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 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 (33 U.S.C. §403) and Section 404 of the Clean Water Act (33 U.S.C. § 1344) as described below:
APPLICANT: Center Lake Properties, LLLP
Attn: James Caruso
PO Box 568367
Orlando, FL 32856
WATERWAY AND LOCATION: The Center Lake Ranch project would impact waters of the United States within the East Lake Tohopekaliga (HUC 030901010104) and Alligator Lake (HUC 030901010901) watersheds. The project is located on Nova Road, in Section 27, 28, 29, 32, 33, 34, Township 25 South, Range 31 East, St. Cloud, Osceola County, Florida.
Directions to the site are as follows: Take US192 east to Nova Road. Turn north onto Nova Road. Take Nova Road approximately 2 miles to the subject property.
Basic: The basic project purpose is mixed use master plan community with recreational access to navigable waters within the city of St. Cloud
Overall: The Overall Project Purpose for the Center Lake Ranch Project is to develop a mixed-use master plan community that includes single family and multifamily residential communities (at least 3,500 units), parks (at least 25 acres), community services (school, firehouse), roads, ponds, and commercial/office uses (at least 25 acres). Access to a lake or waterbody must be available to support the recreational component of the project. The project must have access to City utilities (water/wastewater).
EXISTING CONDITIONS: This site was formerly evaluated as a Development of Regional Impact (DRI) and was reviewed by the appropriate regulatory agencies during the DRI process. The majority of the federal wetland impacts within this project are for the internal roadways which are designed to utilize the footprint of existing field roads. An Approved Jurisdictional Determination (AJD) was previously issued for this project site, which identifies several isolated, non-WOTUS (Waters of the United States) wetlands and surface waters (ditches) within the project limits [SAJ-2010-00489 (JD-JSC)].
110 Residential, Low Density - This land use type is located in the northwestern corner of the project site. It contains an old homestead and an outbuilding.
211 Improved Pasture - This cover type is dominant on the Center Lake Ranch property. It consists of agricultural land managed for the purpose of sustaining cattle. Dominant vegetative species include bahia grass (Paspalum notatum), Bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon), dog fennel (Eupatorium capillifolium), Mexican clover (Richardia brasiliensis), fireweed (Erechtites hieraciifolius), blackberry and slash pine (Pinus elliottii). Many areas appear to have been historically disturbed as evidenced by a dominance of invasive vegetation such as blackberry (Rubus sp.), muscadine vine (Vitis sp.), hairy indigo (Indigofera hirsuta), rattlebox and dog fennel in the groundcover.
421 Xeric Oak - There are two (2) areas of disturbed xeric oak habitat; one (1) area is located just east of Twelve Oaks Road and the other is located in the northeastern portion of the property. Canopy species include sand live oak (Quercus virginiana var. geminata), myrtle oak (Quercus myrtifolia), laurel oak, slash pine and longleaf pine (Pinus palustris). The understory is generally comprised of dense assemblages of the aforementioned scrub oak species with a ground cover often found to support saw palmetto (Serenoa repens).
427 Live Oak - This upland community supports mature live oaks with a ground cover
typically comprised of bahia grass, tropical soda apple, dog fennel, blackberry, and flattop goldenrod.
434 Hardwood-Conifer Mixed - This land cover classification is located in the eastern portion of the project site. The canopy of this upland community is comprised predominately of live oak and laurel oak with scattered slash pine and longleaf pine. Less common hardwoods include black cherry (Prunus serotina) and persimmon (Diospyros virginiana). Understory and ground cover plants include but are not limited to saw palmetto, American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana), bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum), and shiny blueberry (Vaccinium myrcinites). Vines include catbrier (Smilax auriculata), Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) and muscadine grape (Vitis rotundifolia).
511 Ditch - There are several large ditches that bisect the large wetlands within the Center Lake Ranch project site. These ditches range from small field ditches to large
agricultural ditches within the main wetland systems, which drain to Lake Center.
522 Lakes > 100 acres - The western and southern portions of Lake Center are included within the Center Lake project boundary and will remain undisturbed in the post-development condition. Areas included within this community classification are characterized by open water with varying densities of emergent aquatic plants such as spatterdock (Nuphar luteum) and fragrant water lily (Nymphaea odorata) within the shallow areas.
534 Reservoir - This land use type is primarily the cattle ponds found scattered through the Center Lake Ranch project site.
630 Wetland Forested Mixed - The majority of the on-site wetland acreage is forested and contains a mixed canopy of hardwood and coniferous trees. Canopy species predominantly include pond pine (Pinus serotina), slash pine, bald cypress (Taxodium
distichum), red maple (Acer rubrum), loblolly bay (Gordonia lasianthus), and sweet bay magnolia (Magnolia virginiana). Dahoon holly (Ilex cassine), buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) and wax myrtle (Myrica cerifera) were the most commonly observed understory plants. The ground stratum was found to support Virginia chain fern (Woodwardia virginica), netted chain fern (Woodwardia areolata), cinnamon fern (Osmunda cinnamomea), royal fern (Osmunda regalis), marsh fern (Thelypteris palustris), muscadine grape (Vitis rotundifolia), Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia), blackberry, red root (Lachnanthes caroliniana), and lizard’s tail (Saururus cernuus).
