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Corner of tabManagement Plan for the Integrated Habitat Network / Coordinated Development Area: Lease Nos. 3963, 3995, and 4236

Introduction

 

The Bureau of Mine Reclamation (“BMR”) became active in land management in the late 1980’s through the statutory change of the Florida Department of Natural Resources, Division of Resource Management to which it was assigned. One of the powers and duties of the division, as set forth in Section 370.02(3)(g), Florida Statutes (“FS”) was that “…the division shall also perform functions including, but not limited to, preservation, management, and protection of lands held by the State other than parks and recreational and wilderness areas…” The Attorney General and the Florida Department of Natural Resources, now the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (“DEP”), identified the Division of Resource Management, now the Division of Water Resource Management (“DWRM”) as the entity to manage the lands transferred to the State that had not been leased to another agency.

The Coastal Petroleum Litigation Settlement Agreement (“Coastal Settlement”), finalized on November 3, 1987, set up a matrix whereby five phosphate mining companies were required to deed approximately 6,250 acres in various sized tracts in the floodplains along the Peace and Alafia Rivers to the State of Florida for alterations made by the companies in the State-owned natural channels of these rivers. The five companies – Agrico Chemical Company; American Cyanamid Company; Estech, Inc.; International Minerals & Chemical Corporation; and Mobil Mining and Minerals Company – were to conduct these transfers over a period of 12 years, with the agreement mandating that the transfers be accomplished on either a date or event positive. Through an elaborate procedure, the settlement lands were to be transferred in fee to the Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund (“BOT”) through normal Division of State Lands (“DSL”) procedures and then leased by the DSL to an appropriate managing agency.

Approximately 991 acres of Coastal Settlement lands in the Homeland tract west of the Peace River were deeded to the BOT pursuant to the terms of the Coastal Settlement in April 1989 and the BMR was informally assigned management responsibilities.  On June 28, 1991, the Division of State Lands recommended approval for lease of the western 777 acres to the Division of Resource Management for use as a reclaimed phosphate mine research center contingent upon modification of the settlement agreement.  In the same document, the DSL recommended lease of the eastern 214 acres to the Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services (now the Department of Juvenile Justice) with a sublease to a private not-for-profit corporation for a substance abuse treatment center.  The Homeland portion of the Coastal Settlement property was formally leased to the Department of Natural Resources (now the DEP) for the establishment and operation of a field office and aquatic weed control research center via Lease No. 3963 on October 30, 1992. 

The BMR outlined its concept for the Integrated Habitat Network plan in 1992 in its publication "A Regional Conceptual Reclamation Plan for the Southern Phosphate District of Florida". The largely undisturbed lands in the riverine floodplains that were transferred to the State pursuant to the Coastal Settlement were to become the “core” lands of the Integrated Habitat Network (“IHN”). The adjacent reclaimed “buffer” lands, or Coordinated Development Area (“CDA”), were to compliment and enhance the habitat value of the core lands. Managed properly, together these areas would benefit the water quality and quantity in the area, improve wildlife habitat, and serve as connections between the mining region’s rivers and significant environmental features outside the mining region. The BMR envisioned that the plan would become a guide for the reclamation of mined phosphate lands throughout the southern phosphate district and began promoting the plan through numerous publications and meetings.

On October 15, 1993, approximately 930 acres of State-owned portion of the Coastal Settlement lands bordering the Peace River and Bowlegs Creek were leased to the Division of Resource Management (now the DWRM) in Lease No. 3995 and assigned to the BMR for management.  In July 1997, Lease No. 3995 was amended to include eight floodplain parcels on both sides of the Peace River north of Ft. Meade that are adjacent to the existing Homeland tract.  The lease was amended again in February 1998 to include 36 additional floodplain parcels from the Coastal Settlement portion of the South Prong Alafia River tract.  Amendment No. 3 added another 24 parcels along the Peace and Alafia Rivers to the lease in October 1999.  A fourth amendment to Lease No. 3995 in April 2001 added tracts along the upper Peace River north of Homeland and along the upper reaches of Little Payne Creek.  Amendment No. 5, executed in August 2003, amended the legal description of the leased premises. 

