Ecosystem restoration, ARRA, and Herbert Hoover Dike rehabilitation led 2010 accomplishments
JACKSONVILLE, Fla.(Jan. 27, 2011) – From ecosystem restoration to flood risk management, and from emergency permitting response following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to ensuring safe, navigable waterways and harbors, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District had a busy 2010, dedicated to strengthening security, energizing the economy and reducing risks from disasters throughout Florida and the Caribbean.
“Jacksonville District has a talented multi-disciplinary team of about 970 that serve in 27 offices throughout our area of responsibility,” said Col. Alfred Pantano, Jr., district commander. “But not only do they serve Florida and the Antilles, they also volunteer to selflessly serve around the world in support of myriad missions of the Corps and the U.S. Army. I am proud of their accomplishments.”
In Fiscal Year 2010, Jacksonville District awarded 1,587 contract and modification actions for a total of $521,564,457. Approximately $141,019,841 was obligated to small businesses. Additionally, under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, 90 contract and modification actions were awarded, for a total of $192,713,374.
Federal, state and local officials celebrated three historic groundbreakings that are moving one of the Corps’ largest ecosystem restoration programs forward at a new pace.
The $53 million Picayune Strand Restoration Project along the Merritt Canal area in Collier County broke ground in January. The project will restore water flow across the landscape, rehydrate drained wetlands, improve estuarine waters and return habitat to threatened wildlife communities.
“Over the past half-century, south Florida’s explosive growth has absorbed half of the original Everglades,” said Pantano at the Picayune Strand groundbreaking. “Today we are returning some of those lands for development to their former, natural conditions.”
Construction of the long-awaited $81 million Tamiami Trail project began in February in Miami-Dade County. The project will include a one-mile bridge and raising and reinforcing an additional 9.7 miles of road, which will allow increased water flows, essential to the health and viability of the Everglades, to Everglades National Park.
The Corps hosted a public meeting in April to present the Draft Project Implementation Report and Environmental Impact Statement for the Biscayne Bay Coastal Wetlands Restoration Project in Miami-Dade County. A component of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), the project goal is to improve the ecology of Biscayne Bay, including its freshwater wetlands, tidal creeks and near-shore habitat, by adjusting the quantity, quality, timing and distribution of fresh water entering the bay and Biscayne National Park.
The Corps awarded a $1.6 million contract for another CERP component, the design and construction of a biocontrol rearing facility in Davie, Fla. The Melaleuca Mass Rearing Annex will help combat invasive plants in the Everglades, preventing them from degrading and damaging natural south Florida ecosystems and contributing to the quality of south Florida’s natural areas, native plants and wildlife. Construction is expected to begin in spring 2011.
Phase One of a third restoration project broke ground in October, when work began on the 1,800-acre Site 1 Impoundment Project/Fran Reich Preserve, adjacent to one of Florida’s natural wonders, the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge in Palm Beach County. The site is named for the late Fran Reich, who successfully led a battle against building a landfill on the property.
“Make no mistake! People matter!” said Pantano at the October 29 groundbreaking. “It’s absolutely amazing what Fran Reich spurred for the future of this unique ecosystem…[which] will increase much-needed water storage capacity and water management flexibility.”
In November, the Corps awarded a $79 million contract for the Picayune Strand/Faka Union Canal Pump Station. The project will include three spreader canals, three pump stations, more than 10 canal plugs, roadways and levees on the former Southern Golden Gate Estates. The area includes 55,000 acres of native Florida wetlands and uplands in southwest Florida and is nearly surrounded by public lands, including the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge, Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park, Everglades National Park, Big Cypress National Preserve, Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve and others. A Feb. 18, 2011 project groundbreaking is planned.
In May, the Corps and its state and local partners began construction of the final phase of the 20-year cleanup of the Rose Bay Watershed in Port Orange. The natural bay, connected to the Halifax River, 3.5 miles north of Ponce de Leon Inlet, was once a productive estuary that supported commercial and recreational fishing. Florida’s rapid development in the 1950s through the 1970s left Rose Bay polluted and distressed. A five-point restoration plan included controlling storm water runoff pollution, eliminating leaking septic systems that discharged into the bay, replacing the existing U.S. 1 bridge, removing a causeway that restricted water flow and removing accumulated sediment from the bottom of the bay.
Rose Bay is a “great example of how partnerships…are the key to making things happen,” said Pantano. “Our environmental mission continues to contribute daily to environmental sustainability, ecosystem restoration, natural resources management and the protection of threatened and endangered species.”
