Rock Mines threaten Everglades Restoration Plans

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Limestone rock mining in Florida provides critical components for housing and highway construction. But environmentalists have some concrete concerns as rock mining impacts the Florida Aquifers and Everglades restoration.

Earlier this month Obama administration officials attended a groundbreaking ceremony for the Picayune Strand Restoration project. It will attempt to restore a natural water flow through an area in Collier County that was over drained due to a failed housing development in the 1960s. This project, along with last month’s decision to elevate one mile of the Tamiami bridge in Miami, marks a refocusing Florida’s priorities toward Everglades restoration.

Dawn Shirreffs is a campaign coordinator for Clean Water Action, and said the one mile elevation project is just a start.

Others agree the Tamiami elevation project is essential to restoring a natural water flow to the Everglades. Drew Martin is with the Sierra Club.

While many restoration efforts attempt to restore water flow to the Everglades, environmentalists say that rock mining in the Everglades can disrupt restoration. The Army Corps of Engineers has issued 12 mining permits to 10 mining companies in Florida since 2002. Alan Farago is the conservation chair for the Friends of the Everglades, and says that rock miners pay 25 cents per ton to mine limestone in the everglades.

Creating water storage is a key component in Everglades restoration. So mining companies lobbied to have their quarry lakes considered as part of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, or CERP. Shirreffs tells how mining became a part of the CERP.

And Shirreffs says the technology for creating reservoirs in the Everglades for water storage still needs work.

According to Shirreffs, Stagnant water doesn’t do anything to help water quality.

These mining projects claim to be helping with everglades restoration, but Sierra Club attorney Paul Schwiep says that digging an 80 foot deep hole in the wetlands is hardly everglades restoration.

WMNF tried to contact Mining companies and the Army Corps of Engineers, but received no reply. Tomorrow night we will bring you the second part of our coverage of rock mining in Florida.