The Army Corps of Engineers recently released a draft Environmental Impact statement (DEIS) that is meant to address the potential impacts of deepening the channel to 47 feet, widening it by as much as 300 feet and removing as much as 18 million cubic yards of material by dredging and blasting the river bottom.
The lower St. Johns River is home to a number of imperiled species such as manatees, sea turtles, and even right whales, and is connected to thousands of acres of critical marshland that support untold numbers of birds. Because the study was “fast tracked” under the Federal “We Can’t Wait” economic initiative, the Corps has shortened the environmental study by 14 months and relied almost exclusively on estimates of impacts generated by computer modeling.
As a result, the DEIS report is lacking in important detail and depth of analysis, and many important studies have not been completed at all. Even so, the Corps has set October 24 as the deadline for comments.
Audubon has submitted comments expressing our concern that if this project moves forward it may have lasting impacts on the largest and most diverse saltwater marsh system on the east coast of Florida, as well as on freshwater marshes and forested wetlands in the impact zone. For the sake of the river, its wetlands, and the abundant wildlife that depend on them, we need to take the time to get this right. We hope that the Corps will extend its project timeline and the opportunity for comment.
In the meantime, you may submit your comments regarding the draft EIS to Paul Stodola with the Army Corps of Engineers at (904) 232-3271 or by email to Paul.E.Stodola@usace.army.mil.