FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Port St. Lucie, FL/January 15, 2016 – Today the South Florida Water Management District (“SFWMD”) issued notice of its intended agency action to approve of the issuance of the Environmental Resource Permit and Sovereignty Submerged Lands (SSL) Easement for the City’s Crosstown Parkway Extension Project – Bridge Crossing of the North Fork of the St. Lucie River (the “Project”). The SFWMD’s permit approval and issuance of a SSL easement are necessary for the City to move forward with construction of the Project. The SFWMD’s decision to issue the environmental resource permit and the SSL easement is an important Project milestone.
Development of the Project involved extensive federal, state and local agency interaction, and public outreach and planning efforts over the past 20 years. The Project, as a third East-West river crossing, has been contemplated by the City of Port St. Lucie since the 1980s. The City’s two existing bridges that cross the St. Lucie River – Port St. Lucie Boulevard and Prima Vista Boulevard – currently operate at a level of service that is below what would be deemed acceptable by the Florida Department of Transportation. Specifically, both of the existing bridges operate at an “F” level of service. Consequently, the Project will address the existing threats to health, safety and welfare of the public. Accordingly, the City has pursued the construction of the Project – the Crosstown Parkway Extension (the third bridge over the North Fork of the St. Lucie River) – in recognition of the substantial, existing transportation deficiencies. The Project will also provide additional East-West mobility that will not only improve emergency response and enhance natural disaster evacuation, but it will also facilitate economic growth and development for the City of Port St. Lucie. The public also recognized the critical need for the Project. The Project enjoyed unprecedented public support by 89% of the voters who, in 2005, approved a referendum regarding the issuance of $165 million in general obligation bonds for the construction of the Project.
The City has complied with exhaustive and comprehensive environmental review processes in order to successfully obtain a federal Environmental Impact Statement for the Project. The federal agencies, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), approved the City’s crossing along Alternative Route 1C. A federal court case challenging the Project resulted in a Federal Judge upholding FHWA’s and USDOT’s approval of the overall Project. Federal District Court Judge Middlebrooks praised the City on its commitment and efforts to protect and preserve the natural resources as part of its efforts to design and construct this necessary transportation facility.
In order to proceed with the next steps towards the construction of the Project, the City must obtain an Environmental Resource Permit. Additionally, the bridge and bridge piles require public easements to cross sovereign submerged lands. Through its involvement in numerous federal and state review processes, the City demonstrated that the Project is clearly in the public interest. The City completed an ambitious mitigation program consisting of projects that improve water quality, provide enhanced recreational opportunities and access to natural resources, and increase the State’s inventory of conservation lands by approximately 110 acres. The mitigation more than offsets and addresses any and all environmental impacts associated with the Project’s construction. All of the City’s Project-related activities were presented to the SFWMD as part of the permit review process. Based on a review of the information provided, and the City’s compliance with applicable rules and regulations, the SFWMD issued the Environmental Resource Permit and SSL Easement authorization. Today’s action by the SFWMD is integral to and serves as critical milestone for this long-awaited Project.
Azlina Goldstein Siegel, Assistant City Attorney
City of Port St. Lucie
121 SW Port St. Lucie Boulevard
Port St. Lucie, FL 34984
Telephone: (772) 873-6321
Facsimile: (772) 873-6335