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SAJ-2021-00271 (Mod #3-TMM)

Jacksonville District
Published Sept. 12, 2023
Expiration date: 10/12/2023

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:  City of Jacksonville

                       Attention: Robin Smith

                       214 North Hogan Street

                       Jacksonville, Florida 32202

WATERWAY AND LOCATION:  The project would affect waters of the United States associated with McCoys Creek and the St. Johns River. The project site runs from the outfall of McCoys Creek into the St. Johns River north/northwest to the intersection the creek and the Skyway station just north of May Street, Section 56, Township 2 South, Range 26 East, Jacksonville, Duval County.

Directions to the site are as follows:  From downtown Jacksonville on the South Bank, travel northwest on the Acosta Bridge and cross the St. Johns River. Exit west onto Riverside Avenue. Take an immediate left into the parking area for the former Florida Times Union newspaper building.

APPROXIMATE CENTRAL COORDINATES:         Latitude       30.324006°

                                                                                 Longitude -81.667773°

PROJECT PURPOSE:

Basic: The basic project purpose is realignment of a portion of McCoys Creek for wetland restoration, enhancement, and establishment.

Overall: The overall project purpose is wetland restoration, enhancement, and establishment to restore McCoys Creek and associated floodplain to its historical condition, to reduce flooding associated with the creek system, to improve the water quality of the stream and its outfall into the St. Johns River, and to improve public recreation.  

EXISTING CONDITIONS: The wetland system consists of a tidal system. There is no onsite vegetation. The existing area surrounding the project area consists of a developed area that previously hosted the Florida Times Union building and another commercial building. Those buildings have since been removed. McCoys Creek, where it outfalls into the St. Johns River, is covered by a concrete culvert for 800 linear feet, upstream of the culvert are 150-feet of perpendicular bars that reinforce the bulkheads along the creek. At this time the buildings on site have been demolished.

a. Soils: According to the Soil Survey of City of Jacksonville, Duval County, Florida (U.S. Department of Agriculture – Natural Resources Conservation Service), the soil types mapped within the project area are: Urban Land (Soil Identification No. 69); and Water (99).

b. Vegetative Communities: Land use/land cover types were identified within and around the project area. These communities were classified using the Florida Department of Transportation Florida Land Use, Cover and Forms Classification System (FLUCFCS, 1999).

    i. Industrial (6.49 acres - FLUCFCS 150) – Several buildings and associated parking lots are located within the proposed project area, including the Florida Times Union Administration and Production Buildings and the parking lot at 1 Riverside Avenue. Demolition of the existing structures is ongoing.

    ii. Open Land (2.49 acres - FLUCFCS 190) – The areas designated as open land are located under the Riverside Avenue overpass. Bahia grass (Paspalum notatum) and dogfennel (Eupatorium capillifolium) dominate the groundcover stratum.

    iii. Ditched Creek (1.13 acres - FLUCFCS 512) – McCoys Creek has been ditched and channelized since the 1940s to allow for expanding development along the riparian edges. The current channel contains bulkheads along either side. The segment of McCoys Creek associated with Phase 2A was constructed entirely in uplands. Please see Exhibit 4 for a location of the existing creek segment and the proposed new channel.

PROPOSED WORK:  The applicant seeks authorization for the following:  

1. Realignment of McCoys Creek. Proposed work would include the following:

    (a) Excavation of approximately 936-linear-feet of uplands adjacent to the St. Johns River to realign McCoys Creek approximately 92-feet east of the existing McCoys Creek outfall. This alignment would connect the existing McCoys Creek to the southeast of the May Street Skyway crossing to the north and the St. Johns River to the south. The new alignment would vary in width, between 55-feet (single bulkhead section) and 60-feet wide (double bulkhead section). The new alignment would be underlain by a 1-foot-thick reinforced concrete bed covered by a 1-foot-thick live bed of sand and muck and would encompass 1.66 acre of waters of the United States (open, tidal water).

    (b)      Stabilization would be accomplished by the installation of vertical bulkheads along the entire channel corridor as follows:

    (i) Single bulkhead area: The northern 452-linear-feet would be stabilized by 3-foot-thick bulkheads made of metal sheet pile with a concrete façade (reference drawing labeled Bulkhead Cross Section). The bulkheads would be approximately 18-feet tall above mean water level (25-feet above channel bottom grade). The inner face of wall exposed to water on the eastern wall is approximately 348-linear-feet along the creek, while the western wall is approximately 296-linear-feet along the creek. All work would occur in uplands prior to the new alignment being connected to the existing McCoys Creek and the St. Johns River.

