Date: June 30, 1998
Contact: Dan Evans
Phone: (352) 373-6441
Washington, D.C. — In an appropriations mark-up that was essentially closed to the public, the House Appropriations Committee June 25 approved a sweetheart deal that would allow developers to use federal tax dollars to pave Florida beaches and sea turtle habitat. The deal would make federal flood insurance and other federal subsidies available for private coastal development that would increase taxpayer liability for future flood insurance pay-outs and encourage the destruction of pristine beaches.
Representative Carrie Meek (D-FL) proposed the rider, which was added to the House version of the Department of Interior Appropriations Bill. The provision removes approximately 70 acres of Florida coastline from the fiscally conservative, and environmentally sound Coastal Barrier Resources System (CBRS). The Coastal Barrier Resources System prohibits taxpayer-backed subsidies, such as federal flood insurance, for private development on certain ecologically critical areas like barrier beaches, saving taxpayers about $82,000 per developed coastal acre. In Florida, vitally important sea turtle and migratory bird habitat are protected through the System.
This latest rider comes on the heels of a recent decision by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, which scuttled a prior, back-door bid by the Florida delegation to open-up these critical areas to taxpayer-funded development. The Court sided with environmental groups and sea turtle experts in Coast Alliance, et al. v. Bruce Babbitt, et al. in invalidating a prior attempt to wrest Florida beaches from the protective CBRS
The CBRS discourages unwise and unsafe development, but does not restrict development within the System. Land owners are free to use private, state and/or local funds for construction, however, the American taxpayer is not forced to finance such risky development in hazardous regions.
“This misguided amendment will not only promote development in extremely sensitive coastal areas, it will force taxpayers to help finance the destruction,” said David Godfrey, Executive Director of the Caribbean Conservation Corporation, the world’s oldest sea turtle conservation group. “Everyone who enjoys Florida’s beaches should be outraged by this sort of pork-barrel, anti-environmental legislation.”
If the Meek rider is passed into law, development in the following Florida counties will be eligible for taxpayer backed subsidies: St. Johns County, Indian River County, Martin County, Lee County, Levy County, and Okaloosa County. Already, other bills have been introduced that will remove other pristine coastal regions from the System.
Now is the time to call, write or visit your members of Congress and tell them to protect Florida’s beaches and sea turtle habitat from taxpayer-subsidized development. Tell them to not pass this damaging legislation. There is not currently a companion bill in the Senate, so please ask you Senators to make sure the rider is not attached to the Senate version of the Interior Appropriations Bill.