2045 LRTP Environmental Consultation Workshop

header graphicPurpose of Meeting

The Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, and Hernando/Citrus MPOs are holding a regional workshop to discuss with Federal, State, and Tribal wildlife, land management and regulatory agencies potential environmental mitigation strategies to include as a part of the Long Range Transportation Plan updates. For transportation projects, the Long-Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) is required to consider potential environmental mitigation activities, ways in which environmental impact from transportation projects can be avoided, minimized, or mitigated. {23 CFR 450.324(f)(10)}

Event Page Link: http://events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/event?oeidk=a07eg9giy1e8d1bee88&llr=azeyaadab

Meeting Date/Information

The meeting will be held on Friday, June 21, 2019 from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM EDT at the Brooker Creek Preserve Environmental Education Center (3940 Keystone Rd, Tarpon Springs, FL 34688). Google Maps Link: https://goo.gl/maps/6svAoFHBeFRYDxm78

Contact Allison Yeh for questions and comments.
Plan Hillsborough
813-272-5940
yeha@plancom.org

Maps (Regional, Citrus/Hernando, Hillsborough, Pasco, Pinellas)

For highway projects, the LRTP must include a discussion on the types of potential environmental mitigation activities and potential areas to carry out these activities. The environmental mitigation discussion in the LRTP must be developed in consultation with Federal, State and Tribal wildlife, land management and regulatory agencies. The LRTP discussion can be at a systemwide level to identify areas where mitigation may be undertaken (perhaps illustrated on a map) and what kinds of mitigation strategies, policies and/or programs may be used when these environmental areas are affected by projects in the LRTP. This discussion in the LRTP would identify broader environmental mitigation needs and opportunities that individual transportation projects might take advantage of later. MPOs should be aware that the use of ETDM alone is not environmental mitigation. The use of ETDM is considered project screening and is not a systemwide review of the planning area. Documentation of the consultation with the relevant agencies should be maintained by the MPO. {23 CFR 450.324(f)(10)}. Participation in this workshop will satisfy these requirements for all four MPOs. [Please review and send comments on the Regional and County Maps to yeha@plancom.org by Friday July 5, 2019.]

West Central Florida Regional Maps

Regional Soils 

Regional Wetlands

Regional Wildlife Corridor

Regional Drainage Classification

Regional Natural Conservation Areas

Regional Seagrass

Regional Parks and Recreation

Citrus/Hernando

Soils

Wetlands

Wildlife Corridors

Drainage Basin

Natural Areas

Seagrass

Parks and Recreation

Hillsborough

Soils 

Wetlands 

Wildlife Corridors

Drainage Basin

ELAPP 

Seagrass 

Parks and Recreation

Pasco

Soils

Wetlands

Wildlife Corridor

Drainage Basins

ELAMP

Seagrass

Parks and Recreation

Pinellas

Soils

Wetlands

Drainage Basin

Seagrass

Parks and Recreation

Potential Mitigation Strategies

Mitigation Banks:

When land-based transportation projects in Florida are constructed on wetlands, mitigation banks are the main method of restoring lost natural habitat. Wetlands play a vital role for the Floridian ecosystem by filtering local water of pollutants and housing diverse arrays of wildlife exclusive to Florida (USDA). The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) require that measures be taken for projects to have the least amount of habitat impact on state and federally-protected species. Mitigation banks work to restore natural habitats by “[restoring, establishing, enhancing, or preserving]” aquatic areas in places nearby or outside of the impacted area (EPA, 2019). Wetland credits can be purchased from the mitigation bank. The number of credits purchased indicates the degree of ecological function that will be provided by the impacted environment and be restored with this mitigation strategy (EPA, 2019). Four options are available for mitigation banks:

  • Tampa Bay Mitigation Bank:

The Tampa Bay Mitigation Bank is currently the only bank with wetland credits available for purchase for projects in Hillsborough County. The 161-acre wetland creation site is located in southwestern Hillsborough County, along the headwaters of Andrews Creek, and provides wetland credits for roadway projects located in western coastal regions of Hillsborough County (within the Tampa Bay Basin). Estuarine and tidal forest credits are available for state and federal permitting requirements, and estuarine and freshwater credits are offered to satisfy County permitting criteria.  Although this mitigation bank currently has credits for sale, its future availability of credits for transportation projects will depend on the extent of future development within the bank’s service area.

