(September 4, 2016)
Governing Board Chair
South Florida Water Management District
3301 Gun Club Road
West Palm Beach, FL 33406
Dear Chairman O’Keefe:
Audubon Society of the Everglades (ASE) is concerned about the recent decision of the South Florida Water Management District Governing Board to issue a notice of default and to begin the process of revoking the lease agreement between the District and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) on the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge (LNWR).
LNWR is the largest National Wildlife Refuge in the State of Florida and an important resource to ASE. Our members spend countless hours walking the boardwalks and levees and canoeing and kayaking in the canals. They go on a weekly, guided bird walk from the end of October through April in search of the 250 species of endemic and migratory birds that call the Refuge “home.” For 17 years, ASE has joined the Friends of Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge to produce and support financially the Everglades Day Festival, which draws thousands to experience our national treasure.
We feel that the USFWS can point with pride to the accomplishment of meeting 12 ½ of the 13 performance measures that were part of the 2002 license renewal with the District. There is no doubt that a crisis of Lygodium and other invasive exotics exists on public and private lands, including the LNWR. However, cancelling the lease and shifting responsibility from the USFWS to the District does not solve the crisis. We have learned since the lease agreement of 2002 that the level of effort necessary to control Melaleuca and Old World climbing fern in the Refuge requires a large and concerted approach that cannot be implemented by the USFWS alone. We urge the District to review the target performance goals of the lease and to renegotiate a more realistic containment plan, as outlined in the June 24, 2016 response of Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Interior to Mr. Antonacci’s April 15, 2016 letter.
We certainly recognize and appreciate that the state has increased its investment in the treatment of exotic invasive species in recent years. However, we want to call attention to the fact that LNWR has received a proportionally large amount of the funds allocated by the federal government for invasive plant control. In 2016 $1.65 million went to LNWR to combat exotic plants. This was more than half of the total funds allocated to the Southeast Region and more than 10% of the total funding available nationally for the control of exotic plants.
If the District takes back management of the Refuge, significant long-term costs will be added to its already strained budget. We believe that a continued collaborative partnership between the state and the federal government can keep us from arriving at the worst-case scenario – the removal of the USFWS from the LNWR while the invasive species issues remain. Audubon of the Everglades is prepared to work with you to advocate for the state and federal funding necessary to meet our common goal of exotic plant containment in the Refuge.
Please let us know how we can partner with you to promote our mutual interest in Everglades preservation and restoration, especially with reference to our beloved Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge.
Audubon Society of the Everglades
(June 19, 2015)
Dear County Mayor and Commissioners –
On behalf of the Everglades Coalition and its 57 member organizations, we write to oppose the use of the Dade-Collier Training and Transition airport for a trade-style air show exhibition. The very idea of commercializing this facility flies in direct conflict with the original creation of America’s first National Preserve to protect the Big Cypress Swamp and the greater Everglades ecosystem.
Big Cypress National Preserve was established “to assure the preservation, conservation, and protection of the natural, scenic, hydrologic, floral and faunal, and recreational values of the Big Cypress Watershed in the State of Florida and to provide for the enhancement and public enjoyment thereof …” 16 U.S.C. § 698f(a). The preserve’s creation came about due to the valiant efforts of the hunting, off-road vehicle, and environmental communities banding together to thwart the detrimental and inappropriate airport development proposal in this environmentally sensitive area.
This proposal would undoubtedly bring significant long-term impacts to a remote, ecologically-sensitive area and result in pressure for further development. Structures, electricity, water and sewer, and emergency services would be necessary to serve work crews and large crowds drawn by aerospace machinery. Roadways would need to accommodate the equipment used to transport materials, equipment, and participants. Performance of the show itself carries risk of aerial bird collisions, jet fuel spills and exhaust releases, and noise impacts that will disrupt native wildlife, nesting birds, the endangered Florida panther, and tourists to the nearby Oasis Visitor’s Center.
We urge the County to put a stop to this idea before any more time or resources are wasted in planning efforts. Someone has tried to sell the County a jar of snake oil in contradiction to its responsibilities. From the 1960’s, the County committed to locate another site for the flight training activities and transfer the land in question back to the Department of Interior. However, since then the County has attempted to turn this unique natural area into a money maker in one way or another, including rock mining and other incompatible activities – rather than seeking to protect this amazing place.
Any attempt to continue to develop the jetport as a commercial air show will be met with vehement opposition from the Everglades Coalition and its member organizations. Thank you for your attention to this matter.
