It was around 2007 when phosphate mining was on everyone’s radar and fears of its impact on local water supplies crept into the discussion at commission and council meetings along the Gulf Coast.

News that new mines would impact tributaries of the Peace River — Charlotte and DeSoto counties’ only real water supply — sparked protests, letter-writing campaigns and, eventually, a lawsuit. The Sun newspaper sought solutions to the threat against our water supply and even produced a special section, called Protecting the Peace, that took a look at the history of the Peace River and mining. We circulated the special section to every lawmaker in Tallahassee and called for a compromise between the phosphate industry and local governments.

The protests, lawsuits and media coverage did some good. What evolved was called a compact between phosphate companies and local governments that called for monitoring and testing the Peace River for water quality and water levels.

Although, at the time, many environmentalists would have liked to squeeze even more protections out of the phosphate industry, the compromise was a good one.

The recession of 2008 saw Charlotte County lose its appetite for litigation.

“We’re laying off employees, we have an extremely weak economy, unemployment is rising and you want me to spend more money (on litigation)?” Charlotte County Commissioner Tom Moore said in a meeting July 29, 2008. “I won’t do that, sir.”

And, with that, the county voted 4-1 to end its ongoing legal battle with Mosaic, hoping the compact that was achieved would protect our water supply.

Now, a decade later, no one talks so much about monitoring the Peace River or maintaining water levels even as Mosaic prepares to some day mine in DeSoto County.

The state’s only major phosphate mining operators have made a lot of changes in the past decade — all of them good. The rehabilitation of mining sites has become almost an art form.

But there are still reasons to be concerned and keep a watchful eye on mining.

That’s why the 5:30 p.m. Aug. 28 workshop at Swiftmud’s district office in Tampa, 7601 U.S. 301, is important. According to a press release the meeting will “provide an important opportunity for local governments, residents and the public to be part of the scheduling of minimum flows and levels for priority water bodies...”

A draft of the 2019 minimum flows and levels will be published at www.swfwmd.state.fl.us/projects/mfl/documenets-and-reports following the board’s August meeting. The final approval is set for October.

Written comments on the draft should be sutmitted to doug.leeper@watermatters.org or sent to 2379 Borad St., Brooksville, Florida, 34604 no later than Oct. 1.

Even if you can’t go to next week’s meeting, you should monitor the proceedings or check for results. The public can make a difference. And in this case, making sure our water supply is clean and keeps flowing our way is of significant importance.

An editorial from the Charlotte Sun.

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