Title: Isolated Wetlands Amendment Part IV, Chapter 373: Letter from Breedlove, Dennis and Associates Inc. Enviromental Consultants
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 Material Information
Title: Isolated Wetlands Amendment Part IV, Chapter 373: Letter from Breedlove, Dennis and Associates Inc. Enviromental Consultants
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Language: English
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Spatial Coverage: North America -- United States of America -- Florida
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Abstract: Isolated Wetlands Amendment Part IV, Chapter 373: Letter from Breedlove, Dennis and Associates Inc. Enviromental Consultants, May 8, 1986
General Note: Box 7, Folder 1 ( Vail Conference 1987 - 1987 ), Item 34
Funding: Digitized by the Legal Technology Institute in the Levin College of Law at the University of Florida.
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Bibliographic ID: WL00000641
Volume ID: VID00001
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May 8, 1986


BY BAND DELIVERY THIS DATE


Honorable Herbert F. Morgan
Florida House of Representatives
Room 417
The Capitol Building
Tallahassee, Florida 32301

Re: Isolated Wetlands Amendment
Part IV, Chapter 373

Dear Representative Morgan:

Following our meeting on Tuesday, April 19, 1986,
Breedlove, Dennis & Associates, Inc. ("BDA"), has evaluated fur-
ther the appropriateness of establishing a threshold for reviews
by the Water Management Districts ("Districts") in their permit-
ting of surface water management systems (pursuant to Part IV,
Chapter 373, Florida Statutes) of isolated wetlands based on fish
and wildlife and their habitat impacts. As a result of this
further review, BDA feels that clarification of several of the
issues raised at that meeting may be helpful in your analysis of
the proposed amendment to Section 373.403, Florida Statutes
("Amendment"). The intent of the proposed Amendment would be to
establish a threshold for fish and wildlife permitting reviews by
the Districts in isolated wetlands located outside the dredge and
fill jurisdiction of the Florida Department of Environmental
Regulation ("Department").

I. WETLAND SIZE DISTRIBUTION

An inaccurate statement was made by Mr. David Gluckman
during the meeting on Tuesday when he said that "most
wetlands in Florida are less than 25 acres in size" and
that consequently the proposed Amendment would have "great




Breedlove, Dennis &Associates Inc.
Environmental Consultants
Please reply% to.
2412 Forsyth Road / Orlando,. Florida 3287 / (305 677-18tF2









Honorable Herbert F. Morgan May 8, 1986
Page 2


impact on the wetlands of Florida." In two major wetland
inve stories conducted by BDA (one of a 100,000+ acre tract
in North Florida and another of a 143,000+ acre tract in
Central Florida), the results showed that there is a great-
er percentage of smaller wetland units than larger wetland
units, but the major percentage of the wetland acreage is
located in larger wetland units. (See attached Size class
Distributions of North and Central Florida Wetlands.)

In the North Florida study, 92% of the 1,753 wetland units
inventoried were less than 25 acres in size, but contained
only 23% of the 25,238 total wetland acres. Seventy-seven
percent of the total acres were found in wetland units
greater than 25 acres in size. In this same study, onl
14% of the total wetland acreage was in wetland units less
than ten acres in size.

The Central Florida study demonstrated similar findings.
Ninety-one percent of the 1,624 wetland units were less
than 25 acres in size. However, this 91% contained only
23% of the 28,828 acres of wetlands on the 143,000+ acre
study area. Seventy-seven percent of the wetland acreage
occurred in wetland units greater than 25 acres in size.
The wetland units less than 10 acres in size comprised 81%
of the total wetland units, but contained only 14% of the
total wetland acreage. The wetlands size distribution
results of these two large inventories by BDA are similar
to results of the wetland mapping studies conducted by the
University of Florida, Center for Wetlands.

These inventories by BDA considered only wetland size and
acreage, and did not consider "connectedness." Many of the
smaller wetlands in the BDA North and Central Florida
studies are connected to offsite wetlands and therefore
would be within the Department's dredge and fill permitting
jurisdiction. These "connected wetlands" would be reviewed
by the District for fish and wildlife impacts and not
excluded by the proposed Amendment. Based on these wetland
size distribution studies, BDA's position is that far less
than 14% of the total wetland acreage in Florida are 10
acres in size or smaller and would be classified as
"isolated" under the proposed Amendment.









3. V3


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Honorable Herbert F. Morgan May 8, 1986
Page 3


II. ANALYSIS OF CUMULATIVE POST-DEVELOPMENT IMPACTS
Analysis of cumulative impacts is an important element of
environmental impact review. Typically, pre and post-
development values are compared. However, in comparing the
post-development fish and wildlife values of isolated
wetlands, the change in land use of the surrounding uplands
must be considered along with the intrinsic value of the
isolated wetlands.

These values may decrease greatly, depending upon the
intensity of development of the surrounding uplands. For
instance, a 1,000 acre tract in an undeveloped and
"natural" condition with interspersed isolated wetlands
would have a given amount of habitat value based on the
functional relationship between the available uplands and
the isolated wetland habitat. When the site is developed
and the upland areas are converted into residential, com-
mercial or industrial development, the value of the pre-
served but isolated wetlands, in terms of habitat for
wildlife species, is greatly diminished. Therefore, the
cumulative impact of the loss of the isolated wetland must
be based on the post-development conditions and the greatly
diminished fish and wildlife values.

Further, it is well recognized in the scientific community
that the further upstream in a watershed the wetland
occurs, the lower its intrinsic value to the watershed's
ecosystem, (i.e., salt marshes and floodplain swamps are
recognized to be more valuable than isolated plateau
wetland depressions). This concept has been verified in
the study conducted by Brown at the University of Florida
on cypress wetlands in Florida. Therefore, the isolated
wetlands that would be subject to the proposed Amendment
are low in overall wetland value.

