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Monday, 02 June 2014 03:42

Action Update: Stop Oslo Rd. boat ramp expansion

Written by  News sources, Pelican Island Audubon, Team SCPA

UPDATED Friday, June 13, 2014 atd 4:23 pm.

ACTION CONTINUES!

Write letters to Indian River County Commissioners and to Vero Beach Press Journal. Contact info below.

The administrative hearing has ended but action continues. The hearing ended last Friday, June 6, 2014. We are now waiting for the court reporter to provide official copies of the proceedings. The attorneys on each side have 10 days to write an opinion for the judge. The judge, after reviewing the two opinions, then writes his own opinion.  So it will take 2-3 weeks before we hear from the judge.

Please continue to write letters to Vero Beach Press Journal/Treasure Coast Palm, and Indian River County Commissioners. See NEW TALKING POINTS below.

PROPOSED EXPANSION. The proposed project IS, in fact, expansion, requiring fill and paving of an additional 1.41 acres of mangrove wetlands. Further, unpaved Oslo Road and parking area have minimal impact the lagoon, same as dirt roads in Sebastian Inlet State Park do not have meaningful impact. But look due east of Oslo Boat Ramp at the huge development with sodgrass lawns that come to the waters edge. Water problems are GREATLY impacted by fertilizer runoff from those lawns. Pressure persists to pave and enlarge parking lot and Oslo Road -- for spurious reasons.

REGARDING DREDGING. In areas where no dredging has ever been done, new dredging is supposed to prohibited. Nonetheless, it is believed that pro-expansion interests are looking for a way around this dredging constraint. The current proposal, while it does not currently include dredging, could be subject to change -- especially if the road and parking is first enlarged, opening the area to bigger boat trailers, which will mean bigger boats to launch, which will ramp up pressure for dredging in spite of the constraint. Ten years from now, the pressure will increase, not decrease. And it will be more difficult, not easier, to prevent dredging thru the grass flats -- which some would do now if they had a legal way to work around the legal constraint blocking dredging in an area which has never been dredged.

IF COMMISSIONERS WISH TO PROTECT THE LAGOON, they could immediately do the following -- see NEW TALKING POINTS below.

ACTION: PLEASE WRITE to the county commissioners and to the Vero Beach Press Journal supporting our side -- ie, opposing expansion of the Oslo Boat Ramp.

Vero Beach Press Journal/T.C. Palm, Letter to the editor: 300 words maximum to Larry Reisman: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Indian River County Commissioners:
• Joe Flescher: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
• Wesley David: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
• Peter O'Bryan: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
• Bob Solari: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
• Tim Zorc: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

NEW TALKING POINTS for County Commissioners who want to protect the Indian River Lagoon:

No need to delay designation for boat limitations OR low speed zone designation OR racoon-proof trash cans.

1. Immediatly designate the area a small boat ramp exclusively for canoes, kayaks, gheenoes and similar small craft --

2. Clearly state there is to be NO dredging -- ever -- in this area.

3. Designate a wake-free slow speed zone immediately to protect manatees. The area is already supposed to be a manatee protection zone.

4. Place racoon-proof trash cans at the site immediately.

5. Stop inventing bogus reasons for expanding the small boat ramp and denying it IS expansion when your own plans call for expanding on to additional 1.41 acres.

6. This area is unique nursery for gamefish -- the only known place in the entire Indian River Lagoon where spotted sea trout, red drum, snook and tarpon come to develop. Don't mess this up, too.

7. NO permitting agency would approve this expansion project on merit, all said no, until political interference by Rep. Bill Posey occurred.

8. Politcial manipulation by Rep. Bill Posey -- who votes AGAINST the environment about 90 percent of the time -- is the ONLY reason this project is still alive.

9. Take other actions to improve the lagoon -- enlarging and paving this boat ramp and road is not a way to improve the lagoon, and we all know it.

10. Do what's very best for the lagoon: stop the expansion of Oslo Road and parking lot project and related, and take action to accomplish the above.

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24-HOUR CALL FOR ACTION has ended, CALL FOR ACTION CONTINUES, see above and below. (updated June 13, 2014)

STOP EXPANSION OF BOAT RAMP IN SENSITIVE REGION OF INDIAN RIVER LAGOON

SUMMARY

In Vero Beach, there's a small, historic boat ramp at Oslo Road, at the end of a dirt road in a biologically rich conservation area of 440 acres running about a mile along the Indian River Lagoon. Seagrass beds still survive here. There are still some live oysters here!  Thick mangrove wetlands, maybe a thousand feet deep, line the lagoon here, providing a unique nursery for snook, spotted sea trout, red drum and tarpon -- four species of popular gamefish.

