|Federal Agency Updates
12th U.S. Coral Reef Task Force Meeting
December 1-4, 2004
This document contains progress reports provided by the following federal agencies:
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U.S. Department of Commerce
National Park Service, U.S. Department of Interior
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Department of Interior – Pacific Islands
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Department of Interior – South Florida and Caribbean
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
GENERAL UPDATE: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA),
U.S. Department of Commerce
For presentation by Deputy Assistant Secretary Timothy Keeney
at U.S. Coral Reef Task Force Meeting
December 2004, Miami, Florida
The following is intended to be a brief update for the Task Force of some key activities supported by NOAA in 2004.
First, NOAA organized the fourth year of marine debris cleanup in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. The effort retrieved 124 tons of debris from the NWHI (this exceeded our annual goal of 80 tons).
Over the past four years, the cleanup effort has removed over 420 tons of marine debris.
I’m pleased to report that by the end of 2005, 100% of major existing accumulations of debris will removed. The effort will then move into a maintenance phase to keep up with new debris.
Second, In Honolulu three months ago, NOAA commissioned the newest addition to the NOAA fleet, a ship called the HI'IALAKAI.
This state-of-the-art research vessel will conduct coral reef ecosystem mapping, monitoring, and assessment in support of the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program and the National Marine Sanctuary Program in Hawaii and the greater Pacific.
The vessel recently completed a very successful 35-day inaugural cruise to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.
The mission completed over 800 dives and 95 towed diver surveys.
This is an important addition to our ability to conduct coral reef science and monitoring efforts in the Pacific.
Coral Reef Conservation Fund
Third, NOAA invested $1.0 million with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to support grants from the Coral Reef Conservation Fund.
This funding supported 26 projects, leveraging $1.5 million in matching funds for a total investment of $2.5 million for on-the-ground protection of corals worldwide.
We hope to be able to continue this successful effort. Proposals for the next round of grants are due by the end of January.
Information on the Coral Reef Conservation Fund and other grants from the Foundation is at their web site www.NFWF.ORG and at the NOAA table in the lobby.
NOAA Coral Reef Grants
Fourth, the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program awarded almost $9 million in grants to state, territory, academic and other partners for coral reef science and management efforts.
Projects range from community level projects to prevent runoff from damaging reefs, to large-scale projects enhancing coral reef monitoring and assessment, and also included funding for the Hawaii Coral Reef Institute, the National Coral Reef Institute with Nova Southeastern University here in Florida, and a new Caribbean Coral Reef Institute to support science and monitoring needs of coral reef managers in Puerto Rico.
Again, we hope to be able to continue to provide these opportunities to continue to advance coral reef conservation efforts.
Fifth, NOAA also was also very pleased to be able to contribute to or be a partner in number of exciting efforts such as the new World Bank initiative on “Targeted Research and Capacity Building for coral reef management”, and the Reefs at Risk Caribbean Assessment by the World Resources Institute that will be presented this afternoon, and others.
We hope to be able to continue to pursue strategic partnerships in the future.
Sixth, NOAA continues to lead and support efforts to map and characterize all shallow U.S. coral reefs by 2009 as called for by the Task Force in the National Action Plan.
In 2004 we completed coral reef characterizations and maps for Guam, the Northern Marianas, and American Samoa.
We also completed mapping of deeper reef habitats in the US Virgin Islands in partnership with USVI and the Department of the Interior, and we are working with many partners to plan how to map remaining reef areas here in Florida.
Responding to Oil Spills
Lastly, NOAA provided technical assistance to our partners on a wide variety of topics over the past year, and we hope to be able to continue such efforts in the future.
Just one example: NOAA conducted a “Science of Oil Spills” training course in Guam for spill responders and coastal resource managers from the region.
Topics presented included oil chemistry, effects of oil on coral and other tropical habitats, on-water and shoreline cleanup techniques, natural resource damage assessment, impacts of vessel groundings, vessel salvage, and restoration of tropical habitats.
Coral Reefs in the National Parks
Presentation by National Park Service
The National Park Service will relate how various activities and accomplishments address the five priority issues identified by the Task Force in 2003. Overfishing, water quality, and recreational overuse are major management concerns for National Parks, as well as the ubiquitous threats of coral bleaching and disease.
Biscayne NP Resource Management Plans: Increased visitation and declines in reef fisheries led the park to start revising its General Management Plan (GMP), as well as to initiate a joint Fisheries Management Plan (FMP) with the Florida State Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Each planning process has benefited from extensive public input. The GMP revisions will provide various zones and management prescriptions to reduce conflicts between uses, enhance visitor experiences, protect sensitive resources and restore depleted fish populations. Under the joint FMP, Biscayne NP is working in partnership with the State to transcend jurisdictions and boundaries, and sustain fish populations in and around Biscayne NP.
