Florida Sierra Club Sends Letter to DEP

The following letter from Sierra Club to the head of FDEP makes a request.  It is self evident that non-compliance would show that this agency is driven by political forces rather than  a desire to meet its mission principals.

We sincerely hope that this is not the case.

Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
– A river is like a life: once taken,
it cannot be brought back © Jim Tatum

Sierra Club logo featured image In: Florida Sierra Club Sends Letter to DEP | Our Santa Fe River, Inc. (OSFR) | Protecting the Santa Fe River


January 17, 2020

Noah Valenstein, Secretary
Department of Environmental Protection
3900 Commonwealth Boulevard
Tallahassee, Florida 32399-3000

Dear Secretary Valenstein,

“Sierra Club Florida is asking the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to implement an immediate moratorium on approval or renewal of all consumptive use permit applications which have the possibility to affect Outstanding Florida Springs until a protective definition of “harmful to the water resources” has been adopted by DEP and the water management districts – and all new or permit renewal requests are evaluated under the updated and revised rule.

In 2016, the Florida Legislature passed SB 552 requiring DEP to adopt by rule a uniform definition of “harmful to the water resources” [F.S. 373.219(3)]. This definition was to be used as the “minimum standard” when considering consumptive use permits for Outstanding Florida Springs.  In 2016, the Legislature recognized that “action is urgently needed” to protect and restore Outstanding Florida Springs.

It has been almost four years since this statute was enacted and DEP still has not adopted the required definition. As a result, water management districts have continued to issue consumptive use permits which damage Outstanding Florida Springs – without a true consideration for the health of the waters. We believe that since DEP has not adopted a uniform definition, it has resulted in unequal protection amongst Outstanding Florida Springs.

The water bottling permit at Ginnie Springs was issued to Seven Springs Water Company over twenty years ago. This was before the State recognized the true extent of the serious problems with excessive water extraction and enormous nutrient loading in our river basins.

Florida now faces water shortages and degraded water bodies from over-pumping the aquifer. This crisis is exacerbated by our current water use and permitting system. Over the decades, the State has developed and implemented many legislative protective layers of laws, rules and regulations that clearly define science and which, when applied, demonstrate that our water resources are imperiled.

When the new definition is adopted and vigorous enforcement of the existing rules is applied, it will be clear that the water use permit at Ginnie Springs must be rescinded due to it being inconsistent with the requirements found in:

  • Upper and Lower Minimum Flow and Level (MFL)
  • Basin Management Action Plan (BMAP)
  • Outstanding Florida Waters (OFW)
  • Outstanding Florida Springs (OFS), Priority Focus Area (PFA)
  • Springs & Aquifer Protection Act
  • Water Resource Caution Area (WRCA)

The proposed permit is also inconsistent with “Lower Santa Fe River Minimum Flow and Levels” (adopted 2015) that contains the science behind the need for no more extractions directly connected to the spring flows that feed our Santa Fe River. The Lower Santa Fe River had an estimated flow deficit of 17 cfs in 2010. The Minimum Flow Levels  for the Lower Santa Fe River are currently not being met. The Ichetucknee River had an estimated flow deficit of 3 cfs in 2010.  Consistent with Section 373.0421, F.S., these circumstances necessitate the development of a Recovery Strategy for these rivers and their associated springs.

Additionally, the proposed permit will negatively impact the ecotourism activity currently using the Santa Fe River. The total recreational use at all spring’s sites (and related Santa Fe River activities) was estimated to average slightly over one million visitor-days annually during the 2008–2013 period. In Fiscal Year 2012/13 the total annual visitor spending attributed to springs recreation was estimated at $83.8 million, including $45.2 million by nonlocal visitors.

Florida Statute 373.223 dictates that water managers use the three-prong test to be applied to all aspects of this permitting process:

  1. Is it reasonable and beneficial?
  2. Does it harm existing users?
  3. Is it consistent with the public interest?

A detailed review of the proposed permit will reveal that none of these criteria are being met. The water use permit for Seven Springs Water Company, which expired June 2019, to extract 1,152,000 gallons of water daily from Ginnie Springs is not in the public interest and should be denied.

If you have any questions or if we can be of any further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Alyssa Cadwalader , Chair
Sierra Club Florida Executive Committee

Where’s the Harm in This? Journal of the Environmental and Land Use Law Section of the Florida Bar
Economic Impact Analysis: Borisova, Hodges and Stewart

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