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: St. Johns County
Attention: Duane Kent, Public Works
2740 Industry Center Road
St. Augustine, Florida 32084
WATERWAY AND LOCATION: The project would affect waters of the United States associated with the Atlantic Ocean and the Summer Haven River. The proposed project site is located along the beach shoreline and in the navigable waters of the Atlantic Ocean, parallel to the Old State Road A1A right-of-way, within the Pedro Menendez Land Grant, between Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) beach range (R) monuments R-202 and R-208.5, in Section 30, Township 9 South, Range 31 East, Summer Haven St. Johns County, Florida. The borrow areas associated with this project are Florida Inland Navigation District's (FIND) Dredge Material Management Area (DMMA) St. Johns Number 1 (SJ-1), DMMA FL-3 at Latitude 29.634384° and Longitude -81.226541°, and the dredge template of the Summer Haven River as found in Corps permit SAJ-2012-02400.
Directions to the site are as follows: From the north at the intersection of State Road (SR) 206 and A1A, drive around 6 miles south. Take a left on Old A1A and drive north. The project lies to the east along the Atlantic Ocean shoreline.
APPROXIMATE CENTRAL COORDINATES: Latitude 29.682280°
Basic: The basic project purpose is shoreline protection.
Overall: The overall project purpose is shoreline stabilization in Summer Haven, Florida.
EXISTING CONDITIONS: The beach ecological community found within the Project Area, R-202 through R-208.5 at Summer Haven occupies approximately 19 acres. The beach is constantly affected by wave and tidal action. No vegetation occurs apart from that which is washed ashore as part of the daily tide cycle. The material is composed of fine and coarse sand and shell fragments and is subject to wind and water erosion. This location has a history of severe erosion and is identified as “Critically Eroded Beach” in the DEP Bureau of Beaches and Coastal Systems, Strategic Beach Management Plan for the Northeast Atlantic Coast Region (2008). Currently, there are breaches connecting the Atlantic Ocean to the Summer Haven River at multiple points along the stretch due to Hurricane Ian in October 2022 and Hurricane Nicole in November 2022. Limited dunes are found at the site. Vegetation is found on the dunes, sparsely populated, from R-205 south to R-208. Vegetation species include sea-oats (Uniola paniculata), dune sunflower (Healianthus debilis), sea purslane (Portulaca oleracea), railroad vine (Ipomoea pescaprae), and shoreline seapurslane (Sesuvium portulacastrum). From R-205 north to R-202 solely sand exists on the beach front. From R-202 – R-203 there are mangroves west of the houses along the Summer Haven River.
From R-202 through R-208.5 there are approximately 25 houses from the intersection of A1A Scenic and Historic Coastal Byway and Old A1A. Access to the houses is available by turning north on Old A1A from the intersection of A1A and Old A1A. From R-205 north to R-200, Old A1A is completely gone.
Borrow Areas: The Summer Haven River borrow area footprint is located adjacent to the west of the beach front template. The river has mangroves bordering the shoreline and the river has a sandy bottom. The river hosts beach sand from the adjacent beach shoreline frequently blown over in heavy winds and pushed over from storm surge during large storm events. The DMMA FL-3 Borrow Area is located just over 2.5 miles southeast of R-208 in Flagler County off North Old Kings Road (reference Figure DMMA FL-3 Borrow Area). The site is an existing borrow pit. The proposed new borrow area is the Summer Haven River adjacent to the south of the dredge template to the confluence of the Summer Haven River and the Intracoastal Waterway just west of the A1A Bridge. This area of the Summer Haven River is currently filled with sand due to breaches in the beach shoreline causing sand to be pushed into the river.
PROJECT HISTORY: The Corps issued a permit for the work in 2012. At that time, the Summer Haven River was full of sand washed out from the adjacent beach front. Work to dredge the river and place the dredge material on the beach from R-200 to R-202 was set to begin November 1, 2016. However, in October 2016, Hurricane Matthew hit the area and a breach was created and water flowed over the sand that covered the Summer Haven River. The 0.25-mile-wide breach was located just south of R-204 connecting the ocean to the Summer Haven River. An emergency permit SAJ-201603083 was created to dam the Summer Haven River with a geotextile tube to facilitate construction to close the breach. At the beginning of September 2017, Hurricane Irma hit the coast of Florida causing erosion of the newly placed beach sand south of R-204 and moving that sand into the Atlantic Ocean. In early September 2019, Hurricane Dorian brought winds, rain and storm surge to the northeast Florida coast pushing beach sand into the river. On October 7, 2020, the permit underwent Modification #1 to utilize the Summer Haven River dredge template and Florida Inland Navigation District Dredge Material Management Area St. Johns Number 1 (SJ-1) as sand sources and to allow for work during sea turtle nesting season. A nor’easter storm in November 2021 caused a breach in the berm connecting the Atlantic Ocean to the Summer Haven River at R-205. The permit underwent Modification #2 on June 1, 2022 to extend the authorization period to September 19, 2027. In October 2022, Hurricane Ian caused issues to the site and in November 2022 Hurricane Nicole caused issues to the site. To date, beach nourishment has been conducted under permits SAJ-2012-02400 and SAJ-2016-03083, but no work has been conducted under the SAJ-2010-03050 authorization.
PROPOSED WORK: The applicant seeks authorization to add an additional sand source for beach nourishment material. The proposed area would be sand dredged from the Summer Haven River adjacent to the southern boundary of the SAJ-2012-02400 dredge template, as modified June 1, 2022, south to the Summer Haven River confluence with the Intracoastal Waterway just west of the A1A bridge. The area is 9.27 acres in size and would create 70,000-cubic-yards of material. The SAJ-2012-02400 permit is currently undergoing review for a modification to add this area to the Summer Haven River dredge template as new dredge and to add the dredged area as an option for a source of beach material for the SAJ-2012-02400 beach nourishment template.
