Santa Rosa County has received and reviewed the final draft Federal Permits from the Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE). The county is set to sign the permits and has begun the procurement/deployment process for the beach accessible snorkeling reefs on the Gulf Side of Navarre Beach Park. A final federal (ACOE) permit for the two Sound Side reef sites is expected within the next month. Applications for the required Gulf side and Sound side federal permits were submitted in September of 2009. The federal permit process was expected to take 18 months but has been delayed due to the ACOE activities associated with The Deep Horizon oil spill and associated responses. State permits were granted for both sites in 2009.
The reefs specified in the permit are the Eco System piling mounted disc reefs, a patented design by Walter Marine. If contracting details can be put together within the next two weeks, the reefs could get the go ahead from the Santa Rosa County Board of County Commission (BOCC) as early as February 23rd. The installation process itself will not be long (2-3 days in the Gulf and 3-5 days for the Sound), but a suitable weather window with multiple days of calm seas is critical for the Gulf reef installation. Weather is not as critical for the installation of the Sound side reefs. Depending on the timing of receiving the federal permits for the Sound side reefs and weather conditions, the Sound side reefs may be installed earlier than the Gulf reefs. Historically, the sea state gets calmer as we get into June, but we are hopeful the weather cooperates and the reef installation can proceed as soon as possible.
The Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) received a positive response from NOAA on the required section 7 consult for ALL of our Gulf and Sound Side reef area permits. This means National Marine Fisheries Service of NOAA agrees with the biological assessment written by Keith Johnson of Wetland Sciences (our environmental consultant). The action indicates we have cleared the final large hurdle with the only step left being the creation by the ACOE of the permit conditions. The conditions basically dictate what we can and can not do within the permit area such as materials allowed, setback distances, etc. As of August 11th There is currently only one permit ahead of us in that process. The Marine Sanctuary permit conditions will be drafted next. After the conditions are written and approved by the ACOE, they will be issued to Santa Rosa County. The final approval is expected without delay once the conditions are written. These final steps are expected to be complete with permits in hand within six weeks (September).
The Marine Sanctuary Committee is working with Santa Rosa County on finalizing the implementation plan so that process may begin as soon as permits are in hand.
The Santa Rosa County Board of County Commissioners are scheduled to vote on approval of the TDC funding constuction and deployment of the three Navarre Beach Marine Sanctuary reef sites currently being permitted. The vote is planned for the 9 AM April 14th regular meeting of the Board in 6495 Caroline Street in Milton, FL. Discussions about the project and proposed funding will be held at the Monday April 12th Commissioner Committee Meeting.
Assuming a successful funding vote, a major milestone for the efforts to create snorkeling and diving reefs at Navarre Beach will be passed. With up to $75,000 in matching funds from the TDC, Commissioner Jim Melvin has pledged to fund the balance of the cost out of district recreational funds. The last hurdle is the receipt of the Federal permits. Permits have been in the approval cycle with the Army Corps of Engineers since September of 2009 and are expected to be issued by early summer. After issuance of permits construction may begin on the 135 reef units with installation to be scheduled as soon as possible afterwards.
County Commissioner Jim Melvin today confirmed that he will commit half of the cost of the reef construction deployment which will be match by the Santa Rosa Tourist Development Committee (TDC) who pledged support in a meeting earlier this week. His March newsletter on the Santa Rosa County website announces is commitment.
The TDC pledged to fund half of the cost of deploying reefs into the two Santa Rosa Sound sites and the Gulf of Mexico site being permitted off of Navarre Beach. The pledge came during the Wednesday, March 9th South End TDC meeting. Mandy Evers (Marine Sanctuary Committee Chair person) presented information to the TDC about the current status of the program and answered questions about the reefs, their economic, educational, and environmental impact and the future plans for the reef program. The commitment during the South End meeting must be confirmed by the full TDC which meets later this month.
Previously County Commissioner Jim Melvin has said in public statements that he will seek to fund the deployment of the reefs and has stressed avid support of the program. Today (March 10th) Commissioner Melvin confirmed to Mandy Evers that he will commit the funds pending issuing of the required federal permits. Once the permits are issued, a formal vote will be held by the County Commission to appropriate the committed funds.
With full funding for the program in hand, the only obstacle to installing the reefs is obtaining the required federal permits. State permits have been issued and the Federal permits are going through the final approval process with the Army Corps of Engineers. The Marine Sanctuary Committee continues with fund raising an community awareness activities such as the Run for the Reef and a planned reef sponsorship program to provide features such as educational interpretive signage, reef maintenance, and funding for unplanned expenses and contingencies.
