By IRENE NOLAN
By IRENE NOLAN
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has released an amendment to the S-Curves Beach Nourishment Compatibility Determination for one-time nourishment at the S-curves on Highway 12 in the Peal Island National Refuge.
In it, refuge manager Mike Bryant has found the project “compatible” with uses of the refuge with certain conditions, just as he did last November with the original compatibility determination.
The document is available for public review and comment until Thursday, April 10, at the end of the workday, 4 p.m.
The work proposed by the N.C. Department of Transportion will be conducted on the refuge, and the amendment expands the beach disposal window from the date the permit is finalized until April 15, 2015. This may include dredging and beach disposal during summer months.
The nourishment is considered by DOT to be an emergency project that will provide interim protection – for about three years — of Highway12 while the Phase IIb of the Bonner Bridge replacement work is planned and constructed.
Federal wildlife refuges are required by law to determine the compatibility of any proposed non-wildlife dependent use with the mission of the national wildlife refuge system and the purpose for which a particular refuge was established.
The conditions that USFWS placed on the original permit include the suitability of the sand source.
The draft compatibility statement says, “Approval of the requested use to place 1,126,104 yards of sand on 8,685 linear feet of refuge beach can be granted only if the borrow source material is within the range of suitability with natural beach sand. Sand suitability for any disposal action is determined by the refuge manager and will be based upon standards that are known to have minimal impact on refuge resources and with opportunity for recovery of marine invertebrates.”
The amendment notes that there have been no changes in the project design or borrow sources since the November 2013 Compatibility Determination was prepared. However, the beach nourishment project was planned for construction during the 2013-14 winter months and prior to migratory bird and turtle nesting season.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers prepared a contract and received a bid from one potential contractor in January. That bid was substantially over budget and the contractor stated that the company could not begin work until June, 2014.
The NCDOT requested the permit modification in a letter dated Feb.11 and followed up with a second letter dated Feb. 21, rephrasing the request and specifying acceptable conditions to protect refuge resources.
The November compatibility determination was prepared with stipulations to require conditions in the project Special Use Permit that would avoid beach nourishment activities in the migratory bird and sea turtle nesting season. The permit was to expire on April 1 with the possibility of extending the effective date until May 15, 2014.
Because of the length of time it took to identify suitable sand borrow sources, develop plans, and acquire contractor services, the project could neither be initiated nor completed prior to the onset of nesting activity.
The new contracting schedule is being dictated by weather and windows of contractor availability. Consequently the Corps and NCDOT requested an extension of the special use permit until April 15, 2015. This extension provides sufficient time to implement the project at any time within that permitted window.
Because the original compatibility determination contained stipulations tying the seasonality of work to the bird and turtle nesting season, USFWS had to amend the determination.
The special use permit will be amended to include provisions for additional beach monitoring from April 1 through Sept. 1 of this year.
If you wish to review the Draft Compatibility Determination, copies are available at the Refuge administrative office at 100 Conservation Way, Manteo, at the Pea Island Visitor Center, and at http://www.fws.gov/peaisland.
Written comments may be sent to: Refuge Manager, Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, P.O. Box 1969, Manteo, NC 27954 or e-mailed to [email protected]
All comments must be submitted no later than close of business at 4 p.m. on April 10, 2014. If you need additional information, please contact Refuge Biologist Dennis Stewart at 252-473-1132, ext. 231.