In assessing the potential impacts of the proposed Amend-
ment, considering the low percentage of wetland acreage
involved, the low intrinsic habitat value of isolated
wetlands, and the diminished habitat value due to the post-
development land use, the cumulative impact on fish and
wildlife values would appear to be de minimus. Further,
the proposed Amendment does not restrict the Districts'
review of water quality, quantity, recharge, or other water
resources, and should not be applicable where threatened
and endangered species inhabit the isolated wetlands.




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Honorable Herbert F. Morgan May 8, 1986
Page 4


III. CLARIFICATION OF THE HABITAT THRESHOLD
Wildlife species must be evaluated in terms of whether
their life requisites or "habitat" requirements for breed-
ing, feeding, nesting and resting can be or are met. Small
isolated wetlands generally do not contain the diversity
and mixture of habitat components necessary to satisfy the
life requisites of many vertebrate species of wildlife. If
all the life requisites of a particular species are not
met, then the species cannot exist. Highly mobile species
may utilize isolated wetlands, but fragmentation of wetland
habitat due to interspersion with development of the sur-
rounding uplands reduces overall habitat potential. For
example, in the U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service's Habitat
Evaluation Procedures models for the wood duck, habitat
value is considered to be "nil" if a wetland is located
more than two miles from an aquatic travel lane. Similar-
ly, great blue herons must have an 825-foot disturbance-
free zone around potential nest sites before they will
establish a heronry.
The minimum size wetland that would be considered "habi-
tat", following typical fragmentation and isolation by
upland development often precludes utilization by all
except the most ubiquitous generalist species of wildlife.
These types of "generalist species" (i.e., opossum, arma-
dillos, cardinals, etc.) are not generally recognized as
appropriate for resource management. In considering the
protection of important wildlife species, the "minimum
habitat management unit" concept is generally recognized by
the scientific community. When managing for a suite of
species, 80 acres is often cited as a "minimum habitat
management unit" necessary for maintenance of genetically
viable populations of all but the most wide-range species.
Certainly, small isolated wetland pockets less than 25
acres in size surrounded by intense upland development
cannot appropriately be considered valuable fish and wild-
life habitat.

IV. FEDERAL THRESHOLDS PRECEDENCE FOR PERMITTING REVIEW

The United States Department of Army, Corps of Engineers
("ACOE") administers a dredge and fill permitting program
in Florida for wetlands based on their water quality, water





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Honorable Herbert F. Morgan May 8, 1986
Page 5


quantity, recharge, as well as fish and wildlife values.
There is a long-standing agency policy established by the
ACOE that isolated wetlands are not even regulated unless
the wetland has an importance (nexus) to interstate com-
merce. Further, in "connected" wetlands of 10 acres or
less within 'headwater areas (i.e., above the five cubic
feet per second point of flow in the watershed calculated
on a mean annual basis), the ACOE utilizes only an
abbreviated review procedure for issuance of permits on a
,JCaionwide basis.

Individual permitting of "connected" wetlands within the
headwaters is required by the ACOE only if the activity
will result in filling of greater than ten acres of
wetlands. In connected wetlands within headwaters, any
filling of less than one acre is automatically permitting
without any ACOE review. Therefore, based on over a decade
of experience by the ACOE with its wetlands regulatory
program, isolated wetlands and even "connected" wetlands
less than ten acres in size in the headwaters are permitted
through an abbreviated procedure on a nationwide basis.
Further, this abbreviated permitting review by the ACOE
relates to all wetland functions, not just fish and
wildlife considerations.


V. CONCLUSION

In summary, BDA would submit the following conclusions con-
cerning the proposed Amendment:

1. The Amendment would minimize the permitting problems
resulting from the fish and wildlife reviews by the
Districts in small isolated wetland areas.

2. Wetland inventories conducted by BDA indicate that 86%
of all wetland acreage occurs in wetlands over ten
acres in size.

3. When considering cumulative impacts, the low value of
small isolated wetlands for fish and wildlife habitat
and the post-development conditions of the surrounding
uplands argue that the proposed Amendment will have a
de minimus cumulative impact on fish and wildlife and
their habitat.


T Rh e 17 Tt a t









Honorable Herbert F. Morgan May 8, 1986
Page 6


4. It is admittedly difficult to establish an exact
threshold acreage for fish and wildlife habitat review
purposes. However, studies utilizing the "minimum
habitat management unit" concept indicate that an
80-acre threshold is appropriate for reviewing fish and
wildlife habitat values.

5. A very conservative approach could be to establish a
10-acre threshold in the proposed Amendment. This
would be consistent with the ACOE abbreviated wetlands
permitting procedures.

6. Further clarification should probably be added that the
10-acre isolated wetland threshold would not apply in
any isolated wetland inhabited by a species determined
to be threatened or endangered.

7. Finally, the proposed Amendment would have no impact on
wetlands within the dredge and fill permitting juris-
diction of the Department, nor would it preclude the
Districts from considering water quality, quantity,
recharge or other impacts to the water resource.

We appreciate the opportunity of meeting with you to
discuss these very important issues. If we may be of further
assistance, or provide additional information relating to this
matter, we trust you will not hesitate to contact our firm.
Sincerely,


W. Michael Dennis, Ph.D.
Vice President
WMD/jk

cc: Representative James G. Ward
J. Michael Huey, Esq.
J. D. Boone Kuersteiner, Esq.











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