Congress Wants Taxpayers Pay for Beach Development

Date: September 9, 1998
Contact: Dan Evans
Phone: (352) 373-6441

How You Can Help

Florida Senators Connie Mack and Bob Graham are prepairing to introduce an amendment to the Senate Interior Appropriations bill to remove eight Florida beaches from the Coastal Barrier Resources System (CBRS), allowing developers to receive taxpayer funded federal subsidies. The amendment would make development on these beaches – many of which provide habitat for threatened and endangered sea turtles and shorebirds – eligible for federal flood insurance and other federal subsidies. This would force American taxpayers to subsidize unwise, unsafe development on sensitive barrier islands and beaches.

A similar amendment introduced by Representative Tillie Fowler (R-FL) and enacted in 1996 was stuck down by a federal court in March, 1998. However, Rep. Carrie Meeks (D-FL) attached the same amendment to the Interior Appropriations bill this year, which was passed by the House in July. Now Senators Mack and Graham want the Senate to pass the same measure.

Please call, write or fax Senators Mack and Graham and urge them TO NOT INTRODUCE THEIR AMENDMENT TO THE INTERIOR APPROPRIATIONS BILL. If you do not live in in Florida, please urge your state Senators in Congress to oppose the efforts of the Florida Delegation. Tell them that removing Florida beaches from the Coastal Barrier Resources System:

* would increase the burden of the federal taxpayer and make federally-backed insurance available for high-risk, environmentally damaging construction on Florida islands and beaches. Every developed acre of coastline costs taxpayers $82,000 in federal subsidies. Let developers gamble with their own money, not ours!

* would subsidize hurricane-prone development that endangers lives and property. By encouraging construction on barrier island and beaches, the rider increases the likelihood that lives and property will be damaged when the next hurricane makes landfall.

* jeopardizes threatened and endangered sea turtles and other wildlife. One of the beaches that will be removed from the Coastal Barrier Resources System lies within the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge, the most important sea turtle nesting beach in the Western Hemisphere! These areas need more protection not more development!

* undermines the Coastal Barrier Resources System. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service examined each parcel carefully and concluded that each one was correctly mapped and belongs in the System. As President Clinton stated in November, 1996, “The taxpayer should not bear the risk of development in these damage-prone areas, and my Administration will strongly resist any similar legislative efforts in the future.”

In addition, Senators Mack and Graham are likely to introduce a second amendment to the Interior Appropriations bill. This amendment would delete Pumpkin Key and a parcel of property on Key Largo (both in the Florida Keys) from the CBRS. The Key Largo parcel was, in fact, mistakenly included within the System. However, Pumpkin Key is clearly undeveloped and should stay within the System.

Because the island does not have enough structures to be considered developed, the developers have been pressuring the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to weaken its interpretation of the word “developed”. Basically, the developers wanted the F&WS to dilute its infrastructure criteria so that Pumpkin Key could be considered developed — on paper — if not in fact. The F&WS caved to the pressure and now support Pumpkin Key’s removal from the System. This precedent is a serious threat to the integrity of the System. If Pumpkin Key, a mangrove island, is considered “developed”, virtually any CBRS parcel is in jeopardy of future removal.

Luckily, there is still time to stop these amendments from becoming law. To help stop the madness, please call Senators or your local press and help raise awareness.


If you live in Florida Call Senators Mack and Graham at the following numbers:

Senator Connie Mack: (202) 224-5274 (phone), 224-8022 (fax),
Senator Bob Graham: (202) 224-3041 (phone) 224-2237 (fax)

If you live in another state, please contact your Senator in Congress and urge them vote against the harmful and costly coastal barrier amendments to the Interior Appropriations bill.

You can write to any US Senator:
The Honorable (Name)
U.S. Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

Contact your Representative in the U.S. Congress

Contact your Senator in the U.S. Congress