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: Bay County Tourist Development Council
17001 Panama City Beach Parkway
Panama City Beach, Florida 32413
WATERWAY AND LOCATION: The project would affect waters of the United States associated with the Gulf of Mexico. The project site is located in Mexico Beach between the western limit of Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) Monument1 R‐127 and the eastern limit of FDEP monument R‐144 at the Bay/Gulf County line. The final borrow area, designated as the Mexico Beach Borrow Area, is located offshore of Mexico Beach, specifically 12,500 feet southwest from FDEP Monument R‐129. The project is located in Sections 22, 23 and 25, Township 6 South, Range 12 West, Bay County, Florida.
Directions to the site are as follows: From Panama City, take Highway 98 east past Tyndall Air Force Base. Project area is located to the south of Highway 98, adjacent to and in the Gulf of Mexico.
APPROXIMATE CENTRAL COORDINATES: Latitude 29.941206°
Basic: Shoreline protection
Overall: Restoration of a beach and dune system using a new offshore borrow area to repair erosion of the shoreline and sand beach in Mexico Beach associated with Hurricane Michael.
EXISTING CONDITIONS: The aquatic system consists of a marine system and adjacent sandy shoreline within the Gulf of Mexico. The primary natural community types in the project area include Beach Dune and Marine Unconsolidated Substrate. The coastal grassland behind the dunes have been disturbed and no longer represent the natural community. In October 2018, Category 5 Hurricane Michael caused extensive structural damage and beach and dune erosion along the entirety of the Mexico Beach shoreline. Prior to the storm, a 0.9 mile stretch of Mexico Beach was already designated as critically eroded between FDEP Monuments R-132 and R-137.8. In October 2019, the City constructed Category B Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) berms between FDEP Monuments R-127 and R-144. The berms were made of 95,000 cubic yards (yd3) of beach compatible sand from an upland source and 282,400 dune plants. The current FEMA berms contain 42 open areas, or gaps, designated for public beach access.
PROPOSED WORK: The applicant seeks authorization to excavate beach compatible sand from an offshore borrow area and to place up to 1.5 million cubic yards of this sand along the beach between FDEP Monuments R‐127.5 and R‐144. The project would cover 16,368 feet (3.1 miles). The design template is based on the pre‐storm conditions at Mexico Beach and would provide protection from impacts up to a 30‐year storm event. The applicant proposes to utilize a cutterhead dredge and pipeline or hopper dredge with sublines to transport sand from the Mexico Beach Borrow Area to the beach fill area. The contractor would use ocean‐certified dredge equipment with either method of excavation. The pipeline would extend from the offshore area onto the beach. The contractor’s work area would extend approximately 2,500 feet offshore of the landward edge of the beach fill between FDEP Monuments R‐127.5 to R‐144 and would serve as the nearshore pipeline corridor.
The County is requesting a 15‐year permit based on the conditions contained in 62B‐49.011, Florida Administrative Code (FAC). The County anticipates that only one nourishment event in addition to the initial restoration project would occur during this time period. The proposed borrow area is a paleo‐overwash feature located in close proximity to Mexico Beach. The borrow area design has six cut elevations ranging from ‐24.5 ft to ‐28.0 ft North American Vertical Datum (NAVD) 88. The applicant calculated the total volume contained within the borrow area as approximately 4,270,000 yds3.
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 borrow area is the minimum size required to provide adequate material for the proposed nourishment. Alternative methods of restoration, including truck hauling material from upland areas and continuing sand bypass activities from the mouth of the Mexico Beach canal were considered but do not meet the project purpose or provide adequate material for the proposed work. The proposed fill area, adjusted toe of fill, and the pipeline corridors would cover sandy bottom where no known sea grasses or hard bottom exists.
COMPENSATORY MITIGATION –The applicant has provided the following explanation why compensatory mitigation should not be required:
Compensatory mitigation is not proposed because the project involves restoration of the sandy beach that was impacted by Hurricane Michael.
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 proposal may affect the giant manta ray, Gulf sturgeon, smalltooth sawfish, St. Andrew beach mouse, piping plover, red knot, West Indian manatee, loggerhead sea turtle, hawksbill sea turtle, leatherback sea turtle, green sea turtle and Kemps ridley sea turtle or their designated critical habitat. The Corps will request initiation of formal consultation with the Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service pursuant to Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act by separate letter.
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 3 miles of shallow marine waters utilized by various life stages of coastal pelagic species. Our initial determination is that the proposed action would have a substantial adverse impact on EFH or Federally managed fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico. 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.
Navigation: The proposed activity is not located in the vicinity of a federal navigation channel.
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 Panama City Permits Section, 415 Richard Jackson Boulevard, Suite 411, Panama City Beach, Florida 32407 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, Tracey Wheeler, in writing at the Panama City Permits Section, 415 Richard Jackson Boulevard, Suite 411, Panama City Beach, Florida 32407; by electronic mail at firstname.lastname@example.org; or, by telephone at (850)287-0138.
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.
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 Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP).
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.