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) as described below:
APPLICANT: AMH Robinson Tract Development, LLC
Attn: Mr. Geoffrey Reid
13901 Sutton Park Drive South, Suite 200
Jacksonville, Florida 32224
WATERWAY AND LOCATION: The project would affect waters of the United States associated with Mill Log Creek. The project site is located at 2400 Sandridge Road, in Section 25, Township 5 South, Range 25 East, Green Cove Springs, Clay County, Florida.
Directions to the site are as follows: From US Highway 17 in Green Cove Springs, Florida turn onto Russel Road. Proceed on Russel Road until the intersection of County Road 315B and turn right to proceed on Russel Road until the intersection of Sandridge Road and turn left. The project site is located approximately 0.5-mile down Sandridge Road on the right.
APPROXIMATE CENTRAL COORDINATES: Latitude 30.052961°
Basic: The basic project purpose is residential development.
Overall: The overall project purpose is a residential development (rental properties) and associated infrastructure within the geographical boundaries of State Road 16, US Highway 301, Black Creek, and the St. Johns River near Green Cove Springs, Florida.
EXISTING CONDITIONS: The property is characterized by generalized vegetative communities per Florida Land Use, Cover, and Forms Classification System [(FLUCFCS) Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), State Topographic Bureau, Thematic Mapping Section, 1999)].
a. Upland Communities:
i. Residential Low Density (FLUCFCS 110) – This area contains a residence a pole barn.
ii. Improved Pasture (FLUCFCS 211) - A large portion of the project area is composed of this community type which currently supports cattle. The vegetation is dominated by bahia grass (Paspalum notatum).
iii. Pine Flatwoods (FLUCFCS 414) – This community has a mixed canopy of laurel oak (Quercus laurifolia), loblolly pine (Pinus taeda), water oak (Quercus nigra), live
oak (Quercus virginiana) and slash pine (Pinus elliottii). The understory is vegetated with scattered saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) and bitter gallberry (Ilex glabra). Ground cover is limited with scattered bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum).
b. Wetland Communities:
i. Ditches (FLUCFCS 510) – In portions of the site upland cut drainage ditches were cut to promote drainage.
ii. Bottomland (FLUCFCS 615) - This community, often referred to as bottomland of stream hardwoods, is usually found on but not restricted to river, creek, and lake
flood plains or overflow areas. This category has a wide variety of predominantly hardwood species of which some of the more common components include red maple (Acer rubrum), river birch (Betula nigra), water oak (Quercus nigra), sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua), blackgum (Nyssa sylvatica var.biflora), water hickory (Carya aquatica), and water ash (Fraxinus caroliniana). Associated species include cypress (Taxodium spp.), slash pine (Pinus elliottii), and loblolly pine (Pinus taeda). This portion of the site contains Mill Log Creek.
iii. Hydric Pine Flatwoods (FLUCFCS 625) – This community has a canopy of slash pine (Pinus elliottii). The understory and groundcover are vegetated with
scattered dahoon holly (Ilex cassine), loblolly bay (Gordonia lasianthus), fetterbush (Lyonia lucida), highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum) Virginia chain fern
(Woodwardia virginica) and pipewort (Eriocaulon sp.).
iv. Wetland Forested Mixed (FLUCFCS 630) – This community has a mixed canopy slash pine (Pinus elliottii), dahoon holly (Ilex cassine), loblolly bay (Gordonia
lasianthus), red maple (Acer rubrum) and sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua). The understory and groundcover are vegetated with fetterbush (Lyonia lucida),
highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum) Virginia chain fern (Woodwardia virginica) and pipewort (Eriocaulon sp.).
v. Borrow Pit (FLUCFCS 742) – There is a large borrow pit onsite which was wholly dug within uplands.
PROPOSED WORK: The applicant seeks authorization to discharge clean fill material into 4.79 acres of palustrine-forested wetlands and 0.67-acre of relatively permanent waterways to facilitate the construction of a single-family residential development and associated infrastructure (recreational facility, utilities, and roadways).
