Swiftmud may fine Cypress Creek mall developers

02/01/08 Mitch E. Perry
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Local environmental officials now say they will sanction the developers of the Cypress Creek Town Center for a series of polluted discharges into the creek.

Robyn Hanke, a spokeswoman for the Southhwest Florida Water Management District (Swiftmud), said that Swiftmud wrote to the developer, the Richard Jacobs Group, giving them two days to submit a repair plan. The issue has also been forwarded to the legal department for a technical review to determine whether there were any permit violations. If there have been, monetary fines could be imposed on the Jacobs Group.

Last October, the Sierra Club filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for granting the permit to the Jacobs Group.

Denise Layne, with the Tampa Bay branch of the Sierra Club, wants to know why the Corps granted such a permit.

The Sierra Club is also accusing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service of illegally supporting the Corps by saying that federally protected wildlife won’t be affected.

Last month, activists won a victory when the federal court in Washington, D.C., hearing the case fast tracked it, saying both sides need to file papers for a summary judgment by March 14th. But that does not mean a decision will be made that quickly.

The Army Corps issued a permit to the Jacobs Group last May, granting the developer the right to fill 56 acres of wetlands on the site of the mall, which is at State Road 56 and Interstate 75.

If the D.C. Judge rules in the Sierra Club’s favor, the organization wants construction on the mall to cease.

Layne says this is not the first time the Jacobs Group has illegally discharged pollutants into Cypress Creek. She claims it’s the eighth.

Swiftmud spokeswoman Robyn Hanke admits there have been other complaints, but none that have resulted in fines.

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