Jeb to Developers: Take Our Wetlands, Please

The St. Petersburg Times ran an investigative piece that found a lobbyist for Florida developers wrote legislation that would make it easier to bulldoze the state’s ever-shrinking wetlands. The bill effectively took wetland permitting powers away from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and gave it to Florida legislators, a crew well-known for their inability to do the right thing.

A developers’ lobbyist helped write a state bill that would make it easier to get a permit to destroy wetlands of 10 acres or smaller. When it passed, the builders persuaded 15 members of Congress to send Gov. Jeb Bush a letter urging him to sign it. He did.

Besides the behind-the-scenes maneuvering, environmental groups were kept out of recent meetings between Florida lawmakers and the corps in which the lawmakers appear to be prevailing on the corps to relinquish permitting control.

Curiously, Jebby seemed to threaten the sponsor of the bill, which, remember, he signed after it passed and after he received a letter urging him to do so by 13 Repug and two Demohippocritic congressmen (that failed to mention the bill was drafted by developers).

Bush warned [Rep. Trudi ] Williams [R-Ft. Myers] that backing such a bill might hurt her reputation. When Williams sent him an e-mail explaining HB 759, he sent a terse reply that said he understood the bill but “my point to you relates to your career in the Legislature.”

Williams said last week she did not understand what Bush meant. Bush, responding via e-mail last week to the Times, said he wanted “to encourage Rep. Williams to take the lead on environmental issues” but was disappointed with part of the bill.

What developers don’t like is that to bulldoze wetlands requires a permit from both the state and the corps. That can take time, which is money to developers. In any case, no matter how long it takes, it’s pretty much a rubber-stamp deal:

The corps approves more wetland permits in Florida than in any other state. Between 1999 and 2003, it approved more than 12,000 permits and rejected only one. The state also issued permits for each of those projects — and the one the corps denied.


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