Environmental assessment report for Haynes Williams Citrus Project, Okeechobee County - 1991-06


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Environmental assessment report for Haynes Williams Citrus Project, Okeechobee County - 1991-06

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Environmental assessment report for Haynes Williams Citrus Project, Okeechobee County - 1991-06
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University of South Florida
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L41-00091 ( USFLDC DOI )
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I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT REPORT FOR HAYNES WILLIAMS CITRUS PROJECT OKEECHOBEE COUNTY (APP. #901231-53) June 1991 Prepared by James P. Milleson MILLESON ENVIRONMENTAL CONSULTING, INC. 4630 121st Terrace North West Palm Beach, PL 33411 (407) 795-7575

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I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I. INTRODUCTION ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENI' REPORT FOR HAYNES WILLIAMS CITRUS -OKEECHOBEE COUNTY An environmental assessment was made of a 604 acre parcel of land located in sections 5, 6, 7, and 8 T34S/R34E, in north central Okeechobee County. The purpose of this assessment is to describe and map the plant coJDDUnities on the site, with special emphasis on wetlands and other native plant coD1DUnities. Additional information is provided on wildlife observations and soils distributions. This information will assist in the planning and engineering design for a proposed citrus grove project, and will be provided to South Florida Water Management District for review in association with an application for a surface water management permit. Information provided herein may also be provided to other agencies or organizations for review. II. METHODS Aerial photography dated March 1986 was obtained from Okeechobee County Property Appraiser's Off ice, at a scale of 1" = 400 feet, and used as a base map for ground truth purposes. A site inspection was made on February 12, 1991 to map the extent of plant co1DDUnities and describe the dominant species composition of each coD1DUnity. Special attention was provided to evaluate the character and condition of wetlands. Field notes and representative photographs of the areas provided documentation. In the office, a clear acetate overlay was placed over the photography and the boundaries of each plant community were delineated. The areal extent of each plant coD1DUnity and individual wetland was determined with EASYCAD 2 computer software. Each wetland was assigned a unique identification number for later reference. Plant conmuni ties and land cover categories were designated according to Florida Land Use, Cover and Forms Classification System (DOT, 1985) III. SITE LOCATION AND DESCRIPTION The project site is located approximately 8 miles west of US Highway 441, and 5 miles north .of Eagle Island Road ( CR 724) in no .rth central Okeechobee County. The site is located near the headwaters of Fish Slough, just north of Peat Marsh. This area forms the headwaters of a major tributary, Cypress Slough, which converges llmiles to the south with Ash slough, to form Chandler Slough, a major tributary to the KissiR1Dee River (Figure 1). Approximately one mile west of the project site is Coquina Water Management District, a 15 square mile, low density residential development. Lands to the south and east of the project are primarily in improved pasture for cattle grazing or dairy cattle. To the north, the project site borders the National Audubon Society (NAS) KissiD111ee Prairie Preserve. The KissiDWDee Prairie Sanctuary is a 6000+ acre preserve of palmetto prairie, haD1DOcks, wet prairies and marshes, recently acquired and managed by NAS as native habitat for wildlife and especially wading and water dependent birds. Haynes Williams' northern boundary consists of an elevated grade which separates the two sites. Lands north of this grade were _sold to NAS by Haynes Williams,

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I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I SITE LOCATION MAP I 1 fl = 3 MILE OKEECHOBEE Co. I HAYNES WILLIAMS CITRUS (APP #901231-53) MILLESON ENVIRONMENTAL FIGURE 1 I

