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A First-Of-Its-Kind-Lawsuit On Behalf Of Waterways' Rights

The Kissimmee River. Photo- Amy Green / WMFE
The Kissimmee River. Photo- Amy Green / WMFE

Five Central Florida waterways are plaintiffs in a first-of-its kind lawsuit in the nation aimed at blocking a housing development in fragile wetlands. 

The lawsuit argues the development violates the waterways’ rights to exist and flow freely without pollution.  

The complaint was filed under a new Orange County charter amendment overwhelmingly approved last November, making it possible to sue on behalf of natural resources themselves. 

The plaintiffs are the Wilde Cypress Branch, Boggy Branch, Crosby Island Marsh, Lake Hart and Lake Mary Jane, tributaries of the Kissimmee River. Chuck O’Neal brought the suit.  

“We’re running out of uplands in Florida. So developers are turning to wetlands, and these wetlands are what filter our water. These wetlands are what provide our drinking water.” 

The lawsuit comes after the Trump administration in December transferred permitting authority to the state, it said to streamline decisions on whether to fill in wetlands for development.

Defendant Beachline South Residential LLC did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A spokeswoman says the state Department of Environmental Protection, another defendant, does not comment on pending litigation. 

Amy Green covered the environment for WMFE until 2023. Her work included the 2020 podcast DRAINED.