Winding Cypress 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: Winding Cypress Permit Veto

 

Dear Mr. Palmer:

 

We are writing to urge you to veto Permit Application Number 199602945 (Barron Collier Company; Winding Cypress) pursuant to Section 404(c) of the federal Clean Water Act because the proposed project, located at the headwaters of the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve adjacent to Picayune Strand State Forest, will have an unacceptable adverse effect on municipal water supplies, shellfish beds and fishery areas (including spawning and breeding areas) and wildlife, or recreational areas.  As you are aware, the applicant proposes to impact over 235 acres of wetlands through excavation and discharge of fill material as part of construction of a golf course and residential development. 

 

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 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.  One practicable alternative may be to develop the property on the 966.8 acres of uplands and avoid wetland impacts altogether. 

 

2.  The proposed storm water discharge associated with this project may contribute additional contaminants to impaired receiving waters, and thus may affect benthic and pelagic organisms in the receiving water bodies.  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 235 acres of wetlands, including cypress and mixed pine and cypress wetlands.  The loss of cypress and other wetlands in this area has been directly correlated with declining water quality.  Therefore, pollutant discharges from this project will contribute to the significant degradation of waters of the U.S., including Henderson Creek and the Tamiami Canal, which has been identified as the most polluted water body in Collier County, and Naples Bay, which is 303(d) listed.  The wetlands at this site 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 (and considered a Strategic Habitat Conservation Area) for many federally listed species including the wood stork, Florida panther, red cockaded woodpecker, and eastern indigo snake. 

 

4. The applicant’s proposed mitigation is insufficient to compensate for the wetlands impacts proposed.  The preservation and enhancement of 720 acres of existing wetlands cannot replace the important functions lost by destruction of 235 acres of wetlands within this rapidly developing area of Collier County. 

 

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 essential fish and wildlife habitat:

 

a)      As stated above, the proposed storm water discharge associated with this project would contribute additional contaminants to Rookery Bay and the Tamiami Canal, 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.  The wetlands at this site also 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 235 acres of wetlands that provide suitable habitat for many state and 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.

 

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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