As part of President Obama’s continuing commitment to help coastal communities recover from Hurricane Sandy, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has signed two agreements that together total $2 million for broad-scale environmental monitoring within offshore areas along Cape Canaveral (Brevard County), Fla.
These areas have been identified to provide sand resources for areas damaged by last year’s superstorm. The University of Florida has been awarded $1.5 million, and will contribute a match of $500,000 for the study titled “Ecological Function and Recovery of Biological Communities within Dredged Ridge-Swale Habitats and in the South-Atlantic Bight.”
Additionally, BOEM has awarded the Naval Undersea Warfare Center in Newport, R.I., $500,000 through an interagency agreement for the study “Natural Habitat Associations and the Effects of Dredging on Fish at the Canaveral Shoals, East-central Florida.”
“These studies are significant steps toward better understanding how marine life responds to and recovers from dredging,” said BOEM Director Tommy P. Beaudreau. “This information will add to a growing body of knowledge being collected as a foundation for future decision-making related to coastal resilience and restoration.”
Dredging operations for the Sandy-related coastal restoration project are expected to take place from October 2013 to February 2014 within the BOEM sand borrow area Canaveral Shoals II, which is offshore Cape Canaveral.
The studies mark the first major action using part of the $11.7 million allocated to BOEM through the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013, which BOEM announced in May. Combined, the research will increase our understanding of how offshore fish communities and benthic organisms that live on or near the sea floor use offshore ridge and sand bodies.
Both studies will examine the effects of dredging, with the Navy’s work focusing on fish usage and the university focusing on all other aspects of habitat usage and alteration. The results of the monitoring studies will be utilized to help identify measures that may mitigate and reduce the impacts of future dredging activities. The project period is approximately two years.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District, will complete the project design and execution. BOEM scientists will be substantially involved in the design of the research, and participate in field work, data collection and processing, and the writing of any peer-reviewed papers stemming from this study monitoring the use of this borrow area.
BOEM and the University of Florida are members of the Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Units (CESU) network, a national consortium of federal agencies, tribes, academic institutions, state and local governments, nongovernmental conservation organizations, and other partners who conduct collaborative and interdisciplinary applied projects to address natural and cultural heritage resource issues at multiple scales, including at the ecosystem level. The University of Florida belongs to the Piedmont-South Atlantic unit, or chapter, one of 17 CESUs around the country.
Since Hurricane Sandy struck, BOEM has been working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, other members of the Federal government’s Hurricane Sandy Task Force, state geological surveys and other entities to analyze the needs for coastal restoration and to develop restoration plans.
BOEM has the authority to convey, on a noncompetitive basis, the rights to resources for shore, beach or wetland restoration projects, or for use in construction projects funded in whole or part, or authorized by the federal government. In exercising this authority, BOEM may issue a negotiated non-competitive lease agreement for the use of OCS sand to a qualifying entity.
Over the past 20 years, BOEM has invested more than $30 million to identify non-energy resources on the OCS, conduct world-class scientific research, and lease OCS resources to coastal communities in need. Information from environmental research and resource identification has informed environmental assessment and leasing decisions concerning the use of OCS sand resources in beach nourishment and coastal restoration.
Press Release, October 22, 2013