2045 LRTP Environmental Consultation Workshop

header graphicPurpose of Meeting

The Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, and Hernando/Citrus MPOs held 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

The meeting was 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

DRAFT 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 system-wide 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.

At the workshop, the following questions are being posed to workshop participants. Please consider these questions as you review them in relation to the transportation improvements shown and send any comments you have to yeha@plancom.org by Friday, July 5th, 2019. Thank you in advance for sharing your expertise with us. Please note these are working maps and will not be finalized until each MPO adopts their respective LRTPs in late 2019.

[Workshop Presentation]

[Attendee]

Questions:

  • What policies/programs/activities does your agency currently undertake to mitigate development impacts to the environment?
  • What limitations are there for each of these areas?
    • Is there no capacity remaining in mitigation banks?
    • Is there no consideration for new mitigation banks in the future?
    • Is there limited success with certain activities?
  • How should critical habitat considerations be addressed to protect wildlife?
  • Are you aware of any untapped opportunities to enhance environmental mitigation activities?

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

Regional 2045 Needs Plan

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 was 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.

Ecological Corridors

  • North Pasco (Starkey) to Crossbar Ecological Corridor

This Ecological Corridor follows the Pithlachascotee River and begins at the northern County line along the Masaryktown Canal to the Crossbar Ranch wellfield. Crews Lake Park lies approximately midway between the north Pasco and Crossbar wellfields and is included in the Ecological Corridor. Large portions of this corridor are not currently in public ownership. The overall distance between the public lands to be interconnected requires a width of 2,200 feet to provide functionality for this Ecological Corridor. The Corridor contains flatwoods, mesic hammocks, and forested wetlands associated with the Pithlachascotee floodplain, including the extremely dynamic hydrologic basin associated with Crews Lake, but also will preserve portions of the historic Sandhill communities as it approaches the Crossbar Ranch. The essential features are the flatwoods, mesic hammocks, forested wetlands, the Pithlachascotee floodplain and xeric uplands on either side of the Masaryktown Canal.

Boundaries: Being one thousand one hundred (1,100) feet on each side of the centerline of Pithlachascotee River and its associated wetlands, flatwoods and uplands, extending from the Starkey Wilderness Park easterly boundary to the Cross Bar Ranch westerly boundary, conceptually indicated on Exhibit 804-1 of this Section.

  • Crossbar to Connerton Ecological Corridor

The Conner Preserve, formerly known as the Connerton purchase, serves as the nexus for three of the seven Ecological Corridors. The Crossbar to Connerton connection is a 2,200-foot-wide corridor that will preserve a broad expanse of herbaceous marshes in the west central portion of the County. Much of the area encompassed by the Crossbar to Connerton Ecological Corridor is comprised of seasonally flooded sandhill and flatwoods marshes. The mosaic created by the presence of these marshes, flatwoods, and imbedded adjacent uplands provides for the preservation of seasonally flooded, mesic, and xeric habitats that will be used by a wide variety of wildlife. The essential features are the Sandhill, marsh and flatwood habitats which create a unique mix of diverse habitat types within the confines of this corridor.

Boundaries: Being one thousand one hundred (1,100) feet on each side of the centerline of the Category 1 wetlands, extending from the Conner Preserve northerly boundary to the Al Bar Portion of Crossbar Ranch southerly boundary, conceptually indicated on Exhibit 804-2 of this Section.

  • North Pasco (Starkey) to Connerton Ecological Corridor

Throughout much of its approximately four-mile course, this Ecological Corridor incorporates the forested wetland systems associated with Five Mile Creek. There is an existing large, open span undercrossing at the juncture with the Suncoast Parkway. An additional large mammal undercrossing is designed for this Corridors’ juncture with U.S. 41 providing connectivity with the Conner Preserve. Much of the western portion of this 2,200-foot-wide corridor is comprised of forested wetlands and the floodplain associated with Five Mile Creek. This corridor includes areas of historic flatwoods habitat that have been modified to agricultural and silvicultural use. The flatwoods communities can be restored as part of the preservation of this Corridor, but several areas of relic Sandhill also exist within the confines of the recommended Corridor boundaries enhancing its diversity and value as habitat. The essential features within the confines of the Ecological Corridor are the forested wetlands and floodplain associated with Five Mile Creek and the small, imbedded upland habitats within the limits of the Ecological Corridor boundary.

