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Spring 2023
Hurricanes, Development and an Insurance Crisis

It should be a surprise to no one that Florida is facing an insurance crisis. For decades, state and local governments have permitted inappropriate development in hurricane prone areas and continues to do so today. There appears to be little consideration given to the overall problems associated with land falling hurricanes when approving new developments in this area.

It is currently estimated that Hurricane Ian will cause a total of $100 billion in damage, the largest hurricane loss in Florida's history. Florida already has the highest property insurance rates in the nation.

Yet with an insurance crisis looming on the horizon, one obvious solution to the problem is not even being considered; stop density increases in flood prone areas. The mechanism is there to control growth in these areas, but not the political will.

It is almost laughable that Floridas political leaders expect the rest of the nation to bail us out of problems we have created for ourselves because of decades of improper coastal development.

Florida ranks first in hurricane occurrences and is the most vulnerable state in the nation to the devastating effects resulting from coastal storms. The increase in population and the continued coastal development over the past few decades leaves residents extremely vulnerable to the devastating effects of hurricanes.

Development industry representatives will certainly suggest that one solution to the current insurance problem is to build our way out of it, citing statistics suggesting that as more development occurs, more will pay into the insurance pool and rates will stabilize or even drop. Such convoluted logic is likely to appeal to most of our legislators, so the real problem of increasing densities in hurricane evacuation zones will not have to be seriously considered.

As additional people move into Southwest Florida, there will be an increase threat of extensive loss of life and property damage. It is critical that residents understand the dangers of living in a hurricane prone area. Currently there are no hurricane evacuation clearance time standards for new or existing development. Legislation needs to be passed that would require the disclosure of hurricane evacuation times when potential buyers are purchasing residential property. Prospective buyers and renters have the right to know, and should be informed, whether they can or cannot safely evacuate from property they are considering purchasing or renting.

Florida is known for its unique and valuable wetlands, wildlife habitats, beaches, and marine resources, but our weak land development regulations are underwriting the continued development in flood-prone, coastal, and environmentally sensitive areas. Local governments routinely approve construction seaward of established coastal control lines where no construction is supposed to occur. It remains to be seen if the next legislative session will result in any meaningful actions to limit growth in hurricane prone areas. Florida’s policy makers need to realize that there is such a thing as a coastal high hazard area, and it is not in our best long-term interest to continue to build in it.


On September 13th, 2022 the Sarasota Board of County Commission voted unanimously to ask the County Administrator to research dredging open Midnight Pass.

The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) first denied the Countys dredging attempt in 1991 and again in 2008. Since 2008, it has become even more difficult to obtain state and federal permits to dredge Midnight Pass. The Sarasota County Commission has already wasted hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars irresponsibly on outside consultants and county staff time trying to obtain dredging permits that are not obtainable.

The decision to deny the permit to dredge Midnight Pass was based on overwhelming scientific evidence and decades of data collection and analysis by the various permitting agencies. Based on the review of the numerous regulatory agencies involved, there is no doubt that dredging open Midnight Pass would be environmentally destructive and fiscally irresponsible.

The DEP was not alone in objecting to dredging Midnight Pass, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Marine Fisheries Services (NMFS), the Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) and the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) objected to the dredge. The fact is, not one regulatory agency supported the Countys attempt to dredge open Midnight Pass.

The EPA stated that the potential impacts associated with the project would be significant in size and scope and affect a wide variety of aquatic resources of national importance. EPA concluded that dredging Midnight Pass was not approvable.

The NMFS stated that the adverse impacts from the dredge would result in a significant loss of estuarine habitats and substantial and unacceptable impacts to Essential Fish Habitat and Aquatic Resources of National Importance.

The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission stated that the creation of an inlet in the former Midnight Pass area would not result in a net improvement of water quality. Furthermore, the Commission believed that the environmental impacts associated with the dredge clearly outweigh any potential benefits.

The DEP stated that Sarasota County could not accurately predict the shoreline changes adjacent to a new inlet. Based on DEP staff experience with other similar programs, this would likely be a complex enforcement and compliance issue that would encumber substantial future state financial resources. Dredging Midnight Pass would utilize public properties and would result in the loss of publicly owned beaches and shores.

