Commission approves interlocal agreement with city for scrub jay mitigation
Lee County Commissioners approved an interlocal agreement with the city on Tuesday that moved the scrub jay habitat mitigation plan forward.
The plan calls for using some of the county’s Conservation 20/20 land in Alva for the mitigation, and unties the city’s hands on Festival Park, where a family of scrub jays took up residence after Hurricane Charley.
Council slogged through an approval of the interlocal agreement in May, though a funding mechanism has not yet identified for the $788,000 price tag.
Had the council rejected the proposal, the city would have been faced with an $8 million burden to pay for the federal mitigation plan.
By accepting the mitigation plan, city council also ensured that Cape Coral receives a permit that covers all future development that could be hindered by scrub jay habitats.
Commissioner John Manning said there was some concern that approving the interlocal agreement might violate one of Lee County’s ordinances but a blessing from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services gave the county assurance to move forward.
“It was a good agreement between the county and the city and we gave the city a great opportunity to save a lot of money,” Manning said.
Cape Coral Planning and Growth Manager Derek Burr said the final draft of the Habitat Conservation Plan will be before city council this fall for its approval after USFW conducts its final review.
The city will also apply for the Incidental Take Permit around the same time, and once implemented, it will act as the permit that allows the city to build if, and where, scrub jays are found.
Once the USFQ approves the ITP, the conservation plan becomes a “working document” according to Burr, and the restoration of the Conservation 20/20 land will begin.
The interlocal agreement was approved 4-1 by county commissioners.
Commissioner Ray Judah, who voted against the proposal, could not be reached for comment.