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 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 (33 U.S.C. §403) as described below:
APPLICANT: Citrus County
Attention: Walt Eastmond
3600 W. Sovereign Path Suite 212
Lecanto Florida 34461
WATERWAY AND LOCATION: The project would affect waters of the United States associated with the Gulf of Mexico. The project site is generally located 25 miles west of the Town of Homosassa. Specifically, the proposed 40-acre reef area (1,298-feet-wide by 1,339-foot-long) is located approximately 24.1 miles on a bearing of 233° true from where the Cross Florida Barge Canal meets the Gulf and 22.2 miles on a bearing of 238° true from where the Citrus County Energy Complex discharge canal meets the Gulf.
Directions to the site are as follows: From the confluence of Cross Florida Barge Canal and the Gulf of Mexico, take a 233-degree heading for approximately 22 miles to arrive at the Citrus County Fish Haven-2 site.
PROJECT PURPOSE: Basic: The basic project purpose is to enhance marine fishery resources.
Overall: The overall project purpose is to expand an existing artificial reef site to further enhance fisheries resources in order to provide additional marine life habitat and recreational fishing locations off the coast of Citrus County.
EXISTING CONDITIONS: The project is located in the Gulf of Mexico, mapped on the National Wetlands Inventory (NWI) as E1UBL ((E) Estuarine, (1) Tidal, (UB) Unconsolidated Bottom, (L) Subtidal). The proposed project site is located directly adjacent (east) to an existing 31.96-acre artificial reef site which was first established in 1982. The substrate at the site is characterized by a 3-to-6-inch layer of firmly packed sand over a limestone formation. Benthic surveys of the site ranging in time from Fish Haven-1 establishment to present reveal that substrate at project site continues to exhibit these characteristics. Since the reef site’s inception, the County has consistently deployed concrete materials consisting of items such as concrete “Lincoln Logs” and culverts within the Citrus County Fish Haven-1 reef footprint.
PROPOSED WORK: The applicant seeks authorization to expand an existing artificial reef within a 0.25 by 0.25 nautical mile (approximately 40 acre) bare bottom area directly adjacent (east) to the existing reef through deployments of clean concrete materials without impacting submerged aquatic vegetation, live hardbottom, or corals. Concrete materials for deployment include culverts, deck slabs, concrete beams, culverts, railing ties, and junction boxes. In accordance with the materials and design elements of the National Artificial Reef Plan, all materials will be clean and free from asphalt, creosote, petroleum, other hydrocarbons and toxic residues, loose free-floating material, or other deleterious substances.
DEPTH, PROFILE & CLEARANCE: According to the applicant water depths at the site range from -27 to -32 feet deep relative to mean lower low water (MLLW). The applicant proposes to deploy structures with a vertical height of 10 feet or less in order to maintain a minimum depth clearance of -16.5 feet relative to mean low water at the project site.
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 applicant selected a site devoid of submerged aquatic vegetation or corals and where there are no natural rock outcrops or hard bottom formations. In order to ensure that the deployed materials remain in place within the authorized boundaries, the applicant agrees to deploy materials that weigh a minimum of 500 pounds. Furthermore, the applicant seeks to deploy only materials clean and free from asphalt, creosote, petroleum, other hydrocarbons and toxic residues, loose free-floating material, or other deleterious substances.
COMPENSATORY MITIGATION – The applicant has provided the following explanation why compensatory mitigation should not be required: The applicant does not propose impacts to submerged vegetation, macro algae, corals, or live hardbottom. Therefore, the applicant did not provide a compensatory mitigation plan.
CULTURAL RESOURCES: The applicant has not observed any evidence that the proposed deployment site contains any cultural resources or sites listed or eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. Benthic surveys of the Fish Haven-1 site, directly adjacent to the proposed site, consistently reveal a 3- to 6-inch-deep sand layer laying over a limestone rock formation. It is also important to note that the deployment of types of material described above does not involve substantial ground-disturbing activity. The applicant stated that the weight of the modules is sufficient to anchor them at the deployment site. Furthermore, the Corps is not aware of any known historic properties within the permit area. 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: The Corps has determined the proposed project may affect but is not likely to adversely affect the Gulf sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus desotoi), smalltooth sawfish (Pristis pectinata), giant manta ray (Mobula birostris), and swimming sea turtles (green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas), Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys kempii), loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta), leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea), hawksbill sea turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata)) or their designated critical habitat (DCH). The Corps evaluated the proposed work utilizing NMFS’s Jacksonville District’s Programmatic Biological Opinion (JAXBO) dated 20 November 2017, including consideration of the Project Design Criteria (PDCs) identified in the JAXBO that have typically been applied to permitted in-water construction activities. These PDCs ensure effects of in-water construction activities are minimal in nature and do not result in adverse effects to listed species or to essential features of DCH. As established in the JAXBO, the Corps determined that the proposed artificial reef project may affect but is not likely to adversely affect the Gulf sturgeon, smalltooth sawfish, giant manta ray, or swimming sea turtles. The Corps will request National Marine Fisheries Service programmatic concurrence with this determination pursuant to Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act.
The Corps has determined that the proposed project may affect but is not likely to adversely affect the West Indian manatee (Trichechus manatus). Use of The Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District, and the State of Florida Effect Determination Key for the Manatee in Florida, April 2013 (Key) resulted in the following sequential determination: A>B>C>G>N>O>P- may affect, not likely to adversely affect. The applicant elects to adhere to the Standard Manatee Conditions for In-Water Work, 2011. Therefore, according to the key, a may affect but is not likely to adversely affect determination is appropriate. By letter dated 25 April 2013, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) previously indicated that they concur with determinations of may affect, not likely to adversely affect based on the Key for manatees and that no additional consultation is necessary.
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 40 acres of unconsolidated bottom habitat potentially utilized by various life stages of shrimp (all life stages), reef fish (all life stages), coastal migratory pelagics (all life stages), Atlantic sharpnose shark (Gulf of Mexico Stock; juvenile and adult), blacknose shark (Gulf of Mexico Stock; all life stages), nurse shark (juvenile and adult), bull shark (all life stages), blacktip shark (Gulf of Mexico Stock; all life stages), spinner shark (neonate), and lemon Shark (adult). Our initial determination is that the proposed action would not 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.
COMMENTS regarding the potential authorization of the work proposed should be submitted in writing to the attention of the District Engineer through the Tampa Permits Section, 10117 Princess Palm Ave, Suite 120, Tampa, Florida 33610-8302, 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, Barbara M. Cory in writing at the Tampa Permits Section at 10117 Princess Palm Ave., Suite 120, Tampa FL 33610, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at (813) 697-2870.
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 decision as to whether a permit will be issued will be based on an evaluation of the impact of the proposed work on navigation and national security.
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.
COASTAL ZONE MANAGEMENT CONSISTENCY: In Florida, the State approval constitutes compliance with the approved Coastal Zone Management Plan. Artificial reefs that are constructed in Florida's coastal zone require coordination with the state for Coastal Zone Management (CZM) Consistency as required under Section 307(c) of the Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1456(c)). This coordination is required even when the state does not issue or require a state permit.
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.