(June 15, 2015 )
Victory in Biscayne National Park and Updates From South Florida Wildlands – ASE had supported this effort several years ago, and we have just learned that
(May 22, 2015 )
NGO Letter to NRC USACE 5-15 NRC-2009-0337 click here to see the letter ASE signed May 22 along with other conservation groups
(September 30, 2014) Letter from Florida Audubon which ASE joined in signing to advocate inclusion of Everglades Restoration in the new Federal Water Resources Reform Act (WRRDA) of 2014
Mr. Bruce Carlson
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
441 G Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20314-1000
September 30, 2014
Dear Mr. Carlson:
The Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) of 2014 provides the first opportunity in seven years to advance new Everglades restoration projects and to develop new procedures for improving the nation’s water infrastructure. We greatly appreciate the opportunity to discuss some of the provisions relevant to Everglades restoration with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
As you begin to interpret the new directives in the 2014 WRRDA, we would like to see guidance for the following provisions prioritized. We look forward to working with you throughout this process, and appreciate the Administration’s continued commitment to restoring America’s Everglades.
Section 1014: Study and Construction of Projects by Non-Federal Interests
- This section provides that work carried out under this provision by a Non-Federal Interest “shall be eligible for credit or reimbursement for the Federal share…” §1014 (Sec. 204)(d)(1). We would like to see specific details about how reimbursement under this section will be captured in the budget process.
- For purposes of balancing cost-share between the Federal and non-Federal project sponsors, we believe it is important to provide clarity as to whether and when reimbursements will be posted to the Federal or the non-Federal side of the cost-share ledger.
- Guidance on this section should be prioritized because it sets forth guidelines for non-Federal sponsors willing to complete feasibility studies and initiate construction before Congressional authorization of a project, and in order to make the most of the cost savings, technical skill and experience that non-Federal sponsors provide.
Section 1018: Credit for In-Kind Contributions
- This section sets forth agreements that must be in order for a non-Federal interest to receive credit for in-kind work done before the execution of a project partnership agreement. The Committee Report notes that “[a]t a time of limited Federal budgets, the Managers urge the Secretary to work with non-Federal interests willing to invest local funding in civil works projects.”
- Guidance developed to implement this section should clarify whether the in-kind work provided by the non-Federal interest is eligible for credit if it commences or is completed prior to the relevant project being Congressionally authorized.
Section 1020: Transfer of Excess Credits
- This Section allows credits for non-Federal in-kind work obtained from one water resources project to be applied toward a different water resources project if a number of criteria are met.
- Will parameters be established for an acceptable comprehensive plan within which credits can be transferred?
Section 1043: Non-Federal Implementation Pilot Program
- This section sets up a pilot program to demonstrate the ability of non-Federal sponsors to plan and construct projects “to evaluate the cost-effectiveness and project delivery efficiency of allowing non-Federal interests to carry out…projects.” §1043 (b)(1).
- What metrics will be used “to evaluate the cost-effectiveness” and “efficiency” of the pilot program?
- Is there an expectation that all contracts let through this pilot program will be “design-build”?
- WRRDA 2014 does not speak to whether a project that has surpassed the funding limits in Section 902 of WRDA 1986 is eligible to participate in this program. Because this is a pilot program aimed at determining whether non-Federal interests can improve cost-effectiveness, we believe that projects that have exceeded the “902 limit” should not be precluded from participating in the pilot program.
Section 7004: Expedited Consideration in the House and Senate
- This section lays out the process for developing an “interim authorization bill.”
- What will be the process for selecting, developing and reviewing projects that the Corps proposes to submit to Congress under this new mechanism for expedited authorization?
Significant progress has been made in the effort to restore America’s Everglades. However, the Greater Everglades Ecosystem continues to decline, which has environmental, economic and water supply impacts. In general, projects should be prioritized that prevent catastrophic ecosystem impacts, respond to public health threats and reduce damage to local economies.
The above sections in WRRDA 2014 include opportunities to implement creative solutions and accelerate Everglades restoration progress, a need that was highlighted by the National Research Council in its 2014 Biennial report on the Everglades. Therefore, it is imperative that a timely analysis of these provisions and guidance about their implementation, be provided to ensure restoration can and will proceed in a timely and uninterrupted manner.
