Two More Chapters
Here’s just a quick update to let you know that we have posted two more chapters of the Beaches HCP to the website for public review and comment. Read More
They are Chapter 6, the Plan Area and Chapter 7, Threats to Covered Species. Both chapters can be accessed on the “Draft HCP” tab on the navigation bar. As always, we look forward to receiving your input and comments on the draft HCP and encourage you to provide them by contacting staff directly or via the comments box on the “Feedback” page. Chapters 5 and 14 were slated to be out by this summer, but still need one more round of expert review. We’d rather take a little longer and get it right! They are now scheduled to be out by the end of the third quarter. Thank you as always for your interest and feedback. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Year 5 Review & Year 6 Plans
Another year has come and gone, and work continues on the FL Beaches HCP! With five years of plan development under our belt, and three yet remaining, we’re beginning to get excited about crossing that finish line. Here’s a look back at some of our progress from 2012, as well as a preview of what’s to come. Read More
If I could sum up year 5 of the HCP planning process in four words, they would be these: draft, review, revise, repeat. In year 4 we focused heavily on research, and on designing and implementing numerous studies to improve our available data. We also began assimilating that data into the actual chapter content of the HCP. In year five the emphasis was reversed, with much energy being placed on chapter development, with some ongoing research to supplement and strengthen work initiated in the previous year. Each chapter that has been drafted has undergone rigorous review by the Working Group and Steering Committee, and where appropriate has also been externally peer reviewed. One thing that surprised the Working Group was the depth and sheer volume of feedback that we received on these draft chapters. As a result of that feedback, our timeline for finalizing many of the chapters has been somewhat delayed, but it was worth it to ensure that we had crafted the best products possible.
With that said, I am very pleased to announce that the first four chapters of the Beaches HCP have now been placed on the website for stakeholders and the public to review. They are Ch. 1, the Introduction; Ch. 2, Biological Goals, Objectives and Benefits; Ch. 4, The Coastal Construction Control Line Program and Covered Activities; and Chapter 9, Alternatives Analysis. Each of these chapters can be accessed in full on the “Draft HCP” page of the website. We look forward to receiving input on these initial chapters and encourage interested parties to provide feedback via the comments box located on the “Feedback” page of the website, or by contacting me directly at Katherine.Diersen@myfwc.com. (My full contact info can be found on the “Contacts” page.) I want to clarify that this does not signal the start of the public commenting period required by the US Fish and Wildlife Service for all Incidental Take Permit (ITP) applications. Rather, this is our attempt to get information and draft product out to stakeholders early and often, so that we can begin to incorporate your feedback as we go through the HCP development process. We believe the final Beaches HCP will be much more robust if is informed by your input throughout, rather than waiting until the very end of the process.
In keeping with that philosophy, we have four more chapters that are drafted and in various stages of review right now, that we will be placing on the website for public input by July of this year. These are Ch. 5, Covered Species with Accounts; Ch. 6, the Plan Area; Ch. 7, Threats to Covered Species in the Plan Area from CCCL Activities; and Ch. 14, Changed/Unforeseen Circumstances. Chapters 5 and 6 in particular have been in development for a very long time now, are extremely large, and have undergone numerous cycles of review. I very much look forward to rolling them all out and starting to get your valuable feedback!
Drafting chapters isn’t all the project team has been up to this past year though. We have also partnered with the Florida Natural Areas Inventory to develop habitat mapping for each of our covered species, and as a result they have developed the most detailed, extensive and down-scaled habitat maps of each of our nineteen species ever developed for Florida. These GIS based maps represent a marked improvement over previous existing mapping efforts, and each has been reviewed and improved upon through a series of workshops with species experts from across the state. They will help establish our baseline for predicting take of covered species over the life of the permit, and will also help us target high value locations for mitigation activities as we begin to develop the mitigation strategy. Once the HCP is approved and in place, the maps will be updated at regular intervals over the life of the ITP.
