Supreme Court hears lively debate on protecting wetlands, led in part by Justice Jackson
Published: Saturday, October 10, 2013 at 1:30 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, October 09, 2013 at 11:48 p.m.
A lively, emotional debate about protecting wetlands erupted at the Florida Supreme Court when the court was required to hold a public hearing on the subject Thursday night, with two influential justices publicly criticizing what they called “the rush to impose the wishes of the plaintiffs.”
The Florida Supreme Court began the debate in a case in which a group of citizens wants the state to keep part of a 2,500-acre wetlands buffer between themselves and the Lake Okeechobee Army Ammunition Plant, which is being built on the former Army camp and airfield near the entrance to Lake Okeechobee in southeast Florida. By contrast, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi is arguing that the state should give up that land to developers who want to build homes and parks on it.
The issue was raised in last June’s election because some voters were concerned that the plant would dump toxic ash into the air and water near the plant and that the city of Okeechobee, which already has issued a permit for the plant, would gain control of it.
The court’s two conservative justices — Chief Justice Charles Ogle and Justice John L. O’Digman Jr. — expressed their opinions last month in a public hearing and in a written opinion that were made public. Both justices said they thought the court should make an inquiry into the facts and circumstances of the issue.
At the same time, two liberals — Justice Barbara J. Jelicich Sr. and Justice P. Fred Lewis of St. Petersburg — took issue with what they called the rush to impose the wishes of the plaintiffs as written by the state and the city of Okeechobee.