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: Mr. Richard C Smith, Jr.
Clay County Engineering and Traffic Operations
477 Houston Street, 3rd Floor
Green Cove Springs, Florida 32043
WATERWAY AND LOCATION: The project would affect waters of the United States associated with Mill Log Creek, Pecks Branch, and Peters Creek. The project corridor is located from 2299 Sandridge Road to 3570 Russell Road, Sections 24, 39 and 46, Township 5 South, Range 25 East, Green Cove Springs, Clay County, Florida.
Directions to the site are as follows: From U.S. Highway 17 in Green Cove Springs, Florida proceed north until the intersection of Russel Road and head east. Proceed over the railroad tracks and turn immediately right. Proceed until the intersection of Peters Creek and this is where the project corridor beings.
APPROXIMATE CENTRAL COORDINATES:
Basic: The basic project purpose is roadway realignment.
Overall: The overall project purpose is to improve public roadway capacity and safety through realignment of Sandridge Road and expansion of Russell Road from Sandridge Road to Pecks Branch in Green Cove Springs, Florida.
Land cover and vegetative communities occurring within the Project corridor were determined based on published GIS data, which were then updated based on observations during the field inspections (Figure 4). The land cover types and vegetative communities occurring within the Project corridor were then classified using the Florida Land Use, Cover and Forms Classification System (FLUCCS), 1999.
The Project corridor is in a rapidly developing area and remaining active ranch lands are interspersed with newer residential, commercial, and institutional lands.
Uplands within the Project corridor have mostly been developed, or are currently being
developed, as medium density residential (FLUCCS 121). Most undeveloped uplands within and adjacent to the Project corridor are classified as improved pasture (FLUCCS 211) or coniferous plantation (FLUCCS 441). Bahiagrass (Paspalum notatum) is predominant in these pastures. Small areas of upland hardwood forest (FLUCCS 420), dominated by laurel oak (Quercus laurifolia) and water oak (Quercus nigra), remain.
Wetlands and Surface Waters
Existing Conditions: The 24.09-acre project site’s existing condition is categorized by the Florida Land Use, Cover and Forms Classification System (FLUCFCS)
a. Residential, low-density – less than 2 dwelling units/acre ((FLUCFCS code 110) (6.76 acres)): Residential land uses range from high-density urban housing developments to low-density rural areas characterized by a relatively small number of homes per acre. The variation extends from the multi-family apartment complexes generally located in larger urban centers to those single-family houses sometimes having lot sizes of more than one acre. Areas of low intensity residential land use (generally less than one dwelling unit per five acres), such as 13 farmsteads, will be incorporated in other categories to which they relate. However, rural residential and recreational type subdivisions will be included in the Residential category since this land is almost entirely committed to residential use.
b. Institutional ((FLUCFCS code 170) (0.907 acre)): Educational, religious, health and military facilities are typical components of this category. Included within a particular institutional unit are all buildings, grounds and parking lots that compose the facility. Those areas not specifically related to the purposes of the institution should be excluded. For example, agriculture areas not specifically associated with correctional, educational or religious institutions are placed in the appropriate Agricultural categories. Educational institutions encompass all levels of public and private schools, colleges, universities, training centers, etc. The entire areas enclosing buildings, campus open space, dormitories, recreational facilities and parking lots are included in this category when they are identifiable. Military facilities are characterized by a wide variety of features including training camps, missile sites, etc. Administration, storage, repair, security and other functional military buildings plus the practice ranges, storage areas, equipment storage lots and buffer zones compose the institutional military facilities. Auxiliary land uses, particularly residential, commercial and other supporting uses located on a military base, are included in the Institutional category.
c. Improved Pastures (Monocult, plated forage crops) ((FLUCFCS code 211) (0.509 acre)): This category in most cases is composed of land which has been cleared, tilled, reseeded with specific grass types and periodically improved with brush control and fertilizer application. Water ponds, troughs, feed bunkers and, in some cases, cow trails are evident.
d. Pine Flatwoods ((FLUCFCS code 411)( 4.668 acres)): Northern and Central Florida. Originally, longleaf pines were common on drier sites while slash pines, which are less fire-resistant, were confined to moister sites; wildfire being the contributing factor in this distribution. However, fire control and artificial reforestation have extended the range of slash pine into former longleaf sites. The pine flatwoods class is dominated by either slash pine, longleaf pine or both and less frequently pond pine. The common flatwoods understory species include saw palmetto, wax myrtle, gallberry and a wide variety of herbs and brush.
e. Upland Mixed Coniferous/hardwood ((FLUCFCS 434)(0.399 acre)): This class is reserved for those forested areas in which neither upland conifers nor hardwoods achieve a 66 percent crown canopy dominance.
f. Pine Plantation ((FLUCFCS 441)(9.836 acres)): These are almost exclusively pine forests artificially generated by planting seedling stock or seeds. These stands are characterized by high numbers of trees per acre and their uniform appearance. Although row patterns often stand out, this is not always the case, especially where stands are as a result of aerial seeding. When established on hydric soils this can be a wetland cover.
g. Wetland Forested Mixed ((FLUCFCS 630)(1.013 acres)): This category includes mixed wetlands forest communities in which neither hardwoods or conifers achieve a 66 percent dominance of the crown canopy composition.
