Jay list Audubon concerns - 1998-09-03


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Jay list Audubon concerns - 1998-09-03

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Title:
Jay list Audubon concerns - 1998-09-03
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Language:
English
Physical Location:
Box 2

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Subjects / Keywords:
Ranchers -- Law and legislation -- Florida
Okeechobee, Lake (Fla.) ( lcsh )

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University of South Florida
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University of South Florida
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The University of South Florida Libraries believes that the Item is in the Public Domain under the laws of the United States, but a determination was not made as to its copyright status under the copyright laws of other countries. The Item may not be in the Public Domain under the laws of other countries.
Resource Identifier:
035069031 ( ALEPH )
981477171 ( OCLC )
L41-00009 ( USFLDC DOI )
l41.9 ( USFLDC Handle )

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University of South Florida
Lorida

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PAGE 1

National J. A. Jurgens, Esq. 505 Wekiva Springs Road Longwood, FL 32779 Dear Jay, Audubon Society ., . _.. Ordway-Whitten Kissimmee Prairie Sanctuary ':;:?\,.:,:/;{' ll1' t:vff'"WOG~ c ~r, lt N.V.'. ?03td Avt. ~ , ? " l.orid"'-J fl J3is1 Okcccho5ee, fl 31972 (941) 467-8497 September 3, 1998 The following lists most of Audubon's concerns about the 101 Ranch ERP. The major concerns, in order of importance are: 1) There is no provision guaranteeing the Sanctuary will have an appropriate water flow comment: This can be solved by leaving the two 30" culverts that we installed in Shinn Hammock Marsh (takes care of the "3 square mile basin on the Sanctuary), and working with Lefty Durando, and all three down steam landowners, to obtain appropriate drainage on the eastern side of the Fish Slough basin (the remaining 8.5 square miles). 2) The Sanctuary has wading bird rookeries, with 4 "species of Special Concern" that require healthy wetlands to forage. 101 Ranch should not be allowed to drain their wetlands, except within Florida laws. comments: This concern has a two stage solution. It appears remedial actions are needed to restore ( or mitigate for) recent, unpermitted works that have drained wetlands on 101 Ranch. After the remedial actions are addressed, we must determine the future effects of the proposed ERP. Addressing remedial actions will require accurate wetland delineations and a tally of recent works (after 1983 when 101 Ranch was purchased). The ERP apparently delineated wetlands from a recent aerial photo (post 1983) . The NRCS and USACE are delineating wetlands on 101 Ranch, but 101 Ranch has repeatedly appealed their delineations. I was told we cannot see the delineations until officially "approved." Because of the large amount of post-1983, unpermitted wetland drainage on 101 Ranch, recent maps reflect drained conditions that might yield misleading results. To avoid this problem, I delineated wetlands using the 1983 DOT map of 101 Ranch. The impacts that I tally are hand-drawn estimates but should be fairly close. I constructed a series of figures of the 101 Ranch showing differences between Audubon's estimates of wetland extent and acreage, and those presented in the ERP. Exhibit 2, of the 101 Ranch ERP application, has a map that I enlarged 129% on a copy machine and used as a base map. I placed this map on a light table and traced the rest of the maps in conjunction with the 1983 DOT aerial.

PAGE 2

Figure 1 depicts the wetlands identified in Exlnl>it 2 of the ERP. Figure 2 depicts the wetlands Audubon delineated from the 1983 photo that were not identified in the ERP. Figure 3 is an overlay of both maps showing Audubon's estimate of''total wetland acres" in 1983. By our estimates, about one half the wetlands of 101 Ranch have been drained since 1983. Whereas that drainage appears unpermitted, the wetlands must either be restored, or mitigation performed where restoration is impractical ( e.g., a home site). The 101 Ranch is the heart of the Fish Slough basin and has a series of depressional wetland basins connected by sloughs. The soils around the slough (indeed, most of the 101 Ranch) are dominated by Bassinger sands, Felda/Pompano sands, and Okeelanta peat-all wetland soils, listed as ''ponds or sloughs" (Okeechobee County Soil Survey, McCollum and Pendelton 1971 ). The original contour of most of these wetlands is intact and these wetlands can be restored by returning a more natural hydrology to them. Audubon concedes there were many "historic" ditches on the property in 1983, and those old ditches are shown in Figure 4. Restoring at least a 1983 hydrology to the 101 Ranch wetlands must be included in the ERP as a goal, with measurable standards of success. This restoration may include returning enlarged ditches to 1983 siz.es, or restricting outflow from the property in other ways. In areas where ditches, elevated roads ( creating fill on the roadbed with adjacent drainage ditches in the borrow areas), and dikes have been constructed, restoration actions will have to be mechanical, or mitigation performed. Figure 5 shows drainage ditches built since 1983, whose apparent purpose is wetland drainage, and therefore, must be filled and restored. These ditches have been integral in draining the contiguous wetland basin that includes wetlands #13, 14, and 30 in the ERP application. Figure 6 shows post-1983 works (roads, ditches, and/or dikes), either already completed, or proposed in this ERP. The only one of these works for which mitigation is proposed, is the dike along the north side of Fish Slough. Audubon contends that all the roads, dikes and ditches that impact wetlands must receive the same consideration. Some examples of wetland impacts that were omitted from the ERP but should be addressed in detail include: --the dike on the south side of Fish Slough (mostly in Section 8) has been recently constructed (in 1983 there were spoil piles that allowed wetland #30 to remain in contact with Fish Slough), and either must be breached to allow Fish Slough water to reconnect to wetland #30, or the fill required to complete the dike must be mitigated as wetland filling. --The elevated road that proceeds eastward from the northwestern comer of Section 6 crosses several wetland basins, creating fill of several acres. This road should be flattened to ground level or the wetlands that were filled mitigated for (there are many roads like this and all should be addressed). --The post-1983 dike on the eastern side of the proposed ERP mitigation area also fills wetland acres and also serves to disconnect the wetlands from Fish Slough. Both impacts should be mitigated or restored. --The contiguous dike along the south and east comer of the property ( around the house) directly fills wetlands, was built after 1983, and severs wetland contact with Fish Slough.

