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 From the ECCL April 2008 Estero Development Report

Palm Beach County Approves Two New Mines Containing 11,000 Acres in the Everglades Agricultural Area Just South of Lake Okeechobee

On April 24th the Palm Beach County Board approved two large mining applications in the sugar cane farming area south of Lake Okeechobee. They are:

  • The South Bay Quarry contains 3,773 acres and will be mined by Rinker Materials at a rate of 100 acres per year for over 30 years, and
  • The Lake Harbor Quarry contains 7,351 acres and will be mined by Florida Rock Industries at a rate of 100 acres per year for over 70 years. This land is owned by U.S. Sugar. That firm has already obtained a $13 million state subsidy to upgrade their rail line in order to carry the rock to market.

According to the Palm Beach Post both of these firms are major contributors to local, State and Federal office-holders. Florida Rock Industries has contributed at least $524,000 in Florida campaign contributions since 1995 and its public action committee (PAC) has contributed almost $150,000 to Federal races since 1998. Rinker has donated over $311,000 to candidates in federal races over the last 10 years and over $664,000 in state races since 1995. 

A third application for the 533 acre Bergeron mine expansion was postponed until May 22nd. 

In May, 2006 the Palm Beach County Commission approved another 4,000 acre mine for Stewart Mining Industries.

Opposition to The Palm Beach Mines

All these mine applications have been opposed by a large coalition of environmental groups that have unsuccessfully raised objections about the mines’ impact upon the area’s underground water supplies and their impact upon ongoing Everglades restoration efforts.

How Large Are These Mines?

The 15,000 acres of mines approved by the Palm Beach County Board over the last two years is enormous. These mines will be able to produce almost 4 times the total output of all DR/GR mines during the last 25 years according to Dover, Kohl & Partners, Lee County’s DR/GR planning consultants. They estimate that about 4,000 acres of DR/GR lands have been mined during the last quarter century. In addition they estimate that all of Lee County’s permitted DR/GR mines have another 4,000 acres of permitted, available aggregate resources to be mined over the next decade or two, depending on the market demand for this material.

While we are opposed to these mines because of their location, these large mines will be able to efficiently supply the eastern part of the southwest Florida aggregate market as future development inevitably moves inland, including the Babcock Ranch development and its highway needs. The Babcock Ranch is about 65 miles from the 7,351 acre Lake Harbor Quarry site.


Palm Beach Post Article:

Rock Mining and Politics: Should they mix?

Today, three days before the Palm Beach County Commission is scheduled to decide whether to allow three mining companies to blast huge holes in the ground perilously close and in the 700,000-acre Everglades Agricultural Area, let us pause to look at the political clout and connections of two of these mining giants: Florida Rock Industries and Rinker Materials.

Let’s start with a brief look at what is at stake: Untold millions and millions of dollars in the stuff Florida needs for the state’s never-ending road building projects. \

We are talking about sand, crushed rock and limestone. We are also talking about 74 years of blasting big - really, really big - holes (50 feet or more deep) in over 10,000 acres of farmland around the southern end of Lake Okeechobee.

The company with the biggest stake is Florida Rock Industries. FRI wants to blast holes in 7,036 acres just southwest of South Bay. However, this land is on the route of a proposed, very controversial flowway that would not only clean the water but, some researchers say, would put the “river” back into the River of Grass.

These 7,036 acres do not belong to FRI. They belong to…get ready…U.S. Sugar (which has already gotten a thumbs up from the Florida Dept. of Transportation for a $13 million state subsidy to upgrade U.S. Sugar’s rail line, the South Central Florida Express, to carry the rock).

So, FRI wants to lease the land from U.S. Sugar, blast big holes, sell the aggregate to the state to build roads, then fill up the holes with water that will be used to…drum roll, please…irrigate ag land in the area. How brilliant is that!

Did I mention that FRI has made at least $524,000 in campaign contributions in Florida since 1995 and its PAC, $149,255 in federal races since 1998. Oh, and FRI has hired extremely well-connected local lawyer Alan Ciklin (as in Boose Casey Ciklin et al). You might remember the first-named partner in that firm, Bill Boose, the defrocked lobbyist serving a two-year sentence for helping conceal a county commission’s $1.3 million profit from a government land deal. (Phew, this is complicated.)

The other company is Rinker Materials.

Rinker - as in the Rinker Playhouse at the Kravis Center. Rinker, as in the company whose political action committee has donated over $311,000 to candidates in federal races over the last 10 years and over $664,000 in state races since 1995.

What we need to know - and what each county commissioner needs to disclose before they vote - is whether they have received campaign contributions from FRI, Rinker of U.S. Sugar. I can’t tell you because the historical campaign finance reports of county and local races are not on-line.

But I bet these companies have made contributions to local races. Here is one: The 2003 fund-raiser that Rinker president Karl Watson held at his South Flagler Drive home for then mayoral candidate Lois Frankel, which raised more than $10,000.

Among the questions that commissioners must consider: Do we really need all this gravel to build more roads? I mean, we’re in a housing bust. Folks are not flocking to the Sunshine State right now.

Heck yea we need that rock! We will need to rebuild the roads that crumble under the weight of those heavy trucks hauling crushed rock to the roads that are currently under construction. How brilliant is that!




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