BRADENTON, Fla. (WFLA) — For decades, Manatee County has had strict rules in place, protecting all wetlands from being developed.
But with a 5-1 vote, all of these county restrictions are now gone.
This means the county will now point to the state for the rules and regulations for wetland protection.
Suncoast Waterkeeper Executive Director Abbey Tyrna is worried taking away these county protections will negatively impact Manatee County’s wildlife, and water quality, and could even increase flooding for anyone who builds on an area that was once a buffer zone.
“They had control over the preserves around wetlands, they had control over the preserves around water courses that lead to our drinking water,” she said. “Now, they walked out with no control.”
She told 8 On Your Side that, if anything, commissioners should’ve increased the buffer zone.
“So that we can ensure that in a coastal county like Manatee, that has been riddled with blue-green algae and red tide, that we can have some sort of control,” she explained.
But for developers, it was welcome news.
For them, this means it will now be easier and quicker to get a permit to build closer to county wetlands.
Manatee-Sarasota Building Industry Association CEO Jon Mast said, “By doing so, the intention is to contribute to making development more affordable for individuals and communities.”
So for developers, it’s a matter of property rights.
For environmentalists, it comes down to science.
But like most issues, politics played a role.
“It has become clear we have radical climate activists that are pushing the new green deal and have brought a movement that is rooted in communism into Manatee County,” Manatee County Commissioner Kevin Van Ostenbridge said.
“Is this truly about a love for the environment, or is it part of the reason really a part of a hatred to constitutional conservatives and the policies they champion?,” Manatee County Commissioner James Satcher questioned. “It doesn’t make sense no one shows up to say thank goodness you’re buying this land, hundreds of acres right on the Manatee River.”
“This is a big deal,” he continued.
Manatee County Commissioner George Kruse disagreed.
He was also the only one who voted against the motion.
“We’re trying to turn something non-partisan to win over people’s favor by wrapping it up in this false narrative that it’s inheritably conservative to give people back their property without factoring in the conservation side of it, the environmental side of it and the water quality side of it,” he explained. “You’re taking one little piece of this and turning it into some sort of constitutional and conservative thing and it’s just not.”
Manatee County provided the new rules and regulations for wetland protection to 8 On Your Side below.
“No development in wetlands regulated by the State of Florida may commence without the appropriate state agency permit or authorization, including a determination that the activities are in the public interest and have met avoidance and minimization criteria pursuant to the requirements of Chapters 62-330 and 62-331 F.A.C. Development permits authorizing development within wetlands may be issued subject to a condition that construction may not commence until issuance of the required state and/or federal permits.”
The county described the new process saying it will be “done through coordination with the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) and Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) to ensure the consistency of local and state permits for development.”
You can find more information below.
For an overview of statewide water regulations from the University of Florida IFAS, click here.
For the FDEP’s rules that will be used as guidelines, click here.
For the Southwest Florida Water Management District information on wetlands, click here.