Existing rules, which took effect in April 2008, can be found ONLINE HERE. It is a 66-page .PDF document.
NAPLES — For more than a century, Florida fishermen took their catch, gutted the fish and threw the carcass and bones back into the water. Pelicans dived for the remains. Anything the sea birds missed sank to the bottom of the waterway for the crabs to eat.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) says that’s about to change.
To add parking at the boat ramp on Collier Boulevard near Isles of Capri, Collier County staff will have to comply with the rules. Problem is, they’re not completed. Not the rules, and, consequently, not the boat ramp.
County officials are trying to expand and beautify boat ramp parking at the site. They’ve been working on it at a cost of $1.39 million to increase parking spaces from 19 to 88. That requires a new underground storm water management system, new asphalt, mangrove replanting, installing a new seawall, fencing, signs, and traffic modifications and signals.
Now, the price tag has increased to $1.45 million, a leap that may be due to the DEP’s pending rules.
Lou Gaudio, vice president for Quality Enterprises, which has the county contract for the project, said the variance in price is “due to unforeseen site conditions (and) additional scope of work.”
Those conditions consist of ongoing management and assessment of the project’s progress to “minimize and avoid foreseeable problems,” Gaudio said.
The renovation program started March 16 and was due for completion Sept. 12. That’s been moved back to Oct. 12.
The DEP advertised its new proposed rules on May 1, and held a workshop May 15.
Nothing definitive has evolved, but enough to startle Collier County employees into revising their program.
DEP staffer Alice Heathcock said it is difficult to generalize because there are so many different types of situations, including water depth, flushing and what else people dump into the water, so the rules, when ready, will be applied on a case-by-case basis.
Some cities already have implemented what DEP officials call “seabird savers.”
It is a mechanism to flush fish remains down to the bottom of the body of water so they’re not available to pelicans.
DEP wants to starve the pelicans?
No, Heathcock said. But, sometimes, people toss in fish parts – carcasses and bones – that are bigger than the pelicans can accommodate.
Neither is this about fishing lines. That’s a different situation, and chutes have been installed at many fish-cleaning stations for proper disposal of fishing lines, so fish and sea animals don’t get entangled in the lines.
This is something different. People around the state are looking at contraptions colloquially called “seabird savers,” Heathcock said.
Lucy Blair, a DEP program administrator in Fort Myers, said the new rules could call for a receptacle on the dock, but the draft language doesn’t yet define receptacle. The new rule also would call for an educational sign on the importance of keeping fish waste out of the water.
But when commissioners learned this past week that the DEP’s program could affect other fish stations in the county, they asked their state lobbyists to take this issue up with legislators.
“Why can’t we go back to the old way?” Commissioner Jim Coletta asked.
That means taking a hose, washing off the deck and driving the innards back into the water so that the pelicans can eat it, he said.
That creates a water de-oxygenation problem, said Clinton Perryman, Collier’s coastal zone management project director.
“It’s amazing this web we weave that costs so much,” Coletta said. “This has never been an issue.”
Either the pelicans grab the innards off the surface, or the fish drop down to the bottom and crabs eat it, he said.
Commissioner Tom Henning agreed.
“What the agency is doing is tremendously increasing costs to taxpayers in the state of Florida,” Henning said, proposing that the Southwest Florida legislative delegation put a stop to the DEP’s direction on this project.
A third protest by Commissioner Fred Coyle gave the commission enough votes to place this issue on the September agenda.
County Manager Jim Mudd said staff will be ready to review some of the DEP’s rules.
It isn’t clear yet when DEP will finish with the rule-making process, which can be found at the Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Water Resource Management, Rule Chapter No. 18-21 (Sovereignty Submerged Land Management.)
The rule number is 18-21.004, called Management policies, standards and criteria.
Existing rules, which took effect in April 2008, can be found at http://www.dep.state.fl.us/legal/rules/shared/18-21.pdf. It is a 66-page document.
Friday, Blair said she knows the project, known officially as the 951 Board Ramp, was permitted about six months ago, but it may take a couple of weeks before she can say whether a fish-cleaning station was included in the DEP authorization.
If the rule changes just after county officials complete the boat ramp, they’d have to return to DEP for a permit modification, Blair said.