REQUEST APPROVAL OF STANDARD FEDERAL AND STATE DOCUMENTS FOR ALLAPATTAH RANCH ACQUISITION
(Note: All this from a search for CERP at this website: http://www.martin.fl.us/GOVT/search/index.html -- a total of 107 results. Does anyone find it strange that, at their Index page, there's not a single mention of it? http://www.martin.fl.us/GOVT/search/index.html)
REQUESTED BY: Gary N. Roderick, Chief Office of Water Quality
ADMINISTRATION: Russ Blackburn, County Administrator
PREPARED BY: Carol Ann Dryburgh, Executive Aide
DOCUMENT(S) REQUIRING ACTION: Option Agreement to Purchase and Conservation Easement Deed
MEETING DATE: August 27, 2002
COMPLETE BY: July 30, 2002
Board authorization for Chair signature is requested for standard Federal and State documents. These documents are required by the South Florida Water Management District's Governing Board in order to acquire supplemental funding for the Allapattah Ranch.
The South Florida Water Management District and Martin County have
cooperatively purchased 13,186 acres of the Allapattah Ranch.
An opportunity exists to enroll the Allapattah Ranch into the Federal Wetland Reserve Program in order to obtain supplemental funding for restoration.
The Wetland Reserve Program is a voluntary program offering landowners the opportunity to protect, restore, and enhance wetlands on their property.
The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) provides technical and financial support to help landowners with their wetland restoration efforts.
The NRCS goal is to achieve the greatest wetland functions and values, along with optimum wildlife habitat, on every acre enrolled in the program.
This program offers landowners an opportunity to establish long-term conservation and wildlife practices and protection.
The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has approved FY2002 apportionments for USDA's Wetlands Reserve Program "program funds".
These are the funds to purchase easements and cost-share on restoration and includes $25 million for the Allapattah Ranch.
An "Option Agreement to Purchase" and a Conservation Easement Deed are required to enroll the Allapattah Ranch into the Wetlands Reserve Program.
The Allapattah Ranch, located in Martin County, has been in the District's Save our Rivers Plan since 1996.
The recently completed Indian River Lagoon Feasibility Report recommends acquisition and restoration of the Allapattah Ranch as part of the 93,000 acres of Natural Storage and Treatment Areas feature.
The Feasibility Report schedules acquisition to begin in early 2003 and construction to begin in late 2006.
In order to take advantage of a willing seller and acquire the property before it is sold for another purpose, The Martin County BCC, and the SFWMD Governing Board approved the acquisition of 13,186 acres of the Allapattah Ranch in December 2001.
The SFWMD and Martin County closed on the purchase in March 2002.
To help compensate for the effects of early acquisition on the cash-flow for the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), the SFWMD solicited cost-share assistance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) under its Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP).
Under the subject Option Agreement to Purchase, the SFWMD will receive $19.8 million from USDA through a budget amendment in FY03 (67% of the March 2002 purchase price) in return for a permanent conservation easement on the property.
In addition, USDA will cost-share in the restoration construction, which allows the SFWMD to accelerate the schedule for this project with minimal impact on the cash-flow for CERP.
Acquisition and restoration under the WRP will provide the SFWMD with a greater level of federal cost-share compared with the CERP.
If acquired and restored with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) under the CERP, the Corps would cost-share 50% on the real estate, construction and operations and maintenance.
Under the Wetlands Reserve Program, USDA will provide 67% of the funding for real estate and 75% of the costs for restoration.
While not included in this funding allocation, USDA is also committed to preserving and maintaining the natural functions of the land in perpetuity.
The purpose and goals of the WRP are an excellent match with those of the District and the Corps under CERP.
As stated in the Conservation Easement Deed to be executed between USDA, the SFWMD and Martin County, the purpose of the easement is to "restore, protect, manage, maintain and enhance the functional values of the wetlands and other lands, and for the conservation of natural values including fish and wildlife and their habitat, water quality improvement, flood water retention, groundwater recharge, open space, aesthetic values, and environmental education."