    (ii) Double Bulkhead Area: The southern 484-linear-feet would be stabilized by a double bulkhead system to allow the creek to stage up during flood events (reference drawing labeled Tier Cross Section). The inner primary walls would be 3-feet-thick bulkheads made of metal sheet pile with a concrete façade. These bulkheads would be approximately 2.7-feet above mean water (7.7-feet above creek bottom grade). The face of the inner eastern wall is approximately 269 linear feet along the creek while the inner western wall is approximately 293 linear feet along the creek.

    (iii) Secondary bulkheads would be located approximately 12-feet landward of the primary inner walls. The secondary bulkheads would be 3-feet-thick bulkheads made of metal sheet pile with a concrete façade. The height of the secondary bulkheads varies between 20-feet in height above mean water level and 9-feet in height above mean water level, dependent on the adjacent natural upland topography. The face of the outer eastern wall is approximately 281-linear-feet and the outer western wall is approximately 305-linear-feet (reference Tier Cross Section 2 drawing). Proposed bulkheads would be installed utilizing impact hammer or vibratory methods in dry conditions prior to the opening of the creek to allow water inflow. The space between the walls would be concrete which would be paved and accessible to pedestrians when not inundated.  

    (iv) The northern 452-linear-feet would be supported utilizing inner steel trusses (reference Support Truss Detail map, Support Cross Section map). These trusses range between 54 and 60 feet in length spanning the new channel and are 6-feet in width. The trusses would be elevated approximately 12-feet above mean water level to maintain navigability of the channel by small, non-motorized watercraft.

    (v) To install floating vegetative mats to facilitate vegetative recruitment, wildlife utilization, nutrient uptake, and improve aesthetics. The mats would be attached to the bulkheads to create a meandering central flow path. Mats vary in size, from 30-feet in length to 100-feet in length and are either metal or rigid plastic frames. Mats would not encroach more into more than 25% of the channel at any given point. Mats would be planted with native wetland shrubs and grasses tolerant of the tidal fluctuation within this area.

    (vi) To install vegetative habitat that would be hanging from the trusses close to the proposed bulkheads for recruitment of vegetation and aquatic organisms. The hanging habitat would not extend further waterward into the newly created channel more than 25% of the channel and they would not inhibit navigation by small, non-motorized vessels.

2. To dredge 0.06-cubic-yards of material from 2,845-square-feet of waters of the United States (open, tidal water tidal wetlands) to place 352.51-cubic-yards of fill and rip rap into 2,845-square-foot area for shoreline stabilization where the realigned McCoys Creek flows into the existing McCoys Creek. This would be a curved area and the new rip rap/fill would stabilize the shoreline as the water from the realigned creek converges with the existing creek and flows into the existing creek. The dredged material would be disposed of in uplands at the Trail Ridge Landfill would be dredged through mechanical methods.

3. Removal and replacement of the existing rip rap shoreline stabilization along the St. Johns River and includes the following:

    a. Removal of 645.33-cubic-yards of existing rip rap from 0.20-acre of waters of the United States (open, tidal water below the mean high water line). The rip rap would be removed from approximately 470-linear-feet along the shore and a maximum of 50-feet offshore into the St. Johns River in the area of the existing McCoys Creek outfall area, the proposed McCoys Creek realignment, and north of the proposed McCoys Creek realignment.

    b. Placement of 645.33-cubic-yards of rip rap into 0.20-acre of waters of the United States (open, tidal water) in front of the existing McCoys Creek outfall and north and south of the new McCoys Creek outfall that would be 470-feet-long and would range from 15-feet wide to 46-feet-wide to 78-feet in width.

4. At the Mouth of the New McCoys Creek Channel:

    a. Conduct new dredging to remove 1,739.54-cubic-yards of material from 0.22-acre of waters of the United States (open, tidal water) to create a new outfall channel into the St. Johns River. The channel would be approximately 116-feet wide and would extend approximately 88 feet waterward of the mean high water line. The area would be dredged to -9.5 feet in depth. The dredge would be conducted by mechanical methods. The dredged material would be disposed of in uplands at the Trail Ridge Landfill.

    b. Placement of 878-cubic-yards of clean granite rip rap into 0.22-acre of waters of the United States (open, tidal water) to stabilize the newly created outfall channel to the St. Johns River. The rip rap would be 116-feet-wide and extend 88-feet from the mean high water line into the St. Johns River to armor the newly created channel against erosion. The rip rap would be a uniform 2.5-feet thick, placed from -9.5-feet mean low water to -7-feet mean low water.