  • North Tampa Mitigation Bank:

The North Tampa Mitigation Bank is a 161‐acre bank located in Temple Terrace, which will service projects located within the Hillsborough River Basin. This bank was permitted in November 2009 by the SWFWMD and is likely to have state wetland credits available for purchase soon; however, the availability of credits is expected to be limited. The USACE permit is currently pending, and it is unknown when federal wetland credits will be available for purchase at this mitigation bank.

  • Regional Offsite Mitigation Areas:

Regional Offsite Mitigation Areas (ROMAs) are similar to private mitigation banks but are sponsored by government entities to provide credits for associated government-funded projects. The Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners currently owns a 14,000‐acre tract of land located in northeastern Hillsborough County (Cone Ranch), which is currently targeted for ELAPP acquisition. Although a ROMA does not currently exist at Cone Ranch, it could potentially prove to be a suitable site for establishment of a ROMA, due to the strong need for land restoration and management activities at the site.

  • Senate Bill Mitigation:

“Senate Bill Mitigation” was established pursuant to Chapter 348 and 349 Florida Statutes (F.S.) and may be used for County roadway projects that are funded by FDOT.  This form of mitigation consists of providing funding to the SWFWMD for “…acquisition for preservation, restoration or enhancement, and the control of invasive and exotic plants in wetlands and other surface waters, to the extent that such activities comply with the mitigation requirements adopted” under Chapter 373 FS (The Florida Senate, 2018). “Senate Bill Mitigation” is currently available for state-funded roadway projects throughout Hillsborough County and is expected to remain a viable option for future projects; however, it cannot be used to offset adverse impacts to seagrass resulting from transportation projects.

Mitigation Bank Alternatives:

When these mitigation opportunities are not available for transportation projects, mitigation in the form of wetland habitat creation, restoration, enhancement, and/or preservation can be utilized to offset adverse wetland impacts resulting from transportation improvements in Hillsborough County.  This can be accomplished by designing a mitigation site(s) that provides the necessary wetland functions to replace the ecological value of the impacted wetland(s).  This method of mitigation may  consist of creating a new wetland within an upland  area, restoring a  degraded wetland to its historic condition (this may include removal of  undesirable plant species from the wetland), enhancing a wetland to a more  desirable condition (in order to provide a greater habitat value to wildlife), and preservation (establishment of a conservation easement over the  wetland to prevent future development). Due to the need for restoration, enhancement, and preservation of existing wetlands throughout Hillsborough County, these mitigation opportunities are expected to continue to remain available for transportation projects.

Wildlife Corridors:

For transportation projects that cut through natural areas, wildlife corridors are constructed under roads to preserve the natural functions of the surrounding environment. Animals such as the Florida Panther and Florida Black Bear rely on various terrains throughout Florida for feeding, shelter and reproduction (Florida Wildlife Corridor). Wildlife corridors allow for the continuation of these migration routes. Additionally, corridors allow for the continuation of Florida’s natural flow of freshwater and preserve the processes that allow us to have water resources (Florida Wildlife Corridor).

Critical Habitats:

For transportation projects to be further environmentally conscious, critical habitats must be preserved during the planning process to ensure the continuation of Florida’s endemic wildlife. Critical habitats are areas within a region that possess “physical or biological features that are essential to the conservation of endangered and threatened species and that may need special management or protection” (FWC, 2017). Protecting organisms native to Florida serves to support the state’s ecological processes; the vulnerable gopher tortoise creates burrow habitats that support over 350 different species of animals (FWS, 2019). Food webs are complex, interconnected systems. Reducing the availability of land for our wildlife will reduce our supply of natural resources. The preservation of these areas ultimately preserve our own lifestyles.

Links

https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detailfull/fl/newsroom/features/?cid=stelprdb1252222

https://www.epa.gov/cwa-404/mitigation-banks-under-cwa-section-404

https://www.flsenate.gov/Laws/Statutes/2018/373.4137

https://www.floridawildlifecorridor.org/

https://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/wildlife/gopher-tortoise/commensals/

https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/critical_habitat.pdf

https://www.citrusbocc.com/commserv/parksrec/parks/parks.jsp

https://www.discovercrystalriverfl.com/

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