Critics are denouncing an unprecedented proposal that would free the Saint Joe Company from conventional wetlands permitting for more than 30,000 acres in the Florida Panhandle. They say the plan is a "giveaway" to Florida's largest private land owner.
Saint Joe officials say that environmental and community organizations had misrepresented proposed state and federal agreements as giving first priority to development.
State and federal regulators say plans for blanket approval instead of separate permits for individual projects would minimize wetlands destruction. The critics say the proposals may violate the federal Clean Water Act and would give the public little chance to object to individual projects.
The Citizens for the Bay, the Sierra Club's Northwest Florida chapter, the Clean Water Network and the Panhandle Citizens Coalition criticized the plan during news conferences in Panama City and Tallahassee.