USA: Corps Extends Comment Period on Lemon Bay Cove Project
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District will continue to receive public comments on the proposed Lemon Bay Cove project in Charlotte County through June 4. Lemon Bay Cove LLC. had applied to the Corps for a Department of the Army permit to fill nearly two acres of jurisdictional tidal saltwater forested mangrove wetlands to construct a 12-residence community.
Under the Clean Water Act of 1972, the Corps regulates the discharge of dredge and fill material in waters of the United States, including many wetlands. Under the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899, the Corps is responsible for the protection and maintenance of the nation’s navigable waterways. In making its decision, the Corps considers the value of the aquatic ecosystems involved, the views of federal, state and local agencies and interest groups and 21 public interest factors.
The Corps initially issued a public notice for the proposed Lemon Bay Cove project in May 2012 and received more than 200 letters from agencies, adjacent property owners and residents. Expressed concerns include potential impacts to endangered species, essential fish habitat, environmental concerns and cultural resources. Those comments, along with the Corps’ concerns about potential impacts of the project on aquatic resources, were provided to the applicant Oct. 5, 2012. The applicant provided additional information and, in February 2013, proposed the addition of seven finger piers and 13 boat slips, extending 195 feet from the shoreline, resulting in the Corps issuing a second public notice in April 2013.
The Corps has since been actively reviewing the response in consultation with appropriate agencies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Marine Fisheries Service Habitat Conservation Division (NMFS-HCD), NMFS Protected Resource Division, State Historic Preservation Office, Seminole Tribe of Florida and others. The NMFS-HCD requested a 30-day extension of the comment period and the Corps granted the extension to accommodate that agency’s need to conduct a seagrass survey during peak seagrass growing season. The public comment period, which was initially scheduled to close May 5, 2013 will now close June 4, 2013.
The Corps had also requested an analysis of possible alternatives to the proposed project site that would not impact aquatic resources. In the event that the proposed site is determined to be the least environmentally damaging practicable alternative, the applicant must clearly demonstrate that every effort has been made to first avoid, then minimize those impacts. In the event those efforts are exhausted and unavoidable impacts to aquatic resources are anticipated, a compensatory mitigation plan would also be required.
After the public comment period closes, the Corps will prepare and provide a position letter to the applicant, and the applicant will have 30 days to respond. A decision whether to issue a permit will be based on a comprehensive evaluation of the probable impacts on the public interest, including cumulative impacts, of the proposed activity. There is no anticipated timeline for a final decision.
Press Release, May 16, 2013