Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Rock Mining in Florida, poised for the big kill ... by gimleteye

The theme, "Florida for sale!", is prominently on display in Tallahassee by the rock mining industry. What the industry is poised to do, is to exempt permitting from local regulations.

Rock mining regulations are a sore point in Miami-Dade where the industry's footprint is most visible from above, at the far edge of Miami International Airport. Although the industry itself is secretive and extraordinarily wealthy, it is no secret that zoning changes from agricultural land to rock mining is a precursor to changes in order to build more platted subdivisions. This tried and true formula works especially well when it is time for industry to beat back wetlands protections: first you drain the wetlands, then you dig out the lime rock, then you build houses around your lifeless water features otherwise known as "lakes".

The Miami-Dade County Commission, under former commissioner Natacha Seijas' direction, virtually shut out the public from the local regulatory process long ago. People complained too much. People like homeowners in West Dade whose foundations cracked and interiors parted ways from joists and drywall due to blasting by rock miners.

So between zoning issues and comprehensive land use planning -- also being eviscerated by the state legislature and barely legal governor Rick Scott-- and homeowners who happen to live near rock mines (like the ones who live near the proposed Cemex expansion in West Dade), it is fascinating that the industry finds its top priority is to pre-empt local regulations. Of course, the builders and developers and wrecking crew generally favor local control, unless they can get an easier path to permitting at the state level. Blame the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Associated Industries, the Florida Engineering Society, and the Wetlands Mitigation Banking Alliance.

One of my top five stories about rock mining (largely consolidated today under ownership by foreign corporations) occurred during the time I was leading opposition to a Lennar plan to build a community of 15,000 on Card Sound Road called Florida City Commons. Environmentalists had been struggling to protect this area crucial for protection of the nearby waters of Biscayne National Park for decades. Congress had long acknowledged its importance for Everglades restoration. Environmentalists were imploring federal agencies to prohibit the expansion of rock mining through wetlands destruction, when on February 4, 2006 I literally stumbled on the carcass of a dead panther on the side of the road, a stone's throw from the proposed site. The photo above is one I took that night.

The county commission, again led by Seijas, Barbara Jordan and the unreformable majority, had rolled over. State agencies from the water management district to the Florida Department of Community Affairs had been ineffectual at best and complicit at worst. The US Fish and Wildlife Service not only refused to write a jeopardy opinion for the panther in the area, managers sensitive to political interference re-assigned scientists who advocated the measure be brought to bear against development of wetlands there.

The end of the story: agencies that wouldn't block wealthy rock miners from expanding in panther habitat in the early 2000's recently erected a twelve foot fence topped with barbed wire on the widened 18 Mile Stretch to the Florida Keys to certify their missions, including Florida's, to "protect" the Florida panther. What you see is through that fence is Administrative Fraud at a grand level. It stretches all the way to Tallahassee. These thoughts were on my mind on a recent trip into the 10,000 Islands and Everglades National Park. So few birds. So many catfish. You don't need a GPS or chart to tell you the direction the state is headed. That sound of blasting from Tallahassee? It is the patrimony of Florida that GOP extremists are blowing up just like the Taliban did in Afghanistan.

(March 1, 2001 (AP): Using everything from tanks to rocket launchers, Taliban troops fanned out across the country Thursday to destroy all statues, including two 5th-century statues of Buddha carved into a mountainside. Despite international outrage, troops and other officials began demolishing images, which they say are contrary to Islam, in the capital of Kabul as well as in Jalalabad, Herat, Kandahar, Ghazni and Bamiyan, said Qadradullah Jamal, the Taliban's information minister. "The destruction work will be done by any means available to them," he said. "All the statues all over the country will be destroyed.")


Anonymous said...

you can't excuse Lynda Bell from your article... she is in love with the rock miners and apparently is on her way to deliver what she owes them

Anonymous said...

Blame more than Lynda Bell. There is a total lack of leadership from all the locals. The commission members for both Palmetto Bay and Cutler Bay are watching their control evaporate. It is great for them. "I'd like to fight it, but my power has been preempted by Tallahassee." No one from any of these cities is travelling to Tallahassee to fight for local control over our quality of life. They just want to kiss babies and not have to focus on land use.

Watch out next year. No concurrancy requirements. No control over rock miners or charter schools. Its all coming soon to your neighborhood.