Another important partnership that we made this year is with the consulting firm GeoDesign Technologies. GeoDesign specializes in alternative futures modeling and has done extensive work in Florida for other FWC projects as well as for the Peninsular Florida Landscape Conservation Cooperative. Coming up with an effective methodology for estimating take of all 19 species across the entire state over the 25-year life of the ITP has been without a doubt our biggest challenge in developing the Beaches HCP. Factors to consider include existing species habitat, the potential for future sea level rise, changes in erosion rates, the potential for growth of human populations along the coast, and many others. GeoDesign has helped us develop a platform that will take all of those inputs and use them to model a range of potential future coastal landscapes in Florida to get a very realistic idea of how much take of our covered species we can expect to see. This effort represents probably the most sophisticated methodology for estimating take ever developed for an HCP, and is yet another instance where we are taking a huge step past the currently best available information. The most exciting part is that by the time we are ready to submit our HCP for approval by the Service, we will have developed a web-based user interface for this model and made it available for use by the public.
All in all, we saw tremendous progress on the development of the Beaches HCP in 2012. It has really set the stage for the largest and most complex pieces of the HCP to fall into place in the coming years; it’s a very exciting time! I look forward to continuing to keep you updated on our progress and to hearing your feedback as we begin to roll out segments of the HCP for public comment. Thank you for your interest in the Beaches HCP, and remember that the project team and I are always available to answer any questions you may have. Please don’t hesitate to contact us!
Year 5 of the FL Beaches HCP
Year five of the FL Beaches HCP is officially underway. We're enthusiastically looking forward to more exciting developments this year, but it is also a good time to recap our progress and accomplishments from 2011. It has been quite a productive year! Read More
The focus of year four has been more data driven than any previous year of work on the Beaches HCP. In the early days of this project, focus largely on finding our footing, working out the technical details of the program, and obtaining the background information on relevant federal, state and local programs that would form the foundation of the Beaches HCP. (The results of this work can be found on the "Documents" page.) Year three focused on exploring some of the `big picture' questions that would ultimately inform the future direction of the HCP. The results of this work are summarized in documents that we refer to as "Critical Issues Analyses." (These are also on the "Documents" page.) The Steering Committee deliberated these issues carefully and provided us with valuable guidance on how to proceed with development of the HCP. (Minutes from their quarterly meetings can be found on the "Meetings" page.) It was this guidance that informed our work priorities in year four.
During year four, we drafted a great deal of content that will actually become part of the future HCP. Many of the chapters are beginning to take shape and they will soon be available on the website for public review. First of all, we have now drafted species accounts for almost every species that will potentially be covered by the HCP. We have finished work on the original 12 species that the HCP will cover, and have almost completed work on the seven additional species that the Steering Committee approved in year three. (See the Issues Briefing "Inclusion of Non-federally Listed, At-risk Species" on the "Documents" page.) Each of these accounts undergoes a rigorous peer review process before being finalized. Once that is complete, which is not far out now, these accounts will be compiled and incorporated as Chapter 5 of the HCP. As with all of our work products, it will be available for review here on the website.
We have also been working on drafts of numerous other HCP chapters. Chapter 1 will be the introduction to the HCP. Chapter 2 will describe the biological goals and objectives of the project. Chapter 4 describes the Coastal Construction Control Line program and the activities that it permits, which will be the activities addressed by the HCP. Chapter 6 describes the unique plan area of the Beaches HCP. Chapter 7 elaborates on threats to the species that will be covered by the HCP. Finally, chapter 9 considers alternative approaches to the HCP as it will ultimately be proposed. Each of these chapters has been carefully drafted and is now in various stages of internal review. They will be reviewed by the Steering Committee in the coming year as well, and will then be placed on the website. It is the intent of the project team to make our work products available to stakeholders and the public early and often. While a formal review period is legally required after the draft HCP is completed and before it is submitted to the USFWS for approval, we want our partners to be able to provide input and guidance on the actual document as it is being developed. With that said, I welcome and encourage feedback. Visitors to the site can provide input on the "Feedback" page, or can contact me directly. (My contact info is listed on the "Contacts" page.)
The chapters that I listed above are really the `framing' chapters of the HCP. They explain the context upon which we entered into the project, elaborate on the history, the issues surrounding the project, and all the various factors that may impact its development. As I mentioned previously, we spent a great majority of our time this past year researching all of the information necessary to draft these chapters. Also in year 4, we embarked upon what is proving to be the most difficult challenge of the Beaches HCP project so far; calculating take of covered species. Because the Beaches HCP will address somewhere between 12 and 19 species, a wide range activities, an enormous geographical area, and a 25-year timeline, the complexities of anticipating how much take will occur expand exponentially with every factor that we consider. The project team members (and subject matter experts with whom we consult) have found ourselves extremely challenged to come up with an equation that adequately predicts how much a species may be impacted by a range of activities, given future unknowns such as human population growth on Florida's coast and the impacts of sea level rise over the next few decades.
