Reef Rescue calls for a halt to construction until contractor complies with environmental permit.
In spite of daily violations of the FDEP water quality monitoring permit, State regulators are allowing the Juno Beach renourishment project to continue uninterrupted. The permit, issued by the FDEP, requires the contractor to meet very specific compliance standards for the monitoring of project generated silt (turbidity). Standards incorporated into the project permit that are designed to safeguard the coral reefs in the vicinity of the beach renourishment construction.
On every single day of the Juno renourishment project, which began on December 21, Palm Beach County Reef Rescue has documented permit noncompliance for turbidity monitoring. “We have been emailing the permittee (Palm Beach County Environmental Resource Management), FDEP regulators and Palm Beach County Commissioners on nearly a daily basis detailing the violations”, said Ed Tichenor, Reef Rescue’s director.
Silt plumes over the reefs were reported by scuba diving charter boats almost as soon as work on the project began. On December 22, dive operators found underwater visibility of less than five feet at the popular dive spot “Shark Canyon”, located offshore of the construction site. “Shark Canyon” is an important ecotourism dive destination and one of the few places left in Florida were divers can be almost guaranteed of seeing Caribbean Reef Sharks. “We’ve had to avoid this location since the Juno project began” said Captain Van Blakeman owner of the scuba diving charter boat Narcosis. “Divers will not pay to go in the water if they can’t see anything and the near zero underwater visibility makes diving with sharks potentially dangerous. Captain Van also cautioned beachgoers and surfers to stay out of the water if silt plumes are present along the shoreline.”
Shark Canyon, Photo by: Chris Doherty from Narcosis website
On January 4, Reef Rescue sent a report to the FDEP in Tallahassee listing 18 permit violations that occurred during the first six days of the project. In addition, to the permit noncompliance episodes listed in the Reef Rescue report, the County (permittee) has failed to submit the required water quality monitoring reports to the FDEP within the timeframe mandated by the permit. In a January 4, email accompanying the report of noncompliance Reef Rescue requested the FDEP “take timely and appropriate enforcement actions regarding permit noncompliance and require a cessation of dredging activity until such time as the permittee and contractor can demonstrate a full understanding and willingness to comply with permit water quality monitoring requirements.”
“Unfortunately, this disregard for permit compliance seems to be business as usual for Palm Beach County beach projects, said Ed Tichenor. Nearly identical turbidity noncompliance issues were documented by Reef Rescue during the 2008 Boynton Beach (South Lake Worth) Inlet Maintenance Project (0117708-00 1-JC) and the 2005 Ocean Ridge Beach Nourishment Project (0244200-001-JC). It appears the contractors do not feel compelled to adhere to permit water quality requirements, knowing full well no enforcement action will be taken that could potentially interfere with the projects.
Reef Rescue is not opposed to beach renourishment projects; we believe the project permits issued by the State are adequately written to safeguard the nearby coral reefs. But when the safeguards are ignored it is the responsibility of the FDEP to step in and stop these projects until the contractors can demonstrate an understanding and willingness to comply with the permit requirements.”
Due to the recent Arctic cold front and intolerable diving conditions the impact to the reefs in the vicinity of the project have not been assessed by Reef Rescue volunteer divers.
|SCORE CARD – JOB PERFORMANCE REVIEW|
|Ocean Ridge beach renourishment 2005||PBCERM/Dan Bates||Turbidity violations|
|Lantana Dune Restoration 2008||PBCERM/Dan Bates||Turbidity violations|
|Boynton Beach Inlet dredge 2008||PBCERM/Dan Bates||Turbidity violations|
|Juno beach renourishment 2010||PBCERM/Dan Bates||Turbidity violations|
|The above is a listing of PBC projects and does not address impacts from the Town of Palm Beach renourishment projects. See: https://reefrescue.wordpress.com/2009/12/20/the-town-of-palm-beach-may-have-to-pay-millions-for-reef-damage/|
Shark Canyon (before project) video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tGMuzKndVgo
Juno Beach renourishment activity video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9DxRRgboFO0
Reef Rescue Juno project report of noncompliance: http://www.scribd.com/doc/25048144
Palm Beach Post: Lantana dune project: http://blogs.palmbeachpost.com/seeinggreen/2008/02/14/what-a-beach/
Palm Beach Post: Ocean Ridge project: http://www.scribd.com/doc/25050827
Florida Sportsman: Ocean Ridge project: http://www.floridasportsman.com/casts/051202e/index.html