Lake Belt Mitigation Committee
The Lake Belt Area encompasses 77.5 square miles of environmentally sensitive land at the western edge of the Miami-Dade County urban area. The wetlands and lakes of the Lake Belt offer the potential to buffer the Everglades from the potentially adverse impacts of urban development.
Rock mined from the Lake Belt supplies one-half of the limestone used annually in Florida. The Northwest Wellfield – located at the eastern edge of the Lake Belt is the largest drinking water wellfield in the State and supplies approximately 40 percent of the potable water for Miami-Dade County. Approximately 50 percent of the land within the Lake Belt Area is owned by the mining industry, 25 percent is owned by government agencies, and the remaining 25 percent is owned by non-mining private landowners.
The Florida Legislature recognize the importance of the Lake Belt Area to the citizens of Florida and mandated that a plan be prepared to address a number of concerns critical to the State (Chapter 373.4139, F.S.). The Legislature established the Lake Belt Committee and assigned it the task of developing a long-term plan for the Lake Belt Area. Through a cooperative process involving government agencies, mining interests, non-mining interests, and environmental groups, the Lake Belt Committee completed the Miami-Dade County Lake Belt Plan – Phase I and Phase II.
The Lake Belt Phase I Plan – completed in 1997 – focused upon balancing limestone mining interests and environmental concerns related to wetland protection, water supply protection and water management needed for Everglades restoration. It established the footprint for future mining, and distinguished areas suitable for mining, areas suitable for environmental mitigation, and areas where further analysis is needed to determine mining suitability. It provided the basis for the Wetland Mitigation Fee, subsequently established in 1999, to fund the purchase and restoration of wetlands, including the Pennsuco wetlands, as mitigation for limestone mining.
The Lake Belt Phase II Plan – completed in 2000 – expanded upon the Phase I Plan by providing a more detailed plan to further implement and specifically address a number of additional legislative mandates.
Lake Belt Mitigation Committee
In 1999, the Florida Legislature established a mitigation fee on each ton of limerock and sand sold from the Miami-Dade County Lake Belt Area. The purpose of the fee is to provide for mitigation of wetland resources lost to mining activities within this area. The fee is collected from the mining industry by the Department of Revenue and transferred to the District's Lake Belt Mitigation Trust Fund.
The proceeds of the mitigation fee are used to conduct mitigation activities that are appropriate to offset the loss of the value and functions of wetlands as a result of mining activities and must be used in a manner consistent with the recommendations contained in the reports submitted to the Legislature by the Miami-Dade County Lake Belt Plan Implementation Committee and adopted under Chapter 373.4139, F.S.. Such mitigation may include the purchase, enhancement, restoration, and management of wetlands and uplands, the purchase of mitigation credit from a permitted mitigation bank, and any structural modifications to the existing drainage system to enhance the hydrology of the Miami-Dade County Lake Belt Area. Funds may also be used to reimburse other funding sources, including the Save Our Rivers Land Acquisition Program, the Internal Improvement Trust Fund, the South Florida Water Management District, and Miami-Dade County, for the purchase of lands that were acquired in areas appropriate for mitigation due to rock mining and to reimburse governmental agencies that exchanged land under Chapter 373.4139, F.S. for mitigation due to rock mining.
The Legislature established an interagency committee to evaluate mitigation proposals and oversee the expenditure of mitigation fees from the Lake Belt Mitigation Trust Fund. The committee consists of representatives from each of the following: the Miami-Dade County Department of Environmental Resource Management, the Department of Environmental Protection, the South Florida Water Management District, and the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. As provided for in the legislation, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have been added to the committee as voting members. The limerock mining industry is represented on the interagency committee by a nonvoting member.