Columbia County Board of County Commission meeting will be discussing and possibly voting on the Belle Project (Niagara water bottling plant proposal). Niagara wants everything their way and lots of water. We don’t need to give them our water and we don’t need their plastic pollution. We have too much pumping of our groundwater already. Columbia C0unty must tell them no.
You may attend the meeting in person and speak and/or email the Commission and tell them not to approve this boondoggle for Columbia Co. At the end of this post you will find a letter sent to the commissioners from OSFR. You may find talking points here if you write the commissioners. If you email the commissioners, please cc. OSFR at the following link: [email protected]
Chairman Rocky Ford: [email protected]
Robby Hollingsworth: [email protected]
Tim Murphy: [email protected]
Ron Williams: [email protected]
Toby Witt: [email protected]
Thursday, January 7, 2021 at 5:30 P.M.
School Board Administrative Complex
372 West Duval Street
Regular scheduled meeting Agenda:
David Kraus, Interim County Manager
item # 9: Economic Advisory Board Recommendation
Which, btw, was really a “denial” vote by that advisory Board last week. The BOCC now has an opportunity, because it is on the agenda, to vote on whether or not the county wants to proceed to go into a contract with Niagara Water Bottling company.
These are the 10 demands that company made of the County and Lake City in Florida:
- Phase 1 water of 650,000 gallons per day shall be provided by the city of Lake City, Florida on or before September 1, 2021.
- Phase 1 water obligations of 650,000 gallons per day by Lake City to provide water is only relieved after Columbia County receives a non-appealable water use permit authorization sufficient to meet company’s water requirements at build out of 2,860,00 gallons per day of potable water and Columbia County has all water infrastructure completed and can independently serve the company.
- Columbia County shall prosecute the consumptive use permit (“CUP”) for consumptive use of not less than full buildout requirements of 2,860,000 gallons per day to secure water to its final conclusion and any and all appeals, administrative challenges, protests, etc. This obligation to prosecute by Columbia County and Lake City shall be uninterrupted irrespective of any administrative challenges, lawsuits, appeals and other legal and equitable steps taken by any parties to the CUP including conservation groups, local community stakeholders, and other interested parties.
- Lake City shall provide not less than 130,000 gallons per day of sewer by September 1, 2021 and shall immediately move forward with sewer improvements to accommodate future growth in the Mega Industrial Park (the “Park”) including, but not limited to, company’s future sanitary sewer needs of 570,000 gallons per day. The future sewer improvements for company’s full buildout requirements of 570,000 gallons per day shall be completed by December 1, 2021 for the benefit of the Park and Company.
- Columbia County and Lake City shall work in good faith with Florida Power & Light and company to bring the necessary power infrastructure for company’s full buildout requirements including a substation, not later than September 1, 2021.
- Columbia County and Lake City shall provide necessary natural gas infrastructure for company’s full buildout needs to the Park not later than September 1, 2021.
- Columbia County shall complete the necessary roadway infrastructure for company’s ingress and egress to the Park at its own expense and without financial contribution from company.
- Columbia County shall provide not less than monthly email CUP updates to company until such time as the CUP has been finalized and no further appeals or remedies are available to the opposing parties to preclude water being allocated to company in the amounts needed for company’s buildout requirements of 2,860,000 gallons per day.
- Company shall have input in the selection of counsel should an administrative challenge, appeal or other legal challenge to Columbia County’s CUP filings.
- Will serve letters satisfactory to company, in it’s sole discretion, with finalized agreed upon rates shall be tendered by Lake City and or Columbia County and attached as exhibits to the final development agreement and the development agreement shall be approved by January 15, 2021.
Interestingly and also befuddling, Columbia County, always a leader in water issues, joined with citizens in opposition to this type of water use to protect our springs and rivers; they drafted and voted unanimously in support Resolution No. 2019R-53. Seven Springs Water Company is trying to get a water bottle permit to sell the water to Nestle Waters North America.
