Manatee County, Florida covers about 740 square miles of land area and 151 square miles of fresh resources. A 130-foot ridge in the northeast corner of Manatee County produces the headwaters and the (1) Manatee River basin flow characteristics including water quality and quantity. In other words, Manatee County is itself a watershed by definition where all rain water culminates throughout the county and flows into a common basin called the Manatee River watershed.
The Manatee River watershed encompasses most of Manatee County in west central Florida. The watershed contains a substantial amount of natural freshwater resources in area treaties, streams, lowlands, lakes, rivers, and the like. All of the freshwater resources in the basin flow into the Manatee River estuary which in turn flows into the Gulf of Mexico, just south of Tampa Bay.
Economicly, this region of Florida brings in billions of dollars annually via tourism including water related avenues, agriculture, and the cattle industry. The head of the Gulf Restoration Network said phosphate strip mining in Florida "is a direct threat" to Florida's $ 8.1 billion recreational fishing industry not counting revenues from the industries mentioned above. Historically, Florida taxpayers make up the difference in lost revenue based on phosphate industry economic damages due to "industry accidents".
Historically, Manatee County has phosphate issues at the Port Manatee where taxpayers paid over one hundred and forty million dollars to neutralize (3) severe environmental industry "accidents". The phosphate industry, in this case, was not held accountable just by filing for bankruptcy. Filing for bankruptcy by phosphate companies is the "norm" after severe toxic releases and accidents which appears to release phosphate industry official's liabilities and liabilities as well.
Unfortunately, Florida's phosphate industry owns much of the land in the Four Corners area in Manatee County with thousands of acres of environmentally critical strip mined land complete with a processing plant. Florida's elected officials "permit" industry plans to include completely removing environmentalally critical navigable waterways and riparian areas in the Manatee River basin for the phosphate ore thirty to fifty feet below the surface. Phosphate industry practices may be illegal by removing riparian areas and navigable waterways based on state and federal laws and may soon be under investigation.
The phosphate industry owns the mineral rights to the phosphate but can not disturb riparian lands, navigable waterways, and downstream user's rights during mining processes. Historically, Florida's elected officials "permit" the phosphate industry to severely disturb navigable waterways and riparian lands. Florida's elected officials should have been held accountable by their constituents. Interestingly, "public rights" to riparian lands and navigable waterways may be "overlooked" by elected officials leaving Florida taxpayers with little representation if any concerning phosphate industry practices.
Interestingly, an economist from the University of Miami researched economic gain from the phosphate industry and related jobs in the area of Hardee County. Hardee County is adjunct to Manatee County. The study confirmed an "economic loss" of nearly eight million dollars due to the phosphate industries destruction of the landscape by removing the fabric of the Florida earth including navigable waterways and riparian lands. All other economically driven industries in Florida are completely crushed under the weight of phosphate strip mining. The only winners are phosphate industry officials themselves.
Once the landscape is strip mined, industries such as agriculture, cattle, and tourism will never return based on (2) geologist research from the University of Florida. The research results estimate about five hundred years for the less complex ecosystems to recover from severe land disorders such as phosphate strip mining. Once the phosphate industry recovers all the phosphate in a region they move on and leave the toxic left-overs for the county taxpayers where the abandoned phosphate mines are located.
Historically, what once seemed to be a good deal for local jobs during the beginning years of a phosphate mining operation will eventually play out, during a later generation, to become a local economic disaster? Economic and environmental models for various stages in the life of a phosphate mine are known and studied in depth.
Statistically, the end result of phosphate mining both economically and environmentally, display high probabilities of being a poor long term investment and leave local economies in ruins.
1. Basin Management Action Plans. – dep.state.fl.us/water/watersheds/bmap.htm.
2. University of Florida – nrli.ifas.ufl.edu/reports/hainescity.HTML.