020, the Natural Resource Evaluation report (NRE) and Biological Assessment report. The documents examined the potential effects on listed wildlife species with regards to the proposed design. A request for concurrence letter was transmitted to the USFWS on May 18, 2018. The USFWS responded with their concurrence, by signature, on June 17, 2018.
ESSENTIAL FISH HABITAT (EFH): FDOT initiated Endangered Species Act (ESA) consultation with NMFS on September 16, 2019. March 23, 2017. As part of the consultation effort, FDOT sent a Natural Resource Assessment that included an Endangered Species Biological Assessment. NMFS concurred with FDOT’s determinations on July 6, 2021.
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 Panama City Permits Section, 41 N Jefferson St., Suite 301, Pensacola, FL 32502-5644 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, Franklin M. Dimitroff in writing at the Panama City Permits Section, 41 N Jefferson St., Suite 301 Pensacola, FL 32502-5644; or by electronic mail at Franklin.M.Dimitroff@usace.army.mil; or by telephone at (850) 433-8732 Ext. 7.
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.