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New Army Corps Plan threatens to bury S. Fla. Coral

The Army Corp of Engineers’ (ACOE) Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for the Environmental Assessment (EA) of the Broward County Segment II beach renourishment project opens the way for destruction of some of the best and last of S. Florida’s nearshore coral habitat.

This plan will put one million cubic yards of sand on the beaches and reefs from Pompano and Lauderdale-By-The-Sea to Ft. Lauderdale.

Public comment period is open until June 14

WHERE TO SEND COMMENTS: eric.p.summa@usace.army.mil   (Civil Works) and garett.g.lips@usace.army.mil  (Regulatory)

We would appreciate it if you send a copy your comments to  reefteam2@yahoo.com or call if you need more local information Dan Clark, (www.cryofthewater.com)   954-242-0327

WHAT TO SEND: Here’s a sample letter (try to personalize).

Ask that your comments be submitted to the official record of the Environmental Assessment (EA) and Finding of No Significant Impacts (FONSE) for the Broward County Segment II Shore Protection Project Segment II (Civil Works) and SAJ-1999-05545  (Regulatory)

RE: Request for an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), General Reevaluation Report (GRR) and a Public Hearing for the Broward County Shore Protection Project

This permit would allow Broward County to conduct beach renourishment projects in Segment II (Hillsboro Inlet to Port Everglades).  Place approximately 1 million cubic yards of fill (truck haul sand) on the beaches of Segment II. This is of particular concern because potions of Segment II (Ft. Lauderdale) have never had a beach project.  The reefs in Ft. Lauderdale start just off shore and have never been buried and smothered as have the reefs to the north and south.

We must learn from the impacts of past projects, one of the lessons we have learned is that when you place millions of cubic yards of sand on our beaches, you impact the reefs in front of them. It is time we stop burying the reefs that help project the beach from impacts from storms.  The Army Corps has issued a FONSI, yet the permit application anticipates acres of reef and Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) will be buried and mitigation will be required.  This should disqualify this project from being reviewed under an EA and FONSI and require a more stringent review of this project.

We must not allow the environmental review process to cut corners when it comes to protecting the last of the great nearshore reefs left in Florida.  There is no place else left in the US where can you beach dive or snorkel off the beach and enjoy such a reef.  We owe it to the next generation to enjoy it as we have.

Lauderdale holds an irreplaceable wealth of marine resources such as:

Ancient corals, many hundreds of years old

Thickets of  Endangered Staghorn coral, Acropora cervicornis

Endangered Elkhorn Coral, Acropora palmata

Enormous Gorgonian reefs

Ledges with over 44% hard coral cover (the Florida Keys has 4% coral cover).

Endangered Pillar Coral, Dendrogyra cylindrus

Essential Juvenile Fish Habitat. These habitats are an important part of the food web and support the different life cycles of many different species of fish. Their loss will have a cascading effect across the fisheries.

Endangered green sea turtle grazing grounds. The nearshore shallow hardbottom is unique habitat where algae grows that the juvenile sea turtles relay on for food.  The burial of similar habitat up and down the coast makes this area vital to the survival to the species.

The Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) should undertake an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), pursuant to 40 C.F.R. 1508.11 and a GRR prior to deciding whether or not to authorize the beach project in Segment II.

An EIS would allow the public, as well as other agencies, an opportunity to comment upon and bring issues to the attention of the ACOE. Several significant issues are involved concerning the authorization in question.  Those issues include, but not limited to:

Local divers are currently reporting the burial of nearshore reefs and hardbottom in Pompano Beach. The sand is coming from the recent ACOE Civil Works Project. The ACOE had claimed that there would be no impacts to the nearshore hardbottom and reef from this project because the sand was only being placed on the dry beach. For this reason this project was allowed to go on with a lesser environmental review then was needed. (See video of reef burial provided by local divers). There are several video’s documenting this problem:

http://youtu.be/OjMzqh-JuQk,

http://youtu.be/_AOgB7ahT_w,

http://youtu.be/SdHSBDPUKA8,

http://youtu.be/qaI11PJma2I.

This is of concern because the sand used for this recent Army Corps Civil Works project shown in the videos is the same sand source proposed for use in the much larger Broward County project under review. The ACOE Civil Works project placed approximately 110,000 cubic yards of sand on the dry upland beach.  This new Broward County permit proposes to place approximately 1 million cubic yards of sand, much of it directly in the water, leading to greater reef burial and secondary impacts leading to silt, sediment and turbidity.

This review process must consider the cumulative impacts such as chronic silt, sediment and turbidity causing secondary impacts along with direct burial.  Cumulative impact from not only this project but other projects in the area such as the 2005-2006 Broward County Dredge and Fill project, whose impacts have still have not been mitigated for.  These impacts need to be considered along with the (a) Hillsboro-Deerfield Dredge and Fill project that has not been mitigated for (b) the recent ACOE Civil Works project which is currently burying reef in Pompano Beach, that has not been mitigated for and (c) the proposed expansion of Port Everglades with its destruction of over 28 acres of reef and onsite dredging that may take as long as a year to complete. The Port Everglades project alone will put a large amount of silt and sediments into the system. As if this was not bad enough Broward County dumped over a million tires off shore Ft. Lauderdale in the 1970’s and those tires have now migrated from their dump site in 60 to 80 feet of water and are now bouncing around on the Ft. Lauderdale reefs causing damage during every storm event.

The Army Corps must look at the cumulative impacts from all of these projects past, present and proposed as well as water quality, diseases, rise in sea surface temperatures and ocean acidification.  All of these factors must be considered when attempting to assess the anticipated impacts from Broward County Beach Project

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Additional information:

Link for Broward Environmental Assessment (EA)

http://www.saj.usace.army.mil/Portals/44/docs/Planning/EnvironmentalBranch/EnvironmentalDocs/BrowardSegII_LRR_EA_14may2014.pdf

More documents, drawing and plans are available at www.broward.org/BeachRenourishment/Pages/ProjectDocuments.aspx

Also see:

Sediment from dredging severely impacts coral reefs

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