The Options Agreement to Purchase (and the corresponding Conservation Easement Deed) is not a service contract. Under this Agreement, SFWMD agrees to sell a conservation easement over the 13,186 acres of the Allapattah Ranch to USDA for $19.8 million ($1,500 per acre).
Under a separate and related Cooperative Agreement being presented to the Governing Board for approval at this same meeting, USDA is committed to providing 75% of the funds for restoration of the Allapattah Ranch.
The estimated acreage for the Option Agreement, 13,186 acres, is based on the Contract for Purchase for the Allapattah Ranch property and the corresponding surveys. This estimate will be updated based on surveys to be performed by USDA before closing on the Conservation Easement Deed. Another consideration for the easement acreage is the need to exclude some of the acreage including: education/recreation area, office area, public parking and some structures (e.g., mobile homes and cattle feed pens) from the conservation easement. The easement payment, $1,500 per acre, is based on USDA's easement payment cap for non-muck soils under the WRP. Under WRP, the easement payment for non-muck soils in Martin County is the lesser of two values: a) the appraised fair market agricultural value of the property ($1,502 per acre based on recent appraisal by USDA); or b) $1,500 per acre.
Moving forward with the WRP Easement and accompanying Restoration Cost-Share Agreement allows the SFWMD to accelerate the schedule for the Allapattah Ranch restoration project and show early success in its Everglades restoration effort, without jeopardizing funding needed for projects to be completed earlier on the CERP schedule.
One alternative to entering into this Agreement with USDA is to rely 100% on the CERP schedule and funding for acquisition and restoration of Allapattah Ranch. One obvious drawback of this alternative is that the SFWMD would not have USDA's $19.8 million now for use in acquiring other lands needed for CERP. Instead, the District would have to wait until the project is authorized by Congress and a Project Cooperation Agreement (PCA) has been executed with the Corps before receiving credit from the Corps. Currently, the PCA is scheduled for execution in approximately 2006. Under this scenario, the SFWMD would only receive 50% cost-share on the lands, compared with 67% cost-share under the WRP. Another drawback to not executing this Agreement is that the SFWMD would probably not be able to accelerate the schedule for restoring the Allapattah Ranch. With USDA providing 75% of the funds needed for restoration construction, the restoration schedule can be accelerated without using funds needed for other CERP projects scheduled for implementation earlier in the schedule. Additionally, the 75% cost-share for construction under the WRP is much higher than the 50% cost-share under CERP.
The WRP agreement does not affect the County's participation for the purchase of the Allapattah property. This was done to afford the District the ability to leverage funding from the Save Our Everglades Trust Fund (SOETF). According to the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the County and the District, the County agrees to cooperate with the District in its efforts to obtain funding from the WRP and SOETF for the acquisition of the Property, including joining with the District, as a co-owner of the Property, in granting a conservation easement to USDA-NRSC if required in conjunction with the release of WRP funds to the District. The County further acknowledges that all proceeds received by the District to pay the District's Share of the Pre-Acquisition Costs, Purchase Price and Closing Costs, whether received prior to or after closing, shall be the sole property of the District and the County shall have no claim for such funds, unless the proceeds exceed the District's Share of the Pre-Acquisition Costs, Purchase Price and Closing Costs; in which event any such excess shall be used to reduce the County's Share of the Pre Acquisition Costs, Purchase Price and Closing Costs, if permitted under the WRP or SOETF.
Signature documents will be provided via supplemental memo.
a. Staff recommends the approval to authorize the chair to sign the listed documents
a. Do not authorize signature and give alternate direction
Loss of $25 million dollars of supplemental funding
a. Options Agreement to Purchase Conservation Easement Deed
SUGGESTED REFERENCE MATERIAL
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Note, please, how by including one word -- 'central' -- in the sixth paragraph at this website: http://www.martin.fl.us/GOVT/depts/gmd/corresp/2004/gme/gme04m.041.html, not only is ALL of south Florida included in the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), but also ALL of Central Florida. Welcome to The Wildlands Project, where humans, except for a few with clout, are to be herded into 'smart growth' urban clots, to exist as denizens of the urban jungle. This is all about property rights.