Thursday, September 28, 2017

After 150 attend meeting, Union County says more workshops needed on controversial Phosphate mine threatening Santa Fe River

On Monday, September 18, about a 150 people crowded into Union County High School auditorium in Lake Butler to participate in the hearing regarding amendments to the county’s Comprehensive Plan and Land Development Regulations.

HPS II Enterprises has proposed a Phosphate mine on 10,000 acres in Bradford and Union counties straddling the New River, a tributary of the Santa Fe. About 130 residents came out to oppose the mine in Bradford County in August.

The Union County Board of County Commissioners imposed a 1 year moratorium over a year ago on mining in order to revisit their Comprehensive Plan and revise their Land Development Regulations regarding mining. People from all walks of life testified before the Board of Commissioners; most spoke about water and air pollution, and the change to their rural lifestyle. Alachua County Commission Chair, Ken Cornell; Sierra Club Suwannee St. Johns Chair, Whitey Markle and several others suggested tabling the proposed amendments for further deliberation.  Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson, speaking as a resident of the Santa Fe River, is concerned about loss of habitat for the Oval Pigtoe Mussel that resides in the New River system and is a Federally Endangered species that warrants protection by the Federal Fish and Wildlife Service.

A staunch advocate against phosphate mining, Louella Phillips, drove from Polk County, FL to explain the real life consequences of living with phosphate mining surrounding her home in Bartow and the Alafia River. 

The Commissioners took all sides into consideration and voted to hold workshops in the upcoming months to have more discussions on improving the regulations to protect its residents and water systems.

The citizens are well organized and stand their ground with facts.  Allowing mining in wetlands adjacent to the New River which flows directly into the upper Santa Fe River will be harmful to the downstream system.  Tabling the amendments will provide even more time to finalize the Land Development Regulations through a public workshop process.