Virgin Islands Monuments No-Take Areas Implemented: In May, 2003, NPS published implementing regulations to protect the new Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument (12,708 acres) and the newly expanded Buck Island Reef N.M. (19,000 acres). These precedent-setting no-take reserves were created in 2001 to protect and restore coral reefs and replenish fish and shellfish populations impacted by overfishing. Scientists from the Parks and NOAA are performing joint scientific surveys of fish and invertebrates, benthic mapping and habitat characterizations at these two monuments. NPS is contributing more than $400,000 in FY04 and 05 to these efforts.
Coral and Seagrass Damage Restoration: NPS has recovered more than $3.3 million from responsible parties to restore coral reefs and seagrass beds damaged by vessel groundings. Restoration of seagrass sites has begun at Biscayne NP using the latest science and technical methods. Just last month, NPS discovered new seagrass shoots emerging from one repaired grounding site, an exciting development. Environmental planning also is underway for coral restoration at Biscayne NP.
War-in-the-Pacific N.HP. Collaborates on Land-Based Pollution: War-in-the-Pacific initiated a unique project with the government of Guam and the University of Guam to assess the relationships among wildfires, upland erosion, and coral reef sedimentation. Monitoring sites will yield valuable information for development of best-management practices to address land-based sources of pollution on reefs in Guam.
Kaloko Honokohau N.H.P. Wins Precedent-Setting Pollution Prevention Decision: In 2002, Kaloko Honokahau National Historical Park and NPS Water Resources Division worked successfully with the State of Hawai’i Land Use Commission to impose stormwater and wastewater treatment permit conditions for a proposed industrial park. The Commission’s action was a landmark decision, which empowered further efforts to implement similar conditions on other industrial developments to protect the park's water resources and coral reefs.
Coral Reef Parks in the NPS System
Biscayne National Park, Florida
Buck Island Reef National Monument, St. Croix, USVI
Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida
Kaulapapa National Historical Park, Moloka’i, Hawai’i
Kaloko Honokahau National Historical Park, Hawai’i
National Park of American Samoa
Salt River Bay National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve, St. Croix, USVI
Virgin Islands National Park, St. John, USVI
Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument, St. John, USVI
War-in-the-Pacific National Historical Park, Guam
U.S. Coral Reef Task Force Meeting, December 2004
Atlantic/Caribbean Workshop on Land-Based Sources of Pollution of Coral Reefs. On May 18 and 19, 2004, EPA and USDA hosted a successful workshop for the Atlantic and Caribbean jurisdictions on the impacts of land-based sources of pollution to coral reefs. NOAA provided significant support for the workshop. Most of the participants were local level representatives from FL, PR, and VI involved in developing local action strategies for addressing these pollution impacts. Participants learned about new tools and technologies for dealing with land-based pollution sources and reef protection, and also had the opportunity to share success stories and discuss issues of mutual interest.
Biocriteria for Coral Reefs. EPA=s Office of Water is embarking on a process under the Clean Water Act to develop biological assessment methods and biological criteria for coral reefs. By 2006, EPA expects to issue methods for states, tribes, and territories to use in order to establish narrative or numeric criteria to protect the biological quality for these valuable ecosystems. Biocriteria for coral reefs will help EPA and its partners do a better job of assessing water quality and the biological health of coral reefs. We will be able to better identify reefs at risk and better determine how those reefs need to be restored to support healthy ecosystems.
Little Venice Sewage Treatment Plant. On June 25, 2004, the Little Venice Sewage Treatment Plant in the Florida Keys was officially dedicated. This state-of-the-art sewage treatment plant will provide advanced wastewater treatment, including nutrient removal, to sewage generated by approximately 970 equivalent dwelling units in Marathon, Florida. This $15.3 million project received a grant from EPA in April 1999 for $4.236 million. Other funding sources include the State of Florida, Citizens of Little Venice, and a bonding company.
Culebra Island Coral Reef Restoration. In 2004, EPA awarded the Culebra Island Fishermen Association of Culebra, Puerto Rico, a Five-Star grant for coral reef restoration. More specifically, the $13,950 grant will be used to: (1) train volunteer divers on coral conservation and aquaculture; (2) expand an existing system of coral aquaculture farms to provide a sustainable source of propagules for future restoration efforts; (3) produce geo-referenced maps to plan future restoration efforts; and (4) initiate a pilot coral reef restoration program at one of the identified sites. Project partners, in addition to the Culebra Island Fishermen Association, include the Coral Reef Ecological Monitoring and Restoration Project, Culebra Conservation and Development Authority, Sociedad Ambiente Marino, Sociedad Amani, and Coralations Youth Corps. Partial funding for this project is provided by the NOAA Fisheries Community-based Restoration Program.
