Environmentalists Weary of Sea Grass Protection Bill

Florida waters are teeming with life and much of that can be found in underwater grasslands. A bill awaits approval by the FL Governor to protect those lands, but some environmentalists oppose it. Language in the bill has them worried that developers may find way around protected grass beds.

Some lawmakers disagree, including Representative Will Kendrick of District 10. He said throughout legislation, no one opposed the bill until now. He said it received approval from various agencies including the Florida Wildlife Commission and the Department of Environmental Protection.

"What this bill actually does, it gives the board of trustees the next authority if they choose to create what we call mitigation banks where people could actually use these to restore sea grasses and we think that's an important issue that needs to be addressed." said Kendrick.

Some environmentalists fear that a particular piece of language in the sea grass bill, CS/HB 7059, is too unclear. Some say it is vague in nature. The particular language pointed out by environmentalists states:

"The board of trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund may ensure the preservation and regeneration of sea grass, as defined in s.253.04(4)(a)2., by providing for the establishment of sea grass mitigation banks, pursuant to s.373.4136, to offset the unavoidable impacts of projects where such banks meet the applicable public interest test of chapters 253 and 258. This subsection shall not prohibit mitigation for impacts to sea grass or other habitats on sovereignty submerged lands for other types of projects, or for projects occurring on non-sovereign submerged lands, upon applicable approval of the board of trustees."

Jack Rudloe with the Gulf Specimen Marine Lab in Panacea said, "To private parties and to other people--it would enable them to dredge up sea grass beds and plant a few sprigs of grass around--a thing called mitigation and the grass will not live, it will die. And this bill gives developers the opportunity to do that."

The bill still awaits a signature from the governor, which, Representative Kendrick says at that time--the board of trustees can make rules to go along with the bill and those guidelines could further protect sea grass.

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