THE ISSUE: Protecting the coastline.

OUR OPINION: Support an aquatic preserve.

There are 41 aquatic preserves in the state of Florida covering most of the Gulf coast. But much of the coastline of Citrus, Hernando and Pasco counties are not covered by the aquatic preserve preservation rules.

More than 400,000 of coastal grasslands along our coast are not covered.

Rep. Ralph Massullo (R-Lecanto) and Sen. Ben Albritton, (R-Bartow) have filed identical bills with the Florida Legislature to create the Nature Coast Aquatic Preserve. The intent is to protect the natural conditions so that the biological and aesthetic values may endure for future generations.

The bills would specifically prohibit drilling or dredging in the 450,000 coastal grasslands without specific permission of the Florida Cabinet. The rest of the coastal areas of the Gulf already have the protections. Regular activities such as fishing, snorkeling and scalloping would still be permitted.

Officials with the Pew Charitable Trust first discovered the lack of protection along our coast and informed the legislative delegation of the oversight. Rep. Massullo took the lead from there.

The proposed legislation makes perfect sense. Floridians have spent tens of millions of dollars in recent years cleaning up the mess we’ve made of our waterways. The designation will create an additional level of protection, especially from those companies that would like to drill for oil along the Florida coast.

We urge the Legislature to support Rep. Massullo’s efforts.