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: Clay County Board of County Commissioners
Attention: Richard Smith
P.O. Box 1366
Green Cove Springs, Florida 32043
WATERWAY AND LOCATION: The project would affect waters of the United States associated with Dillaberry Branch. The project site is located along County Road 218 for approximately 2.6 miles from Cosmos Avenue to Pine Tree Lane, in Sections 14, 15, 16, and 17, Township 5 South, Range 24 East, Middleburg, Clay County, Florida.
Directions to the site are as follows: From Jacksonville, take Interstate (I) 95 South. Travel west on I-295 and exit onto Blanding Boulevard/State Road (SR) 21. Travel south onto Blanding Boulevard. Exit west onto County Road (CR) 218. The project runs from Pine Tree Lane to Cosmos Avenue on CR 218.
APPROXIMATE CENTRAL COORDINATES: Latitude 30.062889°
Basic: The basic project purpose is linear transportation improvements.
Overall: The overall project purpose is to widen County Road 218 between Cosmos Avenue and Pine Tree Lane to improve public safety while adding traffic capacity in Middleburg, Clay County.
a. General: The project site is 39.30 acres. The existing right of way for County Road 218 from Cosmos Avenue to Pine Tree Lane is dominated by roadside ditches and grass swales, surrounded by upland disturbed areas comprised of various grasses consisting of vasey grass (Paspalum urvillei), bahia grass (Paspalum notatum), and smutgrass (Sporobolus indicus), which are frequently mowed and maintained.
b. Soils: Eleven soil types occur along the project. From order of most to least prevalent, soil types in the project limits include Newnan fine sand; Sapelo-meadowbrook frequently flooded complex; Ocilla loamy fine sand, 0 to 5 percent slopes; Hurricane fine sand, 0 to 5 percent slopes; Meadowbrook fine sand; Ortega fine sand, 0 to 5 percent slopes; Leon fine sand, 0 to 2 percent slopes; Sapelo fine sand; Centanary fine sand, 0 to 5 percent slopes; Sapelo-Urban land complex; and Meadowbrook sand frequently flooded.
c. Vegetative Communities: The overall property encompasses five vegetative communities characterized by the Florida Land Use, Cover, and Forms Classification System (FLUCFCS). These communities are as follows:
(1) Pine Flatwoods (FLUCCS 4110) – 3.44: This community is dominated by a dense over-story of slash pine (Pinus elliottii), an understory of scattered saw palmetto and gallberry. The groundcover includes scattered wiregrass (Aristida stricta), panic grass (Panicum tenerum), and broomsedge. Many larger animals are found where the flatwoods join other communities (ecotones), where nesting sites, den sites, food, and cover are provided. Pedestrian transects were conducted adjacent to these areas; no gopher tortoise burrows were observed, which is likely due to the dense pine litter and overgrown saw palmetto.
(2) Hydric Pine Flatwoods (FLUCCS 6250) – 0.14: Wet flatwoods are found on extensive, poorly drained, flat areas. They may be inundated during periods of high rainfall. They may be subtropical or be in areas of peninsular climate; fire is frequent; vegetation is characterized by an overstory of slash pine or pond pine and/or cabbage palm with mixed grasses and herbs. This habitat seasonally functions as both a wetland and an upland. The relatively predictable nature of this hydrologic transformation allows for an abundant diversity of plant life, including both wetland and upland annuals. The alteration between upland and wetland conditions allows for both upland and wetland plant species to utilize the same habitat through temporal displacement.
(3) Wetland Forested Mixed (FLUCCS 6300) – 5.34: This land cover is the dominant forested wetland community within the project area. Most of the wetlands within the project area (i.e., pond site locations) are characterized as mixed forested wetland with a >66% canopy cover including hardwoods and conifers. These systems have a closed-canopy forest of hydrophytic trees occurring on infrequently inundated hydric soils. The mixed species canopy includes loblolly pine (Pinus taeda), red maple (Acer rubrum), dahoon (Ilex cassine), swamp bay (Persea palustris), sweetbay (Magnolia virginiana), loblolly bay (Gordonia lasianthus), swamp laurel oak (Quercus laurifolia), water oak (Quercus nigra) with few scattered tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica). Shrubs are concentrated around the perimeter. Common species include Virginia willow (Itea virginica), swamp dogwood (Cornus foemina), swamp doghobble (Leucothoe racemosa), and fetterbush (Lyonia lucida). The herbaceous layer is variable and comprised of scattered southern shield fern (Thelypteris kunthii), cinnamon fern (Osmunda cinnamomeum), royal fern (Osmunda regalis), netted chain fern (Woodwardia areolata), with various types of vines including poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans), grapevine (Vitis rotundifolia), and laurel greenbrier (Smilax laurifolia).
(4) Wet Meadow (FLUCCS 6430) – 0.06 acre: This land cover is uncommon in the project area but is located within the existing ROW. This wetland type is typically seasonally flooded, as surface water persists throughout the rainy season. This herbaceous wetland community typically has less water than freshwater marsh with fewer aquatic plant species. The wet prairie includes scattered occurrences of netted chain fern, cinnamon fern, goldenrod (Solidago fistulosa), maiden cane (Panicum hemitomon), bushy bluestem, (Andropogon glomeratus), many flower marsh pennywort (Hydrocotyle umbellata), Asian coin wort (Centella asiatica), and road grass (Eleocharis baldwinii). In addition, during the rainy season this type of wetland has good suitability for usage by regionally common wading birds as well as common amphibians, reptiles, and fish.
