There is plenty of lime rock; no need to expand
Allowing for more lime rock mining at this point is not in the best interests of Lee County or its environment. Lee County Commissioners should not jump into any decision that could further jeopardize our water supplies or our wildlife.
Why is this an issue now? Because the commissioners are considering changes to the county’s comprehensive land use plan that could expand the area where lime rock mines can be located. The commissioners were to discuss the changes at a Comprehensive Plan Amendment and Zoning Hearing on Wednesday, but have decided to postpone that portion of the hearing until after the land development code amendments are presented to a review committee next month.
One of the reasons for the postponement is confusion over what the proposed land use changes mean. County staff says there is a lot of misinformation circulating about the changes. They say this change will not open the door for mining to occur anywhere where open land is
available and where lime rock might be underneath it. That’s understandable, but when information is circulating that borders could be expanded to allow for more mines beyond what is currently designated, then people get nervous, especially environmentalists.
“The impacts of a mine … extend well beyond the actual footprint of the site,” the Conservancy of Southwest Florida says. “Hydrology of the region’s wetland flow ways or movements of imperiled species can be affected by the mines.”
Stakeholders and residents are encouraged to speak to the proposal at Wednesday’s meeting. Commissioners need to know your concerns.
Lime rock is the foundation for structural development in Lee County. It is used to build commercial palaces and residential communities. It is used to build roads. Without lime rock as the premier building material, not much could go up in Florida because it is the type of rock that can withstand our harsh weather and bad storms.
Anytime anyone starts massive digs into our precious Florida soil, there are immediate concerns over the negative impacts to our environment and to our health. We live in a state where there is a delicate balance between preserving our water and land resources and building massive housing developments and road systems to accommodate a state population that grows at about 1,000 residents a day, according to reports.
Our environment has suffered in the past and continues to suffer now as we stagger through the environmental and economic crisis brought on by last year’s blue algae blooms and red tide – always a haunting reminder of how rerouting nature’s water routes, septic system density and massive doses of non-environmental friendly fertilizers can damage our environment.
We don’t want to damage our environment further and lime rock mines can do that. Over 22,000 acres of mines have already been approved for Lee County, according to various reports, in Lee County’s Density Reduction Groundwater Resource (DR/GR) area. Troyer Brothers currently has another application in the permit process for another lime rock mine on land it currently uses to farm potatoes.
To try and save you the headaches of digging through page after page of government minutia, there is no need at this time to build new mines because the current ones are capable of meeting supply demands for the next two decades – and beyond. There isn’t a shortage of lime rock in our area. According to Greg Stuart of Stuart and Associates Planning and Design Services, Lee County’s mines can meet “100 percent” of the region’s lime rock demands through 2042. Add Collier County’s supply to the mix and there is enough lime rock through 2049.
Stuart says he has requested several meetings with county staff to discuss his findings. Staff won’t see him. Staff has its own information in determining lime rock supplies – and it’s less than Stuart’s estimates. Stuart says he uses much of the same data supplied over the past 14 years by three county reports, the latest being the 2016 Waldrop Report. The main difference, Stuart says, is the county reports relied on Lee County as the “100 percent” supplier of the region’s demand, while his report factored supplies provided by Collier and Charlotte mines.
The county was proactive about 12 years ago in attempting to protect land from an increased number of applications for future mining. The water resource area known as the DR/GR was created to protect water, provide agricultural opportunities and limit development in an area that provided approximately 70 percent of the county’s potable water supply and habitat for many threatened and endangered species, including the Florida panther.
Small areas outside environmentally sensitive land and along roadways were designated for mixed-use development. Areas also were identified as being most compatible for lime rock mining near Alico Road, where mining has historically happened. This restricted area was called Map 14 and adopted in 2010. The overlay was challenged by mining interests, but an Administrative Law Judge upheld the law in 2012. It is that map which is under discussion and could be deleted in the future.
New, big holes in the ground upset water flow ways and wetlands, creating hydrology nightmares. Yes, once a mine is tapped out, it can be filled with water and become a recreational and environmental resource, but that evolution takes time. We are out of time. Our environment does not need another blow to its natural water flow system, especially when finding new lime rock is not imperative at this time.
Over the past several years, the county has done a great job in collecting conservation land through its 20/20 program to protect sensitive areas, provide recreational opportunities and help secure water quality efforts. How could it possibly make sense to start new mining operations now. They not only upset the environment, but bring more traffic in the form of thousands of large trucks carrying material into an already congested area.