A third lease, Lease No. 4236, was issued in October 1999. This lease covered over 100 parcels composed of approximately 1,400 acres of the total 6,600 acres of Cytec-Brewster Phosphates, Inc. donated to the State to be included in the Alafia River State Recreation Area. The DEP’s Division of Recreation and Parks (“DRP”) is currently managing the 5,200-acre parcel as a public park and recreation area. Because some re-mining and reclamation activities were reserved by the IMC-Agrico Company in the deed transferring the land to the State, the BMR was entrusted with the management of 1,400 acres until the completion of these mining-related activities; this area will revert to management by the DRP following reclamation and release.

On July 17, 2001, copies of the draft "Management Plan for the Integrated Habitat Network: Lease Nos. 3963 and 3995" were provided to the Advisory Committee, a group encompassing a broad range of occupations, interests, and experience whose input was used to develop and improve the management plan for the IHN. During the development of this IHN management plan, the BMR had to take into consideration the existing and proposed land uses; recommendations and requirements of other agencies and organizations working in cooperation with the BMR; the purposes, restrictions, and requirements of the Coastal Petroleum Litigation Settlement Agreement; limitations and requirements of the two leases and four lease amendments; applicable phosphate mine reclamation and restoration requirements; and, the existing problems and needs of the property.

The advisory committee meeting/public hearing was held on August 15, 2001 and the comments from committee members and the public were used to finalize the management plan. The draft IHN management plan was submitted to the Division of State Lands on November 19, 2001 and was presented to the Acquisition and Restoration Council for the public hearing in February 2002. The draft  "Management Plan for the Integrated Habitat Network: Lease Nos. 3963 and 3995" was revised in March 2002 and presented to the council meeting of the Acquisition and Restoration Council in April 2002. The management plan was also put on DEP’s website in 2002. Since its original publication, periodic updates of land management activities completed on IHN lands have been posted by BMR staff on this website. The first revision of both print and website versions of the management plan, now entitled  "Management Plan for the Integrated Habitat Network/Coordinated Development Area: Lease Nos. 3963, 3995, and 4236", was completed in March 2006. Additional revisions will be published as circumstances dictate.

As part of its goal to have a holistically planned and functioning landscape via the Integrated Habitat Network/Coordinated Development Area concept, the DEP initiated an ambitious project for restoration of disturbed ecological and hydrological functions in the heavily mined Saddle Creek and the Upper Peace River watershed. The impetus for the project was a Memorandum of Understanding signed in 1995 by the DEP, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Southwest Florida Water Management District (“SWFWMD”), Department of Transportation (“DOT”), and Florida Game and Freshwater Fish Commission, now the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (“FFWCC”). Of the four potential alternatives originally considered, one was eventually selected following the completion of modeling studies as the route for surface water flow through the Tenoroc Fish Management Area (“TFMA”). Deemed a key element in the success of the restoration project, surface water flow will be of paramount importance in the selection, placement and success of mitigation wetlands at TFMA and the completion of reclamation activities on various Nonmandatory Reclamation Programs at the site (details can be seen at www.dep.state.fl.us/water/mines/upr/index.htm). A contract with a private company was executed with the State on June 26, 1998; reclamation activities have been underway since then and are expected to be completed within the next several years.

The restoration of the Upper Peace River watershed is a major step in another significant project being undertaken in the Peace River basin by the BMR. In 2003, the Florida Legislature mandated that the DEP/BMR, in consultation SWFWMD, conduct a cumulative impact study (primarily on the effects of mining, agriculture, and urbanization) in the Peace River basin to assess changes in landforms and hydrology. The results of this study are to be used by the DEP/BMR to prepare a resource management plan for the Peace River basin to minimize existing and potential future adverse cumulative impacts to the waters of the basin. All participants in the development of the Peace River Cumulative Impact Study/Resource Management Plan (“PRCIS/RMP”) will be required to comply with all pertinent programs of the DWRM. The PRCIS is expected to be completed in August 2006 and the RMP in January 2007.

Last updated: September 21, 2011

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