News And Updates
Published By: Charlotte Sun
The Charlotte Harbor estuary will have a new phosphate mine in its watershed if CF Industries' recent application for a 7,500-acre mine wins approval.
Filed in March with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the company's application calls for a 6,385-acre strip mine. The excavation would affect about 1,700 acres of wetlands and streams.
The streams to be disturbed include the Horse Creek tributaries Brushy and Lettis creeks, and Peace River tributary Troublesome Creek, according to a public notice.
Those wetlands destroyed would be mitigated with the creation of manmade wetlands.
The DEP has given the public until June 9 to comment on the application.
Doug Manson, attorney for the four-county Peace River/Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority, said he's begun “looking over it.” He said he expects to learn more about the impacts in the months to come, as DEP staffers begin raising their own questions as part of the permitting process.
Charlotte County Commissioner Bob Starr, however, said his county should review the application and consider drafting comments.
“Since this is in our backyard, I would want to make sure we weigh in on it in the early stages,” Starr said. “We're always concerned about the cumulative impacts, and certainly Horse Creek is a very important water body.”
“Everybody in this watershed should pay attention to this because it's another 1,600 acres of wetlands which won't be there to provide water to our Peace River,” said Sue Reske, chairwoman of the Charlotte Harbor Group of the Sierra Club. “There's still, to this day, scientific conflict over the functionality of those (mitigation) wetlands.”
However, Richard Ghent, director of community affairs for CFI, said his company is cognizant of the importance of freshwater flows for both the estuary and public drinking supplies.
He said the mine plan will have “strong conservation and preservation components.”
The plan calls for some 90 percent of the site's bay swamps to be preserved, he pointed out.
“We've been mining since 1978,” Ghent said. “We're very good stewards of the wetlands and very rigorous about adhering to water quality standards. That's certainly going to be first and foremost in our minds going forward.”
The company owns 25,000 acres in its Central Florida phosphate mining complex and has had permits since 1978 to mine its existing 17,000-acre South Pasture mine.
The company in March applied for a state Environmental Resource permit to mine an area not covered by those permits, Ghent said. CFI also needs a wetlands dredge permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and a development agreement from Hardee County.