Update: Amendment to Important Everglades Legislation Will Reduce Discharges to Estuary and Increase Freshwater to Florida Bay
Senate Bill 10 (SB 10) will be heard before the Senate Appropriations Committee tomorrow. The Audubon-supported Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) Reservoir remains at the heart of this legislation. An amendment to Senate Bill 10 filed today allows the use of state-owned lands for the EAA Reservoir. When adopted by the Senate Appropriations Committee tomorrow, the amendment will meet the goals of EAA water storage and conveyance by directing state agencies to reconfigure existing projects to treat and store more water. Funding comes from voter-approved Amendment 1 (2014), which dedicated funds for water and land conservation including Everglades restoration.
“The amendment creates a path forward to fund and build the reservoirs that are critical to ending the tragic discharges to our coastal waters while sending more water south to the Everglades and Florida Bay. Audubon encourages all Senators to vote for this good bill,” said Eric Draper, executive director, Audubon Florida.
Audubon Florida – in the News
Last week, we took legal action to stop the state’s Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection from issuing a permit to private, out-of-state applicants (Texas Holdem LLC and Squeeze Me Inn) to build a boardwalk through important bird and wildlife habitat. This intended boardwalk would go right through the heart of the Little Estero Island Critical Wildlife Area (CWA) in Fort Myers Beach- threatening local and migratory seabird and shorebird populations. Since we filed our petition, local media have brought attention to the issue. Check out the stories below, and stay tuned for updates from us.
Beach blocks Texas Holdem from endangering shore birds
By: Patricia Borns, News-Press
The Florida Audubon Society put a hold on Texas Holdem on Friday after the LLC attempted to get a private boardwalk permitted over coastal habitat on Fort Myers Beach.
Audubon’s petition challenged the Department of Environmental Protection just as it was preparing to grant the permit request.
The boardwalk was intended to extend from two rental properties over protected, state-owned mangroves and tidal marsh into a sanctuary for rare and threatened species.
“Little natural habitat remains on Florida’s highly developed coastline,” said Audubon President Eric Draper, who condemned the permit as a bad precedent for the use of public lands. “A private dock across sensitive habitats into a protected nesting area will cause irreparable harm to shorebird and seabird populations,” he said.
Known as the Little Estero Island Critical Wildlife Area, the sanctuary at the Beach has been a protected place for birds since 1992, It’s where black skimmers, least terns and two kinds of plovers nest in spring and summer, and provides foraging habitat for North America’s rarest heron and threatened species like the reddish egret, red knot and piping plover.
“If you’ve been on Fort Myers Beach, you know it’s a heavily developed barrier island, but this part is pretty pristine,” said Brad Cornell, Audubon’s southeast Florida policy expert. “Big houses back up to the wildlife habitat, typically rental properties. That’s what these are.”
Along with Texas-based Texas Holdem, another out of state LLC, Squeeze Me Inn, sought the permit, too. Cornell said his agency had only 14 days to respond to the DEP’s notice of intent to grant the boardwalk request.
Audubon wasn’t the only one to oppose it.
“Members of the Beach town council voted unanimously to oppose this permit, and they also filed a petition for an administrative hearing,” he said.
In its petition, Town Attorney Dawn Lehnert wrote, “The extension of the applicants’ property in the manner proposed will no doubt increase the value of the applicants’ property. As a result surrounding property owners will desire the same amenity, which is likely to cause a proliferation of requests for individual private boardwalks in this location.”
Such a precedent would be the end of the wildlife area and any sensitive lands remaining on the Beach, Lehnert said. She also disputed the companies’ ownership of property in the critical wildlife habitat.
Both petitions will be reviewed in Tallahassee to consider whether they meet the criteria for a hearing. If the petitioners are deemed to have standing, the case will be assigned to an administrative judge and a hearing will be scheduled.