Mosaic Delays Phosphate Mining Plans In DeSoto County

Mosaic’s request for DeSoto County commissioners to reconsider an earlier denial of the bulk of its mining plans won’t happen as soon as originally planned.

The fertilizer company announced last month that it will put off its request to rezone 14,000 acres (in addition to 9,000 acres already approved for mining) until at least 2025.

Officially, Mosaic said the reason for the delay was that the rock from DeSoto had been planned to be shipped to its Plant City plant, which is closed. But that plant closed permanently in 2019 after being temporarily closed in 2017 for economic reasons.

A more likely explanation may lie in local politics. Four county commission seats are up for election this year and the candidates’ standing on mining has become a major issue.

That debate involves the effects on local water and wildlife resources as a result of the alteration of 17 percent of the county’s area either through mining excavations or the construction of impoundments to store clay extracted during the initial processing work. This will combine to permanently change the county’s landscape.

Although Mosaic officials contend they will follow all state and federal regulations regarding protected wildlife species and water discharges into the Peace River and its tributaries, the claim has been met with skepticism because of the history of environmental damage caused by phosphate mining and fertilizer production.

Any effects on the Peace River is a key issue because the Peace River Manasota Water Supply Authority withdraws millions of gallons from the river south of Arcadia to supply water to customers in Charlotte, Sarasota and Manatee counties.


Sumter County Residents Plan Renewed Plea Tuesday To Persuade County Commission To Oppose Toll Road Extension

Sumter County residents opposed to the extension of the Florida Turnpike across the county’s landscape plan to appear en masse before the Sumter County Commission on Tuesday.

This follows an appearance by a number of project opponents at the June 14 commission meeting.

The residents are asking Sumter commissioners to take a stand on the project as officials in Citrus, Levy and Marion counties have. Officials in the other counties are on record opposing the project.

This project is a leftover from a more extensive list of road projects proposed to open vast tracts of rural land in north Florida and southwest Florida for development under the guise of everything from improved hurricane evacuation to the expansion of rural broadband.

The meeting will begin at 5 p.m. in the Grand Canyon Room at the Everglades Regional Recreation Center, 5497 Marsh Bend Trail in The Villages.

There have been reports in local media in Sumter County that commissioners’ stand on the issue could play into this year’s County Commission elections in which four of the five seats will be on the ballot.



Kissimmee Wild And Scenic River Status Advances

The effort to designate the Kissimmee River as one of America’s wild and scenic rivers has advanced in Congress, thanks to the efforts of Rep; Scott Franklin, R-Lakeland, and Rep. Darren Soto. D-Orlando to gain approval of this measure in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The river, whose restoration was the largest project of its size in American history, drains a basin of more than 100 miles of creeks and thousands of square miles of land at the headwaters of a much larger system that flows to the Everglades.

The Everglades, which was described in Marjorie Stoneman Douglas’ classic 1947 “Everglades River of Grass” as a unique feature of America’s landscape, needs all of the protection and management it can obtain because of decades of ill-advised drainage of the southern area of Florida’s peninsula to serve agricultural and development interests.

The Kissimmee River was once a meandering stream that flowed for more than 100 miles through Florida’s Heartland until a misbegotten engineering scheme to reduce flooding in an area where flooding is a natural occurrence turned a wild river into a 56-mile long ditch that reduced waterfowl and wading bird habitat and seriously altered an important ecosystem.

Sierra Club opposed the project and for many years worked to correct the damage the original engineering project caused.

Approval of the designation still requires approval in the Senate.

Anyone who supports this measure should contact Sen. Rick Scott and Sen. Marco Rubio to urge them to advance this measure.

Horse Creek May Get More Protection

A section of the land around Horse Creek may be in line to receive some permanent protection.

The Southwest Florida Water Management District’s Governing Board is scheduled on July 26 to discuss pursuing conservation easements at the Carlton Horse Creek Ranch.