Boundaries: Being one thousand one hundred (1,100) feet on each side of the centerline of the Five Mile Creek wetlands and associated uplands, extending from the Starkey Wilderness Park easterly boundary to the Conner Preserve and Connerton Conservation Easement westerly boundaries, conceptually indicated on Exhibit 804-3 of this Section.

  • Cypress Creek to Connerton Ecological Corridor

The required 550 foot width of this Ecological Corridor is based on its relatively short distance between the Conner Preserve and the Cypress Creek Wellfield. The majority of this Corridor includes wetlands associated with Cypress Swamp that were historically associated with the mosaic of wetlands in the northeast corner of the Connerton Ranch. This Ecological Corridor crosses Ehren Cutoff (S.R. 583) and the planned design of an improved, realigned roadway in the future must incorporate a large mammal crossing to provide corridor continuity and connectivity from the Cypress Creek wellfield to the Conner Preserve. The essential features is establishing and preserving the connectivity between the Conner Preserve and the Cypress Creek Wellfield employing the wetlands and imbedded uplands at the nearest point between the two areas of public lands.

Boundaries: Being two hundred twenty five (225) feet on each side of the centerline of the Category 1 wetlands, extending from the Conner Preserve easterly boundary to the Cypress Creek Wellfield northwesterly boundary, conceptually indicated on Exhibit 804-4 of this Section.

  • Starkey to South Pasco Ecological Corridor

This Ecological Corridor extends south of the SWFWMD lands along South Branch, a tributary of the Anclote River, ultimately to the connection with Brooker Creek in Hillsborough County. Much of this Corridor has been impacted by development. Due to the urban nature of the connection south of the SWFWMD lands, and the relatively short distance of this Corridor, the required width is 1100 feet with a 550-foot-wide extension to the east for a necessary connection to the South Pasco wellfield. The essential features are the South Branch tributary, its associated floodplain and the wetlands, flatwoods and small upland areas within the confines of the Ecological Corridor.

Boundaries: Being five hundred fifty (550) feet on each side of the centerline of the South Branch and associated wetlands, flatwoods and uplands, including portions of the floodplain, extending from the Starkey Wilderness Park southerly boundary to the Pasco-Hillsborough County line northerly boundary and two hundred twenty five (225) feet on each side of the centerline of the South Branch tributary to the South Pasco Wellfield westerly boundary, conceptually indicated on Exhibit 804-5 of this Section.

  • Cypress Creek to Cypress Bridge Ecological Corridor

This relatively short Ecological Corridor is urban in nature but is essential to facilitate dispersal of wildlife through the surrounding altered landscape. This Corridor is vitally important to preserve habitat and connectivity through the urbanized “bottleneck” between the large conservation lands associated with Cabbage Swamp and Cypress Swamp and the conservation lands in Hillsborough County. The preservation and protection of this Corridor is very important because of the impacts associated with S.R. 54/Interstate 75 transportation corridor and associated development along its course. However, preservation of the remaining forested wetlands associated with Cypress Creek and its floodplain will provide a minimal sustainable area of valuable natural habitat. The essential features are the protection of the Cypress Creek channel and its associated floodplain as a designated Outstanding Florida Water; protection of the surface water resource; and preservation of the remaining forested wetlands within the defined Ecological Corridor boundaries.

Boundaries: Being two hundred seventy five (275) feet on each side of the centerline of Cypress Creek, and increasing to being five hundred fifty (550) feet on each side of the center line of Cypress Creek, extending from the Cypress Creek Wellfield southerly boundary to the Pasco-Hillsborough County boundary, conceptually indicated on Exhibit 804-6 of this Section.

  • Hillsborough River to Green Swamp Ecological Corridor

Extensive purchases by the SWFWMD have already taken place along the proposed Hillsborough River Ecological Corridor. Although C.R. 39 currently crosses the Hillsborough River, the protection of the river and its floodplain in this portion of the County has been prioritized by the SWFWMD. For the most part, this portion of the river is surrounded by agricultural uses, but continues to support a sufficiently wide forested floodplain throughout the Ecological Corridor. Because of the importance of the Hillsborough River surface water resource and the habitat value of, the remaining forested floodplain, the Ecological Corridor is established at a width of 2,200 feet. The essential features are the forested areas associated with the Hillsborough River floodplain, the 100 year floodplain and continuity with the existing SWFMD lands.

Boundaries: Being one thousand one hundred (1,100) feet on each side of the centerline of the wetlands and floodplains associated with the Hillsborough River, extending from the Pasco-Hillsborough County line northerly boundary to the Green Swamp westerly boundary, conceptually indicated on Exhibit 804-7 of this Section.

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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