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Dr. Abbey Tyrna, executive director of Suncoast Waterkeeper and a wetland scientist, addresses the Manatee County planning board. – Rusty Chinnis | Sun

Suncoast Waterkeeper urges protection of wetlands

In a recent column, I reported how state rules and regulations passed during the DeSantis legislative session limited the protection of local waters at a time when the threat to water quality and habitat destruction has never been graver. Now, according to Suncoast Waterkeeper (SCWK) Executive Director Abbey Tyrna, that threat has come to Manatee County.

In a statement, SCWK responded to newly proposed changes in the Manatee County Comprehensive Plan with the following:

“Manatee County has proposed removing policies of the comprehensive plan and sections of the land development code to allow for the destruction of our wetlands and wetland buffers. We’re taking action to ensure that another threat to our quality of life, local economy and waterways don’t become a reality. These changes would create permanent damage. Once wetlands are gone, they are gone for good.

“Wetlands are protected ecosystems because they perform a wide variety of important functions, chief among them is their ability to clean polluted water. This function alone should have the county commission and its appointed planning commission fighting to protect these valuable ecosystems in the face of increasingly harmful algae blooms including red tide and lyngbya. Wetlands do more than enhance water quality, they protect us from flooding, provide habitat for Florida fish and wildlife, and replenish our dwindling groundwater supplies.

“So why would Manatee County Commission want to push changes that would destroy wetlands in the face of these threats? The answer is simple: They want more developable land to put corporate profits before our quality of life, our local economy and water quality.

“It is time to take action to make sure these changes do not become a reality. Will you join us in protecting our wetlands? Add your name to our petition that we are sending to the Manatee Board of County Commissioners online. Together we’ll protect what makes the Suncoast special.”

In what many described as a surprise decision, the Manatee County Planning Commission voted 4-2 on Aug. 10 not to recommend the proposed changes to the commission. At that meeting, Tyrna, as well as many local citizens, including past Commissioner Joe McClash, gave powerful testimony that swayed the majority of the board to vote the proposal down. That deprives the commission of the cover of their planning board. Unfortunately, they are not required to abide by that decision and could vote for the changes. That’s why SCWK, the Manatee County League of Women Voters, ManaSota-88, Speak Out Manatee, the Sierra Club, East Manatee Preservation and Kids for Clean Water are encouraging voters (you) to turn out at this Thursday’s commission meeting, which will be held at the Honorable Patricia M. Glass Chambers at the Manatee County Administration Building, 1112 Manatee Ave. W. in Bradenton. The meeting starts at 9 a.m.

If we, the citizens of Manatee County, don’t speak out, our children and future generations (who have no voice in this decision) will suffer the consequences of our inaction.