Stop Development on Fish Island along the Matanzas River

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As an avid fly fisherwoman, kayaker and paddleboarder, I oppose the proposed Fish Island project because of the harmful impacts it will have on our environment and the beautiful and historic city of Saint Augustine.

The proposed development is not far from an area of the Matanzas River where I recently experienced an incredible day of fly fishing -- catching and releasing two gorgeous "slot size" redfish (and narrowly missing a few others).  The proposed project threatens the flats that support this fishery, along with the livelihood of charter captains, and businesses like Oyster Creek Outfitters that sell fly rods and equipment to anglers like me.

Also, it is critical to appreciate the vital importance of the existing wetlands and riparian areas.  Coastal wetlands serve as nurseries for our amazing fishery, they help filter pollutants, including nutrients that can cause algal blooms, and they protect property against flooding and storm surges. If this property is approved for development, it will be clearcut and filled to comply with flood elevation regulations. This will eliminate any upland buffers that would keep pollutants out of our waterways. The recent pattern of building in flood-prone areas puts residents at risk and creates liability for municipalities. 

Every time we fill and pave over coastal wetlands and create more impervious surfaces, we increase stormwater runoff and the ability of wetlands to absorb floodwaters and filter harmful pollutants.  We do not want Saint Augustine to become like the Indian River Lagoon, plagued by excess nutrients, fish kills, and toxic algal blooms.  

In addition to their environmental benefits, coastal wetlands also provide huge aesthetic benefits. Saint Augustine boasts one of the country’s most beautiful coastlines along the Matanzas River.  It is a breathtaking view that makes the Ancient City a popular tourist destination.  Why would we want to despoil such beauty with a gated housing community?

Members of the Audubon Society have spotted Bald Eagles living on Fish Island, which is another issue of concern.

And finally, the proposed site should be protected because of its historical significance. Fish Island is named for Jesse Fish who acquired the property at the end of the First Spanish Period (1763) and lived there until his death in 1790. The island contains archeological remnants of his home as well as the site of Fish’s burial and has been listed in the National Register of Historic Places since 1972.

I urge the Saint Augustine Planning and Zoning Board to deny any permits that will allow building in this environmentally sensitive area.  And I urge my fellow citizens, especially those who love the Matanzas River for fishing, wildlife watching, and other recreational uses, to sign this petition and show their support for protecting our precious natural resources.