Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Sierra Club victory for coastal habitat in Manatee County

Sierra Club News Release
June 26, 2015

For More Information Contact: Sandra Ripberger at sandrarip@yahoo.com

Judge Rules Against Harbor Sound Development

Bradenton - In a victory for the protection of coastal mangrove wetlands, Sierra Club and other groups have successfully challenged the Southwest Florida Water Management District issuance of a permit to fill mangroves as an Administrative Law Judge issued an order recommending denial of the permit. 

The petition for an administrative hearing was filed by Joe McClash, The Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage (F.I.S.H.) and Manasota 88.  The Manatee-Sarasota Sierra Club filed a motion to intervene as did the Suncoast Waterkeeper.  

Attorney Ralf Brooks represented the Sierra Club “We agree with the findings and conclusions of the Administrative Law Judge. It is important to preserve these mature mangrove wetlands on site because they provide natural storm protection, prevent erosion and provide important habitat for wildlife here in Anna Maria Sound near the historic fishing village of Cortez. It is important to protect our remaining mangrove wetlands as valuable natural resources especially in aquatic preserves and outstanding Florida waters." 

Administrative Law Jude Bram D. E. Canter found the “proposed project is not clearly in the public interest because it would cause significant adverse cumulative effects on the conservation of fish and wildlife, fishing and recreational values, and marine productivity of Anna Maria Sound.”

Judge Canter noted in his Order that the proposed wetland filling of mangroves "resembles the kind of project that was common in the 1960s and 1970s in Florida, before the enactment of environmental regulatory programs, when high-quality wetlands were destroyed by dredging and filling to create land for residential development. In all the reported DOAH cases involving ERPs and mitigation of wetland impacts, the circumstances have involved impaired wetlands and/or the restoration or permanent protection of other wetlands on the project site. No case could be found where an applicant simply paid for authorization to destroy almost an acre of high-quality wetlands and convert it to uplands."

The Order is available online at this link:  https://www.doah.state.fl.us/ROS/2014/14004735.pdf