Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Blow Dealt to Heritage Nomination

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Blow Dealt to Heritage Nomination

Article excerpt

TALLAHASSEE -- Taking aim at one of Jacksonville Mayor John

Delaney's pet projects, a House committee approved a bill

yesterday that could block the St. Johns River from being named

one of the nation's mosttreasured waterways.

A spokeswoman for Delaney, who has helped lead efforts to name

the St. Johns an American Heritage river, acknowledged the bill

could pass the full House. But she said Delaney is working to

try to kill it in the Senate or with a veto by Gov. Lawton

Chiles.

"I don't hold out a whole lot of hope on the House side," said

Susan Wiles, Delaney's chief of staff. "Overall, I'm far more

optimistic."

The House Environmental Protection Committee voted 9-3 to

approve the bill, which would require the Legislature and

Cabinet to approve participation in the federal American

Heritage Rivers Initiative. That could rule out the St. Johns

bid, which is backed by Delaney and many local governments along

the river.

The only Northeast Florida lawmaker on the committee, Rep.

Doug Wiles, D-St. Augustine, voted against the bill (House Bill

3059), which now will go to the full House. Sen. George

Kirkpatrick, D-Gainesville, has introduced a similar bill (Senate

Bill 1488) in the Senate.

Rep. George Albright, R-Ocala, the House bill's sponsor, said

the federal government could use the river designation to become

involved in local development and land-use issues. He said the

Legislature and Cabinet should control decisions about the

river, which is on state-owned land.

"You are the protectors of this land under the Florida

Constitution," he told committee members.

But lobbyists for two statewide environmental groups said the

river designation is a "feelgood" initiative that could help

bring more federal money to the St. Johns. They also said the

Legislature should encourage local governments to get involved

in such programs.

"I continue to be mind-boggled that we would oppose this

program," said Eva Armstrong, a lobbyist for the Florida Audubon

Society.

A federal panel is expected to choose 10 rivers this spring as

American Heritage waterways. …

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