Deadline to voice an opinion on the future of SWFL wetlands nears

We are just days from the deadline for the public to weigh in on the future of our wetlands. While some call them nature’s filter for protecting and cleaning out water, the federal government is thinking about loosening the rules related to wetlands.

“Everybody should be looking at it,” said Dr. Win Everham, professor of Marine and Ecological Sciences at Florida Gulf Coast University. “Everybody should be commenting.”

Right now, everyone can chime in, online, on a possible change to which of our lands get federal protection.

“It’s designed to change the definition of the waters of the US,” Everham said, “which changes what falls under the wetland protection act.”

It includes the wetlands that protect everyone in Southwest Florida, according to Everham.

“If this rule goes through,” said Phoebe Clark, a graduate student at FGCU, “then there are estimates that about 50 percent of wetlands would no longer be considered a wetland.”

Everham said wetlands filter out nutrients that contribute to algae.

“If we lose that kind of protection, I’d be afraid will see a lot more harmful algal blooms,” Everham said.

And help stop flooding during hurricanes.

“Wetlands can fill up and take that water from flooding homes and businesses and farmlands,” Clark said.

But some farmers said the old rules are so complicated they do not know if they could plant on their land.

“We need to support farmers more,” said Adam King, a farmer.

And they would need to pay thousands and wait years to get a permit.

“It’s important that we look at these things on both sides,” King said. “Not to destroy too much, but to have a healthy balance.”

For now, the government is leaving it open for all opinions – stopping development, supporting our economy and everything in between. But the deadline to weigh-in for the new water rules falls on Monday.

“This is going to have a dramatically large impact to matter who you are, where you live, what you do, this ruling will have an impact on you,” Clark said.

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To make a formal comment on the future of our wetlands, click here.

Reporter:Anika Henanger
Writer:Michael Mora
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