Workshop on Assessing Pollution Stress in Coral Reefs. A workshop entitled, AAssessing Pollution Stress on Coral Reefs,@ was held in Honolulu, Hawaii, on August 31-September 2, 2004. The workshop was co-sponsored by EPA, NOAA, USGS, and DOI. The workshop was intended to improve the understanding of how sediments, nutrients, and other pollutants affect coral reef ecosystems, and provide local managers with tools to measure and assess these impacts. The workshop is a component of Hawaii=s Local Action Strategy to Address Land-Based Pollution Threats to Coral Reefs.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Submittal to Coral Reef Task Force
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is committed to fully implementing Executive Order 13089 Coral Reef Protection. Additionally, the Corps is fully committed to a watershed approach and to the mitigation sequence of avoiding, and minimizing impacts prior to compensating for unavoidable impacts. Currently, the Corps focuses intensively on avoiding impacts to coral reef resources to the maximum extent practicable, recognizing the high ecological value of coral reef systems. Coral reefs are one of six special aquatic sites designated under the Section 404(b)(1) Guidelines to receive maximum protection under the Corps permit review and evaluation.
The Corps is still improving the methods and techniques, which can be used for the identification of functional values of impact sites and mitigation projects. The Corps is taking a broad watershed view when evaluating compensatory mitigation. Compensatory mitigation is only required by the Corps when it has been determined that the proposed impacts cannot be avoided or minimized. Due to the difficulty in providing compensatory mitigation for coral reef impacts, the Corps is thinking outside of the box; for example, mitigation credit was recently granted for the removal of tires from a failed artificial tire reef off Broward County and the Corps is considering future mitigation credits for upgrading infrastructure to reduce Land Based Sources of Pollution.
The Corps also recognizes construction errors that have occurred in the past year in southeast Florida. These include the hopper dredge running out of the channel in the Key West Harbor Dredging Project. This project impacted a small area of coral outcrop in Monroe County, Florida. Another recent impact was the weedwacking that occurred when the cable between the tug and the scow went slack during the transport of dredged material to an offshore disposal area, during the Hillsboro Inlet Dredging Project in Broward County, Florida. Also, coral resource impacts occurred when the large boring equipment missed the sea floor targets during geotechnical investigations associated with one of the proposed natural gas pipeline construction investigations in Broward County, Florida.
As a result of these unanticipated impacts to important coral reef resources, the Corps has modified its approach to permitting projects in the vicinity of important coral resources. Two recent Corps regulatory decisions demonstrate this commitment to protecting these resources. By the Corps pressing an appropriate and exhaustive alternative analysis to avoid impacts to coral resources, all three proposed natural gas pipelines in southeast Florida have modified their proposals from Horizontal Directional Drilling (HDD) to Tunneling. By tunneling from land out beyond the third reef tract in 120 feet of water, all anticipated and potential impacts to reef resources are avoided. The projected coral impacts were substantial, but the Corps believed the potential for much greater coral impacts resulting from construction errors or weather conditions was very high with the HDD approach. The Corps issued the AES pipeline a permit on December 1, 2004, authorizing construction using the tunneling approach.
For the Broward County Beach Renourishment Project, the Corps has only authorized Segment III, a portion of the proposed project work. The permit included requirements for 400 foot buffers between the edge of the borrow areas and the reef resources to keep the hopper dredge away from these resources, and included the most stringent monitoring program required to date for a beach nourishment project. The initial permit application proposed renourishment of Segment II as well as Segment III, with impacts to a total of 38 acres of coral/hardbottom resources. The issued permit only authorized approximately 6 acres of impacts in Segment III. This phase was issued first because the coral resources are located further offshore and do not include staghorn or other high ecological value coral impacts. In 18 months, the Corps will review the monitoring data from this phase and determine if Segment II will be issued. Segment II would potentially impact an additional 7 acres of reef resources, and high ecological value coral resources are closer to the projected beach toe of fill. Even if Segment II is authorized, a total of 13 acres would be impacted, dramatically reduced from the proposed 38 acres of impact. Furthermore, the Corps is fully offsetting the functions and values of the 13 impacted areas through the construction of nearshore artificial reefs.