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I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I with an agreement that riser boards within two culverts through the grade will remain in place (Pers. coD1D.). Historically, Fish Slough consisted of a mosaic of marshes which flowed south towards the KissiD1Dee River. Past channelization of Fish Slough has altered the hydroperiod of adjacent marshes by facilitating runoff into the channel, and by providing a .conveyance route offsite. The combination of impoundment of the headwater marshes within NAS Kissi11111ee Prairie Preserve, and channelization of Fish Slough, has reduced the drainage area and hydrologic inflow to wetlands on Haynes Williams property, and affected most of the wetlands on the site. Soils distribution maps and prior aerial photography indicate that much of the project site was historically wetland and wet prairie habitat. Presently, functional wetland conditions and dominant wetland vegetation composition exists only within the deeper portions of these wetlands, where low land contours, and soil characteristics provide for surface water inundation. Pasture management techniques of ditch maintenance and planting of forage grasses have altered most of these former wetlands to improved pasture or grassland habitats. IV. VEGETATION MAPPING A total of five vegetation and land use categories were delineated on the subject property. Figure 2 is a vegetation map of the site, while Table 1 sUII1Darizes the areal extent of each coumunity. Following is a detailed description of each community type. 211 Improved Pasture Improved pasture classification was g1 ven to wel 1 drained lands on the site supporting planted and tame grasses for cattle grazing. Composition of improved pastures was dominated either by an association of Hemarthria (Manisuris altissima) and broomsedge (Andropogon sp.), or by bahia (Paspalum notatum) grasses. Pastures frequently contained yellow top goldenrod (Euthamia minor), scattered and individual gtoups of wax myrtle (Myrica cerifera), saw palmetto (Serenoa repens), cabbage paim (Sabal palmetto) and live oak (Ouercus virginiana). Coinwort ( Centella asiatica), dogfennel (Eupatorium sp.), blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium sp.) and sedges (Cyperus spp.) are also co111110nly encountered in improved pasture habitats. Density and condition of improved pasture vegetation is dependent upon recent grazing and management activities, which may include mowing, planting, fertilization, etc. 310 Transitional Grassland This category was assigned to lands transitional between functional wetlands and upland habitats. These areas are characterized by either of two coD1DUnity structures. 'b \N\) 1. A low prairie of carpet grass (Axonopus spp.), with an association of the following species coD1DOn: coinwort, broomsedge, low panicum (Panicum dichotomiflorum), tumble grass (Eragrostis spectabilis), buttonweed (Diodia sp.) and heliotrope (Heliotropium polyphyllum). Small wax myrtles

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I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I ,I TABLE 1: PLANT COMMUNITIES ON HAYNES WILLIAMS PROJECT SITE SECTIONS 5-8, T34S/R34E; OKEECHOBEE COUNTY . 211 Improved pasture 342.1 acres 310 Native/transitional grassland 114.9 acres 321 Palmetto prairie 23.0 acres 427 Oak haD1110ck 46.8 acres 641 Freshwater marsh 77 .2 acres Total 604.0 acres

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I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I and/or saw palmetto were occasionally scattered through these areas, and showed evidence of stunting from repeated cattle grazing. 2. Lands which have been specifically managed for production of cattle forage by planting of Hemarthria grass. Hemarthria, also known as "red alti", forms dense, highly productive stands of grass which reduces the composition of associated species. Hemarthria is usually in association with nutgrasses, creeping char lie (Lippia nodiflora), pennywort (Hydrocotyle umbellata), small spikerush (Eleocharis acicularis), and low panicum. Sand cordgrass (Spartina bakeri), wax myrtle and broomsedge occur sporadically through these habitats. Total vegetative cover ranges from moderate (30-40% bare sand) to very dense. On well-drained soils, dense stands of Hemarthria are classified as improved pasture (lt211), while on less well-drained soils this category is assigned. Transitional grasslands may be subject to short term inundation following heavy rainfall events, but of insufficient duration to promote dominant aquatic species compos1t1on. While the soils classifications and composition of some associated species support that these areas were historically wet prairie type wetlands, current regional and site surface water management practices have significantly reduced inundation, eliminated wetland function and resulted in modified species composition. #321 Palmetto prairie Palmetto prairies are a native terrestrial habitat dominated by a shrub cover of saw palmetto and wire grasses (Aristida rhizomophora, Aristida lanosa). Gallberry (Ilex glabra) and wax myrtle are coDIDOn to abundant, while cabbage palm and live oak are occasional. Yellow-eyed grass (Xyris sp.), blue-eyed grass, runner oak (Ouercus minima) and blackroot (Pterocaulon virgatum) are other ground cover components. ff427 Oak haD1Dock Hanmocks are dominated by live oak and cabbage palm trees, with occasional laurel oak (Q. laurifolia). Understory is sparse within the center of haD100cks, but contains saw palmetto, caesar weed (Urena lobata), and low grasses around the periphery. Mature slash pines (Pinus elliottii) were present in some haD100cks. #641 Freshwater Marsh Functional freshwater wetlands occur on the site primarily as well -defined isolated depressional wetlands along the eastern side of the site, or as remnant wetland pockets remaining within transitional grassland areas, which have been directly influenced by previous ditching and their proximity and connection to the channelized Fish Slough. Functional wetland areas are delineated primarily by the composition of wetland indicator species which are maintained by regular inundation, and the absence of extensive invasion of terrestrial species. A total of 23 wetlands were identified on the site, and can generally be classified into three types:

