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SAJ-2019-02655(SP-KMU)

CESAJ-RD-SA
Published April 2, 2024
Expiration date: 5/2/2024
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: Margaret Novacek,
Sapphire Beach Resort and Marina Condominium Association

WATERWAY AND LOCATION: The project would affect waters of the United States associated with Red Bay. The project site is located at 11J, 11-100 and 11 Rem Estate Smith Bay, in Red Hook, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.

Directions to the site are as follows: The project is on the east end of St. Thomas. From Red Hook take Smith Bay Road North, the entrance to Sapphire Beach Marina is 0.5 miles on the right hand side. Go into the property past the guard booth turn right at the fork, the marina is at the terminus of the parking lot.

APPROXIMATE CENTRAL COORDINATES: Latitude 18.332847°
Longitude -64.848145°

PROJECT PURPOSE:

Basic: Boat moorage and maintenance of resort and marina infrastructure.

Overall: Conduct maintenance dredging of a marina and entrance channel to restore the boat slips and channel to previous depths to allow safe passage and moorage of vessels. Stabilize the eastern shoreline of Prettyklip Point to protect resort and marina infrastructure. Control sargassum inundations in the marina and along the shoreline of the resort beach.

EXISTING CONDITIONS:

The property is zoned W-1, waterfront development and is designated waterfront development on the Department of Planning and Natural Resources Land and Water Use Plan. The project area contains the Sapphire Beach Resort and Marina. A large salt pond encompassed the entire area prior to the 1970’s. The salt pond was filled during the 1970’s and the original marina basin was opened. The marina in its current configuration was constructed in 1987.

The marina has a soft silty bottom. There is riprap along the entrance channel and surrounding the jetty. The marina has an intermittent red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle) hedge with scattered white mangroves (Laguncularia racemosa) at the southeastern corner of the marina. Many of the mangroves along the edge of the marina were planted to stabilize the shoreline and to provide a buffer between the condominiums and the marina. The marina has reduced water quality due to its constricted nature and limited circulation. No live-aboard vessels are allowed within the marina as per the conditions of the CZM permits which helps prevent degradation of water quality.

Sargassum has had a tremendous impact on the marina. Although the marina has made diligent efforts to manually remove the sargassum, for the past couple of years it has piled up several feet deep on the western end. The sargassum decomposition has caused anoxic conditions within the marina on more than one occasion, resulting in fish kills. At different times of the year, sargassum inundates the marina making it difficult for vessels to maneuver. The hydrogen sulfide released from the sargassum impacts people with respiratory problems. The sargassum has caused damage to vessel surfaces and components due to its decomposition.

Benthic surveys were most recently completed in May and June 2022 using snorkeling and SCUBA equipment. The channel entrance has minimal colonization with only a few sponge species (Calyx and Incrinia) and corals (Pseudodiploria, Porites, Millepora and Siderastrea) were noted. The area to be dredged is colonized by only a few algal species, primarily green filamentous species. Therefore, limited benthic resources would be directly impacted by the dredging.

Large tarpon and other fish are often seen within the marina basin and fry are usually present within the marina. A large portion of the area surrounding the marina opening and offshore of the beach is exposed pavement. Nearshore to the south the shoreline has exposed bed rock. Some areas offshore have collected sand, but there is rock pavement within 24 inches of the surface. Approximately 50% of the pavement is emergent and of that 15% is colonized by coral and sponge species. The offshore area has large areas of hard bottom which have been colonized by coral species and can be considered critical habitat for the listed coral species.

There is a high number of corals, including Endangered Species Act (ESA) listed corals, near the Sapphire Beach Marina entrance and in the vicinity of the sargassum booms. The placement of the proposed sargassum booms does not fall directly in the path of any corals and leaves a small buffer area between corals and the booms. There are approximately 166 ESA-listed coral colonies in the vicinity of the proposed booms and anchor blocks. ESA coral species located in the vicinity of the booms include Acropora palmata, Acropora prolifera, Orbicella annularis, Orbicella faveolata, and Orbicella franksi. There are multiple listed corals within 10 feet (ft) of the proposed anchors, and there are non-listed corals within several feet. Most corals within proximity of the proposed booms are relatively small (≤ 1.5 ft). The only coral within 10 ft of the proposed booms that is over 1.5 ft in length is one O. faveolata measuring approximately 3.0 ft in length located 7.67 ft from the proposed boom. There is no seagrass within the project area. The shoreline along the eastern beach is not a suitable sea turtle nesting beach due to the material underlying the shallow sand veneer.

