Measuring Success in Reclamation
As with all phosphate mines, the HPS lands will remain under the jurisdiction of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) throughout reclamation and will be subject to regular monitoring and inspections. FDEP will retain jurisdiction until HPS can demonstrate the reclamation is successful—all of the reclaimed landforms are functioning as promised, and they are stable and sustainable.
Reclamation success is determined by evaluating landforms against specific success criteria. FDEP will determine the appropriate success criteria for the project, which will be documented in the Environmental Resource Permit that authorizes mining at the state level. However, as HPS and its team have spent years studying the property, it will propose several pertinent success criteria for FDEP to consider using in the permit.
By conclusion of the reclamation activities, HPS will have created nearly 30,000 linear feet of intermittent and ephemeral streams. When determining the success of those streams, HPS will suggest that FDEP consider criteria such as stability of the stream bed and banks, whether the stream is a self-maintaining transport of water and sediments, whether it is compatible with adjacent waterbodies, and whether it has normal and natural diversity and abundance of pools and running water to support native freshwater fish species.
Throughout the project area, more than 1,300 acres of wetlands will be reclaimed. Within those wetlands, HPS willproposed success criteria including at least 80 percent groundcover by appropriate, non-nuisance, non-exotic vegetation, and those plants should be reproducing naturally and successfully. Nuisance vegetation should be less than 10 percent of the vegetation, and invasive exotics will not be acceptable. Further, individual wetland types, including herbaceous marches, wet prairies, shrub marshes, and forested wetlands, should all be required to have the appropriate type, amount, and distribution of vegetation of similar ecosystems. In the more than 1,000 acres of forested wetlands to be created by reclamation, the canopy should be required to have at least 400 live trees per acre that are at least 12 feet tall, the shrub layer will have at least 100 live shrubs per acre—and the shrubs must be of a self-sustaining variety. Species richness must also be comparable to other habitats and ecosystems of the same type.
The success criteria in a permit—whether it be the criteria suggested by the applicant and adopted by FDEP, or a different scheme of the regulatory agency’s creation—establishes minimal standards to which the applicant will be held. The ultimate post-reclamation goal is for an area to be a self-sustaining ecosystem. Then—and only then—can it be released from FDEP management and the applicant freed of its obligations for reclamation.