Despite guidance from the USFWS to use `the best available data' when making a determination of take, we have found in many instances that what is available simply isn't sufficient to make justifiable predictions. This is where the studies that we initiated in year three (armoring, dune crossovers, beach grooming and upland development) became a great asset. All four of those studies are now complete and the final reports are being drafted and will be available on the website soon. They have helped to fill critical data needs, and also helped us to see where we can safely make assumptions and where still more information may need to be collected. While determining take of covered species has proven to be a greater challenge than we initially predicted, the team remains undaunted! We are bringing in new partners and additional experts in predictive modeling for alternative futures scenarios in year five, and look forward to polishing off our work on creating a comprehensive and scientifically defensible model for calculating take.
Needless to say, year four was a busy year and year five promises to keep the trend going! I look forward to providing future updates on the progress of the HCP and to working with our partners and stakeholders to ensure that the Florida Beaches HCP is a successful tool for the conservation of Florida's coastal resources. If you have any questions about the HCP, please don't hesitate to contact me or a member of the project team. Thanks as always for your interest and input!
Posted on 01/20/2012 by Kat Diersen
Looking Back, Looking Forward
Well it has been an incredibly busy and fruitful year for the project staff of the FL Beaches HCP. After a couple of hiccups in the early stages of the program, this year we were really off and running. We made great progress and are poised to surge ahead in year four! Here is a brief re-cap of some of our major accomplishments this
year: Read More
The Steering Committee has been up and running for over a year now. They have been an incredibly valuable resource and have helped us navigate some of the trickier questions related to the HCP. (Minutes from their quarterly meetings can be found on the "Meetings" page.) This year they voted on three key issues that helped determine how the working group would move forward in year four. The first was the overall term of the HCP. The Steering Committee opted for a 25-year term, with the expectation that we will renew the HCP at the time of its expiration. This decision gave the working group some side bars, and helped us refine our research efforts. It will also determine the scope of our predictive modeling, which we will begin working on in year 4.
The Steering Committee also directed us to look in to the possibility of including some non-CCCL beaches (or ".052 beaches")in the Big Bend and Monroe County in the HCP. Some of these beaches are key nesting sites for sea turtles and we may be able to bring additional conservation benefit to the species by including them. Finally, the Steering Committee also directed us to look at seven additional species, none of which are currently federally listed, for possible inclusion in the HCP. These species include the gopher tortoise, the Santa Rosa beach mouse and five species of seabirds and shorebirds. While not federally listed, each of these species is either listed at the state level, or on the federal radar screen for future listing. (A "Critical Issues Analysis" for each of these issues can be found on the "Documents" page.)
Another important development this year has been the creation of a Scientific Committee for the Beaches HCP. This committee consists of experts from across a range of disciplines related to the HCP¿s covered species as well as ecology, coastal geomorphology and coastal engineering. The members include Nancy Douglass of FWC, Dr. Tom Miller of Florida State University, Dr. Robbin Trindell of FWC, Melissa Tucker of FWC, Dr. Todd Walton of the Florida State University Beaches and Shores Resource Center, and Dr. Howard Wanless of the University of Miami.
This group of experts is helping to ensure that the HCP is as robust as possible by providing peer review of documents that the project team develops, helping us assess take of our covered species and come up with a solid method of calculating predicted future take. They are also assisting in an ongoing user needs assessment for the development of our GIS database tool, which will swing in to full gear in year four. In the future we will ask them to help us develop recommendations for adequate minimization and mitigation of take as well. Their role in the overall HCP development process is still new and will no doubt evolve as the project proceeds.
Finally, the working group has been working all year on the actual drafting of the initial plan components. This year we wrote an introduction to the HCP, several species accounts, and a discussion of universal threats to the species. We also initiated several more species accounts and began development of a document that we¿re calling the "Threats Matrix." This document is an incredibly scaled-down and explicit enumeration of each of the specific impacts to our covered species that could occur as a result of CCCL-permitted activities. Once complete, it will serve as the basis for our take calculation and for projections of future take. We also designed and initiated four very important studies to help us gather necessary data for estimating take. These studies look at existing and proposed CCCL-permitted activities on a statewide scale; namely armoring, dune crossovers, beach grooming and upland development. We should have them largely completed in year four. (All of our documents, once edited and peer reviewed, will be made available on the website on the "Documents" page.)