PROPOSED WORK: The applicant seeks authorization to discharge 5,980 cubic yards of clean fill material into 1.99 acres of palustrine forested wetlands for construction of the new roadway alignment and 6.09 acres of palustrine forested wetlands for construction of the stormwater pond, for a total of 8.09 acres of wetland impacts. Secondary impacts to 2.60 acres of palustrine forested wetlands associated with the roadway construction and 2.20 acres of palustrine forested wetlands associated with the stormwater pond construction will also occur.
Please note that a public notice was previously issued on February 23, 2023, for this project; however, a permit decision was not made and the project was redesigned to include a new roadway alignment, as proposed above. The original proposed project involved impacts to 7.3 acres of wetlands.
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 Project primarily proposes the improvements to, and partial realignment of, an existing roadway corridor for safety purposes; therefore, alternatives are somewhat limited. There is no practical alternative to construction in wetlands as the Project is the widening of an already existing roadway, and measures have been taken wherever possible to minimize harm to wetlands along the Project corridor. The Project also seeks to realign the eastern end of Sandridge Road to adjust the intersection of Sandridge Road, Russell Road, and County Road 209B. In doing so, the applicant is creating a safer intersection and one that also promotes better traffic flow. Given the locations of the existing roadways and existing wetlands, the options available for the realignment in order for Sandridge Road and County Road 209B to match are limited, and the impacts to wetlands were deemed to be unavoidable. Preliminary studies of the Project corridor identified the need to expand from a two-lane rural roadway to a four-lane urban roadway. Subsequent expansion of other roadways and construction of new roadways has decreased some of the capacity issues for Russell Road. The proposed improvements will now take the two-lane rural roadway to a three-lane urban roadway with bike lanes and sidewalks. The majority of the work will occur within the existing ROW. Avoidance and minimization of potential wetland and surface water impacts were incorporated throughout the development of the proposed build alternative alignments, where possible. The Project has been designed to occur within existing ROW, which reduces impacts to adjacent wetlands and surface waters. The Project also seeks to realign the eastern end of Sandridge Road to adjust the intersection of Sandridge Road, Russell Road, and County Road 209B. In doing so, the applicant is creating a safer intersection and one that also promotes better traffic flow. Given the locations of the existing roadways and existing wetlands, the options available for the realignment in order from Sandridge Road and County Road 209B to match are limited, and the impacts to wetlands was deemed to be unavoidable. This plan represents the applicant’s best effort to avoid and minimize impacts to wetlands and surface waters. Roadway plans have been designed to avoid wetland impacts within the requirements of applicable regulatory standards. Specifically, pond sites utilize upland areas within available right-of-way.
COMPENSATORY MITIGATION – The applicant has offered the following compensatory mitigation plan to offset unavoidable functional loss to the aquatic environment:
Mitigation for unavoidable wetland impacts will be mitigated through the purchase of 5.32 mitigation bank credits from the Highlands Ranch Mitigation Bank, Phase III.
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.
a. 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 evaluated potential impacts to the eastern indigo snake using the Eastern Indigo Snake Programmatic Determination Key 2013. Use of this key resulted in the sequential determination A > B > C > Not Likely to Adversely Affect due to the property having no gopher tortoises, no burrows, holes, cavities, or other refugia where a snake could be buried or trapped, and due to the permit verification being conditioned for the use of the USFWS’s Standard Protection Measures For The Eastern Indigo Snake during site preparation and project implementation. In consideration of the key sequence, additional coordination with the USFWS is not required. 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.
b. The Corps has determined the proposal would have no effect on Eastern Black rail (Laterallus jamaicensis ssp. jamaicensis
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 12.88 acres of palustrine forested wetlands located inland and upstream of waters utilized by various life stages of summer flounder and bluefish. Our initial determination is that the proposed action would not have a substantial adverse impact on EFH or Federally managed fisheries in the St. Johns River. 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 Jacksonville Permits Section, 701 San Marco Boulevard, Jacksonville, Florida 32207 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.
QUESTIONS concerning this application should be directed to the project manager, Tracy Sanders, in writing at the Jacksonville Permits Section, 701 San Marco Boulevard, Jacksonville, Florida 32207; by electronic mail at Tracy.firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at (904)232-1171.
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 Saint 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.