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I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I 1. (6411) predominantly sawgrass (Cladium jamaicense) marshes, occasionally with willow (Salix caroliniana) or ~ther swamp trees in the center such as maple (Acer rubrum) or tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica). 2. (641) mixed maidencane (Panicum hemitomon) and pickerelweed (Pontederia cordata) marshes, which may have small pockets of sawgrass, but also include other species such as arrowhead (Sagittaria lancifolia) and smartweed (Polygonum sp.) An outer zone may be present and characterized by sand cypress (Hypericum fasciculatum), panic grass (Panicum tenerum), water hyssop (Bacopa caroliniana), mermaid weed (Proserpinaca sp.), beakrush (Rhynchospora tracyi) and Amphicarpum muhlenbergianum. Several wetlands in this category exhibit a substantial invasion of broomsedge, tumble grass (Eragrostis sp.) and/or hemarthria grass on their periphery. 3. (643) wet prairies are typified by a lower density and stature of plants than mixed marshes, and are dominated by species such as sand cypress, beakrush, panic grass, and A. muhlenbergianum. Wet prairies contain only minor pockets of maidencane and pickerelweed. Table 2 lists each wetland by identification number, and provides other characteristics including size, type of wetland, and proposed development status. V. SOILS Figure 3 is a soils distribution map, derived from Soil Survey of Okeechobee County, Florida (USDA-SCS, 1971). Currently, terrestrial plant conmuni ties generally occupy Adamsville, Charlotte , Inmokalee and Myakka fine sands, while wetlands are found in pockets of Delray fine sands and Okeelanta peat. Transitional grasslands and pasture co111DUnities (#310) generally occupy drained Basinger and Pompano fine sands. VI. WILDLIFE Table 3 lists the species of wildlife observed on the site during environmental assessment on February 12, 1991, based on either direct sightings or indirect (tracks) observations. Many species observed inhabit pasture and open country habitat, while others regularly feed in wetlands and other aquatic habitats (ditches). VII. PROJECT DESIGN CONSIDERATIONS A. Wetlands The proposed water management system for this citrus grove project will consist of a single water detention area, traversing the center of the site from the north to the south boundary (Figure 4). The water detention area has been configured to encompass the largest of the centrally located wetlands on the site, as well as a large oak ha111DOck, and transitional grassland habitats. The water detention area is divided into a northern and southern segment. Water level control elevations for the for the water detention area segments were selected to retain and improve existing hydroperiods within the preserved wetlands, and to restore wetland hydrology and function to transitional grassland habitats as mitigation for other unavoidable wetland impacts elsewhere on the

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I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I TABLE 2: WETLAND CHARACTERISTICS AND PROPOSED DEVELOPMENT STATUS HAYNES WILLIAMS PROJECT -OKEECHOBEE COUNTY Wetland Wetland Type I.D. It 1 643 2 6411 3 6411 4 643 5 6411 6 6411 7 6411 8 6411 9 6411 10 6411 11 641 12 641 13 641 14 6411 15 643 16 641 17 641 18 641 19 643 20 641 21 6411 22 6411 641 = mixed marsh 6411 = sawgrass marsh 643 = wet prairie Area (acres) 6.90 5.37 1.43 2.43 0.58 0.47 0.58 2.11 0.82 1.65 7.10 5.47 0.21 1.74 18.66 5.06 1.23 3.68 1.91 3.72 5.29 0.8.0 Development Status excluded to be impacted to be impacted to be impacted to be impacted to be impacted to be impacted to be impacted to be impacted to be impacted water detention area water detention area water detention area water detention area water detention area water detention area to be impacted excluded excluded excluded excluded to be impacted

