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A time to lead on Peace River plan

Published By: Sun Herald

OUR POSITION: It is time to for DeSoto to engage its neighbors in a discussion about the long term health of the Peace River Basin. A committee created by Gov. Charlie Crist has been formed to make recommendations on the management of the Peace River Basin. This committee will make policy and suggest legal changes based on the results of a state sponsored cumulative impact study and with input from members of the committee.

DeSoto's economic boom is right around the corner. If our county is not careful the other counties on the committee could set our agenda. These large counties like Sarasota, Charlotte and Polk are members of this Peace River Basin management committee. They've already experienced phenomenal growth.

Those counties have made numerous planning and environmental mistakes. They would like nothing more than to force their new policies, caused by their mistakes, on to DeSoto and Hardee.

Charlotte and Sarasota counties, in their own way, have not done everything within their power to keep our waters healthy. One of the holdups is that Sarasota and Charlotte have pushed for a study by the Army Corps of Engineers of the Peace River and Myakka River watersheds before taking corrective action.

The Army Corps has responded to the request for a study. No. Not now and likely not ever. The Corps already monitors phosphate mining and believes the phosphate industry is following the law. An already-thinly stretched Army Corps is not going to do a study that is not required by law just because someone wants it.

We are not suggesting that a sustainable Peace River Basin is a bad idea. In fact, this paper has a history of passionate advocacy of a sustainable Peace River Basin. What we would note, is that the agricultural interests in places like DeSoto and Hardee, in many cases, have been better stewards of the environment than their urban cousins.

Most of us involved in agriculture look on our land with long time horizons, passing land down through families. We understand we are not just taking care of the environment for our region but for the future of our families.

We do expect there will be a number of "best practices" for residential and business development that will come out of this committee in addition to additional "best practices" for agriculture and phosphate. In general those best practices will be good for DeSoto.

DeSoto needs to be intensely engaged, however, so that the best practices don't kill the golden goose of development in DeSoto before the goose lays the first golden egg.

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