Midnight Pass has migrated significantly over its existence and the County cannot ensure that a reopened Midnight Pass would not migrate again. If migration did occur, it appears likely Midnight Pass would adversely affect private property and potentially cost the taxpayers of Sarasota millions of dollars.

The habitat value of the former Midnight Pass location provides for a variety of important fish species. The closing of Midnight Pass contributed to the establishment of a rich haven for young fish. Due to past development within the Little Sarasota Bay watershed, such fisheries are in short supply. There appears to be no biological benefit in dredging Midnight Pass.

A productive marine community including young mangroves, nesting least terns, and loggerhead sea turtle nests, currently exists or has existed within the proximity of the former Midnight Pass area since its closure. Dredging Midnight Pass would severely impact an established and highly endangered marine community.

An adequate tidal prism does not exist between Little Sarasota Bay and the Gulf of Mexico to keep Midnight Pass open. Long term adverse impacts to the marine environment can be expected due to routine and frequent maintenance dredging required to keep Midnight Pass open.

Little Sarasota Bay is designated an Outstanding Florida Waters (OFW). Dredging Midnight Pass is clearly not in the publics interest as is required for an OFW designation. Dredging Midnight Pass is contrary to the intent of Florida law.

There are many projects in the Little Sarasota Bay watershed worthy of funding that are ecologically beneficial, do not cause environmental destruction and are fiscally responsible, dredging Midnight Pass is not one of those projects.

The question of whether Sarasota County can obtain permits to dredge open Midnight Pass has been definitively answered, first in 1991 and in 2008, the answer is clearly no.


The gyp stacks at Piney Point have been mismanaged for decades. The current crisis can be traced back to the absurd 2006 decision to allow dredged material from Port Manatee to be placed into one of the gyp stacks at Piney Point, something the stack was never designed for, and should have never been allowed.

Predictably, a tear in the gyp stack liner in 2011 leaked millions of gallons a day of tainted water for weeks. The runoff, contaminated with the heavy metal, cadmium, as well as high levels of phosphorus and nitrogen, made its way to Bishop Harbor, part of the Terra Ceia Aquatic Buffer Preserve. Bishop Harbor received more pollution in that one year then it should have received in its entire existence.

The dredging of Berth 12 at Port Manatee has been an environmental disaster and the pumping of the dredged material from the Port to Piney Point has led to another environmental disaster.

Yet the current crisis at Piney Point was avoidable. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), the agency mainly responsible for permitting the dredge material from Port Manatee to be dumped into the Piney Point stack, has failed to protect the environment from the adverse impacts of Piney Point, and Manatee County Commissioners have stood by for decades with a blind eye and let it happen.

The Manatee County Commission originally approved land use changes in the 1960s allowing for the construction of a fertilizer plant and gyp stacks at Piney Point, arguably the worst land use decision ever made in Manatee Countys history. What was falsely promoted as a benefit to the community has ended up being a tremendous cost to the publics health, environment and taxpayers of Manatee County and Florida.

The Manatee County Port Authority is comprised of the same seven members as the elected Manatee County Commission. Acting as the Manatee County Port Authority, the Manatee County Commission did not object to the dredging of Port Manatee, instead the Commission showed overwhelming support for the dredge.

FDEP and the Manatee County Commission have failed at every level to oversee the management of the Piney Point gyp stacks.

Can things get worse? Yes, they can and yes, they will. Both the Manatee County Commission and the FDEP strongly support constructing a deep well as the solution of disposing of the Piney Point wastewater, the same two government agencies that supported dumping the dredge material from Port Manatee into the gyp stack. There are many problems associated with deep well injection. All wells are subject to failure and there are too many unknowns to safely inject treated or partially treated effluent. The operation of a deep well relies very heavily on predictions and good faith predictions.

Floridas phosphate mining industry is an industry of cradle to grave pollution. The cradle is phosphate mining, and the grave is the radioactive phosphogypsum waste dumped into gyp stacks.

The gyp stacks at Piney Point represent the true legacy the phosphate industry will leave behind. There is no economically feasible or environmentally sound way to close an abandoned gyp stack, this legacy includes the perpetual spending of taxpayer monies and risks to the publics health and the environment.


When we consider that nearly 92% of Floridians depend on groundwater for our drinking water, it becomes easy to comprehend that groundwater directly shapes our present and future economy and environment. Its quality and availability can determine where we live, where we find jobs, even where our food is grown, and where our future populations can live.