PROPOSED WORK:

Dredging
The applicant is proposing to maintenance dredge a total of 1,200 cubic yards (CY) of cobble, gravel, and sand from the Sapphire Marina using a clamshell dredge. The applicant would dredge 600 CY of material from the southeastern corner of the marina to restore two boat slips to a depth of -8 ft Mean Low Water (MLW). The applicant is also proposing to dredge 600 CY of material from a contiguous area in the entrance channel of the marina to restore it to -8 ft MLW. To dredge the area around the slips, a 40 ft by 3 ft finger pier and two supporting 12-inch diameter concrete piles would be removed. The pier and piles would be replaced following the dredge activities. The piles would be reinstalled with a vibratory hammer. The material would be dredged from the shoreline and placed directly in lined trucks and offloaded and de-watered in the open upland area to the west of the marina. The dredge material, which consists of sand, gravel, and cobble, would be dewatered, and dried to the south of the marina in the open area east of the condominium building and any effluent will be allowed to drain back into the southeastern corner of the marina which will be enclosed with turbidity barriers for the dredging. Dredging from the shoreline would require trimming a maximum of 14 red mangroves (Rhizophora mangle) and 3 white mangroves (Lagucularia racemose) along 75 linear ft of the shoreline to allow for shoreline access.

Sargassum Booms
The applicant is proposing to deploy two sets of sargassum booms. The first to protect the marina from the sargassum and the second to direct the sargassum to a single area on the beach to facilitate removal. The booms would consist of smooth floating booms with 3 ft subsurface curtains to allow the sargassum to easily slide along the boom and to prevent the sargassum from getting under the curtains. The curtains would be equipped with quick releases so they can be quickly deployed and removed. When booms are deployed, they would be assembled on the beach and sections would be pulled into position and divers would attach the booms to the anchors with floated lines.
The booms would only be deployed when sargassum is present and would be stored in a secure upland location when they are out of the water.

To the east of the marina, 700 ft of sargassum booms (broken into a 400-ft segment and a 300-ft segment) would be installed so floating sargassum bypasses the entrance to the marina. The booms would be held in place by 250 pound concrete anchor blocks placed every 25 ft. A total of 50 blocks are requested so that the angle can be changed to determine the best angle and to address current shifts which may alter the movement of the sargassum along the booms. A marker buoy would be attached to the block anchors at the seaward ends of the sargassum booms to alert boats of the presence of the booms and would be removed when the booms are not in the water. The 700 ft of sargassum booms would be installed over consolidated hardbottom habitat with coral colonization. Concrete block anchors would be placed on the consolidated hardbottom habitat.

A second 450-ft sargassum boom would be installed in Red Bay to direct sargassum to a single area on the beach to facilitate removal. The booms would be positioned so the sargassum is directed toward the beach and should not pass around Prettyklip Point. These booms would be held in place by twenty 250 pound concrete anchor blocks that would be placed on sand that is underlain with rock pavement.

The booms would direct the sargassum into the southern corner of the beach adjacent to the jetty where the applicant proposes to place a mobile conveyor system that extends below the mean high water line, while in use, to allow the sargassum to be deposited into a truck or dumpster without driving vehicles and moving equipment in the intertidal zone. Workers would load the conveyor with pitch forks to minimize the amount of water collected and sand lost. Sargassum would be disposed at the Bovoni Landfill.

Prettyklip Point Revetment
The applicant is proposing to install 75 CY of riprap in a 700-square-ft area along 110 linear ft of the shoreline on Prettyklip Point where the shoreline is being badly eroded and the swimming pool undermined. Revetment would be installed with heavy equipment. The area will not be excavated prior to placement.

