The Board of County Commissioners heard a lengthy series of CEMEX expert witnesses in support of the Comprehensive Plan Amendment from a Residential and Regional Commercial Overlay to Mining and Commercial on a 730 acre tract of land across the street from Bayfront Hospital on Cortez Blvd in Brooksville. More specifically, a 573 acre portion of land is proposed for mining designation and a 156 acre tract along Cortez is proposed for commercial designation.
Along with expert testimony, there were letters from Bayfront Health CEO Kenneth Wicker and Gina Hall, President of the management group for the Historic Spring Hill cemetery, Spring Hill African American Cemetery Trust, Inc. In a nutshell both letters state that the vibrations would not be problematic for their operations and they will not be negatively affected if they are notified of upcoming blasts, which CEMEX has agreed to. Following the applicant’s expert testimony, the Board heard rebuttal from attorney Jane West on behalf of the Nature Coast Conservation group. Following her presentation was citizen comment, in which many citizens expressed their disapproval of the comp plan amendment, while some spoke in favor of it. Commissioners decided to transmit the application to the state in a 5-0 vote to approve with 9 conditions set by staff.
Mark Stephens of the Colinas Group, a licensed professional geologist and engineer with 40 plus years of experience, presented information in regards to likelihood of well water and groundwater depletion due to the mining activities. He explained that mining will be done at least 8 feet above groundwater level using track excavators. He pointed out that there is no dewatering in the operation. After mining, 8 feet of soil will be placed on mine floor. His presentation stated,
“Rock has been excavated for nearly 100 years at the Brooksville Mine. Groundwater has been monitored for several decades. The data show the excavation activities will not impact groundwater levels or quality.”
Jeffrey Straw Vice President Area Manager of GeoSonics spoke about the explosives which will be used to blast at the site. His expertise he said is in ground vibration measurement instrumentation analysis and he has been in the field for forty years. Referring to blasting, he stated, “It’s necessary because of the nature of the rock,” specifying rock hardness. He said that it isn’t everywhere on the site but it will need to be broken. The controlled commercial explosives are placed into existing cracks for excavations. He remarked that in 2005-2006CEMEX began using mechanical excavators to reduce blasting. He said that the blast detonates in a millisecond. New permitting will be required to blast and seismographs will be placed by an independent firm throughout the site to monitor and will send the data to the state fire marshal and the property owner.
Lee Walton with Flatwoods Consulting Group reviewed the endangered or threatened wildlife species found on the property which included a little blue heron and 54 gopher tortoise burrows. In his presentation, he stated, “Prior to mining, CEMEX will obtain a Conservation Permit from the FWC and relocate gopher tortoises out of harm’s way.” In regards to the little blue heron, “The Bronson Extension lacks suitable nesting habitat and does not support a viable population of little blue herons. Little blue heron will not be impacted by the proposed quarry and no permits are required by the FWC.”
Steve Schriever with Fishkind & Associates Inc. spoke on the economic impact of CEMEX on Hernando County and gave the following statistics:
Fiscal & Economic Benefits of CEMEX to Hernando County
Dr. Christopher Teaf a toxicologist with the University of Florida explained that two categories of small airborne particles have been studied (PM2.5 and PM10) at the three locations surrounding the quarry for the past 17 years. He explained the PM2.5 has always been at health based levels. He also stated that silica and asbestos do not pose health risks for this project.
Chairman Champion was impressed with the experience and thoroughness of the applicant’s experts and felt that many of the arguments against the project did not contain enough data and was based on emotion.
“I know from personal experience that they (CEMEX) are good stewards of the county. They are good neighbors. They do provide great jobs.”
To read the rest of the article online, click here.