Here is some information on a very important upcoming public forum. The Panhandle has traditionally been excluded from the protections afforded the rest of the state for wetlands and stormwater issues. With mounting public pressure, the state legislature has finally had to address the issue of the disparity. There is currently a proposal that would extend Environmental Resource Permitting (ERP) to the panhandle. Many feel the long awaited bill, however has been poisoned by two provisions: a provision that would prohibit local governments from adopting stricter protections for their local resources than the more general state protections and a provision that would provide recurring funding for the Panhandle. In other words, if the legislature doesn?t fund ERP in the Panhandle for any given year, we would revert to our current lesser state standards. On May 4th, we will present a public forum on all aspects of this issue. Our meeting starts at 7:00 PM and is at the library in South Walton. Please try to come and learn about this very important topic. Environmental Resource Permitting: Equal Protection for the Panhandle Rosalie Shaffer, Conservation Chair of the Northwest Florida Group Sierra Club, will give a presentation on wetland protection and storm water control in Northwest Florida. The talk will cover the importance of wetlands and problems caused by storm water runoff. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection Environmental Resource Permit (ERP) Program will also be described. The Environmental Resource Permit Program regulates activities involving the alteration of surface water flows. ERP addresses dredging and filling in wetlands and other surface waters, as well as storm water runoff quality (i.e. storm water treatment) and quantity including that resulting from alterations of uplands. The Environmental Resource Permit Program is in effect throughout the State except in the Florida panhandle. The merits of the current bill in the Florida Legislature that would bring the ERP into Northwest Florida will be discussed. Shaffer was born in Baltimore, Maryland, and moved to Panama City in 1980. She holds a Bachelor?s degree in Biology from Towson State University in Baltimore, and a Master?s degree in Library and Information Science from the University of Maryland. She has recently retired from a 26 year career with the National Marine Fisheries Service, where she worked as a Technical Information Specialist, providing information on fisheries, ecology, and aquatic science. The forum begins at 7PM on May 4 at the Coastal Branch Library located at 437 Greenway Trail, behind the courthouse off Highway 331. The SWCC is an organization of residents, business owners and property owners whose mission is to preserve, protect and enhance the quality of life and natural environment of South Walton County. To contact the SWCC call (850) 314-3749 or visit its website at http://www.southwaltoncc.org.