by Carol Mosley, Bridges Across Borders & Bradford Environmental Forum
The Upper Santa Fe River basin gets little attention though it includes the New River, which feeds the Santa Fe River. The New River is the county line between Bradford and Union County, and the proposed HPSII phosphate mining would straddle that river.
The fight began in 2016 when four local families made it clear they intended to mine nearly 10,000 acres in both counties, and on both sides of the New River. Union County enacted a Moratorium against accepting any mining application until they updated their Land Development Regulations and Comprehensive Plan. Bradford County did not enact a Moratorium and received a Master Mining Plan from HPSII in April 2016.
That put them in a “quasi-judicial” mode and now they sit in silence as we talk to the wall. But, Bradford commissioners hired consultants (OEC) to help them make their decision, so we wait for their report number two from the hydrologist.
The first one showed he was not convinced the proposed process would work as theoretically described. We have submitted a records request so as to get the documents in process and not wait for a summary or have little time for review.
Meanwhile, there is much more going on in the background. HPS filed a Harris Act claim against Union County for more than $298 million. A Motion to Dismiss is scheduled for June 26in Union County. If that claim is dismissed, it is not clear what leg HPS would have left to stand on.
Approximately 90 days after the consultant’s report is made official, Bradford County will hold a Hearing on whether to deny the application, accept it, or accept it with conditions. Our role will be to provide the “competent and substantial evidence” to show Bradford County that denying the application is what they must decide.
Local groups, and Alachua County, too, are all watching, scrutinizing, and preparing for whatever comes next. We’ll keep you all posted.
Meanwhile, if you know geologists, hydrologists, environmental specialists or other researchers who want to get involved, let us know at 352-485-2524.