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I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I Ad Bm Ch De Ff Fp Im M!d Oe I I ' I ' LEGEt-0 Adansvi lle f s Basinger end PompE110 fs, ponded Chcrlotte fs Oelra!d fs Felda fs Felda, Pompcno and Placid, ponded Immokalee fs M!dakka fs Okeelanta peat 1000 feet SOILS DISTRIBUTION MAP 1" = 1150 FT OKEECHOBEE Co. HAYNES WILLIAMS CITRUS -(APP #901231-53) MILLESON ENVIRONMENfAL FIGURE 3

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I I I I I I I I I I I I I I . I I I I I TABLE 3: WILDLIFE OBSERVATIONS ON HAYNES WILLIAMS SITE, OKEECHOBEE COUNTY FEBRUARY 12, 1991 Comnon Name Anhinga Great Blue Heron Little blue heron (SSC) Great egret Sandhill Crane (T) Killdeer Kestrel (T?) Red shoulder hawk Caracara (T) Black Vulture Mockingbird Belted Kingfisher Meadowlark Kingbird Savannah sparrow River otter Raccoon Armadillo White tail deer Feral hog (E) = endangered (T) = threatened Scientific Name Anhinga anhinga Ardea herodias Egretta caerula Casmerodius albus Grus canadensis Charadrius vociferus Falco sparverius Buteo lineatus Caracara cheriway Coragyps atratus Mimus polyglottus Megaceryle alcyon Sturnella magna Tyrannus tyrannus Passerculus sandwichensis Lutra canadensis Procyon lotor Dasypus novemcinctus Odocoileus virginianus Sus scrofa (SSC)= species of special concern Habitat Ditches Ditches, wetlands Ditches, wetlands Ditches, wetlands Pastures Dry wetlands Pastures, fences Overhead Pastures Overhead Pastures, Shrub Ditches Pastures Pastures Pastures Ditches Oak hammocks Hammocks, pastures Haumocks, pastures HaII1Docks, pastures

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I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I project site. Based on survey data from the site, a control elevation of 68.5 feet NGVD was selected as an appropriate water level control elevation for the northern segment, and 67.5 feet NGVD for the southern segment. These control elevations should not adversely affect oak haD1DOck retained within the water detention area. Several isolated wetlands occur along or near the eastern, southern and western boundaries of the proposed project. Five of these wetlands will be excluded from the proposed development, and located at least 200 feet from the nearest perimeter canal to avoid any impacts of groundwater control within the grove site. Of the 77.2 acres of wetlands identified on the project site, 38.24 acres (49.5%) will be preserved and enhanced within the water detention area, and 21.5 acres (27.9%) will be excluded with a 200 foot buffer. Only 17.47 acres (22.6%) will be impacted by the proposed development. Most of these wetlands are considered to be in a stressed condition due to prior water management practices, interconnected ditches and swales, and hydroperiod reduction. Mitigation for the loss of these 17.47 acres of wetlands will be provided by restoration of wetland habitat and function to 19.28 acres of drained, transitional grassland area within the water detention area. In addition, an 11.8 acre oak hanmock will be preserved within the water detention area. Table 4 suumarizes the plant co11111unity composition within the water detention area. A wetlands mitigation and monitoring plan are included in the Appendix. The project is adjacent to the southern boundary of NAS Kissimmee Prairie Preserve, and may have potential drawdown impacts on wetlands near the project due to groundwater lowering for citrus development. However, this drawdown impact is not considered to have an adverse impact. Historically, a large portion of the NAS Preserve formed the headwaters of the Fish Slough watershed, and flowed to the south through the channelized Fish Slough, as well as other culverts in the separation dike between the two parcels of land. Currently, control boards are maintained in existing culverts and no flow is permitted through the Fish Slough channel, since that culvert structure has been removed. The amount of seepage potentially induced from NAS Preserve by lowering water table on Haynes Williams project is considerable less than historical offsite surface flows. B. Design Alternatives Considered Several water management plans and configurations have been developed and evaluated for this project. The current plan appears to contain the highest potential for wetland and upland preservation, and wetland restoration capability while still providing an acceptable amount of land for development. _ From the design of the water detention area, it is apparent that considerable additional expenses will be incurred in construction costs to include the protected wetlands. Secondly, to incorporate the necessary lands for wetland restoration and preserve an adjacent upland ha111110ck, the water detention area is much larger than minimally required for stormwater runoff and water quality treatment ~riteria.