Note: The northern marina jetty would be restored to prevent future erosion. However, all work associated with the jetty restoration will occur landward of the high tide line and therefore, would not require a Corps permit. Approximately 500 CY of dewatered dredged material would be placed in the areas of the northern marina jetty where fill was lost due to storm surges associated with the 2017 hurricanes. Materials would be placed with a backhoe positioned on the jetty. The recontouring would be done with the material which is the heaviest mix of gravel and cobble. Once the areas have been recontoured, filter fabric would be placed over the material, and riprap revetment would be placed on top of filter fabric to protect the jetty from future erosion.

AVOIDANCE AND MINIMIZATION MEASURES: The applicant has provided the following information in support of efforts to avoid and/or minimize impacts to the aquatic environment:

Mangroves would be replanted in the southeastern edge of the marina where they would be trimmed to allow for access of the crane to dredge. To mitigate for the mangrove impacts, 50 red mangroves will be planted along the southeastern perimeter of the marina in the shallow water along the inside of the dock and along the southeastern side to stabilize and minimize future deposition.
Dredging will occur in areas of uncolonized gravel, cobble, and sand.
Direct impacts to corals will be avoided. The applicant mapped corals in the project area and positioned sargassum booms to avoid all corals.
NOAA’s Protected Species Construction Conditions will be followed.
NOAA’s Vessel Strike Avoidance Measures will be followed.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s manatee conservation measures will be implemented during in-water work.
An environmental monitor will be present during dredging and installation of the revetment and sargassum booms to watch for protected species including sea turtles, manatees, the roseate tern, the queen conch, and other marine species.
Sargassum booms will be surveyed every week to ensure that anchors or ropes have not been lost and the boom is in the correct location.
Sargassum boom anchors will be deployed with diver assistance to ensure that no impact to benthic organisms occur.
The booms will be wiped down to minimize algal colonization.
A Water Quality Monitoring Plan will be implemented during dredging and dewatering and installation of the shoreline revetment.
Turbidity booms will be installed and maintained during dredging and silt fencing will be installed around the dredge spoil pile as it dries and around areas of placement.
The applicant will conduct a cleanup in Red Bay to pick up ropes and other debris to minimize future coral damage.
Silt fencing will be installed around the dredge spoil pile.
Floated lines will be utilized on the sargassum booms to minimize impact to the seafloor.
Booms will only be deployed when sargassum is present.
The applicant will implement the Sargassum Boom Inclement Weather Plan, which requires removal of the booms prior to severe storms.
The applicant will implement the Sargassum Boom Monitoring and Maintenance Plan, which requires removal of the sargassum booms when there is not an active sargassum inundation.

COMPENSATORY MITIGATION: The applicant has not offered a compensatory mitigation plan to offset unavoidable functional loss to the aquatic environment. The applicant is proposing to implement the avoidance and minimization measures described above.

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 and other interested parties.



ENDANGERED SPECIES: The Corps has determined the proposed project may affect but is not likely to adversely affect the species and designated critical habitat for the green sea turtle due to the applicant’s project design and willingness to implement conservation measures described in the Avoidance and Minimization section above. The Corps determined the project is likely to adversely affect coral critical habitat. The Corps will initiate consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service pursuant to Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act in separate letters. The Corps would appreciate any information and technical assistance from the Services, resource agencies, or the public regarding our preliminary determinations.

Table 1. ESA-listed Species in the Action Area and Effect Determinations
Species ESA Listing Status Listing Rule/Date Effect Determination (Species)
Sea Turtles
Green
(Chelonia mydas) T 81 FR 20057/
April 6, 2016 NLAA

Leatherback
(Dermochelys coriacea) E 35 FR 8491/
June 2, 1970 NLAA

Loggerhead
(Caretta caretta). T 76 FR 58868/
Sept, 22, 2011 NLAA

Hawksbill
(Eretmochelys imbricata), E 35 FR 8491/
June 2, 1970 NLAA

Fish
Nassau grouper
(Epinephelus striatus) T 81 FR 42268/
June 29, 2016 NLAA

Giant manta ray
(Mobula birostris) T 83 FR 2916/
Jan. 22, 2018 NLAA

Oceanic whitetip shark
(Carcharhinus longimanus) T 83 FR 4153/
January 30, 2018 NLAA

