JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District has concluded that the proposed use of alternative sand sources throughout the remaining period of federal participation in the Dade County, Florida Beach Erosion Control and Hurricane Protection Project will cause no significant impacts to the environment.
A recently finalized Environmental Assessment contains the finding. The assessment analyzed new information about the environmental impacts of using a combination of domestic sand sources to renourish parts of Miami-Dade County beaches. The sand sources include two borrow areas in federal waters offshore of southeast Florida, two sites in near shore waters off of Miami-Dade County (Baker’s Haulover Inlet ebb shoal and Lummus Park in Miami Beach) and three upland sand mines. The Corps made the draft document available for public review from July 31 to Oct. 2, 2015, and held public meetings during that period in Miami-Dade, Martin County and St. Lucie counties.
“This approval clears the way for the project to use sand from these potential sources, subject to state permitting,” said project manager Jason Harrah. “We are currently scheduled to award a contract to place approximately 200,000 cubic yards of sand on two hotspots in Miami Beach in June. We’ll be using trucks to haul material from an upland sand mine for this part of the project.”
The Corps prepared a Limited Re-evaluation Report, which includes an economic analysis of the project. This report, combined with the environmental assessment, lays out a sand source plan for future renourishment.
Within the southeast Florida region (St. Lucie, Martin, Palm Beach, Broward, and Dade counties), the existing sediment resources exceed the sediment needs for all federal and non-federal projects through 2062 by more than 100 million cubic yards.
To use sand from the two sites located in federal waters offshore of southeast Florida, the Corps and the Miami-Dade County Department of Environmental Resources will enter into a Memorandum of Agreement with the U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), which is responsible for managing the extraction of offshore minerals from America's outer continental shelf. BOEM has partnered with coastal communities, states and other federal agencies to build coastal resilience for more than 20 years through its Marine Minerals Program. As stewards of these resources, BOEM ensures that the extraction of offshore minerals is conducted in a safe and environmentally sound manner, and that any potentially adverse impacts on the marine, coastal, or human environments are avoided or minimized. The Corps will also obtain all necessary state permits to place material on the beach.
BOEM is a cooperating agency on the Environmental Assessment and participated in last year's public meetings. BOEM will prepare its own Finding of No Significant Impact for the Environmental Assessment, closer to the time when the resource is actually needed and prior to signing the Memorandum of Agreement.
The Corps, in cooperation with BOEM, prepared the Environmental Assessment in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality regulations. Given the interest in the project and to ensure engagement of all interested parties to the maximum extent allowable under applicable NEPA regulations, the Corps and BOEM chose to follow those procedures required for an Environmental Impact Statement in preparation of this Environmental Assessment, although it was not required by NEPA. The procedures included a scoping period, draft document publication, public review and comment, and public meetings prior to finalization of the Environmental Assessment.
Section 935 of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 1986 and a congressional directive from 1999 indicate that only domestic sources of sand are to be utilized for re-nourishment of this project, unless domestic sources are not available for environmental or economic reasons. Corps studies published in 2001 and 2009 determined that the use of domestic sources on the outer continental shelf is more economically feasible than non-domestic sources.
Benefits to the public include maintaining the storm damage reduction functions of the beach and increased nesting habitat for sea turtles and shorebirds.
The final Environmental Assessment, Limited Re-evaluation Report and Finding of No Significant Impact can be viewed at: http://bit.ly/1QKqi3n.
For more information on the Dade County Beach Erosion Control Project, please visit the Jacksonville District website at http://bit.ly/1IO0Bhw.