ManaSota-88 opposed, and still opposed to any consideration by the Manatee County Utilities Department for a Class I Injection Well in the vicinity of the former Piney Point Phosphate Plant.

With our lack of adequate methods of groundwater pollution detection, it is easy to miss a toxic plume because of inadequate technology. The facts are contaminated groundwater may be untreatable with the resource lost forever. Additionally, our knowledge of the health risks of long-term exposure to low levels of toxic substances in drinking water is very limited.

Depletion of aquifers in excess of recharge, commonly referred to as mining, is taking place in many areas of our state. Diminishing artesian pressure, declining spring and stream flow, land subsidence and saltwater intrusion problems are strong evidence of excessive use of groundwater.

These water quantity problems are closely connected with water quality problems since declining spring and stream flow reduce the base flow in streams during low-flow periods which is required to maintain water quality. Salt-water intrusion in coastal areas due to over pumping of aquifers can present formidable water quality problems.

Groundwater is one of our most precious natural resources.A significant number of groundwater supplies all across the state are already polluted or threatened with contamination by toxic chemicals from leaking waste dumps, pesticides, surface mining impoundments, fertilizers and a myriad of less publicized sources.

Contaminated groundwater is extremely difficult, expensive and time- consuming to clean up. It is probably impossible to pump and treat all the contaminated groundwater in a plume and some of the contaminants will cling to soil particles and remain untreated in any event. Clearly, the best solution to groundwater contamination is groundwater protection.


HUD Has Not Identified High-Risk Project-Based Rental Assistance Properties

The Department of Housing and Urban Development is the agency responsible for reducing the risk of lead paint hazards in HUD-assisted housing.

HUD monitors lead paint-related risks in its Project-Based Rental Assistance program, but it hasn't done a comprehensive risk assessment to identify the properties posing the greatest risk to young children.

A recent Government Accounting Office report concerning lead contamination should cause everyone to reevaluate which children are at risk for lead poisoning.

Lead is an extremely toxic metal. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, children under the age of six have a higher risk of lead poisoning than other age groups. Young children are more apt to place objects in their mouths. Unfortunately, this risky behavior is compounded by the fact their growing bodies will absorb more lead than adults. Young childrens brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to the detrimental effects of lead.

If not diagnosed, elevated levels of lead can cause damage to the brain and the nervous system. It can cause behavior and learning problems. Lead in high doses can result in irrevocable injury or death.

In years past the conventional belief has been that lead poisoning is a health issue associated with children from low-income households. For this reason, federal law requires that children who are enrolled in Medicaid must receive a blood lead test.

The continuous reports of lead contamination of products imported from around the world clearly demonstrate lead poisoning knows no economic boundaries. Simply stated: All children are at risk for possible lead poisoning.

ManaSota-88 urges Florida legislators to work with the medical community to ensure that all children under the age of six be tested for possible elevated levels of lead. Currently, Florida does not have a law which requires children be tested for lead poisoning. Legislation which rectifies this serious oversight would greatly benefit the health and welfare of future generations.


Ozone increases in Florida may require new federal regulations. Ozone is one of the six air pollutants that the EPA and Congress have determined are most likely to cause health problems, particularly among children.

Ozone is not emitted directly into the air like sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, or other pollutants. Instead it is formed when sunlight causes other air pollutants to react with one another. The two groups of pollutants that react to form ozone are nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Electric utilities and motor vehicles are sources of NOx. Most VOCs come from industrial and commercial sources such as chemical companies.

Children are more likely than adults to have chronic coughing, bronchitis and asthma attacks when the air is polluted. Asthma is a leading cause of hospital admissions for our nation's children. More than 25% of the nation's children live in areas that don't meet national air quality standards.

Children are more affected than adults on elevated ozone days. Children inhale more airborne particles per unit of lung-surface than adults. Among healthy adults, ozone takes its heaviest toll on those who exercise for long periods of time during summer days.

Ozone has caused damage to forests. Crops are also affected. There have been over 50 scientific studies showing ozone's negative impact on crop yields. In most cases, studies have found that crop yields are 10% smaller in areas with elevated levels of ozone.

If a healthy, good quality of life is to be maintained, the use of renewable energy should be encouraged.