> Chapter Home

Inland Navigation Dredging in Aquatic Preserves: NOT

Our Position: oppose
Bill Number: SB2176/HB719
Sponsor: Senator and Rep. Peterman
Legislative Session: 2007

5/4/07: The Senate bill passed out of the Senate and was in House messages. But the House bill never went through any committees. Both bills died.

4/21/07: Neither bills have moved beyond the first week of April. We may see the content of these bills as amendments to other bills.

3/29/07: Senate bill was amended and passed out of SNR committee.

3/31/07: This bill is described as intercoastal dredging...but it could expand into our Aquatic Preserves and destroy important seagrass beds.  Click here to read the staff analysis of the strike all amendment.

Please click here to read the strike all amendment that replaced the original bill and was adopted on 3/29/07 in the Senate Environmental & Preservation Committee.






5/4/07: both bills died

4/21/07: Neither bills have moved beyond the first week of April. We may see the content of these bills as amendments to other bills.

Contact your legislator and tell them not to support this bill, or should the bill have traction...(moving forward in the process)... that they include language to exempt Aquatic Preserves from dredging.

Action Needed

5/4/07: Both bills died.

3/31/07: The House bill could come up in the House Environmental Council this coming Wednesday 4/4/07. We'll see.


More information

GENERAL BILL   by Peterman
Inland Navigation Districts: Provides that right-of-way & channel of Intracoastal Waterway & other designated public navigation channels are excluded from provisions relating to aquatic preserves; authorizes inland navigation districts to use state-owned submerged lands for certain purposes & to aid & cooperate with nonmember counties for certain activities.

To read more about the bill, HB719 click here


S2176    GENERAL BILL by Bennett  
Inland Navigation Districts; includes right-of-way & channel of
  intracoastal waterway & other designated public navigation channels
  within certain exclusions from aquatic preserves; authorizes districts
  to use state lands under water for certain purposes; adds nonmember
  counties that contain any part of intracoastal waterway within their
boundaries to list of governmental entities with which district can aid
  & cooperate. Amends 374.975.

To read more about SB2176, click here


3/14/07: We asked the sponsors of this bill if they were doing this for the St.Pete developer wanting to build in "Boggy Bay", the Big Bend Aquatic Seagrass Preserve. They told us, no.  The development is called "Magnolia Bay" and local Sierrans have been fighting it for over a year. Recently, DCA sent them back to the drawing board and rejected their requests. We need to celebrate our victories when we can.

3/9/07:Rep. Peterman from St.Petersburg is the sponsor of the House bill and it is possible that he is doing this bill for the developer,who is also from St.Petersburg.  We are investigating this theory so stay tuned.

Subject: State questions plans for N. Florida resort at Boggy Bay - "Secret Promise" Magnolia Bay





            State questions plans for N. Florida resort



By CRAIG PITTMAN           

Published March 10, 2007

            The massive hotel and condominium resort a St. Petersburg surgeon wants to build in rural Taylor County suffered a major setback this week, drawing severe criticism from the state’s growth planning agency.

            The Magnolia Bay Resort has generated controversy because it calls for blasting a 2-mile-long channel through the Big Bend Seagrass Aquatic Preserve, the state’s largest aquatic preserve and one of the largest stretches of uninterrupted sea grass in North America.  Now, the state Department of Community Affairs has told Taylor County officials that their land-use agreement with Dr. J. Crayton Pruitt violates the law, shuts out public participation and blocks state oversight.

            If the county sticks to its guns, the agency warned it will sue “to prevent the violation or circumvention of state law.” Advocates of strong growth management hailed the three-page warning shot as a signal of how Gov. Charlie Crist’s administration plans to deal with environmental and growth issues.  “In the past, the benefit of the doubt would go to the local government,” said Charles Pattison of the group 1,000 Friends of Florida, which favors tight regulation of growth. “Now DCA is looking at what’s in the public interest, from the standpoint of what the law says.”

