A disturbing story on NPR aired today about a real estate developer’s big plans for Florida’s panhandle, aka: the forgotten coast. Plans are in the works to construct a 4000 acre airport in an the middle of an undeveloped, sensitive Gulf-area ecosystem. There is another existing airport, and it adequately serves the small population with only two carriers, or twelve planes total. The airport would be to serve future developments, or “progress” as the developers call it, in this undeveloped area.
The company: St. Joe Real Estate (formerly a paper mill…). The Stakes: Hundreds of thousands of acres that St. Joe Co. owns, home to one St. Andrews Bay – one of the most diverse ecosystems in North America; it lies in a watershed that provides a critical source of freshwater to in-Gulf area fisheries. The reason: The American dream, at all costs. Florida’s population is expected to swell by over 12 million in the next 25 years, and developers hope a majority of the development will take place in this sensitive region. They desire infrastructure to encourage development. The VP Jerry Ray essentially said that he desires to turn useless wild areas into places for families to settle, raise children, shop, live and play. There are already families there – they are just not human – that have every right to stay there. The questions are: do we have a right to invade this area in the hopes that people move there, is this really a safe place for millions of people, with the increase in intensity of hurricanes and possible rise in sea level?
An environmental impact statement (EIS) was filed for the proposed airport, which claims it will not interfere with or harm the environment, but that is obviously completely untrue. It is NOT possible to fragment a habitat, a sensitive one on the scale of 4000 acres, and not affect anything. What about stormwater runoff, groundwater pollution, roads, the future development? These EIS are disgusting works of fiction that enable the EPA and other government environmental groups to rationalize the destruction of the little bits of wild and wildlife we have for the sake of “progress.” This airport should not be constructed, there is no current demand for such a structure.