USA. District Court upholds Regional General Permit for 48,150 acres in Walton & Bay Counties

Wednesday, 22 November 2006

The St. Joe Company (NYSE: JOE) has announced that a U.S. District Court in Jacksonville has upheld a Regional General Permit (RGP) issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) in 2004 to implement large-scale environmental and development planning for 48,150 acres in Walton and Bay Counties. The court rejected a legal challenge brought by the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Florida Sierra Club against the USACE seeking to stop implementation of this watershed-level approach to environmental permitting.

In rejecting the legal challenge, the court vacated its previously granted injunction halting further implementation of the RGP. The legal action has had only a minimal effect to date on Joe’s real estate development activity.

“We believe that the court made the wise and correct decision today in vacating the preliminary injunction, rejecting the legal challenge and allowing the RGP to proceed as planned,”said Peter S. Rummell, chairman and CEO of JOE. “The RGP is the result of a lot of time and hard work by a large coalition of local citizens, leaders, local and national environmental groups and JOE in an effort to create a model for large-scale ecological protection across an entire region, which encompasses multiple watersheds. It took a commitment to the environment and to our future. The RGP is also the result of an interagency comprehensive regional planning effort in which the USACE, State of Florida, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Marine Fisheries Service, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and JOE participated.”

More than 70 percent of the land covered by the RGP, approximately 33,000 acres that includes high quality wetlands, will be permanently protected. Development is allowed on only 30 percent of the land, or approximately 15,000 acres. “Protection of water resources is critical to ensure the high-quality of the surface water for the residents of the region,” said Rummell. “The plan implemented by this RGP also creates a wildlife corridor extending from Choctawhatchee Bay to St. Andrews Bay to protect and preserve forever the ecological integrity and biological diversity of one of Northwest Florida’s most important watersheds.”

“Environmental planning should extend beyond the lifespan of one landowner, one company or one group,” said Rummell. “We believe the planning framework implemented with this permit, which goes well beyond customary regulatory requirements, provides permanent protection for some of the most environmentally sensitive areas in Northwest Florida, safeguards important water resources and protects the beauty and environmental integrity of the region for generations to come.”

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 22 November 2006 )