Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Can New Marina Coexist with Eagles, Manatees? Residents along Black Creek Worry a Planned 377-Slip Project Will Create 'Just a Big Mess'

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Can New Marina Coexist with Eagles, Manatees? Residents along Black Creek Worry a Planned 377-Slip Project Will Create 'Just a Big Mess'

Article excerpt

Byline: Teresa Stepzinski

GREEN COVE SPRINGS | Bald eagles soaring across the sky, teaching their young to fish or simply preening on a dock in the sunshine.

Tod Stevens says the majestic birds that are his neighbors symbolize the natural beauty and serenity of Black Creek at the St. Johns River, where his family has made its home for 16 years.

Stevens and several other homeowners fear the eagles soon might become just a memory.

An Atlanta-based developer plans to build a 377-slip commercial marina and fueling facility on the creek's south bank nearby. SunTrust Bank affiliate CRM Florida Properties LLC has asked the Army Corps of Engineers for a permit for the marina, a bait and tackle shop, restaurant and other unspecified commercial businesses, records show. A second phase would include up to 225 homes.

Andrew Kroll, vice president of CRM Florida Properties, didn't respond to messages seeking comment over two days last week. Kroll previously declined to discuss the project with a reporter.

The corps said it received only three letters of opposition and no one requested a public hearing. It will review the application "sometime after the first of the new year" but won't act until it receives reports from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service, said Kelly Unger, chief of the corps' Permits Section in Jacksonville.

Both agencies previously noted a potential for an adverse impact on wildlife and habitat but indicated the developer could offset the harm by implementing a series of precautions.

Stevens lives on River Road, across U.S. 17 from the planned marina. Eagles, manatees, ospreys and other wildlife are common visitors to neighborhood docks. An easy walk across the highway are woods of oak, fat-lighter pine, sweetgum and red maple. Eagles, along with deer, bobcats, raccoons and other small animals, make their home there.

The nearly 26-acre tract has two eagle nests. Meanwhile, as many as 15 manatees frequently hang out in the creek, the neighbors say.

CRM has "given reasonable assurance that the proposal will maintain existing conditions; [and] will not significantly impact fish and wildlife and other natural resources," according to project documents.

Precautions needed include a low-speed zone, a manatee educational program with informational signs and constructing the pier so it's 5 feet above the water, according to the documents.

Given the initial evaluations, the corps has determined the development "may affect, not likely to adversely affect" the Black Creek manatees, documents show.

Bald eagles aren't on the federal Endangered Species List anymore but remain protected under other federal and Florida laws. The state Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said the project "did not appear to be inconsistent" with bald eagle monitoring and management plans for that area. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.