Metro Parkway Permit Veto Letter

                                                                        

 

Mr. James Palmer

Regional Administrator

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Sam Nunn Atlanta Federal Center

61 Forsyth St., SW

Atlanta GA  30303-3104

 

                                                                                                            Date__, 2003

 

RE: Metro Parkway Permit Veto

 

Dear Mr. Palmer:

 

We are writing to urge you to veto Permit Application Number 199700065 (Metro Parkway; Florida Department of Transportation) pursuant to Section 404(c) of the federal Clean Water Act because the proposed project, which will discharge into 10 Miles Canal and the Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve, will have an unacceptable adverse effect on shellfish beds and fishery areas (including spawning and breeding areas).  As you are aware, the applicant proposes to impact over 40 acres of wetlands through excavation and discharge of fill material as part of construction of a six-lane roadway. 

 

We believe that the Corps must deny this project because it does not comply with the Section 404(b)(1) guidelines.  However, we also believe that the project would result in unacceptable adverse effects to shellfish beds and fishery areas and that the EPA should commence a veto pursuant to Section 404(c).  Our specific concerns are set forth below: 

 

The proposed project does not comply with the Section 404(b)(1) guidelines

 

1. A practicable alternative to the proposed project is available.  Because this is a non-water-dependent project, the Guidelines require the presumption that alternatives to impacting wetlands are available.  The applicant has not performed an adequate analysis of the alternatives to impacting wetlands.  In order to comply with these guidelines, the applicant must pursue practicable alternatives to dredging and filling wetlands. 

 

2. The proposed storm water discharge associated with this project may contribute additional contaminants to Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve (part of the Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program. This body of water is designated the first Florida Outstanding Water and is an Aquatic Resource of National Importance.  The resulting increase in nutrient discharges may redirect, delay, or stop the reproductive and feeding movements of some species of fish and crustaceans.  Furthermore, we are concerned that waste materials from upstream land uses may become more damaging to the environment as a result of cumulative effects with this project.

 

4. The applicant’s proposed mitigation is insufficient to compensate for the loss of over 13 acres wetlands.  The applicant proposes to compensate for the loss of over 40 acres of wetlands by removing exotic vegetation from 264.92 acres of wetlands and 12.69 acres of uplands areas as well as removing an existing berm and restoring sheet flow to restore 6.35 acres.  The proposed mitigation does not adequately compensate for the loss of important wetland functions. 

 

5. Due to the impaired condition of receiving waters in this watershed and the significant increase in pollutant loading associated with the proposed land use changes, this project will cause or contribute to the significant degradation of waters of the U.S.

 

We believe that there are less environmentally damaging alternatives to the proposed project available.  We also believe that the project would likely violate applicable State water quality standards, and would cause or contribute to significant degradation of waters of the U.S.  Finally, the proposed mitigation is inadequate to compensate for the lost functions and values of the wetlands filled and excavated.  For these reasons, we believe that the Corps must deny the Section 404 permit. 

 

The proposed project would also result in unacceptable adverse impacts to fishery areas (including spawning and breeding areas) and shellfish beds:

 

a)      As stated above, the proposed storm water discharge associated with this project would contribute additional contaminants to Estero Bay, and thus would affect benthic and pelagic organisms in the receiving water bodies.  The resulting increase in nutrient discharges would likely redirect, delay, or stop the reproductive and feeding movements of some species of fish and crustaceans.  Therefore, the project would result in an unacceptable adverse impact to fishery areas.

 

b)      This project will impact over 40 acres of wetlands that provide suitable habitat for many species of fish and wildlife.  Therefore, the proposed project would result in unacceptable adverse effects to wildlife.

 

In conclusion, we believe that the proposed project violates the Section 404(b)(1) guidelines, and therefore a Section 404 permit cannot issue.  Moreover, we believe that the proposed project would result in unacceptable adverse effects to fishery areas and wildlife, and therefore EPA should prohibit the use of this area as a disposal site pursuant to Section 404(c). 

 

Sincerely,

 

 

Jeff Ruch

Executive Director

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER)

 

 

Cc. Col. Robert Carpenter, Jacksonville District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

John Meagher, Wetlands Division Director, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

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