PAGE 3

Blocking water from flowing into wetlands, drains and subsequently impacts them as much as drainage ditches. The 1994 map of this area shows the wetlands outside of this dike holding water but the interior areas drained. Audubon requests that every road, ditch, or dike be investigated for wetland impacts and either mitigated or restored. Some other specific concerns: 1) The proposed dike along Fish Slough that will form the southwestern boundary of Basin 3 damages wetlands and is not needed. The dike is being constructed in a location that destroys 5.4 acres of wetlands, for the purpose of keeping water out of a couple hundred acres (wetlands #6, 7, 8, 13, 14, and 15) of Fish Slough depressional wetlands (Figure 3). Destroying 5.4 wetland acres for the purpose of dewatering more acres is not appropriate and violates the "avoidance" principle of wetland mitigation sequencing procedures. Further, the mitigation proposed to compensate for the direct losses is ''preservation" only, the least desirable form of mitigation. Preservation in this instance leads to wetland losses, which adds to 'cumulative wetland losses," which were not addressed in the ENVIRONMENT AL SUMMARY section. Construction of this dike forces water in Fish Slough to move southward more quickly, potentially creating "secondary impacts," which also were not addressed in the ENVIRONMENTAL SUMMARY section. Even if we were to accept preservation credits, the present ratio of 9:1 (49.7: 5.4) is too low. Finally, the Conservation Easement is inadequate to protect the integrity of the conserved wetlands. The water in these wetlands should flow toward Fish Slough but have been diked by 101 Ranch. Blocking the natural flow of water gave these wetlands an unnaturally long hydroperiod which leads to muck accumulation, fire exclusion, proliferation of relatively unproductive vegetation types such as pickerelweed, arrowhead, and primrose willow, and damage to the fish community (ie., this is a damaged wetland right now). With 101 Ranch impounding these wetlands, the J-5 Ranch exerts more control over the hydrology of these wetlands. If J-5 Ranch alters their drainage in manners damaging to these wetlands, 101 Ranch would not be able to honor the conservation easement. In order for 101 Ranch, "to retain land or water areas in their natural, vegetative, hydrologic, scenic, open, agricultural or wooded condition and to retain such areas as suitable habitat for fish, plants or wildlife" they would have to have better control of the hydrology of these wetlands. The easement appears meaningless. Audubon suggests that to avoid the problem of filling wetlands and obtaining an easement with little value, that a fixed-crest weir be designed on Fish Slough, where it leaves 101 Ranch to the south, to regulate water flow. This weir would eliminate the need to fill wetlands, can protect the wetlands on 101 Ranch from overdrainage, and will protect downstream landowners from flooding and sediment loads in Fish Slough (the latter of which has been a major concern of 101 Ranch). The weir would be easily installed and easily monitored for compliance (see concerns about pumps below).

PAGE 4

2) ERP Page 14. SAVE OUR RIVERS: The Kissimmee Prairie Sanctuary IS under consideration as a Save Our Rivers project. See page 44 of the 1997 SOR five Year Plan. 3) page 10 Endangered species section: ''No adverse impacts to wading bird species are anticipated as a result of the construction." The complete lack of evidence or review of expected impacts makes it appear that this questions was not seriously considered. Audubon has at least three wading bird rookeries on our property and the entire 101 Ranch is within the feeding radius of the rookeries. We have 4 "Species of Special Concern"-Snowy Egret, Tri-colored Heron, Little Blue Heron, Limpkin. We are very concerned about any wetland loss or wetland change. To adequately address this question, 101 Ranch needs to assess changes in wetland hydrology in comparison with changes in food abundance and availability, and match such with wading bird diets and the timing of food requirements for successful nesting. Additionally, this section omits other listed species that share habitat on the 101 Ranch and Sanctuary, and will be affected by this ERP. They need to specifically address impacts on: Crested Caracara, Sandhill Crane, Snail Kite, Burrowing Owl, Bald Eagle, White Ibis, Wood Stork, Florida Water Rat, Indigo Snake, Gopher Tortoise, and Florida Grasshopper Sparrow. 4) Page 14 enforcement activity section-There has been no enforcement to date in spite of many questionable works. Audubon has not yet requested enforcement penalties, only that 101 Ranch remediate past actions. 5) Audubon is concerned about the pumps included in this ERP. Pumping lowers water tables and shortens the hydroperiod of the wetlands. The pumps are designed to have low capacity but given how easily pumps can be replaced or modified, Audubon is uncertain how enforceable these provisions are. Fixed structures might produce a more predictable system. Obviously, the above are only the beginning of the needed discussion. Please let me know if you need further information or clarification. Sincerely, Paul N. Gray, Ph.D. Manager

PAGE 6

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PAGE 7

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PAGE 8

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PAGE 9

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PAGE 10

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