Charlotte County commissioners are at odds over raising impact fees. Yet according to an article in the Sun on April 2, the Peace River Manasota Regional Water Authority is planning for its annual capital costs to jump from $5 million this year to $180 million in 2027. What’s going on? It’s not hard to understand: New growth is expensive!
This is just one aspect of the costs of new growth. Why should you and I bear the costs of growth needs? Yet we are continuing to bill existing residents for infrastructure needed because of new construction.
As I watch their meetings and discussions, I hear the complaining about the increased cost of materials and how we shouldn’t burden new homeowners with increased impact fee costs. Why not? Why can’t they handle their fair share of impact costs? After all, they’re the ones creating additional needs.
If we didn’t have more people moving here, we wouldn’t need more drinking water, more roads, more public services, more, more, more. Sorry, but if you want to move to paradise it’s necessary to pay your way. I understand growth is inevitable, but it must also be sustainable, and it shouldn’t cost the rest of us.
I hear whining about how working folks can’t afford it. In case they failed to notice, working folks can’t afford to move here now anyway! Affordable housing proposals just keep getting shot down. The attitude from most people seems to be, “We need working folks; just don’t put them in my neighborhood.”
Clean water is critical for survival. When will we be ready to accept that it is a finite resource? We are attempting to plan for future needs, but can’t control droughts and unforeseen challenges. How many people can we sustain? When is enough and how many is too many? When does the scale tip over?
Besides our drinking water, we have huge challenges with our waterways that folks move here to enjoy. Both fresh and salt waters are polluted. Yes, they still manage to hold some life, but look at how algae and exotic plant growth are choking our waters.
Disaster is just a heartbeat away. Call me Chicken Little, but I live on and from our waters and I know what can happen. If we have a major red tide bloom, it will murder our local tourism economy. After three years of red tides, hurricanes and then Covid, we can’t take any more. A red tide outbreak would be a disaster now.
We have too many nutrients in our waters; just observe the algae and aquatic vegetation taking over already. No, it doesn’t show up in water quality testing. It’s not in the water — it’s held in the aquatic growth, at least until it dies and then we get algae blooms all over again.
Piney Point’s leak earlier this month was not the first time we’ve had problems at this facility. Phosphate mining creates huge lakes of nutrient-rich wastewater. Phosphate mining makes huge amounts of money, but unfortunately, Florida taxpayers somehow end up carrying the cost of dealing with this wastewater, again and again.
Apparently, you can set up a corporation to mine the phosphate, then bankrupt and shut down that corporation, leaving you and me responsible for dealing with the pollution. This is important because we have background concentrations of red tide present now. If it gets fertilized, we have fish kills.
Then the dead fish decay and release nutrients, fueling more red tide organisms. Several counties north of us have set up plans to harvest the dead fish preventing it from throwing gas on the fire. Charlotte County does not.
We do have a new water quality man who is going at warp speed to understand our challenges and needs. How fast he can identify and focus on solutions is the question. Then he needs cooperation and money to address the challenges.
One thing I can assure you is these are not new problems. They’ve been ignored and festering for decades. The only thing more expensive than addressing them now its to continue to ignore them. They do not go away magically. Just look at examples like Chesapeake Bay, which has taken billions of dollars and decades of work to begin to fix.
As we look at all this, DeSoto County is about to allow another phosphate mine upstream of us on Horse Creek. No one can afford to take them on in the courts — they have armies of lawyers, and mountains of cash to keep them coming. What could possibly go wrong? Phosphate mining accidents have already killed the entire Peace River system twice, by the way. Do we really want to go for three?
Capt. Van Hubbard is a highly respected outdoor writer and fishing guide. He has been a professional USCG-licensed year-round guide since 1976, and has been fishing the Southwest Florida coast since 1981. Contact him at 941-468-4017 or VanHubbard@CaptVan.com.