As you can see, we¿ve covered a lot of ground in year three, and look forward to even greater progress in year four. Here are some of the things we hope to accomplish in the coming year:
First of all, we will focus heavily on development of HCP Chapters, which may include covered activities and species, plan area, impacts on listed species in plan area, and minimization and mitigation measures. In addition, the threats matrix that was developed in year 3 will provide the basis for calculating take of covered species. Year four work will also include ongoing identification of data gaps through current and future research, and presentation of that information to the Science Committee so that they can aid us in developing a means for estimating take of covered species. We will also work with the Scientific Committee to begin assess options for the development of a minimization and mitigation strategy.
Another area of focus in year four will be for the project team to investigate what potential changes to Florida Statutes may be necessary in order to successfully implement the HCP, and how those would be effected. Any such changes would ultimately require approval of the Florida Legislature. We will therefore need to work very closely and carefully with our Steering Committee, who essentially acts as the public face of the HCP, to ensure that we correctly shepherd the HCP through the political process. Finally, year four will also see our first major push into developing our online GIS integrated database. We¿ve done a lot of brainstorming about this tool and its many potential uses, and we are finally about ready to begin actually developing it. I am particularly excited about this part of the project and look forward to sharing it once it is completed. I think its usefulness will extend far beyond just the Beaches HCP.
As always, we will strive to keep the website current and to make all of our documents and outreach materials available and easy to access. If you have any questions about the HCP, don¿t hesitate to contact a member of the project team. Thanks for stopping by and Happy New Year!
Posted on 01/04/2011 by Kat Diersen
Much to Report
The Florida Beaches HCP website has been dormant for nearly a year, but development of the HCP itself has been progressing by leaps and bounds. There is much to report, so I will do my best to summarize everything neatly. Read More
First of all, please have a look around the website. Due to a contractual lapse that took quite a bit of sorting out, we were unable to modify it for a while. However, we're back in action with all of our subcontractors and the website has now been refreshed. As you will see on the home page, we have now crafted a Mission Statement, Biological Goal and Biological Objectives. These were completed with the help of our now formed and fully functional Steering Committee. More on that later though. Additionally, you will find a link to our printable outreach brochure on the FAQ page as well as several new documents on the Documents page.
The Beaches HCP program has undergone a bit of restructuring in the last year. The working group remains in place and continues to form the backbone of the HCP development process. However, we have a new lead consulting firm, Coastal Technology Corporation, and we are so far thrilled with the work they have done on the project. Ecological Associates, Inc. and URS have not left us though, and now provide integral support to the HCP process through a subcontract with Coastal Tech. We were recently awarded a fourth year of grant funding by the USFWS, and our plan is to continue with the current working group structure for the duration of the project.
One very exciting development has been the formation of our Steering Committee, who have now met three times, and will continue to meet each quarter in order to provide critical guidance and oversight to the HCP process. (Minutes from each of these meetings can be found on the "Meetings" page of the website.) The Secretary of DEP reviewed the proposal that was drafted as a result of our exploratory meeting last year, made a few excellent suggestions to round out our list of nominees, and approved our proposed committee structure. The resulting committee consists of representatives from the following organizations; FWC (chair of committee), FDEP, DCA, The Florida Association of Counties, the Florida League of Cities, Lee County Tourism Development Council, The Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, The Audubon Society, Caribbean Conservation Corporation, and Humiston and Moore Engineering Firm. The Steering Committee came very quickly up to speed on all of the important background information needed to begin working on the HCP, and have already begun to dive in to some of the critical issues that we need to resolve as we move forward with the project.
This brings me to my next update, which concerns the development of a new form of document for the Beaches HCP. As the working group moves forward with HCP development, difficult questions periodically arise, which require the guidance of the Steering Committee. We have developed a "critical issues template" that we now use to summarize important matters for their consideration. We have three of these documents so far and presented all of them to the Steering Committee for consideration. (They can be found on the "Documents" page of the website.) They address three important questions that will impact future development of the HCP: What should be the term of the incidental take permit; should certain beaches that are not traditionally regulated under the CCCL program be included in the HCP; and should non-federally listed, at-risk species be included in the HCP? The Steering Committee will very likely have a preliminary vote on these issues at their next quarterly meeting in September. (Final votes on these and similar issues will not come until much later in the process.)
