Jacksonville, Florida – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers encourages the public to provide input as part of an updated analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for the Port Everglades navigation improvements project.
An open comment period started in late September and will end March 24, 2017.
The Corps’ Jacksonville District and Port Everglades will host two scoping meetings Feb. 22 in Hall B, rooms 113/114 at the Broward County Convention Center, 1950 Eisenhower Boulevard, Fort Lauderdale, Fla. 33316. Parking vouchers will be issued to meeting attendees.
Meeting sign-in and poster sessions start at 2 and 6 p.m., with presentations at 2:30 and 6:30 p.m. respectively, followed by a question and comment period. The Corps will share new information and address all submitted written comments in a draft supplemental NEPA document.
Community members not attending a meeting can send comments to CESAJ-PortEverglades@usace.army.mil or to:
Jacksonville District Corps of Engineers
Attn: Planning Division - Terri Jordan Sellers
701 San Marco Boulevard
Jacksonville, FL 32207-8175
All Port Everglades documents are located at http://www.saj.usace.army.mil/Missions/Civil-Works/Navigation/Navigation-Projects/Port-Everglades/.
Congress authorized the navigation improvements project in the December 2016 Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act. A 2014 water resources development bill allowed Broward County to finance Jacksonville District work and receive future reimbursement. Funds received from Broward County’s Port Everglades Department allowed the Corps to start preconstruction, engineering and design, which will continue through 2017.
The project will bring the port into 21st Century shipping by accommodating existing and future vessel movement, and resolving navigation restriction problems. It also presents opportunities for economic development.
The Corps continued consultation with state and federal agencies since release of the draft feasibility study in June 2013. The Port Everglades Final Feasibility Report, dated March 2015, and the May 2015 Environmental Impact Statement, completed with the signed Record of Decision in January 2016, include a number of provisions that reflect information gained from the Port Miami deepening project. Provisions include implementation of upfront mitigation for indirect impacts to non-Endangered Species Act (ESA) listed corals and reef structure, consistent with the Coastal Zone Management Act; and, refined measures to avoid and minimize impacts to threatened and endangered coral species and their critical habitats.
The Port Everglades report and Biological Opinion (BO) both included a commitment to have the Corps of Engineers, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), Environmental Protection Agency, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Broward County jointly update the environmental monitoring plan. This action represents a shift toward a greater level of interagency cooperation among the Corps and state and federal resource agencies in development of environmental monitoring measures. The interagency working group is making strides as new information becomes available.
The Corps re-initiated consultation with NMFS to amend the existing BO for the Port Everglades project. Factors that contributed to this decision include:
In the March 7, 2014 BO, NMFS assessed the potential effects of the Port Everglades project. This BO showed that the project may affect listed species that included staghorn (Acropora spp.) corals, as well as six additional coral species that were proposed for listing at the time of the opinion. Five of the original six species were listed as threatened under the ESA. (The BO determined that the project’s direct and indirect effects on those corals species will not likely jeopardize the continued existence of the coral species.)
The Corps is developing a sedimentation transport model for Port Everglades, designed to identify areas that the project sediment might affect. The Corps is currently conducting fieldwork and the modeling effort will start once the required data is collected. The incorporation of sediment transport modeling into project planning is a lesson learned from the Miami Harbor project.
The Corps is also working with its partners to conduct post-construction monitoring for the Miami Harbor project. Results of this study will demonstrate how dredging sedimentation has changed over the one year period since project completion. This information is extremely valuable for the Port Everglades project, as Port Everglades and Miami Harbor share similar resources.
The listing of the five additional coral species, the results of the modeling and the information derived from the Miami Harbor project constitute "new information" in assessing effects to listed species. New information requires the Corps to re-initiate consultation with NMFS and request an amended BO. As part of this process, and to ensure transparency, Jacksonville District will release any new information to the public as part of the National Environmental Policy Act process.