News Section: Environment
Environmental Groups Settle South Fort Meade Extension Lawsuit with Mosaic
ST. PETERSBURG – Sierra Club Florida, People for Protecting Peace River (3PR) and ManaSota-88 announced today that they have entered into a settlement with The Mosaic Company to resolve their Federal Court lawsuit challenging Mosaic’s South Fort Meade Extension (SFM extension) phosphate mine in Hardee County, Florida. The US Corps of Engineers permit for the mine allowed more than 7,000 acres of phosphate strip mining in the Peace River watershed. The plaintiffs’ lawsuit was filed in June 2010 in the United States District Court in Jacksonville and charged that the Corps permit was issued in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act and the Clean Water Act. The Court issued a preliminary injunction preventing mining under the challenged permit in July, 2011.
When entered by the District Court the settlement will allow mining to proceed at the SFM extension. In return there will be major changes in the mining plan providing significant additional protections for the Peace River watershed. Among them:
- Most significantly, pursuant to the settlement discussions, Mosaic purchased the Peaceful Horse Ranch (PHR), a property of some 4400 acres at the confluence of the Peace River and Horse Creek, with nearly 8 miles of the Peace River frontage and nearly 6 miles of Horse Creek frontage, including largely pristine wetlands. PHR, which has some 3500 acres of wetlands, is on the State’s Florida Forever list as a property which is desirable for protection by the state. It is vital to the region’s water supply, water quality, flood protection, and management of natural system. It has been identified as central to the strategy of providing connected conservation areas as well as wildlife corridors along the Peace River for the Florida Panther. Pursuant to the settlement, as additional mitigation for the wetlands lost to mining in the challenged permit Mosaic will donate PHR to the state for a state park, along with $2 million to cover startup and initial maintenance costs. This acquisition and donation will make PHR a destination for hiking, boating and wildlife viewing, will provide long term protection to the Peace River watershed and the Charlotte Harbor estuary and will supplement the Florida Forever protection program which has been hobbled by lack of funding.
Link to Florida DEP's description of Peaceful Horse Ranch: http://www.dep.state.fl.us/lands/FFAnnual/B_PeacefulHorseRch.pdf
- At the SFM extension mine, mining will be set back from the Peace River and onsite perennial streams, creating additional buffers of approximately 42 acres.
- An additional 7 bayhead wetlands and buffers, comprising over 70 acres, will be removed from the mine plan and preserved in a Conservation Easement. Bayheads are key to the ecosystem and are very difficult, if not impossible to restore or recreate.
- Some 400 acres of land between the southwest mine border and the Peace River will be placed into Conservation Easement, providing additional protection for the river.
- An area northwest of the site, and bordering the west side of the Peace will be placed into Conservation Easement.
- Two onsite streams will be enhanced with wetland treatment areas.
- Mosaic will enter into a long term water monitoring program, and an independent panel will be created to review Mosaic’s monitoring and restoration over time and to make recommendations where desirable.
The Peace River Watershed provides drinking water for hundreds of thousands of Floridians and the State of Florida, the EPA and Congress have designated the Watershed, and the downstream Charlotte Harbor estuary, as a Priority Watershed, an Aquatic Resource of National Importance and an “estuary of national significance.” It is home to endangered and threatened wildlife and fish and depends on freshwater flows from the Peace River.
Commenting on the settlement Bev Griffiths of the Sierra Club Florida Phosphate Committee said, “This is a victory for everyone in Florida who values protecting the Peace River and increasing Florida’s State Park System. We are pleased to be able to come to an agreement with Mosaic on these matters. Our settlement requests were based on the items which USEPA had identified as desirable prior to issuance of the Corps permit. We are very pleased to be able to implement these provisions in our settlement agreement.”
Percy Angelo of the Sierra Club committee added, “Under this agreement some 5000 additional acres of land will be preserved and put into Conservation Easement along the Peace River and Horse Creek. “
Dennis Mader of 3PR added, “Our lawsuit argued that the SFM extension permit should not have been issued without an environmental impact statement (EIS) under NEPA and other review under the Clean Water Act. It was unfortunate that we were required to file suit to implement these statutory protections, but it is positive that Mosaic has agreed to adopt these very significant protections and we look forward to the addition of the PHR to our state park system.”
The settlement will be final when approved by the District Court and when the lawsuit and pending appeals have been dismissed by the District Court and the Appellate Court.
For a copy of the settlement agreement, email firstname.lastname@example.org. ounty must now consider is how many tourists and potential residents will begin to feel the same.