5. Placement of 21,000-cubic-yards of fill material into 0.85-acres of waters of the United States (open, tidal water) to backfill the existing McCoys Creek channel for 890-feet. The entire 890-feet would be filled in order to realign the creek to a new location east of the existing creek. The realigned creek would be reopened prior to the filling of the existing McCoys Creek.

The proposed work would also include pedestrian bridge, which would be reviewed under the jurisdiction of the United States Coast Guard. The pedestrian bridge would be 72-feet-long by 19.6-feet-wide, spanning the new Section 10 McCoys Creek alignment at the outfall into the St. Johns River. The bottom of the bridge would be set at elevation 17-feet above the water.

The McCoys Creek construction would require temporary closure of the North Bank Riverwalk between the Acosta Bridge and the existing McCoys Creek (approximately 1,500-feet east of the Winston Riverside YMCA). The Love Locks Bridge over the railroad would remain open. The North Bank Riverwalk would be reopened once construction is complete with a new route that would consist of the new pedestrian bridge over the realigned McCoys Creek.

The relocation of the McCoys Creek outfall would facilitate the development of a new mixed-use residential/commercial development within a previously developed upland parcel adjacent to the new outfall location. The proposed work in uplands is not under the purview of the Corps; however, it would be reviewed under the NEPA scope of analysis, National Historic Preservation Act, and the Endangered Species Act as the proposed work for the outfall structure would not occur but for the work in the uplands.

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:

“Impacts to wetlands and surface waters have been eliminated and reduced to the maximum extent practicable. Historically, this creek system naturally meandered and flooded adjacent wetlands. However, due to the surrounding development that has taken place since the early 1940s, the creek was relocated, and adjacent wetlands have been disturbed. The backfilling of the existing channelized creek connection, relocation of the creek entrance, and creation of a more natural, meandering creek entrance would increase the biological functions provided by the 2A segment, and the overall restoration project. The restoration of the creek to a natural meander and associated vegetative communities would enhance a downtown urban stream, providing higher quality water and wetlands associated with this system and its outfall into the St. Johns River. The temporary disturbance of current stream and wetland conditions would ultimately lead to higher quality wetlands with a more naturalized community that would be able to support wetland and wildlife species. ERS concludes that the project has minimized its impacts to wetlands and surface waters to the greatest extent practicable and would enhance and create on-site creek habitat.”

COMPENSATORY MITIGATION – The applicant has provided the following explanation why compensatory mitigation should not be required:

“The applicant proposes all work to be self-mitigating, therefore the proposed Phase 2A project would not require mitigation.”

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.

ENDANGERED SPECIES: 

a. The Corps has determined the proposed project may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect West Indian Manatee (Trichechus manatus). The Corps has requested U.S. Fish and Wildlife  Service (USFWS) concurrence with this determination pursuant to Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act. 

b. The Corps has determined the proposed project may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect Wood Stork (Mycteria americana). The Corps has requested USFWS concurrence with this determination pursuant to Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act. 

c. The Corps has determined the proposed project may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect Eastern Indigo Snake (Drymarchon corais couperi). The Corps has requested USFWS concurrence with this determination pursuant to Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act.

d. The Corps has determined the proposed project no effect Red-cockaded Woodpecker (Picoides borealis). The Corps has requested USFWS concurrence with this determination pursuant to Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act.

e. The Corps has determined the proposed project may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect the Green sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea), loggerhead sea turtle (Chelonia mydas), shortnose sturgeon (Acipenser brevirostrum), Atlantic sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus oxyrinchus), smalltooth sawfish (Pristis pectinata). However, the proposed work does not meet the Jacksonville Biological Opinion Project Design Criteria. Therefore, the Corps will request National Marine Fisheries Service concurrence with this determination pursuant to Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act.   

f. The Corps executed a Resources At Risk (RAR) report on September 27, 2022. 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 proposal would impact approximately 1.28 acres of open, tidal water and substrate utilized by various life stages of bull shark, flounder, bluefish, shrimp and snapper/grouper complex. 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 Atlantic Highly Migratory Species. 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 located in the vicinity of a federal navigation channel.

SECTION 408: The Corps is reviewing whether the applicant will require permission under Section 14 of the Rivers and Harbors Act (33 USC 408) because the activity would be located in the vicinity of 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 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.