Clear the slate

Dear Editor:

It’s time to stop digging the hole deeper! For six years, Bradford and Union counties have been living under the prospect of a 10,000 acre phosphate mining project that would straddle the New River, our joint boundary between the two counties.

In 2016, Union county enacted a moratorium and updated their land development regulations (LDRs) to disallow mining in wetlands. HPS sued for nearly 300 million dollars. Bradford county did not enact ANY moratorium to give time to review our own LDRs, and HPS promptly submitted an application, effectively blocking any LDR changes that would affect their plans. But, after six years, HPS has failed to produce a viable mining plan for Bradford’s county commission to review. For three of those years, HPS has failed to respond to some “unwritten” Request for Additional Information (RAI), according to our county attorney.

This month, HPS dismissed their lawsuit against Union county. Now, they should withdraw their premature application from Bradford county. Our county commission should ask them to do so. What have they got to lose for asking?

The Bradford county application was problematic from the start, and the ensuing process has only gotten messier over time. This is the perfect time to stop digging the hole deeper and climb the ladder out.

If HPS withdraws their application, all the past bad behaviors and procedural “sins” will be washed away. There would be no need for an explanation of waiting three years for HPS to respond to an unwritten RAI, nor why our county’s consultants have not provided a report after all this time. The official documents that are missing legally required language and the legal timelines never met would become moot points. And, the commissioners would be released from quasi-judicial mode that keeps them in fear of discussing the issue with their own constituents.

The bottom line for HPS is that they have failed to show proof of concept with their new idea through their testing, according to FIPR (Florida Institute for Research on Phosphate). Furthermore, and even more importantly, HPS has failed to convince the hydro-geologist, who reviewed ALL of their submitted documents, that the plan can be done without potential harm, especially to the rivers and/or the  aquifer.

There are no winners in this drawn out process, except the lawyers and consultants who make money no matter what the outcome. But, there can be relief to all if HPS withdraws their application from Bradford county.

As a county, we have many wonderful activities to offer, and even more that we can imagine. In Bradford County we need to focus our energy on addressing our economic weaknesses, such as lack of good internet access, and enhancing our creative opportunities, such as small scale eco-tourism. As a region, we can offer visitors and new residents everything from boating and biking to higher education.

We may have a lot to be desired in good jobs, but we also have a lot that is desirable in our lands, if we are wise enough to protect sensitive areas and promote non-destructive use. We don’t need to be held hostage, under threat of enormous lawsuits, by extractive industries. Hopefully, after six years of dangling on a string controlled by HPS, our county commissioners have come to recognize that.


Carol Mosley