The América Movil (AMX-1) Submarine Fiber Optic Cable System traverses approximately 15,900 km (9,879.8 mi) of seafloor connecting Florida to the Caribbean, Mexico, and South America. CSA Ocean Sciences Inc. (CSA) provided comprehensive permit consulting services as the Permitting Agent for América Movil in support of permit acquisition for the Jacksonville and Hollywood, Florida landings as well as permit compliance assistance for landings in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Permits, Environmental Assessments, and Surveys
CSA supported the AMX-1 Cable System from inception of the project and continued through permit acquisition and post-installation mitigation at landings in Florida and in Puerto Rico. The Florida permits acquired included all environmental authorizations required from federal, state, and local (county) regulatory agencies, including environmental resource permits, submerged lands leases (including one that required approval by the FDEP Board of Trustees), USACE Letters of Permission, and a Broward County environmental resource license. CSA’s comprehensive responsibilities included the preparation of a Permit Feasibility Study, route design to avoid and minimize impacts, benthic characterization field surveys, agency coordination, permit application preparation and acquisition, hardbottom mitigation plan development and negotiations, and post-installation surveys and mitigation in accordance with permit compliance requirements.
To ensure permitting timelines were achieved, CSA developed and updated a permit tracking table that identified all required permits, the permit granting authority, duration required for permit application review and approval, permit submission requirements, and permit dependencies (predecessor linkages to all other identified permits). Where required, CSA prepared environmental assessments in support of permit applications and performed the necessary environmental surveys, including nearshore benthic characterization and protected species surveys and deepwater coral surveys. CSA tasks included site visits and agency meetings to facilitate permit acquisition, the conduct of presentations to regulatory agencies, support of ASN’s requirements for cable landings, and regular updates to ERM of progress and concerns relative to all permit applications.
Protecting Hard Corals
Prior to installation offshore Hollywood, Florida, 149 biological specimens were relocated away from the cable to minimize impacts related to installation activities. These specimens were predominantly hard corals, particularly the target species Acropora cervicornisand Dichocoenia stokesii. Post-installation, CSA continued to manage mitigation activities, relocate at-risk hard corals, and monitor reattached corals associated with the installation of the AMX-1 Submarine Cable System offshore Hollywood, Florida. As the Permitting Agent, CSA ensured permit compliance regarding post-installation mitigation and monitoring. The 6-month post-installation coral monitoring survey was performed in the spring of 2014 to document and evaluate coral reattachment success and relative health as well as evaluate selected control specimens. The 6-month post-installation monitoring indicated that the reattached specimens were generally in very good condition and responded well to regional oceanographic conditions. Continued biological monitoring will occur through 2018 in accordance with the permit conditions outlined in federal, state, and local permits issued to the project.
Tire Removal from Osborne Reef
Additional impact mitigation offshore Hollywood included tire removal from a nearby offshore site. CSA removed and disposed of more than 400 tires from Osborne Reef. This reef was created in the 1970s in an effort to create artificial substrate and enhance the local reef habitat by deploying between one and two million tires. Over time, the tire bundles have become loose and tires are moving onto and over adjacent natural reefs. Removal of a portion of the loose tires adjacent to the reef provided local, in-kind mitigation with the intent to reduce damage to adjacent reefs.
Sea Turtle Nest and Long-Term Coral Monitoring
Prior to installation of the AMX-1 cable in Puerto Rico, endangered sea turtle nesting monitoring was required. CSA provided a certified biologist to survey the landing beaches to ensure that no sea turtle nests were laid within the landing footprint. In Puerto Rico, the AMX-1 cable comes ashore in two locations offshore San Juan where coral mitigation was conducted post-installation.
CSA is responsible for the continued long-term coral monitoring through 2018 to ensure mitigation success along the two cable segments. Ten zones where impacts occurred are monitored annually to assess cable stability, habitat condition, and relocated coral health in accordance with permit conditions.