US: Corps of Engineers issues permit for Clam Pass dredgingProject Updates // March 1, 2013
The US Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), Jacksonville District, has issued Nationwide Permit 3, authorizing a one-time dredging event for Clam Pass, the inlet between Clam Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.
Clam Pass has been closed off from the Gulf of Mexico due to the accumulation of sand that had migrated into the channel, cutting off tidal exchange and jeopardizing the health of the Clam Bay estuary system, including 209 acres of mangroves that are critical to the ecosystem. Dredging will restore hydrology to the nearby mangrove wetlands while a long-term restoration plan to re-establish tidal flow to the mangroves is developed.
The Corps is responsible for administering the Department of the Army regulatory permitting program, to protect and maintain the nation’s navigable waterways under Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 to regulate dredge and fill activities in waters of the United States, including many wetlands, under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. Part of the Corps’ process is to consult with regulatory agencies, including the US Fish and Wildlife Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Fisheries Service, under the provisions of applicable laws such as the Endangered Species Act.
A Nationwide Permit is a type of general permit that is used to authorize activities that are substantially similar in nature and cause only minimal individual or cumulative impacts. Nationwide Permit 3 authorizes the repair, rehabilitation or replacement of structures or fill destroyed or damaged by storms and the removal of accumulated sediments. It does not permit maintenance dredging for the primary purpose of beach renourishment.
Collier County applied for a Department of the Army permit to maintenance dredge Clam Pass January 25, 2013. Consultation with the regulatory agencies resulted in a Biological Opinion from the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), received February 25.
The Biological Opinion states that the permitted activity may adversely affect but not jeopardize the continued existence of a protected species, and includes an incidental take statement for the piping plover, a federally listed species. Incidental take – take that results from the permitted activity but is not the purpose of the action – may be allowed when the FWS approves it through an incidental take statement.
Reasonable and prudent measures must be in place to minimize take(s). Special conditions were also added to the permit to protect manatees and sea turtles. The proposed project is not in designated critical habitat for the smalltooth sawfish.
Dredging will be performed from the bay side toward the Gulf of Mexico, with the final cut reconnecting Clam Bay done at low tide.
“Mangroves are the backbone of the estuary ecosystem and are very important,” said William DeFrance, project manager. “The Corps’ regulatory mission is the protection of the nation’s aquatic resources, and in making a permit decision, we consider the value of the aquatic ecosystems involved, the views of federal, state and local agencies and interest groups and many public interest factors.”