Lee commissioners keeping eye on mining, growth management bills proposed by state

Lee County commissioners are keeping a close eye on Tallahassee this week as two contradicting bills make their way through the Legislature, pitting the contentious issue of mining and growth management against each other.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Senate Bill 1122, which rewrites all of the growth management statutes in Florida, and an amendment to House Bill 991, which would take away the county’s ability to cite and control mines, were discussed at length between commissioners.

“So they want us to put on our big boy pants and control growth management, but want to preempt our ability (to cite and control mines)?” Commissioner John Manning asked during the meeting.

With the Florida Legislative session in its final two weeks, some of Florida’s worst legislation could pass, said Commission Chairman Frank Mann.

“This amendment was rushed through,” Mann said. “No one has had a chance to look at it.”

Combined, SB 1122 and HB 991 now have Lee County in a bind. With growth management potentially on the county’s shoulders, SB 1122 also guts the function of the Florida Department of Community Affairs and reduces the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

“They’re gutting the agencies that they would turn (mining) over to,” Mann said. “Both (agencies) we depend on immensely to help with growth management.”

For Mann, he believes there are some areas in Lee County where mining isn’t possible. With an increase in traffic, trucks and possible water pollution, Mann said the commission is on alert.

“Senate is really pushing this,” Commissioner Tammy Hall said during the meeting. “This will truly be an uphill battle.”

Also at stake is home rule, or the local control Lee County has on regulating growth and protecting local resources. A comprehensive plan on mining already exists in Lee County and the county has specified there’s enough rock aggregate in the Alico corridor for 30 years, Commissioner Ray Judah said.

“The state is trying to preempt (home rule) and allow for the raping and scraping of land,” he said. “Wherever and whenever.”

As it would affect Collier County, the Lost Grove Rock Mine, projected to be built south of Corkscrew Road, could threaten the Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed as well as the Audubon Corkscrew Swamp, putting a vital drinking water system at risk.

“This has a lot to do with surface water management and aquifers,” Mann said.

Currently, SB 1122 is in budget, while HB 991 is currently in its last day of committee hearings. The commissioners plan on reviewing a letter drafted by the office of Judah today in regard to SB 1122 and are currently reaching out to local legislative delegates about HB 991.

“(The county) didn’t just say no to mining,” Judah said. “We just said where it specifically can and shouldn’t occur.”

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