Expanding Oslo Road Boat Ramp a Bad Idea

Expanding Oslo Road Boat Ramp a Bad Idea for Anglers and Fish

Guest Blog by Rodney Smith

Expanding Oslo Road Boat Ramp a Bad Idea for Anglers and Fish.

There has never been a more important time to protect the Indian River Lagoon (IRL) and its most critical habitat, sea grass. It is in sea grass beds where the vast majority of baby fish, shrimp and crabs grow up.

During a recent paddle down the entire length of the IRL (irl-paddle-adventure.com), paddlers documented the widespread disappearance of sea grasses. In one eighty-mile stretch, from Port St. John in Brevard County to the north end of Vero Beach in Indian River County, the IRL’s bottom was 95 percent void of sea grass coverage.

Indian River County is currently pushing forward with a plan to expand the Oslo Road Boat Ramp by dredging sea grass beds 215 feet out from shore to a depth of 2.5 feet. This is one of the IRL’s best remaining sea grass bed areas, and is a critical spawning ground for spotted seatrout and snook. They are also considering filling in 1.4 acres of mangroves, widening and paving a gravel road, and increasing the parking lot for big boats with big motors. The current depth at the ramp is only inches at low tide, so it only accommodates small boats, canoes and kayaks and wading anglers.

Anglers for Conservation strongly opposes any expansion of the Oslo Road Boat Ramp that includes the dredging of sea grasses.

Below is a summary of major points to put into letters of concern for the Oslo Road Boat Ramp expansion project, and a list of email addresses where we suggest you send them as soon as possible.

An administrative hearing starts at 9 am Tuesday, May 6-8, in the Indian River County Administrative Building in Vero Beach concerning this issue.  If we are unsuccessful, then it is very important to get the Feds to stop this, as the county needs a permit from the USCOE (Army Corps of Engineers) as well as the St. John’s River Water Management District.

If you can only send two letters, send one to Tamy Dabu at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and another to the Press Journal, but getting your concerns to others is also very important.  The same letter, or a slightly modified version, can be sent to all of the agencies involved.

Anglers for Conservation thinks Expanding Oslo Road Boat Ramp a Bad Idea for Anglers and Fish

Rodney Smith is the Executive Director of Anglers for Conservation.

Here are major points to put into a letter of concern for the Oslo Road Boat Ramp Expansion Project.   This project is in a county/state purchased conservation land, (Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area) adjacent to an aquatic preserve and a Federal shellfish area.

  • It dredges 215 ft. into best and only seagrasses left in Indian River County and fills 1.4 acres of mangrove wetland forest with a hard impervious surface for a parking lot and road widening.
  • This project will deleteriously impact essential fish nursery habitat for four of the most protected and intensely managed fish species within the State of Florida:for snook, spotted seatrout, tarpon, red drum.
  • Goes against the county’s own Manatee Protection Plan. It is the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation opinion that “the project is inconsistent with the Indian River MPP because the project represents a deepening of the access from the boat ramp, and an increase in the size of vessels that would be able to launch from the site.”
  • According to the County’s Manatee Protection Plan the County as twice the number of public boat ramp lanes needed to meet DEP recommended levels of service. Riverside park (6 miles away) has a 75-ft.-wide boat ramp plus two 40 ft. long floating docks, 26 paved vehicle and trailer parking spaces, 118 additional parking spaces, bathrooms, picnic tables, drinking fountains, and an outdoor shower. Four additional boat ramps and 10 parking spaces are at nearby MacWilliam Park.
  • Impacts are inconsistent with the Manatee Protection Plan: page 55 “….there shall be no increase impact to manatee habitat, or the natural resources of the Indian River Lagoon, including   seagrass beds, water quality, estuarine wetlands, and mangrove fringe, attributed to the development or expansion of boat facilities or boat ramps in Indian River County.”
  • The Oslo boat ramp is in the largest area of manatee concentration in the county (Manatee Protection Plan).
  • Impacts are inconsistent with Indian River County’s own Comprehensive Management Plan: “The County will strive to improve water quality in the Lagoon, including that portion adjacent to the subject property (South ORCA)”
  • The boat ramp is in a Federal Shellfish Area, conservation lands, and next to an aquatic preserve
  • There is no mitigation for seagrass destruction.
  • The presence of rock indicates that this area was never historically dredged.
  • The following agencies and organizations have written against it: EPA, US Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries Service, DEP Aquatic Preserve Manager, Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission, Audubon Florida, Indian River Keeper Save the Manatee Club, Marine Resource Council, Coastal Conservation Association, Sierra Club, Pelican Island Audubon, Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area Volunteers, Kayak Renters, Wading and Small Boat Fisherman, and Scientists.
  • U.S. Representative Bill Posey sent his Chief of Staff, Stuart Burns, from Washington, D.C. to Vero Beach to pressure the USFWS to overturn their 2011 denial of the county’s permit based on threats to manatees.
  • Common Sense says: 45th St. (Gifford Dock Rd) or 69th St. are Great Alternative Sites-15 minutes from Oslo Rd.
  • Not in a Federal Shellfish Area requiring a Variance
  • Less Seagrass Destruction
  • Little or no Mangrove Destruction
  • Eliminates Unwanted Exotic Plants
  • Mitigates on Site
  • Less Expense to Build
  • Keeps OSLO Natural
  • Closer to the ICW-Intra-Coastal Waterway
  • Not in an Conservation Area or Aquatic Preserve
  • County owns the property

          Where to send your concerns:  

1. Federal Organizations (They have not issued their permit yet, waiting for our hearing):    

-Colonel Alan M. Dodd, District Commander U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District Corps of Engineers P.O. Box 4970 Jacksonville, FL 32232-0019  

-Tamy Dabu Regulatory Division, North Permits Branch U.S. Army Corps of Engineers 400 High Point Drive, Suite 600 Cocoa, FL 32926 tamy.s.dabu@usace.army.mil  

-Larry Williams, Field Supervisor South Florida Ecological Services Office U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1339 20th Street Vero Beach, FL 32960 larry_williams@fws.gov  

-Craig Aubrey, Assistant Field Supervisor South Florida Ecological Services Office U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1339 20th Street Vero Beach, FL 32960 craig_aubrey@fws.gov  

-Charles Kelso South Florida Ecological Services Office U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1339 20th Street Vero Beach, FL 32960 charles_kelso@fws.gov  

-Cynthia Dohner, Regional Director U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Region 1875 Century Boulevard, Suite 400 Atlanta, GA 30345 cynthia_dohner@fws.gov  

2. Press:

-Most important T.C Palm (Press Journal our county daily paper). Letter to the editor: 300 words maximum to Larry Reisman: Larry.Reisman@scripps.com

3. County Commissioners:

-Joe Flescher: jflescher@ircgov.com

-Wesley David: wdavis@ircgov.com

-Peter O’Bryan: pobryan@ircgov.com

-Bob Solari: bsolari@ircgov.com

-Tim Zorc: tzorc@ircgov.com

4.   U.S. Congressman Bill Posey (Ask him why did he ask USFWS to change their denial to OK approval): Congressman.Posey@mail.house.gov  

5. St. Johns River Management District. Ask why this project was approved (actually don’t they usually do a cultural or archeological survey before issuing a permit? Don’t they care about the fish and manatees anymore?)

-Hans G. Tanzier III, Executive Director: xhtanzler@sjrwmd.com

-John A. Miklos, Board Chairman, jmiklos@sjrwmd.com      

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