Harbor Sound is a four-home project on Anna Maria Sound in Manatee County.
The land owners have received all necessary governmental authorizations, including those from the City of Bradenton and the Southwest Florida Water Management District, one of five statewide districts charged with protecting water resources.
“By the time we get a permit, many entities have reviewed the plan,” said Alec Hoffner, a senior scientist at E Co Consultants. “It’s not the developer or the land owner making the final call, it’s the regulatory agency. A lot of thought goes into establishing functional loss, and many scientists have a chance to review it before the permit is issued.”
Since the Harbor Sound construction process will necessitate the removal of some mangroves, mitigation efforts are already underway to offset the impacted wetland.
“Some projects require, in order to get a reasonable use of their property, impacts to wetland systems,” said John Henslick, an environmental consultant with Henslick and Associates who also serves on the governing board of the Southwest Florida Water Management District. “If a permit is issued to impact a wetland system, the developer has to be willing to mitigate the environmental values and functions that are lost due to the impact.”
Hoffner helped perform a Uniform Mitigation Assessment Method for the Harbor Sound site – an assessment of the functional impact the development will have on the wetlands.
“This assessment is a process that has been standardized by state scientists – experts – where you rank the wetland system that you’re impacting based on its water quality treatment capabilities, geographic location – Is it connected to other wetlands? Is it close to other wetland systems? – and the vegetative component – Is the wetland full of desirable wetland vegetative species or is it impacted by nuisance species?” Henslick said. “These three categories are used to determine the environmental value and function of that wetland. If you remove those environmental values and functions, your mitigation, which is scored on the same principles, has to replace those same environmental values and functions, point for point.”
The Harbor Sound Uniform Mitigation Assessment Method determined there would be a functional loss of 0.9 including both primary fill impacts to wetlands and potential secondary impacts to wetlands that may result from the proposed project. The Southwest Florida Water Management District has reviewed and confirmed the assessment for accuracy.
To that end, the land owners purchased .9 credits at a cost of $117,000 from the Tampa Bay Mitigation Bank, a bank that provides wetlands mitigation credits for the Army Corps of Engineers, the Southwest Florida Water Management District, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Environmental Protection Commission of Hillsborough County.
Hoffner says the Army Corps of Engineers considers mitigation banking a preferred method of mitigation. In fact, he says if a project calling for mitigation is being constructed in the service area of a mitigation bank, the developer is required by the Army Corps of Engineers to try to use that mitigation bank.
Mitigation banks have to go through a strict creation process, including a permitting process involving the state and federal level, a negotiation of the number of credits they can make available and a determination of how they will preserve, restore, enhance and create habitats. In order for a mitigation bank to be able to sell credits, they must have met specific success criteria.
The Tampa Bay Mitigation Bank is directly connected to the waters adjacent to the Harbor Sound development. The bank’s site includes 161 acres in the Southshore area of Hillsborough County between Little Cockroach Bay and Cockroach Bay.
Next to the Tampa Bay Mitigation Bank’s site is the Cockroach Bay Ecosystem Restoration Project, which is a joint effort of Hillsborough County and the Southwest Florida Water Management District. The Tampa Bay Mitigation Bank decided to “mirror the successes” of that area, according to their website.
The land owners’ contribution to the Tampa Bay Mitigation Bank will aid in the creation of a larger, contiguous area of high-quality wetland habitat that will be monitored and maintained to ensure long-term success.