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: Brice Hall, Latitude 18
WATERWAY AND LOCATION: The project would affect waters of the United States associated with Vessup Bay, Muller Bay, and Red Hook Bay. The project site is located at Consolidated Parcel 9B-A, #1 Red Hook Quarter, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands
APPROXIMATE CENTRAL COORDINATES: Latitude 18.324844°
Basic: Vessel moorage on the east end of St. Thomas.
Overall: Construct a world-class marina in Red Hook consisting of wet slips, mooring fields, and a boat removal area, with a compliment of upland structures including food and beverage establishments, retail, drystack storage and workshop areas for vessels, and other support structures.
EXISTING CONDITIONS: The project site contains a peninsula that forms the southern entrance to Red Hook Bay. The project area spans Vessup Bay and Muller Bay. The Latitude 18 Marina was constructed at this site in the 1980s. The marina suffered significant damages due to hurricanes over the past 25 years. The original marina was never rebuilt after Hurricane Marilyn in 1995 and its remaining structures were destroyed after hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, although remnants of the structures remain. Vessels are currently moored haphazardly through Vessup and Muller Bay. Many of the anchoring systems are damaging the seafloor. There are live-a-board vessels moored in the area; some occupants dump waste directly into the sea. Several vessels sunk on their moorings.
The project area is zoned W-1-Waterfront Pleasure. The offshore waters are classified as Class B and the best usage of the water is listed as the propagation of desirable species of marine life and for primary contact recreation (swimming, water skiing, etc.). The site is within the St. Thomas East End Reserve Management Plan’s Vessup Bay/ East End Red Hook Area of Particular Concern (APC). Most of the upland portion of the site has been previously disturbed, approximately 95% of the site has been cleared as part of the previous marina development, the sand operation on the site, or filling the salt pond which occurred more than 50 years ago.
Existing water quality in Vessup Bay is poor and it is listed as “Impaired Waters” under CWA Section 303(d). Water exchange is very weak and highly dependent on wind conditions to force circulation and improve mixing, as tidal flows are extremely low. In addition to poor circulation, Vessup Bay receives pollutant discharges, including a public wastewater treatment plant and has no enforceable management of discharges by many of the boats anchored in the bay. Water circulation improves in Muller Bay due to increased mixing and better circulation given the larger water body and positive influence of wind-driven mixing. The marina location in Vessup point is in the transition between the poorly flushed Vessup Bay and the better-mixed waters of Muller Bay.
Halophila stipulacea, an invasive seagrass, is found through Vessup Bay, Muller Bay and Red Hook Bay. However, there are still expanses of native seagrass beds including Thalassia testudinum and Syringodium filiforme, especially in Muller Bay. The composition and densities of these beds vary with depth and disturbance.
At one time dense seagrass, Thalassia testudinum was found in the eastern portion of the marina, however over time it has become less abundant, and the area is now a mix of sand and Halophila stipulacea. The piles and the shoreline revetment which faces north and is in Vessup Bay proper, is degraded habitat with significant algal colonization. These hard structures would not be considered critical habitat due to the amount of algal colonization. A few corals, Siderastrea spp. and Psuedodiploria spp. are found in this area. The riprap revetment which extends around the point into Muller Bay has better water quality and can be considered critical habitat for listed species. No construction is proposed for this area. The coral colonization increases to the east, and corals become abundant to the east of the proposed Muller Bay Mooring Field.
PROPOSED WORK: The applicant is proposing reconstruction of the Latitude 18 Marina and development of two managed mooring fields. The total overwater area of all fixed piers, mooring dolphins, floating docks, gangways, and the wave attenuator is 29,199 square feet (sq ft). The total proposed marina footprint, including maneuvering areas, is 6.73 acres. The Vessup Bay Mooring Field would be 6.4 acres and the Muller Bay Mooring Field would be 39.3 acres. The scope of work includes the removal of existing structures, timber piles, sunken debris, and sunken vessels from the marina footprint.
Marina: The proposed marina is comprised of four fixed main piers, denoted in the project Drawings as Docks A-1, A-2, B, and C. The marina would have 17 dedicated slips and 638 linear ft of alongside dockage, allowing room for approximately 26 vessels total. The marina would provide permanent and transient berthing for a mix of vessels ranging from 60 to 200 ft, with additional alongside berthing for smaller vessels.