According to the agenda backup, an initial conservation easement covering 4,357 acres is being secured and work may proceed on work to negotiate the purchase a conservation easement on an additional 11,958 acres.

Conservation easements typically protect land from significantly more intense development, allow the current landowners to pursue traditional agricultural, management and recreational activities and keep the land in private ownership, which relieves the agency or organization that purchases the conservation easement of the expense of management costs.

Horse Creek is a 25.2-mile stream that flows through portions of Hardee and DeSoto county before joining the Peace River south of Arcadia.

The protection of Horse Creek has been an important issue for area residents in connection with Mosaic’s plans to mine that section of DeSoto County.

Mining approval is currently on hold, pending the result of a series of public meetings being held by the DeSoto County Commission to gather more information on the effects of mining and relating activities involved in processing the mined material before it is transported to fertilizer plants in Polk County and in the subsequent reclamation of mined land as required by state law.

The next work session on this issue, which involve the impact on wildlife, is scheduled for July 27 in Arcadia.



Growing Gopher Tortoise Relocation Issues Affect Polk Road-Widening Project On Lake Wales Ridge

Much of the discussion about gopher tortoise relocation issues has centered on effort by private developers to either pay to have them relocated or to bury them alive and pay the fine.
The main issue is that as more and more of Florida’s native habitat is paved over with roads and rooftops, gopher tortoises and other wildlife that depend on the refuge of their burrows have been pushed to the side.

One of the tricky issues is making sure you have all of the tortoises.

This issue has come to light during the current project to widen Lake Wilson Road in the Loughman area, which lies along the edge of the Lake Wales Ridge in northern Polk County. These sandy prehistoric desert islands are ideal habitat for these creatures and the dozens of other organisms that may live in their extensive burrows.

It seems that, at least according to consultant hired to relocate these threatened species, that there may be more of them in the path of this belated road project than originally predicted.

According to the agenda at next Tuesday’s Polk County Commission, the original estimate was that were three gopher tortoises in the road’s path.

No wait, did we say three, it is five, according to the consultant’s follow-up survey.

That increased to eight and now the latest total is 13, which seems plausible considering the area involved, though it would not hurt for someone to audit their figures.

In case anyone was wondering what it costs to dig up and relocate a gopher tortoise, it’s $10,000 per critter, which brings the total bill to $130,000.

The staff report does not detail the animals’ ultimate destination, which has been an issue in recent years because of the decline in unoccupied habitat in Florida because rampant development in uplands where tortoises live and where they still survive on conservation lands.

This seems to be a good argument for conserving more of this kind of habitat in the future to make sure this iconic species persists in the landscape.




Lake Hancock Improvement Plans Advance

There has been discussion dating to at least 1968 about ways to improve water quality in Lake Hancock, which covers more than 4,500 acres at the headwaters of the Peace River.

It was polluted for at least a half a century by municipal sewage and private industrial discharges from citrus plants in the Lakeland and Auburndale areas as well as stormwater runoff from as far away as Lake Gibson.

Now a project intended to do something to filter that pollution got approval earlier this month from the Polk County Commission.

The plan involves a $420,000 project to add additional aquatic vegetation along the lake’s eastern shore by next year in hopes the effort will make the lake’s water clarity, which is often measured in inches rather than feet, closer to desirable levels.

The project is jointly funded by the Southwest Florida Water Management District.



More Solar Farms Proposed For Polk

The wide open spaces of Polk County continues to attract solar farm development.

A group called Tide Bay Solar has proposed a 490-acre solar farm on a site on former phosphate land west of Fort Meade and east of County Road 555.

Meanwhile, Tampa Electric has proposed another solar power facility in eastern Polk County.

The latest proposal involves a 10-acre former citrus grove south of Tindell Camp Road between Dundee and Lake Wales.

This is part of the utility’s continued effort to expand its green energy footprint within its service area in this part of Florida.

Both projects are being reviewed by Polk County’s Development Review Committee.