Statements that the Jacksonville District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers did not update documents relating to the Port Everglades deepening project to reflect information gained from the Port Miami deepening project are inaccurate.
For example, the Port Everglades Final Feasibility Report, dated March 2015, and Environmental Impact Statement, revised in May 2015, include a number of provisions that reflect information gained from the Port Miami deepening project, including implementation of upfront mitigation for indirect impacts to non-ESA listed corals and reef structure, consistent with state law pursuant to the Coastal Zone Management Act, and refined measures to avoid and minimize impacts to threatened and endangered coral species and their critical habitats pursuant to the Endangered Species Act.
The Port Everglades report is available on the district website at: http://1.usa.gov/20VHR3T. The final environmental statement is available here: http://bit.ly/1t4f3vN .
The Port Everglades report and the biological opinion also include a commitment to have the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the National Marine Fisheries Service, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission jointly develop the project 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 compared to the process used for the Miami Harbor project.
In addition, the Corps has decided to re-initiate consultation with National Marine Fisheries Service to amend the existing biological opinion for the Port Everglades project. Factors that contributed to this decision include:
• In a biological opinion, dated March 7, 2014, NMFS assessed the potential effects of the Port Everglades project. This biological opinion 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. These six species have since been listed. (The biological opinion 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 implemented a sedimentation transport model, designed to identify areas that the sediment from the project might affect. The modeling is underway, and may show that the project could affect areas not previously consulted on in earlier assessments.The incorporation of sediment transport modeling into project planning is a significant difference from the Miami Harbor project.
• The Corps had additional scientific data on effects from the Miami Harbor project.
The listing of the six 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 Biological Opinion. As part of this process, and to ensure transparency, we will release any new information to the public though the National Environmental Policy Act process in an Environmental Assessment.
Although the Corps is currently developing the additional information to submit to NMFS as part of the re-consultation effort, the Corps has been aware of the need for a supplemental biological opinion since at least September 10, 2014, when NMFS published a final rule listing the proposed coral species. In taking these actions and continuing to evaluate further innovations to minimize the project's effect on the environment, the district is following the Corps of Engineers environmental operating principles (http://1.usa.gov/1D4pCy6), which go well above basic requirements to comply with environmental law and directives.