Dock A-1 would be a concrete fixed pile dock with a total overwater area of 3,990 square ft. Dock A-2 would be a concrete fixed pile dock with a wave screen attached and a total over-water area of 11,893 sq ft. Dock B would be a concrete fixed pile dock with a total over-water surface area of 1,468 sq ft. Dock C would be a concrete fixed pile dock with a total overwater surface area of 3,302 sq ft. This dock would support fuel dispensers and a pump-out station, as well as a staging dock for the drop-well area. There would be two floating dinghy docks installed at the east and west ends of the marina to support the mooring field operation; Dock DD-E would be 902 sq ft and Dock DD-W would be 560 sq ft.
Piles: A total of 302 piles would be installed. The dock structures would have a total of 274 concrete piles, the travel lift would require 16 concrete piles, and there would be 12 wooden mooring piles. Pile diameter would be a maximum of 24 inches. Concrete piles would be installed using an impact hammer and may be set in position via jetting. The maximum number of concrete piles to be driven with an impact hammer per day is five.
Floating Wave Attenuator: A 380-ft long by 16-ft wide floating wave attenuator oriented in a north south direction is proposed to protect the marina slips facing Muller Bay and to reduce the need for wave screens. The typical draft of the floating attenuator sections is 4.3 ft. The total overwater surface area of the floating attenuator would be 6,080 sq ft. It would be installed at a water depth between 18 and 28 ft. The attenuator would be designed with a flexible (elastic) anchorage system and connections that allow for it to be disconnected from the deck. In the event of a storm, the floating units would be separated, towed to the drop well area, and lifted with a forklift to be stored on land. Thirty-eight helical anchors would be installed to hold the wave attenuator in place. If it is determined that helical anchors would not be sufficient, concrete blocks would be used.
Bulkhead: The proposed project includes the construction of 311.5 linear ft of bulkhead, 281.5 linear ft along the waterfront and 30 linear ft as inland returns. The bulkhead would replace 140 linear ft of damaged bulkhead and 232 linear ft of disturbed shoreline comprising irregular masonry walls and a damaged pier structure. The bulkhead would be built immediately seaward of the structure that it is replacing.
Removal of Sediment: Adjacent to the bulkhead, 886 cubic yards of material would be removed in a 6,500 sq ft area to a depth of -6.5 ft MSL in order to provide safe draft for vessels. The material would be placed at an upland disposal site.
Managed Mooring Fields: Two managed mooring fields are proposed. The Vessup Bay Mooring Field would have 14 moorings and the Muller Bay Mooring Field would have 68 moorings (note: there are 70 moorings shown in the drawings but the number has been reduced by two and reconfigured to eliminate impacts to coral critical habitat). Moorings would have an embedded anchor, an underwater buoy to prevent contact with the seafloor, a pendant line and float and a 24-inch mooring buoy. All mooring buoys would be anchored to the seabed by drilled anchors and connected to the buoy bollard with elastic rods. This mooring buoy design solution avoids seabed impacts during operation. Vessup Bay would accommodate boats up to 40 ft and Muller Bay would designate approximately half of its moorings for boats up to 40 ft and approximately half for boats up to 65 ft. Water depths within the mooring field range from approximately 5 ft at mean low water in Vessup Bay to up to 30 ft at mean low water in Muller Bay.
The mooring fields would be identified with up to 15 new markers and additional navigation aids would be installed to demarcate the navigation channel. Mooring field demarcation would help inform boaters and management staff of the mooring field limits to avoid encroachment into existing navigation channels and maintain a 300-ft offset to beach swimming zones.
Upland Development: The two primary upland structures are the restaurant and marina services building and the warehouse buildings with the drystack storage structure for vessels, vessel workstations, and a workshop. There would also be a fuel yard, potable water storage, an electrical yard, and a wastewater treatment plant. Restrooms, showers, pumpout, and access to car parking and other supporting facilities would be available for the clients that lease moorings in the proposed mooring field.
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 project area, both upland and in-water, primarily encompasses areas which have been previously disturbed.
The resort aspect of the project has been removed.
