SUN PHOTO/CINDY LANE
A Bradenton Beach sunset, without oil rigs or oil spills.
Tourism doesn’t mix with proposals to allow oil and gas exploration and drilling in state waters, according to the Manatee County Commission.
Commissioners unanimously passed a resolution on Nov. 3 opposing offshore oil and gas exploration and drilling in state waters, expressing concern about endangering Anna Maria Island, Longboat Key and public beaches including Coquina and Manatee.
The beaches would bear “a disproportionate burden of the environmental damage and cost of cleanup from oil spills,” the resolution states.
A spill would lead to the loss of free public access to the beaches for residential recreation and tourism, a “major economic engine for Manatee County and the State of Florida,” according to the resolution.
“The beaches of Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key are among our community’s most valuable resources,” commissioners wrote. “The area’s natural beauty is the driving force behind a tourism industry that hosted more than 446,000 visitors in 2008 resulting in a total economic impact of over $479 million to Manatee County’s economy. The unknown possibilities of drilling would jeopardize our pristine coast.”
A spill also would damage beachfront property values, both commercial and residential, and tourism-related businesses such as boating, fishing, charters, scuba diving and parasailing, the resolution states.
The resolution also points to state and local comprehensive plans as evidence that exploration and drilling are not compatible with permitted land uses and may jeopardize underwater beach sand used for beach renourishment.
The state’s comprehensive plan has a policy to “encourage land and water uses, which are compatible with the protection of sensitive coastal resources” and “avoid the exploration and development of mineral resources which threaten marine aquatic estuarine resources,” according to the resolution, while Manatee County’s plan has a policy to “minimize the disturbance of natural shoreline resources that provide shoreline stabilization and protect landward areas from the effects of storm events.”
Commissioners also pointed to potential impacts on military exercises at bases around the state, the vulnerability of the Terra Ceia Aquatic Preserve and the Gulf floor habitat and increased underwater sound levels that could affect marine mammals and fish.
Commissioners recommended a study on risks to coastal communities and the establishment of a marine-based comprehensive plan similar to those used in municipalities to identify environmental resources and the risks that drilling would pose.
The resolution, a response to the Florida Legislature’s consideration of proposed legislation that would open state waters to drilling, will be circulated among surrounding municipalities for signatures before forwarding it to legislators.