In 2010, the Corps awarded two contracts for Kissimmee River restoration, totaling $9.6 million. The project will restore more than 40 square miles of the river’s floodplain ecosystem, including 40 miles of meandering river channel and 27,000 acres of wetlands. The project includes 30 contracts to restore both the Kissimmee upper and lower basins. Work is nearly complete on the third phase of construction, which will reestablish flow to six miles of reconnected river channel. Ongoing Kissimmee River construction in the upper basin includes the enlargement of the C-37 canal from a 70-foot bottom width to a 90-foot bottom width. This $15.6 million effort will help maintain the existing level of flood reduction for the Headwaters Chain of Lakes and improve boaters’ access to fish camps in two oxbows adjacent to the canal.
Flood Risk Management
In 2010, Jacksonville District oversaw periodic and routine inspections of levees in Florida, Puerto Rico and in the Virgin Islands. Periodic inspections, which are normally done at five-year intervals, were completed on 43 levees, totaling 420 miles of earthen structures. In Florida, the Corps also conducted annual routine inspections on 21 levees totaling another 338 miles. The Corps coordinated with five local sponsors who are responsible for the operations and maintenance of the levee systems, including the South Florida Water Management District, St. Johns River Water Management District, Southwest Florida Water Management District, Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, and the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Public Works. These inspections, along with the associated coordination and communication with local sponsors, will advance the Levee Safety Program goal of helping to reduce flood risks and improving public safety awareness.
The Herbert Hoover Dike Rehabilitation Project moved another step closer to reducing flood risk in south Florida with the award of $30,454,196 to complete another section of seepage cutoff wall in the southeastern area of the dike near Pahokee in west Palm Beach County. This is the seventh cutoff wall task order under a single contract for emplacement of the partial cutoff wall. The 75-year-old, 143-mile Herbert Hoover Dike is a Corps of Engineers dam safety priority. Jacksonville District is currently rehabilitating the dike’s most vulnerable section, the 22-mile segment between Port Mayaca and Belle Glade. The Corps awarded more than $94.6 million in dike rehabilitation contracts in 2010. To date, 20 miles of cutoff wall in the 22-mile section are under construction or completed, totaling more than $200 million in dike rehabilitation work.
Federal, state and non-governmental agencies worked together to successfully remove two six-week old bald eagle fledglings from a nest near two Herbert Hoover Dike Rehabilitation Project sites in Palm Beach County. The eaglets were safely moved from the nest and relocated to a “foster” nest where they were raised to adulthood. The relocation allowed the Corps to maintain construction momentum and complete priority work prior to hurricane season. Though eagles are no longer covered by the Endangered Species Act, they remain protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the state bald eagle rule.
Progress continued on the construction of Portugues Dam in Ponce, Puerto Rico, the Corps’ first single-centered roller-compacted concrete dam and the final component of the Portugues and Bucana flood risk management project. In 2010, webcams were installed at four different points to provide a bird’s eye view of the ongoing construction. The webcams will operate until the project is complete.
Two flood risk management projects broke ground in Puerto Rico in October 2010 – the Rio de La Plata project in Dorado and the Rio Puerto Nuevo (Margarita Channel) project in San Juan. The former project will potentially protect 12,000 families and will incorporate seven miles of channel improvements, 7.6 miles of levee construction, three bridge replacements, recreation facilities and mitigation for the loss of habitat. The latter project includes 1.7 miles of earth-lined channel, 9.5 miles of concrete-lined channels and two debris basins, as well as construction of five new bridges, replacement of 17 bridges and modification of eight existing bridges. The completed project will potentially protect the lives and property of thousands of families and numerous public buildings and commercial facilities.
“For decades, residents and business owners…have suffered losses when the Puerto Nuevo River overflows,” said Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy at the October groundbreaking. “The award of the construction contract demonstrates our nation’s commitment to answer the appeals of concerned residents and business owners.”
Navigation and Coastal Protection
Jacksonville District’s $81.5 million Fiscal Year 2010 navigation and coastal protection program includes 13 dredging projects. To ensure hurricane and storm damage reduction, dredged material is used to restore beaches in seven of those projects, with the remainder depositing dredged material at an ocean disposal site or in a Dredged Material Management Area.
The final phase of the St. Johns River harbor deepening project was completed in July, ahead of schedule. The entire length of the harbor was dredged to a uniform depth of 40 feet, helping JAXPORT to remain competitive and accommodate the water depth requirements of fully-loaded cargo vessels that currently use the port and meeting the needs of new, larger ships. Jacksonville District is currently studying the possibility of further deepening the harbor.