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:
Attached to this response is a letter from Gunster dated February 18, 2022, enclosing a Revised Alternatives Analysis Demonstrating Wetland Impacts Avoidance and Minimization (the “Alternatives Analysis”) as Attachment A. The Applicant is providing this revised Alternatives Analysis to demonstrate the wetland impacts avoidance and minimization effort that the Applicant undertook. This revised Alternatives Analysis follows the analysis framework of the Jacksonville District’s “Information for Preparing an Alternatives Analysis Under Section 404” dated June 2014. The enclosed revised Alternatives Analysis supersedes and replaces all other avoidance and minimization and alternatives analysis information submitted by the Applicant for the project. As the Alternatives Analysis demonstrates, elimination of any of the 347 lots would make the project economically unfeasible based on comparable lot sales demonstrating that 347 lots are necessary to cover the fixed costs associated with the project with a profit margin of 0.6%. As part of the Applicant’s Alternatives Analysis, a revised Preferred Plan was prepared, which is provided in the Alternatives Analysis as Figure 4. In addition, the draft Mobility Fee and APF Credit Agreement with Clay County and its draft Exhibit B referenced in the 1/6/2022 email is attached. We expected this agreement to be finalized and include the same substance as the draft in the near future and no later than March of 2022. As noted previously, the Clay County development approval for this project requires certain uplands in the northwest portion of the project to be donated to the County for an 80-foot roadway easement, 20-foot utility easement, and upland/wetland area to provide the County land to construct any future improvements in the area. Additionally, in its RAI the Corps stated that there appear to be other accessible uplands that are not utilized for development and not addressed in the 1/6/22 email. While it is unclear exactly what is meant, the Applicant acknowledges that there is a narrow upland area adjacent to the back of the lots on the northeast side of the project. This upland area is too narrow for development of new lots and the logistical configuration would only allow for elongation of certain lots in a way that is not desirable to the Applicant. The Corps also stated that it appeared there were wetlands to be filled for residential backyards (Impacts #4, 8, 14, 19, 20) that can be avoided; however, logistically, for the development of the project, avoiding impacts during lot filling and grading to these types of small wetland fingers that may jut into a lot is not feasible, and these impacts are unavoidable.
COMPENSATORY MITIGATION – The applicant has offered the following compensatory mitigation plan to offset unavoidable functional loss to the aquatic environment:
The wetland impacts have been avoided and minimized consistent with the requirements of Section 404 of the Clean Water Act and its implementing regulations. The Applicant proposes to mitigate for the freshwater forested impacts by purchasing 3.24 federal UMAM mitigation bank credits from a Corps-approved mitigation bank which serves the area for which a permit is sought. Please see the attached UMAM summary spreadsheet as well as Part I’s and II’s which demonstrate the 3.24 credits will fully offset impacts to 4.79 acres of wetlands on the project site.
The Corps is evaluating the undertaking for effects to historic properties as required under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. This public notice serves to inform the public of the proposed undertaking and invites comments including those from local, State, and Federal government Agencies with respect to historic resources. Our final determination relative to historic resource impacts may be subject to additional coordination with the State Historic Preservation Officer, those federally recognized tribes with concerns in Florida and the Permit Area, and other interested parties.
The Corps has determined the proposed project may affect but is not likely to adversely affect the eastern indigo snake (Drymarchon corais couperi) or its designated critical habitat. The Corps will request U.S. Fish and Wildlife/National Marine Fisheries Service concurrence with this determination pursuant to Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act.
ESSENTIAL FISH HABITAT (EFH): This notice initiates consultation with the National Marine Fisheries Service on EFH as required by the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act 1996. Our initial determination is that the proposed action would not have a substantial adverse impact on EFH or Federally managed fisheries in the St. Johns River or Black Creek. Our final determination relative to project impacts and the need for mitigation measures is subject to review by and coordination with the National Marine Fisheries Service.
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.
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, via email to Brad.J.Carey@usace.army.mil within 21 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. Brad Carey, in writing at the Jacksonville Permits Section via electronic mail at Brad.J.Carey@usace.army.mil; or, by telephone at (904) 232-2405.
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.
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 may be required from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and/or one of the state Water Management Districts.
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.