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: DR Horton
Attn: Mr. Anthony Sharp
420 Race Track Road
St. Johns, Florida 32259
WATERWAY AND LOCATION: The project would affect waters of the United States associated with Hulett Branch. The project site is located near the west side of US Highway 1 from north of Matanzas Woods Parkway to south of Old Kings Road, in Sections, 9, 16, 17, 20, 21, 28, 29, and 47, Township 10 South, Range 30 East, Palm Coast, Flagler County, Florida.
Directions to the site are as follows: From Interstate-95 take Exit 298 and head south. Proceed on US Highway 1 until the intersection of North Old Kings Road. The project site is on the right side of US Highway 1 at this intersection.
APPROXIMATE CENTRAL COORDINATES: Latitude 29.629767°
Basic: The basic project purpose is residential development.
Overall: The overall project purpose is single family residential development within Northeast Flagler County, Florida[M1] [CBJCUC(2] .
EXISTING CONDITIONS: The proposed project area (724.77 acres[M3] [CBJCUC(4] ) is characterized by five generalized vegetative communities and one open water category per Florida Land Use, Cover, and Forms Classification System [(FLUCFCS) Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), State Topographic Bureau, Thematic Mapping Section, 1999)].
a. Upland Communities
i. Pine Plantation (FLUCFCS code 441) 608.86 acres – This dominant community has a canopy of planted slash pine (Pinus elliottii) with an understory and groundcover of bitter gallberry (Ilex glabra), saw palmetto (Serenoa repens), and bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum).
b. Wetland Communities
i. Stream Swamp (FLUFCS code 615) 82.73 acres - This community, often referred to as bottomland of stream hardwoods, is usually found on but not restricted to river, creek and lake flood plains or overflow areas. This category has a wide variety of predominantly hardwood species of which some of the more common components include red maple (Acer rubrum), river birch (Betula nigra), water oak (Quercus nigra), sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua), blackgum (Nyssa sylvatica var. biflora), water hickory (Carya aquatica), and water ash (Fraxinus caroliniana). Associated species include cypress (Taxodium spp.), slash pine (Pinus elliottii), and loblolly pine (Pinus taeda).
ii. Hydric Pine Plantation (FLUCFCS code 625) 18.91 acres - This area includes predominately slash pine silviculture areas which contain rows and furrows. The canopy is dominated by slash pine, though affected by the seasonal high-water levels. The understory includes myrtle-leaved holly (Ilex myrtifolia), shiny lyonia, saw palmetto, gallberry, Virginia chain fern, cinnamon fern, and bracken fern.
iii. Wetland Forested Mixed (FLUCFCS code 630) 12.74 acres – This community has a mixed canopy of slash pine, dahoon holly (Ilex cassine), loblolly bay (Gordonia lasianthus), and red maple (Acer rubrum). The understory and groundcover are vegetated with fetterbush (Lyonia lucida), highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum), Virginia chain fern (Woodwardia virginica) and pipewort (Eriocaulon sp.).
iv. Upland Cut Ditch (FLUCFCS code 512) 1.53 acres – These water-conveyance features occur on the northern half of the site and cross from wetland pockets through upland areas. They convey water from the east to the inland slough and Hulett Branch bordering the western side of the property.
PROPOSED WORK: The applicant seeks authorization to discharge 30,625 cubic yards of clean fill material[M5] into 8.75 acres of palustrine-forested wetlands to facilitate the construction of a phased[M6] [CBJCUC(7] single-family residential development, stormwater retention ponds, and associated infrastructure.
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:
“An Alternatives Analysis Demonstrating Wetland Impacts Avoidance and Minimization (the “Alternatives Analysis”) was submitted. The Applicant provided this Alternatives Analysis to demonstrate the wetland impacts avoidance and minimization effort undertaken. This Alternatives Analysis follows the analysis framework of the Jacksonville District’s “Information for Preparing an Alternatives Analysis Under Section 404” dated June 2014. This Alternatives Analysis supersedes and replaces all other avoidance and minimization and alternatives analysis information submitted by the Applicant for the project. The Applicant considered five offsite alternatives and two on-site alternative site plans in addition to the Applicant’s Preferred Plan and the no action alternative. The “no-action” alternative is infeasible as it does not meet the project purpose because there is no feasible means of achieving the residential development and fulfill the need for single family housing in Flagler County without impacting wetlands. Access to the majority of the upland development area on the western portion of the property requires construction of a spine road through the Hulett Branch wetland area from the main entrance on U.S. 1 at the east side of the property and to the west. Several smaller interior wetland impacts are also unavoidable because of the need to construct a functional surface water management system and the design of the lakes does not permit full avoidance of these areas. Even if the surface water management lakes could be constructed around the wetlands in the interior of the development, those wetlands would have adversely affected wetland function from being surrounded by lakes. After an extensive search, the Applicant was unable to locate other alternative sites available that had sufficient developable upland acreage fulfill the purpose and need of the single-family planned development in the Flagler County area to meet the project’s purpose. The Applicant’s Preferred Plan has minimal wetland impacts (8.75 acres over a 700+/- acre site) and was the only practicable alternative, given that Offsite Alternatives 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 would result in more wetland impacts than the Applicant’s Preferred Plan. The On-site Alternatives the Applicant considered were rejected because they would result in more wetland impacts than the Preferred Plan. The upland buffer areas in the Applicant’s Preferred Plan contains upland buffers on which there is no development. These upland buffers are required by the St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD) Environmental Resource Permit for the project (ERP No. 102595-23), and therefore development in these areas was not feasible because the SJRWMD would not authorize such development. The Preferred Plan meets the project purpose with a reduction in wetland impacts from On-site Alternative 1 and a reduction in wetland impacts from On-site Alternative 2. The Applicant determined that the Preferred Plan was the least environmentally damaging practicable alternative.”
COMPENSATORY MITIGATION – The applicant has offered the following compensatory mitigation plan to offset unavoidable functional loss to the aquatic environment:
“The wetland impacts have been avoided and minimized consistent with the requirements of Section 404 of the Clean Water Act and its implementing regulations. The Applicant proposes to mitigate for the freshwater forested impacts by purchasing 5.70 federal UMAM mitigation bank credits from a Corps-approved mitigation bank which serves the area for which a permit is sought. Please see the attached UMAM summary spreadsheet as well as Part I’s and II’s which demonstrate the 5.70 credits will fully offset impacts to 8.75 acres of wetlands on the project site.”
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 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 used The Eastern Indigo Snake Programmatic Effect Determination Key, August 2013 and determined the proposed project may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect the eastern indigo snake (Drymarchon corais couperi[M8] [CBJCUC(9] ). The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has indicated that they concur with determinations of may affect, not likely to adversely affect based on the key for eastern indigo snakes; and, that no additional consultation is necessary. The Corps has determined the project is within the consultation area of the Florida Scrub Jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens); however, the project site does not contain the appropriate habitat for the species. Therefore, the Corps has determined the project would have no effect on the Florida Scrub Jay.
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. Our initial determination is that the proposed action would not have a substantial adverse impact on EFH or Federally managed fisheries in Hulett Branch or Pellicer 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.
QUESTIONS and COMMENTS regarding the potential authorization of the work proposed should be submitted to the project manager, Mr. Brad Carey by electronic mail at Brad.J.Carey@usace.army.mil or by telephone at 904-232-2405 within 21 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.
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 St. Johns River Water Management District and is being reviewed by them through Application number 102595-23.
COASTAL ZONE MANAGEMENT CONSISTENCY: In Florida, the State approval constitutes compliance with the approved 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.