September 06, 2005

Lakeland Ledger Editorial: Wetlands Matter in Florida, Too

You can call what happened to New Orleans devastating, unprecedented, calamitous and profoundly disturbing. What you cannot call it is unpredictable.

Neither, strictly speaking, can you call what happened to that "city in a bowl" a "natural disaster." While it's true that Katrina was a monstrous hurricane, the damage she wrought was equally "man-made."

Message from Katrina to America. Wetlands matter.

.... Florida, surrounded on three sides by the sea and situated in the middle of "hurricane alley," is just as exposed. Florida has lost millions of acres of wetlands to bad development and ill-advised engineering schemes. Past attempts to "tame" the Everglades, and make coastal Florida more hospitable to high-rises and condos have resulted in widespread destruction of once-productive, and protective, marshes, wet prairies, swamps and barrier islands.

.... Since 1990, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has approved more than 12,000 permits to destroy 84,000 acres of Florida wetlands.

During that time span, the Corps rejected just one permit.

Nonetheless, developers complain that the Corps doesn't approve their permits quickly enough. So this year, Gov. Jeb Bush signed a new law making it easier for developers to bypass the Corps and get state approval to destroy wetlands of 10 acres or less.

"Elimination of unnecessary, duplicative and over-burdensome regulations is an excellent goal," Bush said upon signing the bill.

.... Katrina has demonstrated the sheer insanity of destroying wetlands in the name of eliminating "unnecessary, duplicative and over-burdensome regulations."

We hope and pray that no Florida city will ever suffer the fate of New Orleans. But if none does, it will be due to sheer, dumb luck; and certainly not because Florida avoided Louisiana's mistakes and zealously protected its natural system of storm-suppressing wetlands.
Full editorial at Lakeland Ledger

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