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CEPD chairman Mullins receives standing ovation after presentation to Lee County Legislative Delegation

By Staff | Dec 17, 2009

Chairman Mike Mullins of the Captiva Erosion Prevention District received a standing ovation from the audience last Tuesday after he addressed the Lee County Legislative Delegation at Edison State College.

Mullins made his presentation as a representative of the CEPD in an effort to dissuade State senators and representatives from pursuing offshore drilling in Florida waters.

“I think we can all agree that beaches are Florida’s ‘white gold.’ As former Secretary of State Firestone once said, ‘Beaches are the line of credit upon which Foridians built our economy,'” Mullins said.

Mullins acknowledged two major themes presented by oil and gas lobbyists – that beach renourishment is a waste of tax payers’ dollars and offshore drilling will deliver solid solutions for Florida’s socioeconomic ills.

“Lobbyists and their followers are wrong on both counts,” Mullins said, referencing a film made by U.S. Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma that features pigs splashing in beach waters, symbolizing beach renourishment as a waste of tax dollars.

“Senator Coburn has been the oil patch spokesman tasked by the oil industry with disparaging beaches. Coburn’s facts are dead wrong – beach nourishment is neither piggish, nor pork. Beach investments, maintenance and sand nourishment are sound economic policy. At the federal level, every dollar the U.S. invests in beaches returns $320 to the economy,” Mullins said.

According to Mullins, Florida’s beach tourism feeds a billion dollars in taxes alone to State coffers, a return on investment to Florida of over eight to one.

He cited an instance when Florida senator Mike Bennett asked Mullins if beach nourishment really worked. Mullins crafted an analogy.

“I asked him, ‘Do you paint your house? Do you maintain your car, your property? Don’t you need to nourish your body? Beaches require maintenance, beaches require nourishment also,” Mullins said, noting that basic cost benefits analyses show that Florida beach nourishment does work.

“Beach projects pay for themselves in property taxes, value increases and tourism taxes – better beaches bring better business,” Mullins said.

He implored the senators and representatives at the delegation for their help.

“Take the case of Captiva Island. In 1985, Captiva’s property values were $221 million or $170 thousand per property. The beaches were going away and the County road was washed out. Captiva was virtually sinking and was torn with contention over what to do. Captivans fought for 25 years over nourishment – to do it or not to do it. Captiva finally came together in 1988,” Mullins said.

Three beach renourishments have taken place on Captiva since 1988.

In 2009, Mullins continued, Captiva’s property values had risen to $1.5 billion in total, or, $1.2 million per property, indicating a seven-fold increase in property values.

Mullins attributes this dramatic increase to beach renourishment, which cost a total amount less than that of the bed taxes Captiva generates between projects, a period of about eight years.

“In other words, maintaining Captiva’s beaches more than pays for itself. Florida’s beaches are more than white gold, they are a white gold mine,” Mullins said.

He continued his presentation by addressing the risks of offshore oil and gas drilling.

“Why gamble with our tourist industry feeding 10 times the taxes to the state treasury that we can realistically expect from drilling. And for what? For the adverse consequences of a dirty oil business? People from Texas and Louisiana come to southwest Florida for our beaches – there is a reason. Even if you ignore storms and hurricanes, the collateral pollution is still untenable: tar balls, smells and routine spills of toxic waste,” Mullins said.

“The potential losses to beach tourism, the coastal economies of fishing, boating and property values will far outweigh the promises of oil royalties. Even if you are not a ‘tree hugger,’ our ecology matters, oil and water don’t mix.”

Mullins likened drilling rigs to icebergs, noting that the underwater infrastructure of oil rigs are even larger than what people will be able to see only three to 10 miles off the coast.

In conclusion, Mullins appealed to the senators, representatives and audience members. “Do not trade the white gold in our hands for the black gold under the sands.”

Mullins says he was surprised by the overwhelmingly positive response he received from the audience after his presentation.

“I got a standing ovation and that caught me by surprise. It was a good thing, but I had a feeling that our legislators might not have been as enthused as the audience,” Mullins said.

However, Mullins said that he felt representative Gary Aubuchon and senator Garrett Richter were very attentive and interested in the information he presented.

“If people want to write letters to their senators and representatives and speak out against offshore drilling, and we need them to, they need to go to “http://www.ProtectFloridasBeaches.org”>www.ProtectFloridasBeaches.org to get sample drafts of letters,” Mullins said.

Mullins also mentioned an upcoming event on Feb. 13, 2010, called “Hands Across the Sand,” an organized protest against offshore drilling that will ask participants to join hands on their local beaches for an hour in a symbolic gesture of protection. You can learn more about “Hands Across the Sand” at www.HandsAcrosstheSand.com.

You can learn more about Captiva’s beaches by calling the CEPD at 472-2472.