Commisioner Langford, who was David today, threw the stone so hard that Goliath landed on his backside, surprised, bruised and totally dazed. Before he could regain his feet, Commissioner Schaefer whacked him again, and he was out for the count.
After a two-day stint and 11 hours of public testimony, the DeSoto County Commissioners, all but one, voted to deny Mighty Mosiac their bid to have 14,000 acres in re-zoned from agriculture to mining. The lone dissenter was Commissioner Hill.
The long session began Tues. and went until 10:30 or so, and continued Wed., ending near 7 pm. There was a lot of repetition, and the commissioners were quite patient, although near the end, one or two overly-emotional members of the audience were thrown out by security.
Sierra Club Phosphate Committee members Marian Ryan and Percy Angelo
After public comment was closed, it began to get interesting. Mosiac was allowed a 30 minute recess to further prepare their rebuttal, during which their lead lawyer spoke and then drew in their list of experts, some from the company and some hired for the occasion. They touched on issues such as property values, dam building, land reclamation, health issues and on and on.
Molly Bowen Debbie Culp
All was very slick and feely-goody, and when they were done one wondered how anyone could ever question Mosaic about any issue. The commissioners asked some good questions, not all of which were answered. For example, our hero Commissioner Langford asked the Mosaic dam expert what would happen to Horse Creek if a clay settling pond filled with polluted water were to breach nearby. The answer only was a long-winded lecture on how well the dams are built and how, since from the time the wheel was invented, we have had almost no problems of spills.
Much was left out in the “Spills” lecture, also in the “Nothing is affected downstream” lecture, and also the “Productive agriculture on reclaimed land” one. And probably the “Mining has no health risks” one.
The dozen or so Mosaic team members were practically patting themselves on their backs in victory, but then Commissioner Langford began going down the list of 15 rezoning application amendment factors, and finding that the mine would indeed impact nearly every one, he made a motion to deny. The chair quickly asked for a second, and was met with silence. After what seemed an eternity, Commissioner Schaefer gave a second, and the call went smoothly on the board’s right but on the left it struggled. Finally Commissioner Mansfield gave an “aye” and Commissioner Hill a “no,” and the chair went with the majority.
And it was done.
All in all, a long meeting, but well worth the wait.
Several environmental groups were represented, OSFR by your historian. Sierra Club member John Ryan was accepted as expert witness and spoke for Sierra Club, and Phosphate Committee member Andy Mele was accepted as an expert witness and spoke for Suncoast Waterkeepers. Others from that committee who spoke were Percy Angelo, Marian Ryan and your historian.
Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life: once taken, it cannot be brought back-