Maintenance dredging projects were also completed on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway in Palm Valley and at Canaveral, Palm Beach and Fernandina Harbors and on the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway in Collier County. A harbor improvement study is under way for Port Everglades.
Investigations are under way for the Brevard County Mid-Reach, St. Johns County and Martin County Hurricane and Storm Damage Reduction projects.
Jacksonville District recently began work to replace and upgrade manatee detection devices at Canaveral Lock in Port Canaveral, Fla. The devices will detect the presence of manatees near the lock gates and stop the gates from moving and potentially harming the animals. The project was originally scheduled to take place in summer 2010 but was rescheduled in response to requests from members of the public and BoatUS, a national boating organization.
“We applaud the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for giving area boaters critical safe harbor protection by postponing the Canaveral Lock dewatering until after hurricane season, said Scott Croft, vice president of government affairs for BoatUS. “This is a great example of a responsive government agency willing to work with all constituents.”
The nation’s largest Regulatory program processed a total of 10,150 actions, including general permits, individual permits, withdrawals and denials, compliance and unauthorized cases, jurisdictional determinations and modifications.
Under the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1890, the Corps protects and maintains the nation’s navigable waters; under the Clean Water Act of 1972, the Corps authorizes dredge and fill activities in waters of the United States, including wetlands. Jacksonville District’s Regulatory team issued 23 emergency permits, plus 22 permit modifications, following the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, for the placement of containment booms and the discharge of fill material to contour and plug outlets and protect the coastline, estuarine habitat and coastal dune lakes.
Interagency and International Support
A January 2010 groundbreaking ceremony marked the start of construction on four joint armed forces reserve centers in Puerto Rico. The four centers, totaling $85 million in contracts, include facilities in Fort Buchanan, Fort Allen, Ceiba and Mayaguez. Construction will have a positive impact in the local economy, creating more than 500 jobs with additional benefits in acquisition of materials, supplies and services. Jacksonville District’s Antilles Office is providing project oversight on behalf of the Corps’ Louisville District.
A Remedial Investigation and Feasibility Study (RI/FS) was conducted at the former Pinecastle Jeep Range (PJR) Formerly Used Defense Site in Orlando, Fla. During the RI/FS, crews surveyed for military munitions with metal detectors, investigated anomalies, removed recovered munitions and collected soil and water samples. An extensive amount of surveys occurred at PJR, which included searching more than 1,000 residential properties. During the inspection, nearly 50,000 anomalies were detected and investigated, and only 24 munitions were found. No munitions were located in residential areas. Based on the results of the investigations, the size of the potentially-impacted area has been significantly reduced from 12,000 acres to 2,500 acres.
Jacksonville District is assisting the U.S. Geological Survey and other agencies in the acquisition of data for Puerto Rico, its outlying islands and the U.S. Virgin Islands that will be used to update Geographic Information Systems, improving emergency preparedness and disaster readiness, and potentially saving lives.
American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA)
In addition to executing one of the largest civil works programs in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District also executed an additional $236 million in Fiscal Year 2010 projects that were fully or partially funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009. ARRA funding enabled the district to proceed with projects that had been planned and were ready to be implemented but lacked all funding needed to proceed.
Twelve programs and projects were completed in 2010, including maintenance dredging at Fernandina and Canaveral Harbors and the Atlantic and Gulf Intracoastal Waterways; a harbor deepening project at Jacksonville Harbor and harbor improvement studies at Port Everglades and Jacksonville Harbor Mile Point; the Canaveral Harbor Sand Bypass project; construction of a Dredged Material Management Area in Palm Beach County; and a snagging and clearing operation on the Withlacoochee River.
Additionally, ARRA funding supported the acquisition of scientific information that will be used in Adaptive Assessment and Monitoring to benefit Everglades restoration; streamlining local processes and development of national public information tools for the Regulatory program; and reimbursement to four municipalities for the construction of water quality improvement projects in the Florida Keys.
ARRA funding was instrumental to ongoing work associated with a study to evaluate the potential for further deepening of Jacksonville Harbor; construction of a biocontrol rearing facility to combat invasive species; Kissimmee River restoration; the Picayune Strand and Site 1 Impoundment projects under the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan; and the Rio Puerto Nuevo and Rio de La Plata flood risk management projects in Puerto Rico.