Here is a story about sand mining and Gulf Sturgeon in Walton County
Thanks for forwarding the emails below about impacts of sand mining in
Walton County on the federally listed (but NOT protected) Gulf Sturgeon.
Unfortunately, I've been overwhelmed by the mining conference that was held
in Punta Gorda on Saturday and am just now retrieving your emails.
Gulf Restoration Network (GRN):
I'm forwarding a copy of this response to Joe Murphy, with the Gulf
Restoration Network (GRN). Hopefully Joe will be able to provide some
guidance on legal assistance, moral support and how to increase awareness of
I'm also forwarding a copy of this email to Dr. Nora Demers. Among many
other things, she handled the on-line registration for the conference and is
coordinating the post-conference web-based information dissemination.
Please go to the following link for information about the mining conference
and for non-attendees to complete the post-conference registration form to
be advised of new postings on the web site...
Finally I'm fowarding a copy of this email to Caroline Douglas with
"Southwings." They are a nonprofit organization that provides pilots/flight
assistance for environmental projects
I just spoke with Caroline to see if there was any chance that they might be
able to fly me to/over the Walton County mine sites on Friday of this week,
before I have to return to Athens, GA. She has a large project to finish
today, then will see if they can arrange anything that quickly.
If you have an electronic copy of a site map showing the location of these
mines, please email it to me and to Caroline. If you have a site map, but
it isn't electronic, please fax it to my toll-free fax at: (866) 808-0849
That's the good news. The bad news is that what is happening in Washington
County is typical of how mining is handled throughout the state. Mining is
considered an agricultural - rather than industrial - activity, without
virtually any significant regulation/evaluations. In an effort to counter
the increasing denials of mine pits by local governments, the mining
industry has gotten a bill sponsored in this legislative session to take
away all local control (e.g., counties) over mining.
Mining Impacts Coalition:
Conference attendees expressed interest in establishing some type of
coalition of concerned groups and individuals to co-ordinate efforts over
concerns regarding the failure of regulatory agencies and local governments
to address these important impacts.
Both Sierra and GRN should be valuable assets to assist Nora in creating at
least an informal coalition of groups and individuals for disseminating
information about mining.
We will be producing a post-conference publication relating to various
mining impacts, hopefully by the end of the year. I'll be back in touch
with you later about how your important problem can be summarized in an
abstract and described in short paper to be included in the post-conference
sydney Bacchus, Ph. D.
From: Kristina Jackson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: 'Sydney/AES' <email@example.com>, December McSherry
Subject: sandmining and Gulf Sturgeon in Walton Co, FL
Date: Mar 14, 2008 4:26 PM
Sydney & December I hope you are both well.
The email below was sent to a general sierra club box, dated 3/8/08. Then
forwarded to me. When I read Mr. Madambašs concerns I thought each of you
may have advice for him related to your experiences in effects of mining in
FL. I am trying to connect him directly with Sierra Club activists in his
area and fisheries folks but also thought that you may have some advice for
I did not copy this email to him as I was not sure if I was off-base in
bringing you into this discussion. His email is provided at the bottom if
you want to reach him. Please let me know either way if you are going to
work with him.
Thank you for your consideration,
Gulf of Mexico Sustainable Fisheries Campaign - Sierra Club
Phone: 352-375-1441, Cell: 352-318-7536
Explore, Enjoy and Protect the Planet
I need help to persuade my Walton County, Florida County Commissioners to be
better stewards of the Federally protected Gulf Sturgeon and its Federally
declared critical habitat. The county has not been effective in preventing
environmental destruction of our streams and estuaries caused by
nonconforming and illegal sand pits washing sediment and iron rich bacteria
(red clay/sand) into streams that feed into the Choctawhatchee River which
empties into the Choctawhatcee Bay which enters the Gulf of Mexico. These
conditions are well documented by our local paper, The Herald, and the FDEP.
The root of the problem are commercial surface sand excavations. Sand is
needed for construction, landscaping, etc and is a highly sought after
commodity in this area. These commercial surface sand mines have been
allowed to operate for years without local ordinances or permits. Due to
the high erosion incidences due to heavy rains and very loose sandy soil,
these pits have burst their deadly sediment into wetlands and the protected
habitat. The results have killed juvenile sturgeon and contributed to Red
Tide in the Bay and Gulf causing further fish kills. These pits in any other
county would be regulated to operate in land zoned industrial. However,
Walton County has looked the other way and has allowed commercial pits to
operate in land classed as Agricultural. In order to put a band aid on the
situation, the county passed an ordinance 2007-21 called a special exception
for borrow pits which allows "borrow pits" in agricultural zoned land.
Our position (which has legal president) on the definition of a borrow pit
in agricultural land is: if a farmer or rancher wishes to dig a hole on a
one time basis and use the soil in other areas of his farm or ranch and then
use the hole to make a pond for watering his livestock or smooth over the
excavation and use it for a planting area, then that is ok and consistent
with agricultural activities. However, if someone wants to dig a hole, sell
the soil, and allow the soil to be removed from the property (especially
millions of cubic yards), then that is a commercial surface excavation,
a.k.a. sand mine. No where in ordinance 2007-21 does it say "commercial
excavation, commercial borrow pit, commercial sand mine".
So - first I need immediate help to stop new mines that have been applied
for under 2007-21 and are under review for approval, because the get rich
quick folks have bought/are buying 100ds of acres of farm/timberland and are
getting ready to create more devastation with commercial surface sand mines.
We suspect these sand mine operators will be digging billions of cubic feet
of sand in support of the new airport going in near Panama City, Florida.
Second, I need help to motivate the county commissioners to move faster to
my requests to write ordinances that address present and past surface mining
activities so as to protect endangered species, wetlands, habitat, peaceful
enjoyment of our properties, wildlife populations, etc. etc.
I would be very appreciative if someone would contact me to offer legal
assistance in our cause to save the Gulf Sturgeon, shut down the illegal
commercial sand mines causing the fish kills and red tide and motivate our
county commissioners to that end. I can be reached at 850-883-3599 in the
day, 850-951-0225, at night, or 850-217-3659 by cell.
I will be meeting with the US Fish and Wildlife Service next week to seek
their assistance. We will be making "Save the Sturgeon" T shirts, setting
up a web site, and we hope to enlist the help of fishermen of legal species,
and anyone who will listen, to our cause.
In this highly charged political year, our situation would be "target rich"
and a visit to our area by any senior Sierra Club leader or Mr. Al Gore
would pay many dividends to the Sierra Club and our cause! Please Let me
know if this is possible and I will lend any assistance necessary.
Admittedly, this is my first "protect the environment" excursion. I am
just a regular hard working elderly citizen, who pays taxes, votes, goes to
church, and cares about his children and grand children and what may affect
them in the future, so please help.
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