Audubon staff have finished reviewing the oil spill restoration projects recently proposed for funding through Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) Early Restoration Round 3.
We have grave concerns that Florida projects intended to help restore the Gulf will in fact harm imperiled birds and their habitat.
Projects that qualify as “restoration” under NRDA do not just remedy harm done to the Gulf’s ecology—they may also address harm done to the Gulf economy and recreational use of the Gulf’s natural resources. Projects proposed in this round are incredibly diverse, including fishing piers, dune crossovers and parking lots, artificial reefs, a sport fish hatchery, seagrass, oyster and scallop restorations, and more.
Some Gulf “Restoration” Projects Will Harm Wildlife and Habitat as Proposed
Economic and recreational access “restoration” are both worthy goals, however, it’s easy to imagine some projects in these sectors could be incompatible with ecological restoration—and run counter to some of our state’s highest conservation priorities. Unfortunately, this has come to pass in this round of projects.
One example of a proposed project that will impact imperiled species:
The Navarre Beach Park Gulfside Walkover Complex project proposes to build a parking lot and dune crossover on top of the last part of the beach at this park where state Threatened Least Terns and Snowy Plovers nest.
- This small park already has ample parking, two dune crossovers, and is immediately adjacent to another major public beach access.
- This kind of destruction of imperiled species habitat will likely require a state Incidental Take Permit from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission—something we never thought would be requested for a “restoration project.”
- This project funding (NRDA Round 3) would pay to destroy habitat at this site. NRDA Round 2 is currently funding Audubon to improve the nesting success of these rare and declining birds at this very site.
No Staffing, Law Enforcement or Maintenance Support Included to Protect Resource and Public Safety
Further, many of the projects intended to radically increase public use at coastal sites do not have commensurate funding for increased park staffing, law enforcement, or maintenance to ensure that the resource and public safety are protected and the public’s investment in this new infrastructure will be maintained. While NRDA may not be able to fund this kind of staffing, there has been no commitment to fund it from other state sources either. This will come at the expense of resources and public safety.
Your Voice Is Needed: Attend a Public Hearing in Pensacola and/or Panama City:
January 28, 6PM
Pensacola Bay Center
201 E. Gregory St.
Pensacola, FL 32502
January 29, 6PM
Hilton Garden Inn
1101 US Highway 231
Panama City, FL 32405
Can’t make the hearing in person? Email your comments to the Trustees:
- Projects like the Navarre Beach Gulfside Walkover Complex cannot go forward as proposed. No Gulf Restoration project should be allowed to destroy habitat. First the spill harmed the birds, then the spill response. Restoration should help the birds, not harm them yet again.
- Projects designed to increase public use must have additional staffing, law enforcement and maintenance, or result in unintended impacts to natural resources and public safety.
- For truly meaningful public comment, Florida should have a fact sheet for each project to help citizens review project locations, scopes, and scales.
If you plan to join Audubon at one of the public hearings, please send us an email to let us know you will be attending: firstname.lastname@example.org.