Friday, March 17, 2017

Letter to Environmental Agencies

This letter from Adrien Lucas went to several federal and state environmental agencies. This was one that went to US Fish and Wildlife.

March 17, 2017

To: US Fish & Wildlife Service - East Region
Supervisory Fish and Wildlife Biologists
Professional Biology Series Staff

My name is Adrien Lucas, I live in Sarasota, FL and have been working on an environmental battle against Sarasota County in relation to the publicly owned lands that surround the Celery Fields regional stormwater facility.  The Celery Fields grew from a county project created mainly to alleviate flooding downstream in our Phillippi Creek basin that ultimately flows into the Sarasota bay.  

The Celery Field was an accidental “eco” invitation to endangered and threatened birds who began showing up in droves, creating a birder’s paradise.  The county recognized this and developed trails, planting native plants in addition to working with the Sarasota chapter of Audubon, creating a facility for Audubon volunteers to engage visitors.  It is our town’s “Central Park” and is known worldwide by birders who travel here for the parks amazing opportunities to see endangered and threatened birds up close in their natural habitat.

Celery Fields from the hill

Recently our County has accepted two offers for two separate parcels adjacent to the park. One is for what the buyer calls a 16-acre recycling plant and waste transfer facility. The recycling would be of construction debris
and lawn scraps, filled with pesticides.  This particular business will be adjacent to the headwaters of Phillippi Creek. The other parcel of land is for a company called Restaurant Depot.  Both of these businesses will introduce major truck traffic in an area where protected bird species are beginning to thrive.

Celery Fields wetlands
We have evidence that these lands may fall under National Estuary protections. I have heard from Sarasota Audubon's conservation chair, Robert Wright, there are reports that blue crab and snook have been found at the headwaters of Phillippi Creek which begins at  the Celery Fields. We are trying to get the document from Mote Marine Laboratory because the information came from there I have not heard back from them yet with Mr. Wright just reporting it at a recent meeting.

In 2016, Mote Marine Laboratory released about 40 snook at eight different release sites to document which shoreline habitat types juvenile snook prefer along Phillippi Creek -- a 7-mile, estuarine tidal creek system that offers diverse habitats for young snook.

Phillippi Creek, Sarasota County

As far as I can determine, Sarasota County documents pertaining to these county lands for sale show nothing from county staff reports in their studies that include documenting the adjacent wildlife and sea life found living on these lands or next to these lands.  Isn’t it the county’s duty to perform these studies in conjunction with state agencies to determine if these properties do not show benefit to the species I mentioned? Furthermore, public opinion is held by many different groups that the county should not have put these lands up for sale at all, due to not only the fragility of the Celery Fields but additional traffic to an already congested two-lane road is going to get worse with the introduced truck traffic. These lands must be recognized as useful lands that are needed for the birds that live in the Celery Fields.

We have had two protest rallies, good news coverage and, at the public hearing for the Restaurant Depot parcel, we managed to get a stay of 30 days because the buyer could not satisfy our Sarasota County Charter in relation to full disclosure of the owners who are trying to buy the land. This has bought us a little bit of time but we are deeply concerned that the county is not going to listen to us and it will be too late if we cannot stop the construction and sales of this property.  The second public hearing for this particular parcel has been rescheduled for April 26 at the County Commission.

I am desperate to try and stop the sales of the lands the county has put up for sale and appreciate any insight you can provide in what I need to do to begin the process to have studies done for the above reasons.

I was given information that your department has the authority under 50402 Code of Federal Regulations to require and process impact studies and enforce of federal laws under Section 9 USC on violations of the act.

I believe our county has failed to apply to the Army Corps of Engineers for any studies about what I am writing to you about. These studies must be performed prior to putting the lands in question up for sale and now two of the parcels are under contract to be sold.  This information appears to not have been disclosed to the potential buyers either.  With Mote Marine Laboratory’s snook study and reported sightings of snook in the headwaters of the Phillippi Creek (that begins at the Celery Field stormwater facility) plus documented sightings of endangered and threatened bird species who may be nesting in adjacent retention pond areas, I see the potential future of EPA pollution dangers given the top of the watershed to the bay.  

Is there any way you can assist us in starting this process with the Army Corps of Engineers?  

For additional reference, see this letter I recently emailed to the Sarasota County Commissioners in relation to the birds I have seen there.

Caracara - a species of concern - Chuck Behrmann, Celery Fields

I thank you for your consideration and appreciate any help you may provide in telling me what documents I need to file or if you know who will file them for us.

I am available anytime to discuss this urgent matter. We are running out of time.


Adrien Lucas

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