Eight days before our county commission decides the fate of our Environmental Protection Commission (EPC) at the public hearing on August 16 (from 9 a.m. to noon), you can be informed and participate in the discussion at these three events, all this Wednesday, August 8:
1.) First, an EPC Workshop, from 6:00 to 8:00 pm at Sabal Park, East Tampa:
At the Roger P. Stewart Center, EPC Director Dr. Rick Garrity and staff will present and take public comment on the two alternatives scheduled to be considered at the August 16 hearing:
option a) amendments to our Wetlands Rule in accordance with Dr. Garrity’s proposed “Hybrid Proposal,” his attempt to appease developers and their commissioner-puppets with a compromise to save the wetlands division.
option b) the repeal of our Wetlands Rule and total elimination of all our local wetlands protections, in accordance with Commissioner Kevin White’s motion, agreed to by Commissioners Brian Blair, Jim Norman and Ken Hagan.
If option a is chosen, the plan is to add more amendments later. Some will streamline the process, some will undoubtedly weaken our wetlands protections.
It has now been determined that option b also includes the repeal of our Mangrove Trimming & Preservation Rule, over my vociferous objections. This rule protecting mangroves was just put into effect less than a year ago, after 2 years of citizen workshops and homeowners association meetings, bringing everyone to consensus on this new rule that put our county’s mangroves under control of our local agency instead of the state. NO ONE has asked for its repeal, which would waste all that work by citizens and county staff, yet this commission is poised to toss it out.
Of course, this total-elimination option would cost us lots more that our commissioners failed to consider in their haste to do the bidding of their developer masters, including the considerable sum of money paid in polluter fees to our EPC wetlands division every year. That money is currently used for restoration of natural areas within our county. As U-CAN chair Terry Flott noted, taxpayers would pay every which way if commissioners follow through on this reckless option.
The Aug. 8 workshop will be a repeat of the Aug. 3 workshop I attended, where the special interests who are regulated by the EPC were, naturally, trying to weaken those regulations. Those special interests are now providing plenty of input into Dr. Garrity’s hybrid proposal, and so can you. Send your comments to Andrew Zodrow (the EPC attorney in charge of writing the rule amendments) by Friday, August 10. (Don’t forget to CC your commissioners, too.) An updated version of the rule amendments, including whatever public comment is incorporated, will be posted online by August 13.
2.) The second item on Wednesday will be informative, too. Jadell Kerr will speak to the Tampa Bay Sierra Club on Wednesday evening at 7:00 pm in Ybor City:
She’ll have plenty to tell us about this issue, and here’s our chance to pick her substantial brain. I plan to ask her what we might suggest to strengthen our wetlands protections. If we’re going to be amending our rules, let’s strengthen our protections — not weaken them — as we make the process more efficient. The meeting is open to the public.
3.) Your third option is a panel discussion on these EPC issues. The panel discussion will be televised live on public access TV show The Buzz at 9:00 pm.
I’ll be slipping out of the Sierra Club meeting early to sit in on the panel. Host Mark Nash has also invited Ann Paul, of Florida Audubon, and a couple of others, who we’ll just call “surprise guests” for now. You can call in with your questions and comments during the show 254-7820. I’d love to hear from some of you I’ve come to know in the Sticks! The show will be re-broadcast at 9 p.m. on Saturday.
So there is your EPC-centric schedule of events for Wetlands Wednesday.