Earthjustice scored a major win today when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers suspended a permit that gave Mosaic Phosphate the go-ahead to destroy 480 acres of high-quality wetlands within the Peace River watershed.
"This permit suspension is a victory for the people of Manatee County and everyone who lives in the Peace River basin" said Earthjustice attorney Monica Reimer. "This establishes that the permit should never have been granted. It didn't comply with the law."
Earthjustice's lawsuit, filed on behalf of Sierra Club, ManaSota-88, People for Protecting Peace River (3PR), the Gulf Restoration Network, and Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida contended that the Corps "arbitrarily and capriciously" failed to critically review Mosaic's spurious claim that a man-made landscape, re-created after strip mining, functions as well as, or better than, a natural landscape.
In its letter, the Corps said: "The Corps has determined that it is in the public interest to revisit the analysis in support of the permit decision."
On September 16, Manatee County commissioners debated whether to give Mosaic the land use approvals it needs before it begins mining. One of Mosaic's claims in support of its application was that the federal permit proved that the mining created no environmental risks.
"The Corps' permit suspension serves as a vindication for the Manatee County Commission, which acted properly in refusing to rubber stamp the Altman mine proposal," said Frank Jackalone of the Sierra Club.
Since the 1800's, strip-mining has devastated well over 200,000 acres in the Peace River watershed, which includes the destruction of over 35,000 acres of wetlands and 101.2 miles of streams. Of great concern is the fact that Mosaic is currently seeking permits to mine 34,551 more acres within that same watershed. Environmental groups contend that no permits should be issued until the Corps performs a regional environmental impacts study that takes a hard look at all the mining Mosaic intends to conduct in the future.
The Altman Tract has a mosaic of high-quality, interrelated wetlands and uplands, all with important native vegetation and only minor man-made impacts. It has deep marshes, shallow marshes, wet prairie, bay swamps, and mixed forested wetlands. Water quality on the tract is very good, and the tract is used by many threatened and rare species, including the Florida Scrub Jay, gopher tortoise, eastern indigo snake, Florida sandhill crane, Florida mouse, and Southeastern American kestrel.