            Tom Pelham, the veteran planner Crist tapped to head up the agency, “is very consistent in trying to enforce the letter of the law,” Pattison said. “He has said he’s going to be looking at things in particular for their environmental and natural resources impact.” That means a project like Magnolia Bay “is definitely going to get their special scrutiny,” Pattison said.

            Pruitt’s developer on the resort, Chuck Olson of Treasure Island, has sent a letter to the state that says, “I respectfully disagree with the position expressed in your letter.” He promised to review it with his attorneys and respond in greater detail.  Taylor County’s top building official, Danny Griner, said the county has not decided how to reply to the state’s letter, which was signed by Charles Gauthier, director of the Division of Community Planning. 

            Pruitt and Olson want to build enough condominiums to add 7,000 residents to Taylor County, along with a hotel, a helicopter landing pad, a public aquarium, a marine science laboratory and 280,000 square feet of commercial space - all on 500 acres of swamp and salt marsh that the local residents call Boggy Bay.  The golf course and RV park would come later.  “I think it’s going to be a neat thing for Taylor County,” Pruitt said last year.

              Currently about 19,000 people occupy the 1,042 square miles of  Taylor County. That’s roughly 18 people per square mile. By contrast, Pinellas County has more than 3,000 people per square  mile.

            But the development won’t work without the channel - 2 miles long, 7 feet deep and 100 feet wide - to provide boaters with access to the Gulf of Mexico through the shallow, nearshore water, Pruitt said. He has expressed confidence that all the sea grass along the channel’s route could be transplanted.

            Living in the Big Bend sea grass beds is Florida’s last big, stable population of bay scallops. The scallops are so plentiful off Dekle Beach that every summer boaters from across the South swarm down to harvest them.

            Building a marina with 374 wet slips, dry storage for 499 more boats and a public ramp that can handle up to 300 vessels a day would make access to the Gulf of Mexico far easier for the public as well as Magnolia Bay’s customers, Pruitt has said. A new Web site set up to promote the project says it’s “Sharing Taylor County’s Coastal Coastline.”

            But marine biologists say the channel and the development would destroy the scallops’ habitat, disrupt the natural flow of water in the preserve and funnel in polluted stormwater runoff.  Although groups ranging from the Florida Wildlife Federation to the Gainesville Offshore Fishing Club oppose Magnolia Bay, the project has been strongly endorsed by Taylor County’s Chamber of Commerce and its Development Authority.

            Under Taylor County’s land-use plan, the 130 acres that would house the project is listed as agricultural.

            But the development agreement between the Taylor County Commission and Magnolia Bay said the county wouldn’t change its land-use plan all at once.

            Instead, it said, “the developer intends to request several small comprehensive plan amendments” of 20 acres or less that together would add up to 130 acres.

            But that’s not what the law requires, Gauthier wrote in the letter he sent Wednesday to Taylor officials. The law requires considering all 130 acres together, since it’s all one project, he wrote.  The reason: Small plan amendments avoid public hearings and state review, Gauthier noted.

            “Given the irreplaceable environmental resources in the area of the Magnolia Bay proposal,” he wrote, “it is of the utmost importance to have appropriate state and regional oversight and public input into any comprehensive plan amendments. ... It is very clear on the surface that the proposed resort will present extraordinary issues in regard to the protection of natural resources and exposure of life and property to natural hazards.”

            Some critics of the project have questioned the wisdom of building Magnolia Bay in Dekle Beach, where in 1993 a massive tidal surge from the no-name storm killed 10 people and destroyed 57 of the 70 houses.

            Rick Causey, a local critic who has accused developer Olson of punching him during what had been advertised as a public meeting on Magnolia Bay, said that during the 2005 hurricane season he saw the water rise 4 feet under his stilt house at Dekle Beach.  The Magnolia Bay project faces more hurdles.  It has yet to get the state and federal permits that it needs to fill wetlands, and it needs permission from the governor and Cabinet to alter state-owned submerged land. So far, no Cabinet hearing date has been set, state officials say.

            “We’re not trying to sneak anything over on anybody,” Pruitt said last year. “We’re following all the rules.”




Other Bills


© copyright Sierra Club 1892-2011