(5) Roads and Highways (FLUCCS 8140) 30.32 acres: This land use includes roads and highways that exceed 100 feet in width over long segments and have four or more lanes and median strips. CR 218 is the county road within the project area and is mapped as Roads and Highways.
PROJECT HISTORY: On February 3, 2022, the Corps authorized the discharge of clean fill material over a total of 6.31 acres of waters of the United States (palustrine forested wetlands for 5.06 acres of direct impacts and 1.25 acres of secondary impacts) for the expansion of CR 218 and associated stormwater ponds. As compensatory mitigation for the work affecting wetlands, the Permittee was required to purchase 3.64 credits of palustrine-forested federal mitigation bank credits from the Town Branch Mitigation Bank (SAJ-2011-02710). The work has begun and the permit is in compliance. The applicant is proposing to modify the original permit design, and is therefore requesting additional impacts to waters of the United States, as described in the Proposed Work section, below.
PROPOSED WORK: The applicant proposes to modify the original permit design and seeks authorization to place fill 6,792.4-cubic-yards of fill (6,640.3-cubic-yards of clean fill, 89.2-cubic-yards of concrete, and 35.9-cubic-yards of crushed lime rock/base) into 7.57-acres of waters of the United States (palustrine forested wetlands), which would be a net increase of 1.26 acres of impacts to waters of the U.S. (palustrine forested wetlands). The purpose of the proposed modification is to widen County Road 218 and establish stormwater treatment ponds. All wetlands within the project site would be impacted by fill.
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:
“Because the project involves the widening of an existing transportation facility with adjacent wetlands, there is no reasonable way to complete the project that would completely avoid wetland impacts. Wetland Impacts were minimized by using a curb and gutter design versus a design with parallel ditches on each side and by incorporating a gravity wall in some areas to decrease the width of the roadway impact. In addition, the stormwater ponds incorporate liners to minimize impacts on the hydrology of wetlands adjacent to the ponds.”
COMPENSATORY MITIGATION – The applicant has offered the following compensatory mitigation plan to offset unavoidable functional loss to the aquatic environment:
“Compensation for the original work has been conducted with the purchase of 3.64 palustrine forested federal mitigation bank credits from Town Branch Mitigation Bank (SAJ-2011-02710). The applicant would purchase 0.25 additional palustrine forested mitigation bank credits from a federal wetland mitigation bank to compensate for the 1.26 acre of additional wetland impacts proposed under this modification.”
CULTURAL RESOURCES: The Corps has evaluated the undertaking for effects to historic properties as required under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act and has followed the guidelines of 33 CFR Part 325, Appendix C. The Corps has reviewed the submitted Cultural Resources Assessment Survey report and finds the report complete and the field work appropriate and sufficient in accordance with Chapters 1a-46, Florida Administrative Code and with Federal regulation 36 CFR 800: Protection of Historic Properties. The survey documented conditions across the project area through pedestrian survey and shovel testing noting that the majority of the project area included heavily disturbed and filled lands. As a result of the survey, no archaeological sites were identified and five newly documented historic structures were assessed. The researchers recommend that none of the historic structures are eligible for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places due to lack of architectural distinction or historic associations. No other resources were identified. This office concurred with the investigators' recommendations and found that the proposed project will have no effect to historic properties and no further work is required.
Eastern Indigo Snake (Drymarchon corais couperi): Eastern indigo snake frequents several habitat types, including pine flatwoods, scrubby flatwoods, high pine, dry prairie, tropical hardwood hammocks, edges of freshwater marshes, agricultural fields, coastal dunes, and human-altered habitats. Therefore, this species could utilize the area encompassed by the ESA scope of analysis for this project. Gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus) burrows are commonly utilized as refuge from winter cold and/or desiccating conditions in xeric habitats; and, hollowed root channels, hollow logs, or burrows of rodents, armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus), or land crabs (Cardisoma guanhumi) provide shelter in wetter habitats. A recent evaluation of the project site indicated that there are no gopher tortoise burrows on site. In consideration of this information, the Corps utilized The Eastern Indigo Snake Programmatic Effect Determination Key, August 2013. Use of this key resulted in the sequence A-B-C-not likely to adversely affect, as the applicant has agreed to implement the Standard Protection Measures for the Eastern Indigo Snake, August 12, 2013. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service has indicated that they concur with determinations of not likely to adversely affect based on the key for eastern indigo snakes; and, that no additional consultation is necessary.
The Corps executed a Resources At Risk (RAR) report. The RAR did not indicate that the site is utilized by, or contains habitat critical to, any other federally listed threatened or endangered species. The Corps also reviewed geospatial data and other available information. The Corps has not received or discovered any information that the project site is utilized by, or contains habitat critical to, any other federally listed threatened or endangered species.
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 project would not affect marine nor estuarine habitat or EFH. Our initial determination is that the proposed action would not adversely affect EFH or federally managed fisheries in Dillaberry Creek or North Fork 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, 701 San Marco Boulevard, Jacksonville, Florida 32207 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, Terri M. Mashour, in writing at the Jacksonville Permits Section, 701 San Marco Boulevard, Jacksonville, Florida 32207; by electronic mail at Terri.M.Mashour@usace.army.mil; or, by telephone at (904) 251-9179.
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: Water Quality Certification may be required from the St. Johns River Water Management District.
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.