Thank you again for initiating this important discussion about the future of America’s water resources and Everglades restoration.
cc: Secretary Jo-Ellen Darcy
Major General John Peabody
(October 3, 2014) ASE Letter Advocating against Sugar Hill Development – SFWMD recommends AGAINST the development project as detrimental to Everglades Restoration SFWMD_comment_letter sugar hill
(September 25, 2014) Letter ASE wrote/signed letter (see pdf for included chart sugar hill sep 25 2014) to advocate prevention of building company town Sugar Hill in Everglades restoration land
The Audubon Society of the Everglades, Inc.
P.O. Box 16914
West Palm Beach, FL 33416-6914
October 1, 2014
The Audubon Society of the Everglades joins with our colleagues in the conservation community to oppose the plan by U.S. Sugar to create a sprawling 67 square mile company town called Sugar Hill in the heart of land critically needed for Everglades restoration. With plans to build an estimated 18,000 homes and 25 million square feet of commercial space, the Palm Beach Post editorial board has correctly characterized this as “the equivalent of 25 Gardens Malls.”
Clearly, the fast-tracking of such an ambitious and unprecedented development plan needs to slow down. We call on the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the South Florida Water Management District to strongly oppose this short-sighted and inadequately researched plan when they make their comments this week to the Department of Economic Opportunity.
While the environmental community has raised well-reasoned scientific objections that such a bloated building project would adversely impact the Florida Everglades and the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries in their critical flood control and water supply functions for millions of Floridians, the same cannot be said of the developers, who have failed to explain why such an environmentally threatening plan must be rushed through regulatory approvals without allowing time for deliberate, independent studies of the environmental and economic impact.
public ownership of essential lands necessary to completing the restoration of the Everglades is clearly the only permanent solution to these constant development bombs being dropped on South Florida, forcing the public to battle special interests on multiple fronts simultaneously. And there is no time like the present. Interest
rates on general obligation municipal bonds to finance such land purchases are at their lowest level in half a century, as evidenced by the chart below from the economic research department at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
Today, we have the opportunity to do something that generations to come will look back on and praise — to preserve a critical and cherished part of Florida’s heritage that is also essential to its flood protection and clean water needs. And we have the opportunity to do it at the lowest interest rates in 50 years.
This is the vision we need to be talking about – not a throwback to the company towns of the 19th Century.
Paton White, President, Audubon Society of the Eveglades
(August 28, 2014) Letter ASE signed to include ALL water sources in the clean water act rules
September 5, 2014
The Honorable Gina McCarthy
US Environmental Protection Agency
The Honorable Jo-Ellen Darcy Assistant Secretary of the Army Department of the Army, Civil Works
Environmental Protection Agency
Mail Code 2822T
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20460
Email to: email@example.com
Re: Clean Water Rule Docket ID # EPA-HQ-OW-2011-0880
Dear Administrator McCarthy and Assistant Secretary Darcy:
The undersigned organizations and businesses working in Florida appreciate the opportunity to comment on the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and US Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) proposed Definition of “Waters of the United States Under the Clean Water Act” to clarify which streams, wetlands and other waters are protected under the Clean Water Act. This rule is long overdue. Many of our organizations and businesses have spent more than a decade advocating to restore Clean Water Act protections to all wetlands and tributary streams, as Congress originally intended when it passed the landmark Act in 1972.
Our organizations and businesses support the proposed rule for the clear protections it restores to headwaters, intermittent and ephemeral streams, and to wetlands and other waters located near or within the floodplain of these tributaries. We urge the Agencies to strengthen the final rule by further clarifying that important wetlands and other waters located beyond floodplains are also categorically protected under the Clean Water Act.
For its first thirty years, the Clean Water Act safeguarded nearly all of our rivers, streams, lakes and wetlands, in order to “restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation’s waters.” Despite the law’s dramatic progress at combating water pollution nationally, federal policy changes in the last decade have left many small streams and “isolated” wetlands vulnerable to pollution or destruction. These federal policy changes have called into question Clean Water Act protections for nearly 60% of our nation’s stream miles and at least 20 million acres of wetlands in the continental United States.
Millions of small streams, springs, and wetlands provide the flow to our most treasured American rivers, including the Suwanee River and St. Johns River, both of which are important sources of recreation and wildlife habitat. Similarly, streams and wetlands form the Kissimmee Basin and the Kissimmee River, which flow into Lake Okeechobee and are the key source of water for the Everglades ecosystem. Florida’s over 900 springs also offer significant recreational opportunities for visitors and residents and several million dollars to the local economy each year. The proposed rule will help clarify that the small streams, springs, and wetlands flowing into these water bodies are covered as long as they meet the definitions under Page 2 of 3 the rule. This will eliminate the need for a case-specific analysis and room for debate that comes at the cost of our water quality, public health, and economy.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has also estimated that over 800,000 acres in the Panhandle region alone are so-called “isolated” waters, which do not have clear Clean Water Act protections. These shallow, depressional wetlands, including cypress domes, need to be protected to support critical wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities for future generations.
