The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Serivice (USFWS) has urged the Army Corps of Engineers to deny outright Romerica’s application to build high rises and a marina in the floodplain and floodway of the San Jacinto.
From the date on the USFWS letter, February 28, it appears that USFWS arrived at its recommendation even before the close of the public comment period on March 1.
Read the full text of the five-page letter here or the summary below.
Summary of USFWS Concerns
The letter states that:
- The applicant understated the likely impact on waters and wetlands resulting from fill material, raised buildings, infrastructure development and construction activities. They called the applicant’s proposal “misleading.”
- USFWS expressed concerns about:
- Bird strikes and mortalities associated with the high-rise buildings
- The loss of highly functioning forested wetlands
- Significant reduction in biological functions, particularly those related to fish and wildlife habitat
- Water quality issues
- A marina district built entirely within the floodway
- The absence of appropriate stormwater management
- Failure to fully disclose impacts on wetlands and surrounding properties
- Inconsistencies in access road descriptions
- Failure to fully disclose the project’s footprint impacts
- Failure to provide an analysis of practicable alternatives to the proposed wetland and stream fill
- Failure to demonstrate that the project meets the requirements of the EPA’s CWA 404(b)(1) guidelines
- An incomplete compensatory mitigation plan
- Improper assessment of the high level of functions of the onsite aquatic resources and surrounding upland habitats
- An inadequate bald eagle survey
- Disturbance and loss of bald eagle habitat.
Conclusion and Recommendation of USFWS
The USFWS recommended “permit denial due to the application’s deficiencies.”
I’m happy that a government agency validated the concerns of residents, especially the numerous deficiencies that became so glaringly obvious during the public comment period. Example: when I asked one of the engineers at the March 18th public meeting where all the fill would be put, he couldn’t tell me. It seemed like a simple, but important question. Turns out it was.
Jill Boullion, Executive Director of the Bayou Land Conservancy said, “The Bayou Land Conservancy is gratified that US Fish & Wildlife service has confirmed our opinion that the Romerica project site is ecologically rich and diverse. It is, in its natural state, already providing the community immeasurable services. We believe the highest good for the community is to preserve this valuable resource, not develop it.”
Romerica’s spokesperson, Leah Howard Manlove, contacted me earlier this week to say that the Romerica team would meet next week to discuss their options and a plan of action. At this point, Romerica has two options: answer all the questions and concerns raised during the public comment period or quietly let the project die.
Posted by Bob Rehak on May 10, 2019
619 Days since Hurricane Harvey
The thoughts expressed in this post represent my opinions on matters of public policy and are protected under the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP statute of the Great State of Texas.