Sometimes we must serve as the bug, sometimes the windshield.
Even county officials.
Last week, it was reported that a bipartisan bill sponsored by Congressman Neal Dunn (R-North Florida) and two others pertaining to the Coastal Barrier Resources Act (CBRA).
The reported indicated that in the bill was language to remove nearly 50 acres of county land from within a CBRA zone.
That was the gist of a press release from Dunn’s office touting the bill and its impacts on Bay and Gulf counties.
Assistant County Administrator Warren Yeager noted the passage of the bill during Tuesday’s regular meeting of the Board of County Commissioners.
Depending on how one stood on the issue, it was a boon for Gulf County or a threat to environmentally-threatened lands.
However, only one part was correct; and it’s not even April 1.
Turns out all the information that was coming out of Dunn’s office was, shall we say, not the entire picture.
A full reading of both bills found online highlighted the differences.
As spokesperson Shelby Hodgkins indicated in several emails, the congressman’s office and Gulf County officials have indeed long been working on the CBRA issue.
And indeed, Dunn has sponsored a bill that would remove the designation from a significant portion of coastal south Gulf County.
However, that bill is not the one passed by the House Nov. 16, despite information from Dunn’s office indicating otherwise.
That bill, with no impact to Gulf County but impacts to several other area counties, could be taken up by the Senate before end of this Congress.
Dunn’s bill pertaining to Gulf County is in committee, something not made clear by Dunn’s office until this week when follow-up inquiries were made.
As for that bill, advancement beyond committee after a change in House leadership would be debatable.
The final recommended agency map, from the agency overseeing the CBRA program, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, would remove 47 acres, some 40 structures, in the Cape Breezes subdivision due to the level of infrastructure in place when included in CBRA.
“Specifically for Gulf County, the legislation corrects an erroneous placement of areas of the county into CBRA in the 1980s,” Hodgkins wrote in an early email about the original bill taken up on the House floor.
“This is a small, but significant step to correct this.”
Yeager said the same thing Tuesday; that the removal of the 47 acres would assist in the county’s argument that some 900 acres should be removed.
However, the Dunn-sponsored bill in committee does not include the recommended agency map, but a mandate to remove the CBRA designation from much of the unit that encompasses south Gulf County.
CBRA was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan and works to preserve barrier islands by barring the use of federal funds and financial assistance, the aim to constrain development.
The Dunn bill approved by the full House maintains existing protections but provides more precise digital maps to delineate CBRA zones.
Those maps are specific to areas of Bay, Franklin and Dixie counties.
Gulf County officials have long argued that more than 900 acres were rolled into CBRA even though existing infrastructure should have precluded such action.
The Coastal Community Association of Gulf County and Board of County Commissioners have lobbied to overturn CBRA for more than two decades.
And, county officials argue, that erroneous designation has cost the county tens of millions of dollars while handicapping property owners from securing federal funds, particularly federally-backed flood insurance.
Two previous congressmen, Allen Boyd and Steve Southerland, filed bills seeking to partially or in whole remove the CBRA designation in Gulf County.
None have made it out of committee.
Last year the BOCC considered whether to pursue legal action.
Nothing, though reported otherwise by Dunn’s office, was changed by the House passage of HR 5787 Nov. 16.