Lagoon scientist Grant Gilmore says, “In more than 40 years of studying fish populations in the lagoon I have never seen another locale where all four species develop,” Gilmore told commissioners.

Forty manatees have died in this area. There is a Manatee Protection Plan in effect here. 

Some people in the region want the small boat ramp expanded to accommodate larger boats. They want a big channel dredged through the seagrass beds. They want a paved road and big parking lot for larger boat trailers. Typical development -- in the wrong place. (Alternative areas for boat launch exist elsewhere, not far away.)

For years, no permitting agency would approve expansion of the Oslo Road boat ramp. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) denied a permit. St. John's Water Management District denied a permit. 

The Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency repeatedly denied the county's applications for permits, on the grounds it violated Federal law and would cause environmental harm. Nobody would approve this expansion in this sensitive place.

Enter U.S. Rep. Bill Posey, Republican, FL 8th District. Mr. Posey, remember, votes against the environment about 90 percent of the time, and has one of the worst environmental voting records in the U.S. Congress.

Mr. Posey persuaded U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to change permit denial into permit approval.

So, thanks to Bill Posey, and some misguided but obviously influential people in Indian River County, the bad boat ramp expansion proposal is alive.

The St. John's Water Management District also issued a permit allowing the boat ramp expansion to proceed. Florida Rep. Ralph Poppell, Republican, District 29 in late 2010 put pressure on SJRWMD to approve a permit, accusing the staff of being 'agenda driven' instead of heeding legislators -- like him.

What next? … a hearing that will decide whether the St. Johns permit is legitimate is scheduled for June 4-6 at the Indian River County administration complex in front of Judge D. R. Alexander. The hearing is open to the public. The hearing is a state administrative hearing, in Bldg A (South) on 2nd floor in the Training Room. The room has been reserved for this hearing from 9am-5pm, Wednesday-Thursday-Friday.

Bottom line: At a time when we are trying the RESCUE the Indian River Lagoon, do we engage in yet another action that will only make the situation worse? Can we not even fully protect our designated conservation areas? What kind of a people are we? STOP this Oslo Road boat ramp expansion, and put your added boat ramps in other areas that are available.

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MORE BACKGROUND + FACTS + 5-MIN. VIDEO
Compiled by Pelican Island Audubon Society

Published on May 1, 2014. 
Our elected representatives of the Indian River County Commission have unanimously voted to approve an "expansion" project at one of the most environmentally sensitive fish recruitment sites in the state of Florida. This +- 1000sq/ft area is a historically established nursery for some of our most important gamefish species, Snook, Spotted Seatrout, Red Drum and Tarpon. These species have chosen this particular location year after year to spawn and provide crucial habitat for the juvenile fish. This is the only known location where all 4 of these species spawn together.

MORE:
http://www.pelicanislandaudubon.org/Fragments/OsloBoatRampProposedDredgingSite.html

TAKE ACTION!

CONTACT

Most important T.C Palm (Press Journal our county daily paper). Letter to the editor: 300 words maximum to Larry Reisman: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Indian River County Commissioners:
• Joe Flescher: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
• Wesley David: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
• Peter O'Bryan: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
• Bob Solari: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
• Tim Zorc: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

U.S. Congressman Bill Posey phone 202-225-4035, fax 202-225-3516, toll free 1-888-681-1776. District office Melbourne 321-632-1776, in Vero Beach 772-778-3534. Or contact form, appears to be only possible email: https://posey.house.gov/forms/writeyourrep/

St. Johns River Management District. Ask why this project was approved (actually don't they usually do a culture or archeology survey before issuing a permit, don't they care about the fish and manatees anymore?): 

• Hans G. Tanzier III, Executive Director: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
• John A. Miklos, Board Chairman, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

http://www.pelicanislandaudubon.org/Fragments/OsloBoatRampProposedDredgingSite.html

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Political interference alleged in Oslo Boat ramp approval

VeroNews.com, May 30, 2014

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — On the eve of a dramatic hearing that will decide the fate of the controversial Oslo Road Boat Ramp expansion project, Richard Baker, president of Pelican Island Audubon Society, is alleging Congressman Bill Posey exerted undue political influence on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to get the county’s plan approved.

