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.
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.