Twin Eagles 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: Twin Eagles Permit Veto

 

Dear Mr. Palmer:

 

We are writing to urge you to veto Permit Application Number 199701947 (Twin Eagles Development) pursuant to Section 404(c) of the federal Clean Water Act because the proposed project will have an unacceptable adverse effect on municipal water supplies, shellfish beds and fishery areas (including spawning and breeding areas) and wildlife areas.  As you are aware, the applicant proposes to impact more than 133 acres of wetlands through excavation and discharge of fill material as part of construction of housing and a golf course. 

 

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, fishery areas and wildlife 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 combining a golf course and residential development on the same site. 

 

2. The proposed storm water discharge associated with this project may contribute additional contaminants to Bird Rookery Swamp and Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed.  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.

 

3. This project will impact more than 133.83 acres of on-site wetlands adjacent to Bird Rookery Swamp and Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed.  These wetlands provide important biological and hydrological functions that include filtering and cleaning surface water runoff, storing flood waters during the rainy season, providing refuges for wildlife during the dry season and harboring emerging fish and macro-invertebrate populations.  Additionally, these wetlands are suitable habitat for many federally listed species including the endangered wood stork.  They are critical to protecting the quantity and quality of groundwater used as a source of drinking water.  The Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (FPEIS), Lee and Collier Counties, identified the Cocohatchee Canal basin as a sub-basin where degraded water quality may be the result of conversion of wetlands to urban and agricultural development.  The FPEIS emphasized that the protection of the remaining wetlands in this region was paramount.  The magnitude of the proposed dredge and fill will adversely impact these important remaining wetlands. 

 

4. The applicant’s proposed mitigation is insufficient to compensate for the loss of over 133.83 acres of wetlands.  The proposed mitigation consists primarily of enhancing existing wetlands that are adjacent to a roadway.

 

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 less environmentally damaging alternatives to the proposed project are 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 wildlife:

 

a)      As stated above, the proposed storm water discharge associated with this project would contribute additional contaminants to Bird Rookery Swamp and Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed.  The wetlands at this site harbor emerging fish and macro-invertebrate populations necessary to the survival of these fish populations.  Therefore, the project would result in an unacceptable adverse impact to fishery areas.

 

b)      This project will impact 133.83 acres of wetlands that provide suitable habitat for many federally listed species including the wood stork, Florida panther, red cockaded woodpecker, and eastern indigo snake.  Therefore, the proposed project would result in unacceptable adverse effects to wildlife.

 

Finally, these wetlands are critical to protecting the quantity and quality of groundwater used as a source of drinking water.  Therefore, the proposed project would result in unacceptable adverse effects on municipal water supplies.

 

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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