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I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I TABLE 4: PLANT COMMUNITY COMPOSITION OF PROPOSED WATER DETENTION AREA HAYNES WILLIAMS PROJECT; OKEECHOBEE COUNTY CoD1DUnity Name Area Code (acres) 211 Improved pasture 36.44 310 Transitional grassland 19.28 321 Palmetto prairie 0.97 427 Oak hanmock 11.80 641 Freshwater marsh 641-11 7.10 641-12 5.47 641-14 1.74 641-15 18.66 641-16 5.06 38.03 Total Area 106.52

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I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I • • I I C. Wildlife Impacts Based on actual observations and/or known distribution and habitat preferences, the following spec~es may be expected to utilize habitats on the project site. Endangered Woodstork Threatened Caracara Sandhill Crane Kestrel Species of Special Concern Alligator Limpkin Little blue heron Snowy egret Tricolor heron The woodstork and the three Egretta herons utilize a variety of wetland habitats for foraging, depending on specific conditions to concentrate organisms for optimum feeding conditions. Impoundment of site wetlands in water detention areas with optimum control elevations should improve feeding conditions for these species. No wetlands on site contained vegetative structure (i.e., willow or cypress heads) suitable of supporting rookeries for these species. Caracara were observed on the project site, and may utilize a nesting site in a cabbage palm on the eastern portion of the site. During a site inspection in February 1991, activity was observed by a pair of caracara centered on one cabbage palm, but close inspection revealed no nest structure. In May, 1991, this tree was re-examined with staff from Florida Game and Freshwater Fish Coumission. The tree was found to contain an apparent caracara nest structure, but there was no evidence of active nesting o~ young within the nest. Either nesting was unsuccessful, or was completed during the period between February and May. I111Dature caracara were not observed in the area during May. Following discussions with GFC staff, it is recommended that this site be examined for caiacara nesting use prior to initiation of construction, and if found to be active, maintain a minimum 200 meter buffer area during the peak nesting season of January to April. Caracara do not necessary nest in the same tree from year to year, but wil 1 nes t in the same general location. A sufficient number of similar cabbage palms will be retained in the proposed water detention area, and in adjacent, offsite and excluded areas. Sandhill cranes were also frequently observed on the site. Sandhills nest in open marshes, and feed in shallow marshes and a variety of pasture habitats. The project design will preserve suitable marshes for nesting. Sandhills are regularly seen in young citrus groves where pasture-like conditions remain between tree rows. Abundant suitable habitat for sandhills is also available in the surrounding pasture and wetlands, and within the Kissinmee Prairie Preserve.

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I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I Prior to construction activities in the nesting season {January -April) which may affect isolated wetlands, a site specific survey should be conducted for nesting cranes, and these nest sites avoided until f !edging is _completed. Kestrels are coD1DOn members of the south Florida avifauna during the winter months, but after the migratory birds return northward, few kestrels are seen. It is expected that the kestrels observed on the Haynes Williams site are migratory. Conversion of tlie site to citrus grove will not adversely impact kestrel populations. Alligators were not observed on site, but are likely inhabitants of the permanent water bodies within channelized Fish Slough. Suitable habitat will be increased for the alligator within grove lateral canals and borrow ditches. Limpkins feed regularly on large mollusks, therefore require permanent water bodies to produce the forage. This habitat will likewise be increased by the proposed project.