There are many more moving parts to the Beaches HCP project, and all of them are grinding along at a healthy pace. Please check back for more updates on our project and access to outreach materials and newly created documents. Thank you for visiting.
Posted on 06/29/2010 by Mike Esser
Back on Track
It has been several quiet months on the Beaches HCP home front. At my last reporting, the results of a very productive brainstorming meeting had been summarized into a proposal for the secretary of DEP. Unfortunately the timing was poor, and Florida's legislative session intervened. This year was a particularly challenging one in the legislature for many state agencies, not least DEP. The Secretary needed to give his full attention to legislative proceedings during this time, and the Beaches HCP was moved to the back burner temporarily.Read More
It has not been an unproductive period, however. While committee development had to be somewhat delayed, the working group used the down time effectively to draft and refine several of the briefing documents that I mentioned in my last post. These will be available to aid members of the future Steering Committee in making important decisions about the development of the HCP. They are also available to the public for purposes of general education about the HCP process and the Florida Beaches HCP in specific. The first few of these documents are now available for download on the Documents page. More such documents will follow in the coming months, so keep checking back.
Now that the legislative session is safely behind us, the Steering Committee proposal will once again be put on track for consideration by Secretary Sole. In addition, the working group has begun delving in earnest into the myriad data that will need to be compiled and analyzed in order to form the scientific backbone of the Beaches HCP. We are fortunate to have access to a wealth of resources in the form of many experts in the fields of biology, ecology, coastal geomorphology, coastal engineering and more. Many of these folks, both within government and without, have expressed the desire and willingness to help the working group develop a scientifically robust HCP. Some of these experts will hopefully form the core of the project's next important committee, the Scientific Committee. I'm looking forward to bringing that group together and working with them at length in the coming months as the HCP development process begins to gather momentum.
We will continue to update the website as documents are published, committees are formed, and as issues arise. Thanks for stopping by and please don't hesitate to contact us if you have questions or comments.
Posted on 06/10/2009 by Lyle Hatchett
Last edited on 06/10/2009 by Lyle Hatchett
On January 29, 2009, FWC hosted the Steering Committee exploratory meeting that I mentioned in my last post. It was attended by representatives from several state agencies, major stakeholders, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and other interested parties. The purpose of this meeting was to discuss the possibility of forming a Steering Committee, consider what its structure and function might be and hopefully nominate individuals with the willingness and ability to serve on it Read More
The discussion at the meeting turned out to be very interesting and resulted in some really fruitful brainstorming. We led off with two presentations, given by staff of URS. The first one was a summary of the ESA with an emphasis on HCP development, which provides the legal foundation for why FDEP is seeking to develop an HCP. The next one was a summary of the CCCL Permitting Program at FDEP, which is the program to which the HCP will be tied. (For more info on these subjects, see the FAQ page.) The goal of these two presentations was to ensure that everyone had a clear understanding of the parameters that would define the development of the HCP, thus improving their ability to consider their options for the Steering Committee. (As an aside, these presentations were based upon briefing documents that have been developed by URS as resources for the eventual Steering Committee and for the public. These documents and many other briefing documents that are in the pipeline will all be made available on the website in the coming months.)
These presentations were a good place to start, as they helped the group identify many issues that will indeed be of concern to the Steering Committee. Discussion also highlighted the need for some working parameters to be defined before Steering Committee nominations could be made. The group then engaged in a bit of free-form brainstorming to come up with some expectations of how this committee would ultimately operate. This included, among many other things, identifying all the potential "positions" that would need to be filled in order to have a well rounded committee. This led very readily to a discussion of possible individuals to fill the slots, and soon a list of potential Steering Committee members was formed.
Not all of the positions received a nomination during the meeting, nor was each and every responsibility or principle of the Steering Committee decided. However, a very good "straw man" was developed, and based on that the working group has developed a report for the Secretary of DEP to review. How the creation of the Steering Committee will proceed from this point will soon be determined, and we will continue to update the website with details of the next steps in the process.
Posted on 03/02/2009 by Kat Diersen
Last edited on 03/03/2009 by Bill Beers