On March 16, Attorney Edward Vogler on behalf of Medallion Home, Neal Communities, and other developers wrote a public comment to Manatee County Commissioner Kevin Van Ostenbridge and Manatee County Administrator Dr. Scott Hopes regarding Manatee Counties Peril of Flood ordinance to be heard at the Land Use Meeting on April 21, 1:30 p.m. in the Board of County Commission Chambers. Attorney Vogler recommended that Manatee County,
“a. Allow fill material to be added to coastal real property in an effort to elevate the topography of the real property and result in the removal of coastal real property from flood zone designations established by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
b. Allow the construction of walls and other revetments to support the placement of fill material on coastal real property in an effort to elevate the topography of the real property and result in the removal of coastal real property from flood zone designations established by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
c. Require new development and redevelopment to employ site development techniques that reduce flood losses and claims made under flood insurance policies, including structural and non-structural site development techniques, such as grading of real property and fill materials added to the real property, or use of appropriate materials such as walls and revetments to withstand inundation, minimizing flood damage to structures through flood-proofing techniques and strategies.”
He is asking Manatee County to amend its Comprehensive Plan, opening the door for the construction of seawalls and the adding of fill throughout our area to raise shoreline property out of the high hazard zone. This could sentence miles of untouched and pristine mangrove forests on the coast of Manatee County, including the shoreline of Aqua by the Bay, to destruction.
Though it has not been specified whether the Aqua by the Bay mangroves will be replaced by a seawall, or the seawall will be constructed behind the mangroves, it has been found that mangrove forests in front of a seawall will suffer substantial damages. One study investigating mangroves in front of seawalls found that, in every forest studied, the mangroves were negatively impacted compared to the control forests. (1)
Though Attorney Vogler states this proposed amendment would help prevent coastal flooding, mangrove forest is an endangered habitat that protected Florida’s coastline long before seawalls. (2) A study by the Nature Conservancy found that mangroves contribute over $1 million in flood damage reduction in Collier County alone. During hurricane Irma “mangroves averted $1.5 billion in storm damages, amounting to a 25% savings in counties that have mangroves. They also protected more than 626,000 people across Florida.” (3) According to Dawn Hallsten of the Manatee League of Women Voters Natural Resources Committee, “the gain to developers at the public's cost would be increased profits by creating new buildable man-made coastal land and/or harbors without regard to public and environmental costs. Attorney Vogler’s interpretation turns flood management on its head.”
In addition, Florida’s mangroves provide significant and critical habitat for nesting birds, such as majestic egrets, great blue herons, clumsy pelicans, and magnificently beautiful roseate spoonbills. They provide a home for many creatures like seahorses and sea stars. They are a nursery for multitudes of fishes, which are negatively impacted by even partial destruction of the forest. (4) Many of these are the young of economically and recreationally significant species. Recreational fishing alone contributes $6.6 billion to Florida’s economy. (5) Florida's commercial fisheries generate $16.9 billion in income and provide 77,000 jobs. (6) To open the door to the widespread destruction of mangroves would be putting the interest of a few developers in front of the public’s enjoyment, wellbeing, and safety. It would be a large step towards the permanent destruction of a healthy bay and economy.
Write to your commissioners and tell them it is unacceptable to put our beloved bay at risk in this way. And please share this post to get the word out. Thank you for caring about our waters!
“We predict that, as compared with unimpeded mangrove forests, mangrove forests bound by a seawall will: (1) be of reduced width; (2) have a reduced biomass of leaf litter; (3) have lower densities of mangrove propagules, seedlings, saplings and established trees; and (4) have higher densities of pneumatophores.”
“It is noteworthy that in not one instance was an effect detected that was opposite in direction to that predicted. These results suggest that as shoreline armouring continues, urban mangrove forests and their important ecosystem functions may be negatively impacted.”
5 Recreational saltwater fishing: National Marine Fisheries Service. 2017. Fisheries Economics of the United States, 2015. U.S. Dept. Commerce, NOAA Tech. Memo. NMFS-F/SPO-170. Summary by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission: https://myfwc.com/about/overview/economics/#:~:text=Economics%20of%20Fish%20%26%20Wildlife%20Recreation%20in%20Florida,economic%20prosperity%20of%20the%20state%20and%20to%20jobs.
6 Fisheries Economics of the United States, 2016: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/content/fisheries-economics-united-states-2016