If we do not protect these Florida water bodies, we cannot preserve and restore the lakes, rivers and bays on which communities and local economies depend. Leaving critical water resources vulnerable jeopardizes jobs and revenue for businesses that depend on clean water, including outdoor activities like angling and water-based recreation.
We support the Agencies’ proposal to define all tributaries as “waters of the United States,” including headwaters and small streams that may only flow seasonally. Headwater streams provide most of the flow to downstream streams and rivers, and make up 29 percent of Florida’s stream miles. Intermittent and ephemeral streams may only flow during parts of the year, but they support water quality in downstream waters by filtering pollutants and capturing nutrients and make up 12 percent of Florida’s stream miles.
These streams are also critical habitat for fish and other aquatic species. Headwater and seasonal streams also feed the drinking water sources of 117 million Americans. Clarifying that all tributary streams, regardless of size or frequency of flow are covered under the Clean Water Act will restore protections to 580 miles of headwater, intermittent and ephemeral streams in Florida that supply drinking water sources.
In addition, we support the Agencies’ definition of tributary and strongly agree that ditches should be defined as “waters of the U.S.” where they function as tributaries. There is sufficient scientific evidence that some ditches function as tributaries moving water and pollutants downstream. In those cases protection is important.
We support the Agencies’ determination that all adjacent wetlands are “Waters of the U.S.” Wetlands perform critical functions that support aquatic life, clean drinking water and safeguard communities from floods. Wetlands protect the water quality of entire watersheds by filtering pollutants. They also store floodwaters, reducing flood flows that can threaten property and infrastructure. Wetlands also provide essential fish and wildlife habitat that support robust outdoor recreation and tourism. When wetlands are polluted, dredged or filled, these benefits are lost.
In order to protect wetlands and other resources, we also urge the Agencies to:
1. Categorically define certain non-adjacent “other waters” as “Waters of the United States” and identify additional subcategories of waters that are jurisdictional, rather than requiring case-by-case determinations. Wetlands and other waters, even so-called isolated ones that are not adjacent to tributaries, provide many of the same natural benefits as adjacent waters located within floodplains. In fact, it is because of their placement outside of floodplains that they function as “sinks” to capture and filter pollutants and store floodwaters, protecting the physical, biological and chemical integrity of downstream waters.
2. Provide for new science by not categorically excluding any of the “other waters,” and establishing a process by which evolving science can inform jurisdictional decisions in the future. “Other waters” that cannot be defined as jurisdictional in the final rule should still be assessed on a case-by-case basis and provisions made for categorically including them as “Waters of the United States” if and when evolving science indicates that this is appropriate.
It is particularly critical for Floridians that the Agencies implement a strong rule to protect our economy and environment. With a strong tourism-based economy, Florida depends on healthy streams and wetlands in order to sustain fish and wildlife for its vibrant recreational industry. According to VISIT FLORIDA’s 2012-2013 Annual Report, 91.5 million out-of-state and international visitors and 20.3 million in-state travelers participated in tourism in Florida in 2012. Visitors spent a total of $71.8 billion into Florida’s economy and over 1 million Floridians were directly employed by tourism in 2012. According to reports by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Florida residents and nonresidents spent $9 billion on wildlife recreation, including $4.6 billion on fishing, in 2011. More than 6.4 million Floridians participated in wildlife recreation activities in 2011. Floridians depend on streams and wetlands to be clean and desirable for visitors in order to support the thriving recreational tourism industry and economy.
The Agencies’ commonsense proposal is based on the best scientific understanding of how streams and wetlands affect downstream water quality. The public benefits of the rule – in the form of flood protection, filtering pollution, providing wildlife habitat, supporting outdoor recreation and recharging groundwater – far outweigh the costs. When finalized, this rule will provide the regulatory assurance that has been absent for over a decade, eliminate permit confusion and delay, and better protect the critical water resources on which our communities depend.
We urge the Agencies to swiftly finalize a rule to clarify that all waters with a “significant nexus” to downstream waters are clearly protected under the Clean Water Act.
