Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for Seagrass Restoration in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary


The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is a federal agency with a goal is to keep citizens informed of the ever changing environment around them. They strive to be leaders in environmental research and use cutting edge technology to do so. The NOAA has a vision of “an informed society that uses a comprehensive understanding of the role of the oceans, coasts, and atmosphere in the global ecosystem to make the best social and economic decisions.” (Lubchenco)

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FLDEP) is the lead agency in the state government in charge of environmental management. They protect Florida’s air, water, and land by enforcing the environmental laws, overseeing state parks, overseeing beach renourishments, managing hazardous waste cleanups, and many more projects. Their mission is concise and to the point: “More Protection, Less Process.” (DEP)

Table of Contents

The table of contents is clear and straight to the point. Each section is divided into chapters, which is visually represented by the bold font. Underneath the chapter, are subheadings that are indented for a more aesthetically pleasing look. This also make sections of the statement easier to find. Next to each section are titles describing what is talked about and a page number for east access to the information. Included in the table of contents is a list of all the appendices and what is included in them.

The page following the Table of Contents is a useful list of acronyms. Science can sometimes be a foreign language to the average layman. Even some people familiar with environmental science will not remember every single acronym for each term or agency so including this list is an idealistic solution to make sure everyone is on the same page.

Purpose and Need for Action

The purpose and need for proposed action sections are clear and well written. The need for proposed action could have been more detailed in explaining why the seagrass beds need human support in restoration instead of healing naturally. A map is included to give the reader visual reference of what areas are being discussed in the statement. Although the map is included, they could have done a better job with the graphics. I feel like the font is too small to read. The key using different shapes and textures to point out certain areas is also a great idea, just executed poorly. The map is so small, that the different shapes and textures seem to blend together in some places, giving the reader no idea what those areas are used for. If they would have just made the map a full page, I think the outcome would have been better.

The seagrass functions and ecological importance were properly described from all aspects of the environment including background information of the species in that area. They included a detailed drawing of the species which was a nice touch. It goes on to explain the type of restoration plan that they were planning on using and reasons why the seagrass needs to be restored. They quote federal documents to prove that what they are trying to do complies with regulations set forth by the federal government.

Seagrass Restoration Alternatives
This section is imperative to include in the EIS. Without this section the EIS will be returned until this information is included. NEPA guidelines also require that agencies discuss the alternative of no action, which they go over in great detail in this paper. I liked the table they used to summarize the explanations. It is easy to read and outlines each definition clearly for the reader. The paper also lists seagrass transplants, bird stakes, fertilizer spikes, sediment fill, sediment tubes, berm redistribution, sod replacement and exclusion cages.

In the seagrass transplanting discussion, they give facts and data on the success rate of previous transplants. They talk about ways to do the transplant while monitoring it. The discussion of this alternative was very complete and seemed liked an alternative that could work well for them.

The next alternative discussed is bird stakes. This option is mentioned to increase the amount of nutrients the grasses have available to them. Bird stakes are similar designs as fertilizer stakes. The only problem with fertilizer spikes are that they need to be replaced often. Both options are discussed and they also mention the fact that both alternatives may effect vessel navigation.

The options of sediment fill and sediment tubes are also brought up. Both alternatives help stabilize and re-grow seagrass beds.

Berm redistribution and sod replacement are also discussed and ways that they would help the seagrass beds examined.

Lastly, they talked about exclusion cages to protect the beds. This would be important especially near coral reefs.

The authors of this section did a really good job looking at the problem from all angles and presenting all of the alternatives. This is an example of how alternatives should be presented in an EIS. There was no bias, they covered all their options, not just the favored alternatives.

Proposed Actions

The proposed action(s) was discussed and included a few of the options in the alternatives section. A table summarized the alternatives available and the conditions in which they would be chosen. This was a great way to present what the proposed actions are because it summarizes it in a visual way. More people are likely to read and comprehend a table rather than reading the text.
Affected Environment

There are a couple of paragraphs explaining the areas that are potentially affected by the seagrass restoration projects. They also include another map was given to show the benthic habitat types of the area. A chart is included as well that lists the areas, description and dominant transport processes, and the benthic communities. It then goes on to describe the productivity, diversity, and versatility of the seagrass beds. Then they explain the existing land use and give a chart that displays the different types of land use in Monroe County by acreage, and split it into lower, middle, and upper keys. There is then an in depth discussion of the climate and air quality of the keys. A description of the noise that may be heard by tools and machines during the restoration process is also discussed. Geology, water quality, and physical parameters are also discussed to give a comprehensive and detailed picture of the study area. They did a really good job describing the current environment and how the project could possibly change it.

Biological Resources
A meticulous description of the seagrass species in the area, the benthic organisms, and the fish and invertebrate populations is given. Another table is used, this time to show the family name, common name of fishes collected bt the bottom and surface trawling in Florida Bay. Endangered and threatened species in the area are discussed as well. This is important to discuss after the Endangered Species Act was passed. A chart is inserted after the text to show the reader which species are found in the seagrass habitats within the FKNMS. Included in the chart is the approximate time the species inhabit the seagrass habitats.. The data discussed in this section is crucial in understanding the biological resources of the area but the tables could have been a little more detailed. I like the idea of using a table but they could have included more information and more accurate time periods that the species inhabit the area. Simply listing months are inaccurate because there is no way the species come and go at exactly the beginning and end of each month. If they were averaging time, they should have used actual dates instead of whole months. To use a more visual method, perhaps a graph could have been used to show the frequency of occurrence of endangered and threatened species. It was just a thought, but visual references usually go over well with most people.

