Floridians have sinking feelings

State may require visitors to bring dirt

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- For years the Florida peninsula has been sinking. Population growth, fueled in large measure by retirees moving to the state, has overburdened the fresh water supply. The Florida Department of Water Conservation and Distribution reported last year that the St. Augustine Aquifer, the largest underground supply of fresh water in the state, has become nearly depleted.

Not only does this water shortage threaten human and animal population, it has caused massive sink holes to open all over the state. Just this past month, the entire town of Jepsen in central Florida disappeared overnight.

Now an innovative proposal has been introduced in the Florida legislature. Rep. Sam Kellersoll (R - Belen) and Rep. Martha Quopsiller (D - Randall) are co-sponsoring a bill that would require all out-of-state visitors to bring with them seven pounds of dirt that would be collected at boarder crossings and at airports and then be deposited throughout the state.

"Florida is nothing but a big sandbar," said Kellersoll. "If we do nothing to protect it from erosion that is being exacerbated by it sinking, it—and we—will soon disappear."

Over the past 16 years, a demonstration project has been conducted near Vero Beach on Florida's east coast. The results of that study, conducted by the geological consulting firm of Itsall, Stone & Clay, found that if every one of the roughly 47 million visitors who enters Florida each year were to bring with them seven pounds of dirt, in just 12 years the state would have enough material to increase its elevation nearly four feet. (See photos below.)

florida_erosion

If passed, the Kellersoll-Quopsiller bill could be a windfall for visitors from a number of foreign countries. Officials in Canada, for instance, have been searching for ways to dispose of the overburden from the giant Saquituni oil shale mines and tailings from the St. Requiel diamond mine. China has also been seeking locations to deposit hundreds of millions of tons of silt that are backing up behind the Three Gorges Dam.

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