Lange Sykes, president of the Treasure Coast chapter of the Coastal Conservation Association of Florida, a 20,000-member organization of environmentally minded fishermen, says the same thing.

Posey’s 2012 intervention threatened to become a campaign issue when his then Democratic opponent, Corry Westbook, wrote in an April 27 Facebook post that Posey “sent his chief of staff from Washington, DC, to Vero Beach to successfully pressure the Fish and Wildlife to overturn its 2011 denial of the permit based on threats to manatees. The expansion even goes against the county’s own Manatee Protection Plan, despite 2013 being a record year for manatee deaths locally.”

Baker and Sykes are confirmed opponents of the county’s plans to dredge seagrass beds and fill mangrove swamps to open the way for larger boats at the Oslo Ramp, which is located in the midst of an aquatic preserve surrounded by critically important game-fish nurseries and manatee grazing areas. Westbrook was trying to take Posey’s seat before dropping out of the race after failing to meet a filing deadline.

Posey press secretary George Cecala said last year the congressman did not pressure federal or state agencies. Cecala didn’t deny a meeting took place, but said it was only to “facilitate communication” between agency and county officials, but a review of public documents lends credence to Baker’s assertion of interference in the regulatory process.

Throughout 2010 and 2011 USFWS, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency repeatedly denied the county’s applications for permits needed to proceed with the project on the grounds it violated Federal law and would cause environmental harm. Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission also weighed in against the plan.

MORE: http://www.veronews.com/32963_features/political-interference-alleged-in-oslo-boat-ramp-approval/article_bf510b94-e68d-11e3-bdb9-0017a43b2370.html

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Preserve nature and the historic use of the Oslo boat ramp

The President's Hoot, May 2014
by Richard H. Baker, Ph.D.
Pelican Island Audubon Society

Congratulations to Indian River County Commissioner Bob Solari for trying to prevent the waste of more tax dollars and protect the Indian River Lagoon. On January 27, 2014, Commissioner Solari proposed to fellow Commissioners tabling of the Oslo Boat Ramp Expansion project for three to five years. He reasoned “that the work on the Oslo Boat Ramp is using a lot of Staff time and County resources, which I believe can be better utilized doing something that we know will be positive for the Lagoon.” 
 


His proposal followed the January 18th Press Journal guest editorial by Robert L. Smith, “No justification for proposed Oslo boat ramp.” Smith compared the present unpaved parking with no facilities to the upgraded facilities located at Riverside Park six miles away, with a 75-ft.-wide boat ramp plus two 40 ft. long floating docks, 26 paved vehicle and trailer parking spaces, 118 additional parking spaces, bathrooms, picnic tables, drinking fountains, and an outdoor shower. Four additional boat ramps and 10 parking spaces are at nearby MacWilliam Park. 
 


According to Smith: “Too much time and money has been wasted over this proposed use of tax dollars in the last three years, and commissioners need to reject this proposal on the basis of overwhelming evidence of this as a redundant, unjustified and unnecessary expenditure” and “there had never been a report of a lack of boat launching space even on the most crowded holiday weekends.” ...

MORE: http://www.pelicanislandaudubon.org/Hoot_Archive/hoot_may_14.html

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Oslo Road boat ramp faces new challenge

VeroNews.com, April 11, 2014

The county’s controversial effort to expand the Oslo Road Boat Ramp ran into a new hurdle – the latest in a long series – when it was notified by the state that it “must obtain an updated cultural study to proceed with the proposed project.”

“The area near the boat ramp was looked at by the state field archeologist back when a countywide archeological survey was done in 1992,” says Indian River County Historian Ruth Stanbridge. “There were a couple or three sites [of potential historical significance] found down in that area.”

“Our consultant is reexamining a midden in close proximity to the road that we have known was there all along,” says Deputy County Attorney William K. DeBraal. “The consultant has finished the evaluation but hasn’t submitted the report to the Department of Historical Resources. Preliminarily, it doesn't look like there is much there. A midden is nothing more than a rubbish heap, old shells and garbage.”

But the presence of midden often means Ais Indians lived nearby, and the state wants to make sure paving Oslo Road, filling mangrove wetlands for a parking lot and other related work doesn’t disturb the remains of a Native American village.

“The archeologist recorded a village site on the barrier island opposite there, and when there is a village on the island, there is usually a summer site on the mainland,” says Stanbridge. “The archeologist thought the site around Oslo might have been a summer village.”