We thank the Agencies for their efforts to protect these waters and look forward to working with them to finalize and implement a strong “Definition of Waters of the United States under the Clean Water Act.”
(August 28, 2014) Letter to President Obama ASE signed to support budget funds for restoring the Everglades
September 4, 2014
(July 24, 2014) ASE Letter Position Supporting Everglades Coalition letter about Fisheating Creek
(April 29, 2014) ASE Letter Position Supporting Tamiani Trail – September 12, DOT successfully passed the $20 million project
Audubon Society of the Everglades
PO Box 16914
West Palm Beach, FL 33416-6914
April 29, 2014
The Honorable Anthony Foxx
U.S. Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Ave, SE
Washington, DC 20590
Dear Mr. Foxx:
As an interested party in the development of the Tamiami Trail bridging projects, Audubon Society of the Everglades enthusiastically supports the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) V grant application for the Tamiami Trail: Next Steps 2.6 mile bridge. Bridging Tamiami Trail to recreate more natural freshwater flows into Everglades National Park is an important component of Everglades Restoration.
Since its construction in 1928, Tamiami Trail has acted as a dam blocking the north to south flow of water at the heart of the River of Grass. The result is parched wetlands that impact wading bird populations in Everglades National Park and Florida Bay. By raising strategic portions of the Tamiami Trail, the Everglades can be reconnected and an outlet provided for dangerously high water levels north of the Trail and near the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries.
An economic study conducted by Mather Economics in 2011 found that for every $1 invested in restoring the Everglades, which includes bridging Tamiami Trail, there is at least a $4 return in economic benefits related to real estate, groundwater purification, park visitation, and recreational uses such as birding, hunting, and fishing. Over the next 50 years, the incremental impact of restoration is expected to produce more than 440,000 jobs. The next 2.6-mile bridge span is estimated to generate nearly 4,000 jobs; the first one-mile bridge created more than 1,200 jobs. According to NPS, in 2011, Everglades National Park created more than 2,400 jobs and generated more than $146.8 million in visitor spending. Funding to keep restoration projects, such as Tamiami Trail, on schedule is critical to avoiding collapse of the ecosystem, economy, and water supply of 7.5 million South Floridians.
This project supports the Department of Transportation’s emphasis on economic growth, transportation safety, environmental stewardship and federal, state and local partnerships. As a cooperative effort between the State of Florida, the Department of Transportation and the Department of Interior, bridging Tamiami Trail will efficiently accomplish shared ecosystem restoration goals.
I urge your favorable consideration of the TIGER funding requests for the Tamiami Trail: Next Steps 2.6 mile bridge project.
Paton White, President
(March 7, 2014) ASE Position on Clean Water Act
AUDUBON SOCIETY OF THE EVERGLADES CONTINUES TO SUPPORT THE POSITIONS LAID OUT BY THE EVERGLADES COALITION IN THE APRIL 13, 2011 LETTER TO EPA ADMINISTRATOR JACKSON.
ASE Position on Wind Turbines in the EAA
Audubon Society of the Everglades supports and promotes the conservation of wildlife and the natural environment. ASE opposes Wind Turbines in the Everglades Agricultural Areas (EAA). The EAA is a major migratory pathway, not only for the endangered and migratory birds, but also the tens of thousands of birds and bats that live in that area. The placement of Wind Turbines in the EAA will have a negative impact on our bird populations.
ASE Position on Rock Mining
Audubon Society of the Everglades supports and promotes the conservation of wildlife and the natural environment. ASE opposes further approval of permits for additional rock mining in the Everglades Agricultural Area and the conversion of land from agricultural production, as stated in the “1989 Comprehensive Land Use Plan”. Rock Mining removes the rock layer that protects the aquifer (water supply). Another problem aside from surface water pollution in the rock mines is the water in and of itself has a very high sodium (salt water) concentration that would be in violation of EPA standards for human consumption. There is no demonstrated need for further conversion of land FROM agriculture, to rock mining in the foreseeable future.
ASE Position on John D. MacArthur State Park
Audubon Society of the Everglades supports and promotes the conservation of wildlife and the natural environment. ASE opposes the intrusion of any commercialization into the Florida State Park System. John D. MacArthur State Park was given to Floridians for preservation of a rare ecosystem and is designated “conservation lands” by the Florida Natural Areas Inventory. ASE opposes intrusion of any commercialization at John D. MacArthur State Park.