The Central Florida Expressway Authority (CFX) Environmental Advisory Group (EAG) meeting today, January 31st, was from 9-11:00am in the Osceola Heritage Park. This is a long-standing advisory group that covers all projects that CFX is currently undertaking. Most environmental organizations and affected governmental agencies are invited. We had not been previously invited, though Florida Audubon, Florida Native Plant Society (FNPS), and Sierra Club representatives have been attending these for years.
Today, Dave and I were there for Friends of Split Oak. Representatives from the following organizations were there: Dewberry, Kimley-Horn, CH2M, FDOT, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Suburban Land Reserve (Deseret), Southport Ranch, Lake Mary Jane Alliance, Sierra Club Central Florida, Poinciana Residents for Smart Growth, Tavistock Group, Orange Audubon, Kissimmee Valley Audubon, Osceola County, and Orange County.
The other projects, Poinciana Parkway and Northeast Connector, were presented prior to the Osceola Parkway Extension.
Matthew Lamb of CH2M, the project manager, presented on the Osceola Parkway Extension. He started with the Western alignments from the 417/Airport and then moved to our area of interest, the ‘East Alignments’.
The preliminary feasibility study was completed in March 2012 by OCX, the summary report (ETDM Programming Screen Summary Report) was completed in June 2012, and the agreement to takeover this project from OCX (by CFX) was signed September 8, 2017. He had a slide about Split Oak and how he heard all this this feedback that said “minimize impacts to Split Oak Forest”. We have requested but haven’t received the public comments yet, but I would bet that his hearing might be a bit off.
Bob Mindick (Osceola County) said that all of the plans don’t indicate habitat and wildlife corridors. The maps of the alignments need to include wildlife corridors. He thanks those that put the Florida National Scenic Trail in Split Oak. He and Beth went to DC. Also, he wants to address the cost estimates, not sure how fixed those costs are – they don’t take into account the changes in fire management or the impact on fire management costs.
I responded and said that FNAI already has identified high quality corridors in its Critical Lands Identification Program and that would not be difficult to delineate corridors on the maps shown.
Bryan Barnett (FWC) said when you look at the road combinations there are very significant mitigation requirements. Maybe you should have a big picture mitigation project. He said that FWC would endorse that.
Marge Holt (Sierra Club) said her group supports the 300 alignment of the Southport Connector [it is the furthest north alignment of the three and would impact a single caracara nest but destroy the least other habitat]. They also would support a big picture mitigation project.
Audrey (Toho Water) asked what the time frame is for this project.
Deborah Green (Orange Audubon) said she would also support a regional mitigation effort and offered Lake X as excellent habitat. She also cautioned about accurate Right of Way acquisition costs. One of the criticisms of the PDE from OCX was that the prices were inflated.
Suzanne Arnold (Lake Mary Jane Alliance) read this letter from Charles Lee.
I spoke up and said that I disagreed with Charles. I don’t believe that putting a road through conservation land held in fee simple by a county protected by conservation easements and deed restrictions improves regional conservation. In fact, it does the opposite by decreasing the defensibility of conservation protections throughout the state.
Bob Mindick said he disagreed with me and my approach was NIMBY and not considering regional impacts. Charles has a sense of vision and that all protections are limited if you think something’s permanent that’s not true. What can we do with something that’s sensitively done and delicately done? The final answer is to be seen and outright opposition is premature.
Dave Wegman (Friends of Split Oak) asks if these alignments are the ones that will be shown at the public information sessions? Will there be any additional public meetings?
The lady running the meeting doesn’t really answer the questions. Glenn steps in and doesn’t really answer the question either. They do say that the Project Advisory Committee (PAG) is meeting next week and that’s public input (the PAG is made of developers and consultants)
Suzanne Arnold asked if the refinement (that we saw at the G4/Split Oak Subcommittee last week) will be included or shown in any way at the public meetings.
The answer was not definitive.
The presentation slides from the meeting are here.
Edited 2018-02-23 6:54am for clarity and to attach presentation.
Edited 2018-02-06 2:20pm to remove duplicate links.