The 100% funding is a huge milestone for the Marine Sanctuary program. We anticipate changing of our slogan soon from Make Navarre Snorkelicious! to Navarre IS Snorkelicious!
Escambia County received word today from NOAA, of a favorable ruling for the snorekeling reef permits in the sound near the Fort Pickens gate and nearshore in the Gulf, just west of Casino Beach. This means after the Army Corps of Engineers is officially notified of the ruling, that Federal Permits should be forthcoming.
This is GREAT NEWS for both Escambia and Santa Rosa counties. Because of the favorable ruling, the way is paved for application of the same criteria and precedent inthe permits being sought by the Marine Sanctuary. We are one very large step closer to Making Navarre Snorkelicious!!
Another bit of good news is that the re survey of the Navarre Gulf Reef Site came back with no changes to the original survey. This means no information gathered for the Navarre Gulf side snorkeling reef permits will need to be altered, which should further help the speed of the permitting process.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has issued the General Permits required for all three reef sites (two in the sound and one in the gulf) of the marine sanctuary. This is a major step forward and gives us three of the six permits required. In addition to this good news, we believe the other three required permits that issued by the Army Corps of Engineers, will be going out to public notice for comment within days. This is fantastic progress and even keeps us ahead of schedule.
Today (August 26th), the Marine Sanctuary Committee delivered to Santa Rosa County, all the federal and state permit applications and supporting information required for the sound side and gulf side diving and snorkeling reefs they are working to establish at Navarre Beach.
Permit Applications delivered to Santa Rosa County Administrator Hunter Walker
There are six application packages total with one set of three addressed to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and another set of three addressed to the Army Corps of Engineers. The permit application packages are outlined below.
1. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers East Sound Side Reef Application Package
2. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers West Sound Side Reef Application Package
3. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Gulf Reef Application Package
4. FL DEP East Sound Side Reef Application Package
5. FL DEP West Sound Side Reef Application Package
6. FL DEP Gulf Reef Application Package
The next step in the process is for the county to sign and deliver the applications to Florida State DEP and Army Corps of Engineers respectively. The Santa Rosa Board of County Commissioners passed Resolution 2009-13 on May 14, 2009 which confirmed the Board’s support of the marine sanctuary and their commitment to submit the professionally prepared permit applications delivered to them by the Marine Sanctuary Committee, and hold the resulting permits issued by the federal and state governments. The Sanctuary Committee anticipates the county will submit the applications within the next ten days to two weeks.
The Florida DEP permits are issued under the state’s General Permitting guidelines which are typically issued 30 to 60 days after submission by the county. The Army Corps of Engineers approval/issuance process is estimated to take between eight to fourteen months after submission by the county due to the coordination of the large number of other governmental agencies that typically review and comment on the permit applications.
The completion and submission of the applications is a major milestone for creation of the marine sanctuary. The Sanctuary Committee is pleased to be able to meet this milestone on budget and on time, and looks forward to shepherding the permits through the approval process, and deployment of the diving and snorkeling reefs into the permitted areas of the sound and gulf.
Below is a link to a graphic depicting the location of each (Gulf, East Sound and West Sound) of the reef areas to be permitted.
Reef Location Graphic
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Florida Department of Environmental Protection permit application files are too large to load/access from our website. If you would like to view the .pdf versions of these files please email firstname.lastname@example.org and request a copy of one or more of the following files and they will be emailed to you.
Corps Application Package (East Sound Side Reef).pdf
Corps Application Package (West Sound Side Reef).pdf
Corps Application Package (Gulf Reef).pdf
DEP Application Package (East Sound Side Reef).pdf
DEP Application Package (West Sound Side Reef).pdf
DEP application package (Gulf Reef).pdf
Mike Sandler found this neat informational nugget.
Electrified artificial reef moves forward
The Associated Press 22 June 2009
LAUDERDALE-BY-THE-SEA, Fla. — A federal agency is giving the green light to a proposal to install an electrified artificial reef on the ocean floor.
The Army Corps of Engineers says the town can work with Global Coral Reef Alliance to install a $65,000 cluster of metal structures that would use a low-voltage current to stimulate the growth of corals, creating habitat for fish and other marine creatures.
The group has built artificial reefs in several other countries, including Mexico, Jamaica and Indonesia.
Lauderdale-by-the-Sea is known as one of the best spots for beach diving because the reefs are accessible from shore.