These two projects clearly demonstrate the Corps commitment to the goals of the Executive Order, the Coral Reef Task Force, and the Local Action Strategies. Additionally, where a Local Action Strategy (LAS) involves construction or regulatory issues, including mitigation, the Corps will engage actively, as we are in Florida’s LAS with the Maritime Industry and Coastal Construction Impacts (MICCI) Workgroup. The MICCI Workgroup in the Florida LAS includes three focus areas with importance to both Corps regulatory actions and potentially to Corps Civil Works actions. Therefore, the Jacksonville District has several representatives from its Regulatory Division and one from its Civil Works Planning Division participating. In addition, because of the importance of this group to the Corps, the Jacksonville District’s CRTF point of contact, Penny Cutt of the Regulatory Division, also serves as the Federal navigator of the MICCI Workgroup.
Where there is no obvious connection to Corps programs, the Corps will monitor Local Action Strategy activities and engage as appropriate. If those managing LAS’s believe that the effort would be advanced by Corps participation, than we recommend that those individuals contact the Corps District and request such participation. The Corps is coordinating with the Local Action Strategies and other federal agencies on coral reef issues as we coordinate with various federal, state, and local issues such as civil works, military projects, and work for others. The Corps work for others program may be a way of accomplishing some of the work that is identified by a particular LAS. The Corps does not have grant authority, so you will not see requests for submittal of grant requests. It is important to realize this, so that folks do not believe this is an opportunity through the Corps, as it is in many other federal agencies. The Corps does however have its work for others program mentioned before that may be a way to accomplish some of the projects identified by LAS groups.
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
Recent USDA Activities Benefiting Coral Reef Ecosystems and Supporting Local Action Strategies
Coral Reef Task Force Meeting, December 3 – 4, 2004
National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) Grants – At the last Coral Reef Task Force (CRTF) meeting we announced a new opportunity for funding under the NFWF Private Grants Conservation Program, which now includes providing grants to projects for land based activities that emphasize benefits to coral reef ecosystems.
Four projects were recently selected for funding utilizing the new coral reef guidance. The projects will be funded in the total amount of $426,905 with $135,640 coming from NFWF-NRCS funds.
This successful partnership is scheduled to continue with the next round of “Requests for Proposals” to be announced shortly. The Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) coordinators will continue to be solicited for their participation and assistance in developing grant proposals for local stakeholders.
Farm Bill – The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) is being implemented in coral reef regions, including Florida, Guam, Hawaii, Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Northern Mariana Islands and Puerto Rico.
Over $11 million of EQIP funds were obligated in FY-02 and over $17 million in FY-03. At least 50% of the EQIP funding is used to implement Animal Waste Management Systems, including systems for piggeries on American Samoa. Conservation (EQIP) benefits, aside from improving human health conditions, include the reduction of sediment and nutrient loads from reaching near-shore coral reef ecosystems.
Support Development of Local Action Strategies (LAS) – NRCS and EPA, with support from NOAA, co-hosted two workshops to support the development of the Local Action Strategies. The first workshop was held in Hawaii, June 2003 and the second was held in Puerto Rico, May 2004.
Training – The NRCS National Employee Development Center (NEDC) will be utilized to assist with capacity building to local jurisdictions to help implement the Local Action Strategies. NRCS and NOAA will work together with local stakeholders to identify where NEDC training can be best utilized in the Caribbean and Pacific Basins. NEDC training will help be used to develop technical expertise for the design and implementation of conservation practices identified in the Local Action Strategies.
The lack of these technical skills is a major barrier to implementing LAS activities calling for the reduction of land-based pollution in coral reef ecosystems.
Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Unit (CESU) – NRCS and the State of Hawaii- Division of Aquatic Resources have co-funded a Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Unit (CESU) agreement with the University of Hawaii Extension Service for $35,000 to coordinate Coral Reef - Land Based Pollution Activities.
Navigators – NRCS has identified Navigators to all of the LAS development teams, including our newest Navigator, Julie Wright, located in the Virgin Islands.
Additional Discussion Items:
White Water to Blue Water – With respect to the “White Water to Blue Water” conference, USDA contributed $100,000 to assist with hosting the event.
National Academies – USDA-NRCS intends to provide partial funding to support the National Academies project proposal, per the CRTF resolution. Funding will be based on NRCS budget allocations.
USDA – NRCS Emergency Watershed Program – Florida has received $100 million of Emergency Watershed Program funding for debris removal and stream restoration in the aftermath of the recent hurricanes. This funding will help tremendously to reduce the amount of debris and trash from adversely impacting downstream receiving waters including coral reef ecosystems.
USDA Grants for FY-05 – USDA will be funding new grant proposals to help in identifying and sharing new technologies. The Conservation Innovation Grants ($35 million) and Bio Energy Grants ($20 million) could eventually serve to benefit coral reef ecosystems through better use of natural resources.