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:
“All proposed excavation is within the bounds of the natural river, no expansion of the river is proposed. The excavation depth has been minimized to be no deeper than the typical natural river bottom elevation of -4 feet NAVD88. The excavation depth is consistent with the previously permitted Summer Haven River template and matches the expanded Summer Haven River template previously approved by Florida Department of Environmental Protection for this project. A sediment compatibility evaluation summary is attached to this modification request.”
COMPENSATORY MITIGATION – The applicant has provided the following explanation why compensatory mitigation should not be required:
“Since the project intent includes reestablishment of flow in the Summer Haven River and restoration of the beach and dune areas with sand, which originally overwashed into the river from the beach, no additional compensatory mitigation is proposed.”
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 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 proposed project may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect the eastern indigo snake (Drymarchon corais couperi). The Corps utilized the Eastern Indigo Snake Programmatic Effect Determination Key January 25, 2010, addendum August 13, 2013, which resulted in the sequence A > B > C > not likely to adversely affect as there are no gopher tortoise burrows, holes, cavities or other refugia where a snake could be buried or trapped or injured during project activities. The USFWS previously indicated that they concur with determinations of not likely to adversely affect based on that key; and, that no additional consultation is required.
The Corps has determined the proposal may affect, but would be not likely to adversely affect the green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas), Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys kempii), leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea), loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta), Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata): The Corps has determined the proposed work would fall under the Statewide Programmatic Biological Opinion (SPBO) as the project would follow all Project Design Criteria. The Corps will reinitiate consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), pursuant to Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act.
The Corps has determined the proposal may affect, but would be not likely to adversely affect the Rufa Red Knot (Calidris canutus rufa) and the Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus): The Corps has determined the proposed work would fall under the Piping Plover Programmatic Biological Opinion (P3BO) as the proposed work would follow all Project Design Criteria. The Corps will reinitiate consultation with the USFWS, pursuant to Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act.
The Corps has determined the proposed project may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect the Wood Stork (Mycteria americana). The project site is within the 13-mile United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) North Florida core foraging area for a Wood Stork nesting colony. The Corps evaluated potential effects to Wood Stork using The Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Jacksonville Ecological Services Field Office and State of Florida Effect Determination Key for the Wood Stork in Central and North Peninsular Florida, September 2008. Use of this key resulted in the sequential determination A > B > no effect, as the project would improve habitat for the Wood Stork. The USFWS previously indicated that they concur with determinations of not likely to adversely affect based on that key; and, that no additional consultation is required.
The Corps has determined the proposed project may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect the West Indian Manatee (Trichechus manatus). The Corps has determined the proposed work would fall under the Statewide Programmatic Biological Opinion (SPBO) as the project would follow all Project Design Criteria. The Corps will reinitiate consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), pursuant to Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act.
The Corps has determined the proposed project would have no effect on the Florida Scrub Jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens). Information from USFWS indicates that the Florida Scrub Jay has extremely specific habitat requirements. It is endemic to peninsular Florida inhabiting fire dominated, low-growing, oak scrub habitat found on well-drained sandy soils. The species may persist in areas with sparser oaks or scrub areas that are overgrown, but at much lower densities and with reduced survivorship. According to USFWS, bare sand patches are essential for foraging and acorn-caching. Scrub habitat is a community composed of evergreen shrubs, with or without a canopy of pines, and is found on dry, infertile, sandy ridges. The signature scrub species, three species of shrubby oaks, Florida rosemary (Ceratiola ericoides), and sand pine (Pinus clausa), are common to scrubs throughout the state. The dominance of these species, however, is variable from site to site. The most common form is oak scrub, dominated by three species of shrubby oaks – myrtle oak (Quercus myrtifolia), sand live oak (Quercus geminata), and Chapman’s oak (Quercus chapmanii) -- plus rusty staggerbush (Lyonia ferruginea) and saw palmetto (Serenoa repens). The site is a river filled with beach sand and not conducive to Florida Scrub Jay habitat. Therefore, the Corps has determined the proposed project would have no effect on the avian species; and, that no additional consultation is required.
The Corps has determined the proposal may affect, but would be not likely to adversely affect the Shortnose sturgeon (Acipenser brevirostrum), Atlantic sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus oxyrinchus), smalltooth sawfish (Pristis pectinata), green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas), Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys kempii), leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea), loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta), and North Atlantic Right Whale Designated Critical Habitat: The Corps evaluated the proposed work utilizing National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) South Atlantic Regional Biological Opinion for Dredging and Material Placement Activities in the Southeast United States (2020 SARBO). The project proposes sand placement that would follow the Project Design Criteria required under 2020 SARBO and that the 2020 SARBO is appropriate to apply to the project. Therefore, the Corps has determined that the project would have a May Affect, Not Likely to Adversely Affect determination on the abovementioned species, and no additional consultation is required.
On December 2, 2022, the Corps executed a RAR report from the National Regulatory Viewer. The RAR did not indicate that the site is utilized by, or contains habitat critical to, any federally listed threatened or endangered species, other than those mentioned above. 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 federally listed, threatened, or endangered species, other than those mentioned above.
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 12.3 acres of nearshore habitat utilized by various life stages of species previously evaluated under the current authorization. Our initial determination is that the proposed action would not have a substantial adverse impact on EFH or Federally managed fisheries in the Gulf Atlantic Fisheries Management Council and the South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council. 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 would 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 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 32202 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 32202; 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 modification was received from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection on February 2, 2021 under Permit Modification Number 0313002-008-JN. The permit expires February 6, 2029.
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.