Help Protect Manatee Habitat on Florida’s West Coast

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Originally Posted: 10 December 2011

Help Protect Manatee Habitat on Florida’s West Coast

FROM Save the Manatee Club

ACTION

Let the Corps know several environmentally damaging and unnecessary elements proposed for the Sunwest Harbourtowne and Sunwest Park Development (Aripeka FLorida) MUST be denied in the final permit to protect manatee habitat.

Sign an online petition:
http://org2.democracyinaction.org/o/5215/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=8988

And/or better yet, make direct contact:

Melinda Hogan
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
10117 Princess Palm Ave., Suite 120
Tampa, FL 33610

INFORMATION / TALKING POINTS

The proposed Sunwest Harbourtowne and Sunwest Park Development near Aripeka, Florida, in Pasco County contains several environmentally damaging and unnecessary elements that we are asking the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to deny as they prepare a final determination for this project -- but we need your help! These include the dredging of a new 3.1 mile long, 85-foot-wide channel through Fillman’s Bayou to provide boater access to the Gulf of Mexico. The creation of this channel would impact 27.4 acres of submerged aquatic vegetation including seagrass, along with additional wetlands impacts. Seagrass beds not only provide food and habitat to manatees, but to many other commercially important species including gamefish and shellfish. Click here for more project details.

Please Take Action today and send a letter to the Corps asking that these unnecessary and environmentally destructive elements be denied in the final permit.

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I am writing today to ask that the Corps deny the Sunwest Harbourtowne and Sunwest Park Project in Pasco County, Florida (SAJ-2007-05788) in its current form. I am deeply concerned with the proposed creation of a new 3.1 mile channel, which would contribute to the calculated 27.4 acres of impact to submerged aquatic resources, in addition to separate wetlands impacts. The extensive continuous seagrass resources in this area that provide habitat for commercially important species such as gamefish and shellfish, as well as a food source for the endangered Florida manatee, would suffer unacceptable loss if the proposed project is permitted. The success of mitigation activities cannot be assured, and offsite mitigation would do nothing to support the aquatic communities damaged by this development.

The Corps should request that the applicant complete a more thorough monitoring plan before permitting any impacts to submerged aquatic vegetation. Additionally, no mitigation plan should be accepted by the Corps without the approval of FWC and DEP. The proposed seagrass awareness signage cannot be expected to keep boaters from damaging seagrass as the number of users in this area increases. The increased vessel use and associated turbidity and erosion impacts are likely to further inhibit growth of aquatic plants. Controls on vessel speed in this proposed channel, if permitted, should be required to minimize negative impacts to water clarity.

The proposed 7-lane boat ramp, 150-slip inland lake marina, and 350-slip dry storage facility have the potential to adversely affect manatees via watercraft collisions in addition to indirect impacts to habitat. While the applicant claims only 45 inland boats would be able to access the travel lift on a daily basis, this limitation on daily access should be stipulated in the permit to help reduce potential adverse impacts to manatees caused by motorized vessel activity. If the proposed project were to be permitted, the conservation easement should extend over the entire canal length (4.36 mi). Any lesser easement would be incapable of adequately guarding against future water-related development along this canal.

Please deny the project as currently proposed. The permanent and immediate damage to aquatic resources, in addition to the chronic and recurring damage caused by the proposed watercraft activity, is unjustifiable, and would represent a misuse of our shared aquatic resources.

Thank you for the consideration of these comments.

Sincerely...


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