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I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I APPENDIX Wetland Mitigation Plan Environmental Monitoring Plan

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I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I WETLAND MITIGATION PLAN Total acres of wetlands on site Wetlands excluded from project Wetlands protected in detention areas Wetlands less than 0.5 acres impacted Wetlands to be impacted Mitigation proposed Restoration of drained wetland habitat (#310) (Provides no-net loss of wetlands) 77.21 acres 21.50 acres 38.24 acres 0.47 acres 17.00 acres 19.28 acres Preservation of oak haD1DOck in detention area 11.80 acres Preservation of upland pasture in detention area 36.62 acres (Meets additional upland compensation criteria) 19.28 acres of wetland restoration@ 1.5:1 is mitigation for 12.82 acres wetland impacts; 11.80 acres oak haDDDOck plus 36.6 acres upland pasture habitats is compensation at 3:1 reconmended ratio for 4.18 acres wetland impacts

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I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I ENVIRONMENTAL MONITORING PLAN -HAYNES WILLIAMS CITRUS PROJECT OKEECHOBEE COUNTY, FLORIDA This environmental monitoring plan is proposed to evaluate the condition of preserved wetlands and forested uplands to be incorporated into the water detention area at the proposed Haynes Williams Citrus Project, located within sections 5-8, T34S/R34E, in north central Okeechobee County. In addition, this program will evaluate changes occurring in transitional grassland habitat to be restored to functional wetlands by inclusion in the water detention area, for a period of five years following base-line evaluation. The project will contain one water detention area of approximately 106 acres in size. Water control elevations will be maintained at desirable levels for retaining and improving wetland hydroperiods, and to restore wetland character to previously drained wetlands. The following components are proposed for this program. TASK tn. Environmental Monitoring Environmental monitoring will consist of two components: vegetation and wildlife. Vegetation: Two permanent transects will be established through existing wetland and restored transitional habitats within the water detention area, as depicted in Figure 1. Transects will measure approximately 600 to 800 feet in length, and will be marked by PVC covered poles at the beginning, end and 200 foot increments along the line. Sampling of vegetative characteristics along the transects will be accomplished by documentation of species presence and percent cover within one square meter quadrats placed at 25 foot increments along the transect. Water depth will be measured for later determination of actual land elevation at each station. A photographic record will be maintained of the detention area by establishing two photo reference points atop the levee for taking panoramic photographs. Panoramic photos will consist of slightly overlapping photographs, covering a 180 degree or greater sweep; taken with 50 lllll lens and 35 um color print film format. Associated wildlife: The detention area and surrounding grove habitats will be surveyed for the presence or signs of maJ11Dals, reptiles and avifauna during vegetation surveys. Special emphasis will be placed on threatened speci_es observed on the site prior to project development. TASK #2. Hydrology A staff gauge will be placed in the v1c1n1ty of the outfall control structure, and referenced to feet NGVD in accordance with the design elevation of the weir crest. Readings of water levels will be taken weekly by grove personnel, and forwarded to the environmental consultant. The water regime influencing existing and restored wetlands will be described as stage hydrographs, and inundation duration periods. Water levels along the transects will be referenced to staff gauge readings to calculate ground elevations.

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I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I Daily rainfall will be measured from at least one location in the grove, and provided with annual reports. TASK #3. Annual Reports Vegetation sampling and wildlife surveys will be conducted on an annual basis. The initial report will be considered the base-line against which future changes are compared. The baseline assessment will be conducted prior to construction of the water detention area. Subsequent annual monitoring will be conducted during September-November for five consecutive years following base-line evaluation. Reports will be submitted to the client and South Florida Water Management District within 60 days of sampling. Tables of flora and fauna sampled will be presented, along with detailed sampling methodology, tabulations/graphs of water levels and rainfall, and copies of panoramic photographs. Discussions of pertinent trends will follow the results, and if warranted, recounnendations will be proposed.

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I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I N PHOTO REFERENCE 0 PUMP ST A TION OUTFALL CULVERT • HAMMOCK POINT WETLAND STAFF GAUGE VEGETATION TRANSECT PHOTO REFERENCE POINT ENVIRONMENTAL MONITORING PLAN 1" = 900 FT OKEECHOBEE Co. HAYNES WILLIAMS CITRUS -(APP #901231-53) MILLESON ENVIRONMENTAL FIGURE 1


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