County residents express concern over Wakulla wetlands

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WAKULLA COUNTY, Fla. (WTXL)-- Wakulla County is an area known for the amount of wetlands you can find throughout the county. But for the past year, residents and county commissioners have had mixed ideas about how much protection to give the wetlands.

James Hennessey moved to Wakulla County in 1997, because he loved to outdoor scenery.

"I just loved it and thought I'd like to be in this part of the world," said Hennessey.

He says wetlands are part of what makes the coastal community unique-- a home for seafood, wildlife, boating and more.

"They're vital to pretty much everything that Wakulla County is known for," said Hennessey.

Wakulla wetlands are not only known for their beauty, but for the positive effects they have on the environment. But some are concerned that those effects may be in danger.

"They're under threat from pollution, of all sorts, and development," said Hennessey.

He says the county has had local protections in place for 20 years that require a 70-foot buffer zone for any new construction. Recently, Wakulla County commissioners voted to remove those buffers, relying on only state protections instead.

But Hennessey says he is worried that won't be enough.

"For a single family house under the state protection, there's no requirement for any buffer whatsoever," said Hennessey.

A group called the Wakulla Wetlands Alliance, which Hennessey is a part of, petitioned to let the citizens decide. They gained enough signatures to get the measure on the ballot this November. Hennessey says he encourages county residents to research the issues before voting.

"It's vital that we try to maintain these wetlands to preserve the things that really are unique about Wakulla County," said Hennessey.

At Monday night's county commission meeting, commissioners made a final vote on the wetlands ordinance, deciding 4-1 to repeal the local protections. Construction can now take place closer to the wetlands, unless citizens vote to bring the ordinance back in November.