A coastal vulnerability study and climate adaptation analysis was conducted to assess the siting of coastal project elements.
A Flushing Simulation Report for Vessup Point Marine Flushing Study, to evaluate the potential impacts of a marina wave protection structure on the flushing of Vessup Bay, was produced. From this study, it was determined that the installation of the wave protection structure in the design condition will not impact the present level of flushing within Vessup Bay.
The marina is designed to avoid dense seagrass beds and hardbottom habitat. The anchoring systems in the mooring field have been positioned to avoid all corals and all hardbottom areas.
Mooring field anchoring systems have been designed to have a minimal impact on the seafloor. All lines and tackle will be floated so as not to damage benthic habitat.
The proposed mooring field demarcation and management provides increased setbacks from the beach (approximately 300 ft). The location of the mooring buoys, the markers delineating the mooring field and the active management of the mooring field are all conducive to improving swimming safety.
No heritage trees will be removed.
Raised fixed docks would be used for the main structure which provide a greater light penetration to the seafloor.
In order to ensure that water quality is maintained, a water quality monitoring program will be implemented during pile driving, pre-drilling, filling, dredging, and concrete pours. This plan will monitor turbidity and the effectiveness of the sedimentation control. If any degradation of water quality is detected immediate measures will be taken to abate the impacts.
NOAA’s Protected Species Construction Conditions, NOAA Fisheries Southeast Regional Office will be followed as well as NOAA’s Vessel Strike Avoidance Measures and Reporting for Mariners during the construction of the dock and installation of the moorings.
A Tree Boa Protection Plan was developed and will be implemented.
Several methods of erosion and sediment control will be utilized. For areas to be exposed less than 14 days, a spray-on polymer specifically designed for the on-site soil conditions will be applied. For areas of exposure greater than 14 days, hydroseeding will be used to reduce the water velocity, encourage soil infiltration, and stabilize the soil. In order to prevent water-borne sediment from leaving the site, silting basins will be used where possible. Additionally, as a secondary measure, double silt fences and hay bales will be installed on the downstream side of disturbed areas to protect the waterways in the event of the other measures not working as anticipated. Finally, turbidity barriers within the bay will be installed to prevent any sediment from entering the ocean uncontrolled.
Proper length (1 ft. from seafloor) turbidity barriers will be installed around areas where work will be performed to construct the marina, the bulkhead, or to dredge sediment adjacent to the bulkhead. A double set of curtains will be installed, if necessary, with a minimum of 2 meters between them. The curtains will be attached to the bulkhead and held offshore by carefully placed traditional anchors or screw anchors. Divers will assist in the placement of all anchors to minimize impact. The curtains will be monitored on a daily basis and if at any time deficiencies or damage is noted it will be repaired immediately.
All work will occur during daylight hours only and be conducted from land-based or barge-mounted equipment.
A Mooring Field Management Plan for the Vessup Bay and Muller Bay mooring fields was developed. The management plan addresses the prohibition on anchoring, abandonment of vessels, vessel fueling, waste, pumpout facilities and requirements, vessel cleaning, wildlife feeding, and fuel/oil spills among other topics.
Once construction is complete, approximately 1.223 acres of the site will be vegetated. Native vegetation will be left in all buffers and native flora will be planted on the berm of the stormwater pond. Native trees will be planted in any clearings within the tree boa conservation area.
Marina Hurricane Preparation Guidelines have been developed and will be followed.
The marina will have a Terminal Facility License and a Spill Prevention Containment Countermeasure Plan. Supplies will be situated at the main docks as well as on the dinghy dock in the event of inadvertent spills. Fueling of dinghies on the dinghy dock or in the mooring field will be prohibited.
Latitude 18 will make the pump out facilities available to vessels which are not on moorings leased from Latitude 18.
Turtle friendly lighting will be utilized throughout the project to minimize impacts to the adjacent shorelines.
As part of its normal operation, the marina would:
Maintain a Blue Flag, Clean Marina, or similar certification.
Establish and maintain a management plan that includes environmental management systems.
Display at the marina the code of conduct that reflects appropriate laws governing the use of the marina and surrounding areas.
Display information relating to local eco-systems and the local environment.
