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: Village of Estero
c/o Steve Sarkozy
9401 Corkscrew Palms Circle
Estero, Florida 33928
WATERWAY AND LOCATION: The project would affect waters of the United States, associated with the Estero River, from United States (U.S.) Highway 41 westward to Estero Bay. The project site is located at Sections 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, of Township 46 South, Range 25 East, and Section 36, of Township 46 South, Range 24 East, in Estero, Lee County, Florida.
Directions to the site are as follows: From Interstate 75, take exit 123 Corkscrew Road and head west 2.3 miles on Corkscrew Road, crossing over U.S. 41, until you reach the entrance to Koreshan State Park on the north side of the road. The project scope encompasses the length of the River west of Highway 41.
APPROXIMATE CENTRAL COORDINATES:
Basic: Improve navigability of the Estero River.
Overall: Dredging of the Estero River.
EXISTING CONDITIONS: The project is located along the Estero River from US Highway 41 westward to Estero Bay. Koreshan State Park is located to the south of the river at the eastern extent of the project and several multi-family and single-family residential developments exist north and south of the river to about 1.64 linear miles west of US Highway 41, and preserves exist north and south of the river through the remaining 1.6 linear miles to Estero Bay. While most adjacent residential developments have short, improved shorelines such as rip rap and seawalls, the majority of the shoreline is vegetated with native vegetation consisting primarily of mangroves. The course of the Estero River is approximately 4.7 miles long from US Highway 41 to Estero Bay. There are minor quantities of seagrasses along the length of the river. A resource survey documented 2.1 acres of scattered oysters varying in density and cluster size within the vicinity of the project area. Approximately one acre of channel bottom within the proposed dredge template contains scattered oysters clumps above
-2.7 feet mean low water (MLW) (-4.0 feet NAVD). These oysters are in 6 to 10-inch diameter clumps and are not attached to the sandy bottom.
PROPOSED WORK: The applicant seeks authorization to hydraulically and/or mechanically maintenance dredge several reaches of the river where shoaling has occurred. The proposed dredge template extends 4.7 miles from Estero Bay to the US 41 Bridge, with an approximate area of 23 acres. Width of the template varies from 30 feet to 60 feet. The project depth is -2.7 feet MLW (-4.0 feet NAVD) with a 0.5 feet overdredge allowance, with an estimated volume of 8,100 cubic yards. This depth is proposed because it minimizes dredging and matches the controlling depth of the Estero Bay channel connecting the river to the Gulf. The proposed depth complements the existing river depths for water conveyance and navigability.
The proposed dredge depth of -2.7 feet MLW (-4.0 feet NAVD) avoids over 50 percent of the oyster areas below this threshold. The scattered oyster clumps above the proposed depth can be relocated outside of the dredge template prior to commencement. The bottom width of the dredge template also varies to avoid mangrove and seagrass impacts.
Dredge spoils are proposed to be placed at an upland site located at 4461 Broadway W, Estero, Florida, for dewatering. After which the spoil material from the project shall be disposed of at a property owned by the Village of Estero for future use.
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 proposed dredge template was designed to establish a consistent navigable channel regardless of tide stage, increase conveyance, and avoid impacts to natural resources. Shoals that inhibited navigation were identified and only these areas were targeted to be dredged. Historic aerial photographs demonstrate that most of these areas have previously been dredged. The proposed dredge cut depth is limited to -2.7 feet MLW, the average cut depth is less than one foot. While the shoals are the main target of the dredge template, some areas of the current channel are shallower than
-2.7 feet MLW, this will result in the removal of the organic layer in these areas.
The proposed dredge template was modified after a site visit by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and Aquatic Preserve identified limited areas of sparse seagrass (<1% coverage) along the bank of the river in a few locations. The template width was further reduced in these areas to provide a buffer zone to the seagrass as well as to further minimize impacts to the sparse loose oysters that are in that reach of the river.
Turbidity curtains will be located around the immediate dredge area and advance with the equipment as the dredging progresses. Curtains will also be located next to the offload/outfall area near the upland disposal site throughout the dredge window.
There is a 10 foot minimum offset for all resources and structures located along the river. In the specific case of mangroves, the 10 foot offset would occur from the roots of the trees.
Oysters within the dredge template will be relocated to the proposed areas shown on site plans prior to the commencement of construction activities. These relocation areas will be protected by turbidity curtains when there is active dredging occurring adjacent to them.
COMPENSATORY MITIGATION: The applicant has provided the following explanation why compensatory mitigation should not be required:
No compensatory mitigation is required because there are no direct or indirect, permanent or temporary, impacts to special aquatic sites, including wetlands, seagrass, or corals, either physically or in functions and values.
CULTURAL RESOURCES: The Corps has determined the permit area has several potential historic sites, primarily associated with the Koreshan State Park. Coordination and consultation with historic preservation agencies will be initiated.
ENDANGERED SPECIES: The Corps has determined the proposed project may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect, the West Indian manatee or its designated critical habitat, as well as the smalltooth sawfish and swimming sea turtles. The Corps will request U.S. Fish and Wildlife and National Marine Fisheries concurrence with this determination pursuant to Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act. The Corps has also determined that the project may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect the wood stork, the Florida scrub jay, the Florida bonneted bat and swimming sea turtles, as determined under the JaxBO biological opinion.
The Corps has determined the proposal would have no effect on any other listed threatened or endangered species or designated critical habitat.
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 proposal would impact approximately 23 acres of unvegetated submerged river bottom. Our initial determination is that the proposed action would not have a substantial adverse impact on EFH or Federally managed fisheries. 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.
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. The jurisdictional line has not 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 Fort Myers Permits Section, 1520 Royal Palm Square Boulevard, Suite 310, Fort Myers, Florida 33919, 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, Michael Taylor, in writing at the Fort Myers Permits Section, 1520 Royal Palm Square Boulevard, Suite 310, Fort Myers, Florida 33919; by electronic mail at Michael.L.Taylor@usace.army.mil; or, by telephone at (239) 922-3885.
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, aesthetics, 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 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.