Tuesday, September 1, 2009

After, and After

April 26,2009


August 28, 2009

The top image (April 26, 2009) is of an area right beside our garden where we enjoyed sitting, watching butterflies, and watching things grow. It's shady there...we've spent many enjoyable hours in those chairs. This image is a captured frame still of a video we took two days after the FDOF bulldozed on April 24, 2009.
The bottom left and right images (August 28, 2009) are of the same area. The angle is a little different, and I apologize for the picture quality. These images were taken with a cell phone. As you can see, the area is no longer useable, much less enjoyable. The DOF fire line is mere feet beyond the edge of the little blue fence at the rear of the image. There is a ridge of debris and dirt built up from the bulldozer tracks, so this area can no longer drain to the lower elevation at the east of us as it has always done in the past. Never in 10 years has this area looked like this, so we can only attribute the ugly change to the fire line. We tried to show this to the St. Johns River Water Management District when they were here, but no one seems interested in the changes to our living space that have happened due to the fire line construction.
The muck area is getting bigger by the day.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like the DOF is trying not to let you start a precedent of them restoring private property damaged by "fire protection" activities. They should at a minimum fix any drainage problems that may have occurred. However, without proof of previously existing conditions, it may be hard to prove they caused any harm.

Obviously, they shouldn't have been mucking around in the wetlands with bulldozers. However, the DOF/FDACS don't have the same definition of "wetlands" as the state regulatory agencies. Basically, many "agricultural" activities can occur in wetlands without a permit/exempt. To hold them accountable legally is a tough row to hoe. They probably have some kind of legal immunity for fire lines on private property (even in wetlands).

My advice is to focus on correcting any serious drainage/flooding issues. The wetlands/vegetation will grow back in a few years. Maybe write DOF a letter thanking them for fire protection efforts (locally and throughout the state) and politely ask them not to do what they did again. You may need them to protect your house from a fire someday!

Sorry you have had to go through all this B.S.!

watchdog1776 said...

Thanks Anonymous!

You know, when we found out that the DOF was going to do the fire line, we thought, "well, OK, they are experts...they know what they're doing!" I certainly see the need for fire lines in bona-fide silviculture properties (this isn't the case, certainly not my property), but this is a residential area, and the fire line's location is pretty odd...mere feet from our lawn, and through a swamp, all in clear opposition to published BMPs. This was a mistake and it should be fixed.

Firefighting is one of the deadliest occupations out there. Those guys get all my applause for putting their lives on the line. I do also agree that fire prevention is paramount to lessening damage to property and loss of life. Where I have a problem is when those activities adversely affect someone's property as it has mine (in the absence of fire)and are in clear violation of some laws. As you so wryly put it...obviously they shouldn't have been mucking around in the wetlands with bulldozers.

We'd love to fix the drainage problems. Unfortunately, what is causing some of these problems exists on the neighbor's property and it isn't ours to fix. What is in our control to fix would require manually taking stuff out of there, or hiring someone to manually do it ($$$), and hiring a wetlands consultant or a hydrologist to figure out how to fix the water flow. And it wouldn't do much good to fix what is on our property if the other side of the damage on their property is left as is.

We're not allowed, as private individuals, to disturb the soil surface in the wetlands without a Federal permit. Puts us in kind of a spot, doesn't it?

Anonymous said...

Why don't you contact Eric Draper in Tallahassee. He's the Audubon of Florida policy director and is running for Commissioner of Agriculture. Won't garantee he'll do anything, but he might have advice. Maybe also try Julie Wraithmeil in Talli with Audubon of Florida. She might have some ideas. She's very agency savvy.

watchdog1776 said...

Thanks for the info! I will certainly follow your advice and contact both! Eric Draper's name has come up before and I was aware that he is running for Commissioner, but I was unaware of his affiliation with Audubon (my bad!). I have been in touch with Audubon, but not yet to Mr. Draper personally.

You might also be interested to know that EarthJustice.org has contacted me and is watching this carefully, too.

Thanks for your advice, Anonymous, and please, if you can think of anyone else, feel free to forward my link or shoot me another comment. As always, thanks for your interest!