Thursday, April 7, 2011

Sierra Club Florida Alert - Save our Wetlands!


HB 421 by Representative Leonard Bembry would undermine protection of water resources and harm wetlands and downstream waters.  It would allow agricultural land to be prepared for development including the filling of wetlands without any consequences.

This bill will be heard Friday morning in House Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee

Please call Subcommittee members TODAY to urge them to vote 'No'. 

Phone calls are best, but if you email, please put your message in the Subject line "Vote No on 421 - Please". That way they'll see the message even if they don't open the email.

Below is contact information for Representatives who will vote on the bill tomorrow.   Talking points on the bill prepared by Audubon of Florida follow this list.

House Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations 2011
District City
Local Phone
Email Address
Rep. Ben Albritton
Rep. Frank Artiles
Rep. Leonard Bembry
Rep. Jim Boyd
V. Chair Steve Crisafulli
Merritt Island
Rep. Luis R. Garcia, Jr.
Rep. Tom Goodson
Rep. Clay Ingram
Rep. George R. Moraitis, Jr.
Fort Lauderdale
Rep. Steven M.  Perman
Boca Raton
Rep. Elizabeth W. Porter
Lake City
Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda
Rep. Patrick Rooney, Jr.
Palm Beach Gardens
Rep. Franklin Sands
Chair Trudi Williams
Ft. Myers

CS/SB 1174 and HB 421 Undermine Protection of Water Resources and Will Lead to Harm to Wetlands, Other Property Owners and Downstream Waters.

Section 1 - Impacts the environment, other landowners and waterways by reducing regulation of water a public resource.

Section 1 removes an important protection for other landowners, for waterways and for other landowners.  Because water does not follow property boundaries, diversion of stormwater, surface water and groundwater is likely to have an effect on upstream water bodies (drainage) and downstream land and water bodies (pooling and flooding).  It is appropriate and necessary to have a permitting process for activities that may harm others.   

This section not only lowers protection for the public, other landowners and the environment, it creates new burdens for those who have to deal with changes in the timing and flow of waterways.

Section 2 – Regulation of water – a public resource

This section transfers responsibility for regulation of a public resource from the water management districts to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which does not have the capacity to perform these functions.  The section provides scant guidance as to how the Department will make decisions.   

This change aggressively undermines responsibilities of the water management districts and DEP for protection Florida’s water resources.

Section 3 – Waiving mitigation for harm to wetlands

Section 3 creates a major loophole for currently required mitigation for development of wetlands.  The loophole allows developers to avoid mitigating for loss of wetlands and for water quality impacts.  A landowner planning to develop or to sell land for development could convert, fill, dredge or otherwise damage wetlands under this loophole and avoid the compensatory mitigation that would be otherwise be required during the development permitting process.

Section 3 also greatly changes the definition of agricultural activities in ways that, when used with the rest of the section, may cause more harm:

  • Fallowing means the land could remain essentially unfarmed until developed and still qualify for the wetlands mitigation exemptions.
  • Leveling means that the land could be graded for development purposes and escape wetlands and stormwater rules.

The addition of the words “not for the sole of predominant purpose” greatly narrow the current statute, which was written to prevent water from being diverted, which could be harmful to other landowners, including public lands and to receiving waters.

David J. Cullen
Sierra Club Florida lobbyist