641 Freshwater Marsh - Several freshwater marsh wetlands are scattered throughout the Center Lake Ranch project site. Additionally, some portions of the main wetland slough that extends through the central portion of the property consist of freshwater marsh. These herbaceous wetlands contain a mix of the following species: soft rush (Juncus effusus), spike rush (Eleocharis baldwinii), lemon bacopa (Bacopa caroliniana), spadeleaf (Centella asiatica), blue maidencane (Amphicarpum muehlenbergianum), buttonbush, highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum), bushy bluestem (Andropogon glomeratus), pennywort (Hydrocotyle umbellata), beaksedge (Rhynchospora spp.) and rattlebox, pickerelweed (Pontederia cordata) and duck potato (Sagittaria spp.). The perimeters of these wetlands contain longleaf pine (Pinus palustris), wax myrtle and blackberry.
643 Wet Prairie - Most of the central portion of the Center Lake Ranch project site contains area that would be considered wet prairie. These areas typically have less water than the Freshwater Marsh but contain many of the same species as the
Improved Pasture and the Freshwater Marsh.
814 Field Roads, Roads and Highways - These cover types include the unimproved agricultural field roads and Ralph Miller Road.
PROPOSED WORK: The applicant seeks authorization to dredge/discharge approximately 12.60 acres of clean fill into wetlands and surface waters of the United States for the construction of a 2,040+-acre mixed-use development consisting of single-family residential with interspersed neighborhoods and commercial centers, a school site, and a master stormwater management system. It should be noted that wetland impacts are limited to areas impacted by the property's ongoing agricultural operations.
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 current site plan has been designed with residential villages to be built in ‘islands’ of existing agricultural upland areas of the property and surrounded by continuous, expansive conservation areas. The ongoing agricultural practices have adversely affected many of the wetlands onsite, including altering drainage and vegetative composition through the ongoing maintenance of ditches and field roads and intrusion of cattle into the wetland areas.
The proposed development within the overall Center Lake Ranch project site avoids the higher quality, forested wetlands.
The wetland impacts have been minimized to primarily include the non-WOTUS isolated wetlands and to the edges of the larger wetland systems.
Road crossings of the main wetland systems have been co-located with existing field roads to minimize the wetland impacts to the greatest extent practicable. It should be noted that the width of the main roadways within the development have been designed, as required by Osceola County staff.
Access to the southeastern portion of the site will be from Nova Road. Although there is a field road that goes between W 17 and W 18, it was decided that it would not be used to access the uplands along Nova Road, thereby reducing the amount of wetland impacts.
There are a total of 911.85 acres of wetlands within the Center Lake Ranch project. Of that total, 885.104 acres are considered WOTUS.
As previously noted, a total of 11.21 acres of direct impacts will occur to WOTUS wetlands. These impacts equate to only 1% of the overall WOTUS wetlands and surface waters are proposed as impacts within the Center Lake Ranch project site. Even if the secondary impacts are added in (18.72+ acres), only 3% of the overall WOTUS wetlands and surface waters are proposed as impacts.”
COMPENSATORY MITIGATION: The applicant has offered the following compensatory mitigation plan to offset unavoidable functional loss to the aquatic environment:
“Mitigation is proposed for the 11.21± acres of direct wetland impacts and for the 18.72± acres of secondary wetland impacts within the overall Center Lake Ranch project site. Mitigation is not proposed for any of the WOTUS upland cut ditches and surface waters within the site (4.54± acres).
The mitigation plan to compensate for direct and secondary wetland impacts incurred through the proposed development within the Center Lake Ranch project site consists of the purchase of 7.12 mitigation credits from an approved wetland mitigation bank. Of these 7.12 credits, 4.09 mitigation credits will be forested credits and 3.03 will be
herbaceous credits. The credits will be purchased from the TM-Econ Mitigation Bank.”
The Corps is aware of recorded historic resources within or adjacent to the permit area and 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 Red-Cockaded Woodpecker (Picoides borealis), Florida Grasshopper Sparrow (Ammodramus savannarum floridanus), Everglades Snail Kite (Rostrhamus sociabilis plumbeus), Florida Scrub Jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens), Audubon's Crested Caracara (Caracara cheriway), Wood Stork (Mycteria americana), and/or their designated critical habitats. This determination is based on species specific Programmatic Effect Determination Keys and Standard Local Operating Procedures for Endangered Species (SLOPES) guidelines.
The Corps has determined the proposed project may affect the Eastern Indigo Snake (Drymarchon corais couperi). This determination is based on the results of utilizing the USFWS Eastern Indigo Snake Programmatic Effect Determination Key (2013), A>B>C “May Affect”, as the project will impact more than 25 acres of eastern indigo snake habitat.
The Corps will request U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service concurrence with these determinations, 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. The proposed work would impact approximately 11.15 acres of forested and non-forested wetlands in addition to 1.45 acres surface waters utilized by various life stages of species. Our initial determination is that the proposed action would not have no effect on EFH or Federally managed fisheries within the East Lake Tohopekaliga and Alligator Lake watersheds. The Corps has determined that the proposed action would not have no effect on EFH or Federally managed fisheries within the Lake Tohopekaliga basin and no further coordination is required.
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 Corps has verified the extent of Federal jurisdiction.
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 Cocoa Permits Section, 400 High Point Drive, Cocoa, Florida 32926 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, John Baehre, in writing at the Cocoa Permits Section, 400 High Point Drive, Cocoa, Florida 32926, by electronic mail at John.M.Baehre@usace.army.mil or by telephone at (321)504-3771 extension 0013.
IMPACT ON NATURAL RESOURCES: Preliminary review of this application indicates that an Environmental Impact Statement will not be required. 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. By means of this notice, we are soliciting comments on the potential effects of the project on threatened or endangered species or their habitat.
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 of 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 decision, comments are used to assess impacts on endangered species, historic properties, water quality, general environmental effects, and the other public interest factors listed above. Comments are used in the preparation of an Environmental Assessment and/or an Environmental Impact Statement pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act 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.