Scalloped hammerhead shark
(Sphyrna lewini) T 79 FR 38213/
July 3, 2014 NLAA

Invertebrates
Elkhorn coral
(Acropora palmata) T 71 FR 26852/
May 9, 2006 NLAA

Staghorn coral
(Acropora cervicornis) T 71 FR 26852/
May 9, 2006 NLAA

Boulder star coral (Orbicella franksi) T 79 FR 53852/
Sept. 10, 2014 NLAA

Mountainous star coral
(Orbicella faveolata) T 79 FR 53852/
Sept. 10, 2014 NLAA

Lobed star coral
(Orbicella annularis) T 79 FR 53852/
Sept. 10, 2014 NLAA

Rough cactus coral
(Mycetophyllia ferox) T 79 FR 53852/
Sept. 10, 2014 NLAA

Pillar coral
(Dendrogyra cylindrus) T 79 FR 53852/
Sept. 10, 2014 NLAA

Queen conch
(Strombus gigas) T 87 FR 55200
Sept. 8, 2022 NLAA
Birds
Roseate Tern (Sterna dougallii)
T 52 FR 42064
Nov. 2, 1987 NLAA

Marine Mammals
Antillean Manatee
(Trichechus manatus manatus) T 82 FR 16668
April 5, 2017 NLAA


Table 2. Critical Habitats in the Action Area and Effect Determinations
Species Critical Habitat in the Action Area Critical Habitat Rule/Date Effect Determination
(Critical Habitat)
Elkhorn Coral and Staghorn Coral YES 73 FR 72210/
November 26, 2008 LAA

Pillar Coral
Lobed Star Coral
Mountainous Star Coral
Boulder Star Coral
Rough Cactus Coral
YES 85 FR 76302
November 27, 2020 LAA
Green Sea Turtle Critical Habitat (Proposed) YES 63 FR 46693/
September 2, 1998
88 FR 46572/
July 19, 2023 NLTAA

E = endangered; T = threatened; NLAA = may affect, not likely to adversely affect; NE = no effect; LAA = Likely to Adversely Affect, N/A = not applicable

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. The NOAA EFH Mapper was used to determine that the following species/management units are located at the project site: Caribbean Reef Shark, Longbill Spearfish, Swordfish, White Marlin, Queen Conch, Spiny Lobster (2 species), Reef Fish (43 species), and Corals. There are no habitat areas of particular concern at the project site. The proposal would impact approximately 2 acres of unconsolidated and consolidated substrate utilized by various life stages of these species. Our initial determination is that the proposed action would have an adverse impact on EFH or Federally managed fisheries in Red Bay. However, effective control of sargassum could also result in long-term benefits to the habitat and species in the project area. 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 project 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, will not alter, occupy, or use a Corps Civil Works project.

WATER QUALITY CERTIFICATION: Water Quality Certification may be required from the Department of Planning and Natural Resources, Division of Environmental Protection (DPNR EP). The project is undergoing concurrent review with DPNR EP.

COASTAL ZONE MANAGEMENT CONSISTENCY: In the Virgin Islands, the Department of Planning and Natural Resources, Division of Coastal Zone Management (DPNR CZM) permit constitutes compliance with the Coastal Zone Management Plan. The project is undergoing concurrent review with DPNR CZM.

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.

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, aesthetics, 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.

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.

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 waters. This is based on an analysis of the applicant's avoidance and minimization efforts for the project.

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. Please email requests to karen.m.urelius@usace.army.mil within 30 days from the date of this notice.

COMMENTS regarding the potential authorization of the work proposed should be submitted in writing to the attention of the District Engineer through the Antilles Permits Section, Attn: Karen Urelius. Please email comments to karen.m.urelius@usace.army.mil within 30 days from the date of this notice.

QUESTIONS concerning this application should be directed to the project manager, Karen Urelius at karen.m.urelius@usace.army.mil or by telephone at (787) 370-8359.