Provide marina and mooring lease agreements that include information about regulations, laws and permit conditions governing the use of the marina and its environmental management plan.
Maintain the operation and promote the use of a sewage pump-out.
Provide marina and mooring lease agreements that include the prohibition of discharge of sewage, bilge, oil or solid waste to the bay, as proper disposal procedures for fluid and solid waste will be available through the marina.
Provide adequate and properly identified, segregated containers for the storage of waste oil and general solid waste.
Maintain emergency plans in case of pollution, fire, or other accidents as part of an Approved Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure Plan. Post safety precautions and information at the marina.
COMPENSATORY MITIGATION: The applicant has offered the following compensatory mitigation plan to offset unavoidable functional loss to the aquatic environment: The 12 corals within the marina footprint on the collapsing bulkhead would be transplanted. The recipient site is south of the proposed managed mooring field and is an area of broken pavement with excellent water quality. A debris cleanup plan in the marina and mooring fields is proposed to offset adverse effects that cannot be avoided.
CULTURAL RESOURCES: 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 is subject to additional coordination with the State Historic Preservation Officer.
ENDANGERED SPECIES: There are threatened and endangered species listed under the Endangered Species Act that could occur within the project action area both in water and on land. Species that could be present include sea turtles (loggerhead, leatherback, hawksbill, and green), Nassau grouper, giant manta ray, West Indian manatee, and Virgin Islands tree boa. There are no ESA-listed corals in the action area. There is consolidated substrate, but it does not contain the physical and biological features necessary for it to be considered Acropora critical habitat as described in the regulations. The Corps has determined the proposed project may affect listed species in the action area. However, the applicant is willing to implement project design criteria and conservation measures to avoid or minimize any potential impacts to ensure the project is not likely to adversely affect listed species. Separate from this Public Notice, the Corps will request consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service 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. The proposal would impact approximately 52.43 acres of EFH for Reef Fish, Queen Conch, Spiny Lobster, Coral, Caribbean Reef Shark, Longbill Spearfish, Swordfish, and White Marlin. The EFH is utilized by various life stages of these species and/or management units identified. There are no designated EFH Habitat Areas of Particular Concern in the project area. Our initial determination is that the proposed action would have a substantial adverse impact on EFH or Federally managed fisheries in the project area during construction. However, it is expected that the long-term effects of the project could result in improved conditions for the species with EFH in the project area. 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.
WATER QUALITY CERTIFICATION: Water Quality Certification may be required from the Department of Planning and Natural Resources, Division of Environmental Protection. They are currently reviewing the application to ensure consistency with USVI water quality standards.
COASTAL ZONE MANAGEMENT CONSISTENCY: In the Virgin Islands, the Department of Planning and Natural Resources permit constitutes compliance with the Coastal Zone Management Plan. The Division of Coastal Zone Management is currently reviewing the proposed project for consistency with the enforceable policies of the Coastal Zone Management Plan.
Navigation: The proposed marina and mooring fields are situated near a navigation channel. The project proponent received a letter from the Virgin Islands Port Authority on February 22, 2021, confirming that the proposed marina and mooring field would not impede maritime traffic into the Urman Victor Fredericks Marine Terminal or into Vessup Bay. In addition, the letter stated the proposed managed mooring field layout would help resolve the issue of vessels mooring or anchoring at the edge of the navigational channel, making it difficult for passenger ferry captains to maneuver into the terminal during certain weather conditions.
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 regulations governing the regulatory program. The jurisdictional line has not been verified by Corps personnel.
IMPACT ON NATURAL RESOURCES: Coordination with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Marine Fisheries Service, the U.S. Coast Guard, 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.
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.
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 marine waters. This is based on an analysis of the applicant's avoidance and minimization efforts for the project, as well as the compensatory mitigation proposed.
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. Contact information provided below.
COMMENTS regarding the potential authorization of the work proposed should be submitted in writing to the attention of the District Engineer through Ms. Karen Urelius of the Antilles-Miami Permits Section, at firstname.lastname@example.org (email preferred) or at the address in the letterhead. Comments must be received within 30 days from the date of this notice.
QUESTIONS concerning this application should be directed to Karen Urelius at email@example.com or 787-370-8359.