Opponents Vow To Fight After DeSantis, Cabinet Reverse Judge’s Decision To Block Highway Across Everglades

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evergladeswetlandspubdom In: Opponents Vow To Fight After DeSantis, Cabinet Reverse Judge's Decision To Block Highway Across Everglades | Our Santa Fe River, Inc. (OSFR) | Protecting the Santa Fe River
Everglades wetlands. Photo public domain on Wikipedia.

A dangerous precedent indeed, and further proof that  our incompetent state leaders care nothing for the wetlands and environment in Florida.  If they will flout common sense and zoning law here they can and will do it anywhere in Florida.

Read the complete article here at

Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
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– A river is like a life: once taken,
it cannot be brought back © Jim Tatum


Opponents Vow To Fight After DeSantis, Cabinet Reverse Judge’s Decision To Block Highway Across Everglades

In South Florida, where the Everglades meet the bays, environmental challenges abound. Sea level rise threatens homes and real estate. Invasive species imperil native plants and animals. Pesticides reduce the risk of mosquito-borne diseases, but at what cost? WLRN’s award-winning environment reporting strives to capture the color and complexity of human interaction with one of the most biodiverse areas of the planet.

 

 

Opponents to a proposed highway that would cross these wetlands in the Bird Drive Basin say it violates Miami-Dade’s growth plan that promises to protect wetlands and farmland.

Opponents of a 13-mile highway extension across Everglades wetlands say Gov. Ron DeSantis and his Cabinet violated the law when they tossed a judge’s order blocking the road and set a dangerous precedent statewide.

They plan to appeal within 30 days, said attorney Richard Grosso, who represents Tropical Audubon.

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The state’s leaders “didn’t seem to care much about the precedent they set for how strong [growth management plans] will be in the future,” said Grosso. “Many of the rulings were gratuitous. They just seemed to be calculated, even, to render the [Miami-Dade’s] plan weaker going forward.”

The order was approved in the final minutes of Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting, in fewer than 4 minutes. Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried voted against it, saying the Cabinet was siding with developers over wetlands.

The extension across the Bird Drive Basin south of the Tamiami Trail was touted by U.S. Rep. Carlos Gimenez when he was Miami-Dade County mayor as a solution to grinding congestion in South Dade. The MDX Expressway Authority launched a web site and promised residents it would ease their commutes.

But environmentalists complained the highway proposal strays beyond the urban development boundary set by the county to protect wetlands and farms. The proposed route crosses wetlands that were once part of the headwaters for Shark River Slough; a wetland mitigation bank created to make up for wetlands destroyed by development; and land targeted for an Everglades restoration project.

During a hearing two years ago, the county’s own planner testified that the road would shave just six minutes off the commute from West Kendall.

That testimony, along with the county’s promise to protect wetlands and prevent sprawl, led Administrative Law Judge Suzanne Van Wyk to find the proposal violated the county’s comprehensive development master plan.

Bird Drive Basin land ownership.png
Much of the land in the Bird Drive Basin is already publicly owned, purchased with money intended for Everglades restoration.

In overturning her order, DeSantis and Cabinet members concluded that many of Van Wyk’s findings of facts, like the commute times, should instead be considered interpretations of the law, open to reversal. That, Grosso said, violates a basic principle of the law.

“The judge or the jury who’s in the room during the trial are the only ones who get to decide what the facts are. An appeals court, or the governor and Cabinet reading the cold, hard transcripts hundreds of miles away, they don’t get to see all that,” he said. “That’s the whole purpose of having an administrative law judge hear a dispute and decide what the facts are, so that the ultimate decisions are made based on the facts and aren’t just political votes.”

highway data finding of fact edit.png
The judge’s original order concluded, based on testimony, that improvements in commute times would be meager. Here’s the state’s revision.

When the Cabinet initially rejected Van Wyk’s order in June, DeSantis said he believed the county had met the threshold for its legal interpretations of the amendment that allowed the road, meaning the Cabinet should defer to local authority….

 

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