Cultural Resources

A brief background of the history of the area is given. There is a analysis on the possibility of pre-historic remains, Native American remains, and historic remains which is important. If there were historical remains found in the area, the project could be stopped if it affects the ruins. Overlay maps are included showing injury sites and historic remains sites. In instances where there is overlap, archaeologist will survey the area and determine whether the restoration should occur. Since Florida had such a diverse cultural history, it is appropriate that these precautions are implemented. It would be disastrous to ruin such rich history on the restorations process.

Hazardous and Toxic Substances

This section is very short due to the fact that they do not plan on encountering any toxic or hazardous substances. They basically just define what typically is considered hazardous and toxic and explain that there are no superfund sites in Monroe County, FL making it even more unlikely to come in contact with any harmful toxins.

Socioeconomic and Quality of Life

A basic description of the region of influence, economic activity, and demographics of the area are discussed. Tables are included summarizing employment by major sectors and demographics of Monroe County. Most of the people living in Monroe County rated their quality of life as good or excellent, less than five percent rated it as poor. It was also found that those that participated in outdoor activities rated their quality of life higher than those that did not. It was relevant to include all of these studies in the EIS because the people that live in the area, especially those that participate in outdoor activities, will be affected by the restoration of the seagrass beds.

Environmental and Socioeconomic Consequences

The potential environmental and socioeconomic consequences of the restoration alternatives that were mentioned earlier are discussed in this section. Both the direct and indirect effects of each alternative presented in the document are discussed with respect to thirteen resource categories. For five of these categories, both the direct and indirect effects are identical for all ten restoration actions. An in depth evaluation is given for each of the areas of interest that would have either a direct or indirect affect on either the environment or socioeconomic. Pros and cons were also given for each alternative. A special sub-section was set-up to list the preferred alternatives. The three that were preferred were then described. Reasons were given as to why they are preferred over the other methods. The three reasons were numbered and indented which made it easier to read. This is very helpful to the reader and confirms which methods are favored.

The Seagrass Regional Restoration Plan

The purpose and all details of the proposed plan are expressed in this section. They propose that selecting priority areas would be best. To further display where the funds for the restoration will be going, a map of the Florida Bay is included. The exact method of statistical analysis is also given. Anyone who would like to work out the data for themselves will have the formulas and instruction that were used. That is important to include so the reviewer knows that the data is legitimate. Tables showing the areas of the upper, middle, and lower keys with the most injured sea grasses are also shown to restate the point of which areas are considered priorities and therefore will receive the most funding. The criteria used to evaluate priority areas of sea grass restoration is also given here to reiterate what had been shown earlier in maps and tables. The upper, middle and lower keys are then ranked in a table showing which criteria they do and do not meet. A summary of the monitoring plan is also restated here to remind the reader of information given in previous sections. This is useful because most people won’t read the entire thing, and If they do, they probably won’t remember every little detail. Reiterating the important information is a way to reach a bigger audience of readers. A list of sea grass experts involved during the research of this EIS is listed at the end of the section to show that this plan was written with the professional knowledge and experience of multiple experts in the area. Everything was well presented. Earlier sections if the paper were referenced to remind the reviewer of what was important that was previously read. The constant repetition of the criteria put reiterated in a variety forms was a good tactic because the repetition makes the criteria easier to remember and understand. The list of experts contacted should have been left off of this section and been added as a part of the references section at the end.

Relationship to Other Laws and Programs

This section lists all of the acts, laws, programs, agencies and organizations that the seagrass restoration plan uses, references, or has any relation to. This is done in a self explanatory manner by listing the act, program, or organization and the relationship that the restoration plan has with it. This makes it easy to reference it in the future.

List of Preparers

The list of preparers is listed in descending alphabetical order by last name which makes the list similar to a phonebook. This format makes it easier for the reviewer to find the information to contact specific people in the future. The list also includes the department or program that the person works for which is also a great tool to use to contact specific people. The only thing I would suggest changing would be to put the last name in the front. Even though it is in alphabetical order by last name, they list the first name first which is more difficult to see the order. They should have listed it with the last name first, and comma, then the first name.

References

This statement had ample references that were in the appropriate format for both the full reference and the in-text citations. This section isn’t as crucial to the EIS, but based on how well the section was organized and formatted, it proves that a lot research went into the preparing of the EIS and that the writers cared enough to place things in the correct format.
Conclusion
This was an extremely well put together and prepared impact statement. Despite several minor improvements that could have been made, everything was presented in a clear, concise, and detailed manner. The correct format was followed. The minor improvements could be considered opinion by most. It was set-up to allow the reviewer to easily follow the EIS using visually receptive techniques such as charts, figures, and indentation. Finding minimal errors was rare in the 70’s. This EIS is a prime example of how far the documents have come over the past several decades.

Sources

Lubchenco, Dr. Jane. "About NOAA." NOAA. 2009. NOAA. 1 Apr. 2009 .

"About DEP." DEP. 2009. NOAA. 1 Apr. 2009 .

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