County leaders discuss mine issues

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By Jeff M. Hardison

BRONSON - Levy County Commission Vice Chair Nancy Bell said the Strategic Aggregates Review Task Force Report has been completed on Tuesday.

During the Feb. 5 meeting, commissioners did not discuss the upcoming request for a special exception for a mine in the Inglis area, but Commissioner Lilly Rooks reminded her colleagues that last year the state tried to let the Florida Department of Transportation gain power to override county ordinances regulating mines.

David Bruderly, an engineer in Gainesville, recently sent Gov. Charlie Crist his opinion about the Strategic Aggregaates Review Task Force Report.

"Local government must NOT be taken out of the permit approval process for aggregate or any other type of mining project," Bruderly wrote. "In fact, I would argue that the role of local government must be strengthened so that local environmental concerns are fully vetted and understood prior to the issuance of any environmental or building permits."

He concedes the state must take part, because many small counties in rural North Florida lack the technical expertise to sort out complicated technical issues associated with large industrial or land development projects.

"A classic example of regulatory failure are the two cement manufacturing complexes and associated lime rock mines that were built in Suwannee and Alachua Counties about six to eight years ago," Bruderly said. "These industrial projects were approved under local ordnances that legally defined these high-temperature chemical reactors as agricultural activities."

He noted for the governor that agriculture in Florida produces food, fuel, feed and fiber -- not cement building materials. Yet, mining is considered an agricultural process, he said.

"Based on my 30-plus years of personal experience as a registered engineer in Florida I am not convinced that even regional regulatory agencies, such as the Water Management Districts or the Regional Offices of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, have sufficient resources or local knowledge to adequately protect small ecosystems, streams, wetlands or ground waters without assistance from local government and the public" he said.

The proper role of the State of Florida and the Water Management Districts is to provide accurate information needed for local government officials to do their jobs while ensuring that procedures and standards designed to protect and conserve natural resources essential to the public interest, health, safety and welfare are followed, he added.

He pleaded with the governor to help local government maintain its power over this issue.

"Please do not attempt to simplify or streamline the permit process for mining projects by supporting recommendations that would weaken or take away responsibility and authority for environmental permits from local government," Bruderly said.