The historical hold-up is just the latest in a long series of difficulties the county has run into since 2009, when it submitted an application to widen and pave Oslo Road east of U.S. 1, dredge and fill three acres of mangrove wetlands, build new docks, and dredge a channel connecting the boat ramp to the intercoastal waterway.

Over the next four years, the county’s plan was rejected by every applicable state and federal agency and opposed by a wide range of environmental organizations.

Pelican Island Audubon Society, Indian Riverkeeper Marty Baum, Marine Resources Council, the Sierra Club, Save the Manatee Club and the Coastal Conservation Association, among others, say the proposed “improvements” will disrupt a phenomenally important game fish nursery, endanger manatees and damage sea grass in one of the few areas where it still thrives in Indian River county.

They point out the ramp is located within the boundaries of a state aquatic preserve on property the county bought through the Florida Communities Trust Program primarily for conservation and say it makes no sense to invite increased boat traffic and bigger boats in such an ecologically sensitive area – especially since the existing ramp infrastructure is in good condition and is well-used by small boat owners.

Up until last summer the project met a stone wall of resistance from permitting agencies that concurred with findings of environmental harm, but the county has been dogged in its efforts, bringing political pressure to bear on the agencies and repeatedly reducing the size of the project to win approval.

In its current iteration, the planned construction would impact 1.41 acres of wetlands, expand and pave the parking area near the ramp and the section of Oslo Road leading to the ramp, extend docks further out into seagrass beds and dredge part of the channel.

After hearing from Congressman Bill Posey’s office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife approved the latest version of the plan in April. St. Johns River Water Management followed suit in mid-August, announcing its intent to permit the project.

Pelican Island Audubon and Vero Beach ecologist Dr. David Cox immediately filed a petition for administrative review, a process in which an administrative law judge reviews the matter and rules whether the project is legal and in the public interest.

A hearing was set for February, but then the state said it wanted an archeological review and the hearing was postponed until May 6….

MORE: http://www.veronews.com/news/indian_river_county/lagoon/oslo-road-boat-ramp-faces-new-challenge/article_b8711214-c195-11e3-88dd-0017a43b2370.html

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Top lagoon scientist opposes Oslo Road boat ramp

VeroNews.com, Dec. 10, 2013

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — The biggest ecological controversy in Indian River County at the moment is the dispute about whether to expand the Oslo Road Boat Ramp, and at today’s County Commission meeting Dr. Grant Gilmore, the area’s top expert on fish in the lagoon, reiterated his opposition to the project.

Gilmore said the mainland shore of the lagoon adjacent to the existing well-used boat ramp is unique in being a critical nursery for four kinds of game fish: spotted sea trout, red drum, snook and tarpon.

“In more than 40 years of studying fish populations in the lagoon I have never seen another locale where all four species develop,” Gilmore told commissioners.

He said the importance of the area to local and regional fish populations has increased over the past several years as the lagoon’s ecology has collapsed to the north, with massive seagrass, fish and marine mammal losses.

“Our valuable fisheries have been experiencing declines due to loss of habit and other causes and I encourage the use of the Oslo Ramp area for conservation, not development,” said Gilmore, who was a founding scientist at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute and today is Senior Scientist at Estuarine, Coastal and Ocean Science, Inc.

The county has been pushing the boat ramp expansion for more than six years and has spent more than $1 million in taxpayer money to try and get the project going, despite widespread opposition. During the six years, it has been turned down by every applicable state and federal agency on environmental grounds. In response, it has repeatedly scaled down and otherwise modified the project, without ever giving up on the idea.

St. John’ River Water Management District finally approved the project in late summer, but Pelican Island Audubon Society and Vero Beach Ecologist Dr. David Cox filed a petition to have the permit reviewed by an administrative law judge.

Gilmore, Cox, Pelican Island Audubon Society President Dr. Richard Baker, a University of Florida Biology Professor Emeritus who has worked near the boat ramp for decades, and numerous other marine biologists and conservation organizations are adamant expanding the boat ramp will damage fish nurseries and threaten marine mammals and the county’s remaining seagrass beds….

MORE: http://www.veronews.com/news/indian_river_county/government/top-lagoon-scientist-opposes-oslo-road-boat-ramp-expansion/article_08b5ef9a-61cb-11e3-ad41-001a4bcf6878.html

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COMPILED by Pelican Island Audubon Society and Team SCPA

 

Last modified on Friday, 13 June 2014 14:54
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