Here is the Resolution
COLUMBIA COUNTY, FLORIDA RESOLUTION NO. 2019R-53
A RESOLUTION OF THE BOARD OF COUNTY
COMMISSIONERS OF COLUMBIA COUNTY, FLORIDA IN
OPPOSITION OF THE PROPOSED PERMIT RENEWAL TO
THE SEVEN SPRINGS WATER COMPANY THAT WOULD
HAVE A NEGATIVE IMPACT ON GINNIE SPRINGS AND
ACROSS THE ENTIRE FLORIDA AQUIFER.
WHEREAS, a proposed five-year permit renewal to the Seven Springs Water Company would allocate about 1.152 million gallons of water per day out of Ginnie Springs which would negatively affect the water flow of the North Florida water systems; and
WHEREAS, in 2015, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, in association with the Suwannee River Water Management District, implemented a prevention and recovery strategy to comply with the Santa Fe and Ichetucknee minimum flow requirements to help restore the quality of the river; and
WHEREAS, in 2019, The Florida Springs Institute published that, “average flows in these springs and in the entire Santa Fe River are down by 30 percent to 40 percent.”
WHEREAS over five billion gallons of groundwater is being drawn from the Florida aquifer each day, and the continued extraction of water at its current rate will result in negative effects on the Florida aquifer, wildlife, environmental and economic prosperity of the State of Florida.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS OF COLUMBIA COUNTY, FLORIDA:
The Board of County Commissioners of Columbia County is in full opposition of the proposed permit renewal to the Seven Springs Water Company for the extraction of water resources at Ginnie Springs.
PASSED AND DULY ADOPTED at its regular meeting of the Board of County Commissioners of Columbia County, Florida, on this third day of October 2019
BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS
COLUMBIA COUNTY, FLORIDA
Following is the letter OSFR wrote to the Board of County Commissioners.
January 4, 2021
Columbia County Commissioners
Acting/Interim County Manager David Kraus
P. O. Box 1529
Lake City FL 32056-1529
Columbia County Economic Development Director Glenn Hunter
971 W. Duval Street, Suite 150
Lake City FL 32055
Our Santa Fe River has learned that your staff has been negotiating with a water bottler which requires a consumptive water use permit and installation of a water bottling plant for the purpose of commercial sale to the public. Manufacturing and distribution of plastic bottles utilizing nearly three million gallons of water per day to be drawn from the Lake City or potentially Columbia County municipality water will leave an alarming amount of plastic waste. Since Columbia County has no recycling program for its residents, supporting this type of business can be devastating to the environment.
This development project is to be located on top of the “hydrological divide” for our area – the land located between Jacksonville and the Suwannee/Santa Fe River basins where the underground flow is a shared resource between the largest city in our region and the iconic historic Florida freshwater springs. It is the Floridan aquifer that feeds the springs, the river, and us all. Our Santa Fe River, an all-volunteer 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to education, stewardship and advocacy for the Santa Fe River, has been actively pursuing denial by the Suwannee River Water Management District of a similar permit request by Seven Springs Water Company for about a million gallons per day to be sold to Nestle Waters North America for the same purpose. We have taken this position because of a combination of considerations that we find to be hazardous to the Santa Fe River and its springs, the Floridan aquifer, and human health. In line with protecting our freshwater rivers and springs, Columbia County joined us in opposition to this type of water use in Resolution No. 2019R-53.
Dr. Robert Knight of the Florida Springs Institute has determined that the flow of the Santa Fe River is down almost 30% from historical flows, and further demonstrates that paucity of rainfall is not the problem. This flow reduction has, among other things, led to the river’s inability to properly flush nitrates and other nutrients creating patches of algae that choke out other aquatic vegetation thus affecting the survival of fish and other fresh water dependent wildlife. These phenomena can be observed by the browning out and eventual death of springs in a steady pattern going down river, and the severe reduction of submerged aquatic vegetation and other forms of biota throughout the river.
Local politicians like to justify development by citing that 1,000 people a day are moving to Florida, but apparently don’t expect the new residents to need additional water. That influx coupled with the migration of coastal Floridians to the central part of the state due to sea level rise over the midterm future, along with the saltwater intrusion created by the growing freshwater draw, endangers the well-being of Columbia County residents as well as residents from neighboring counties. It is time to put a stop to the unnecessary privatization of our precious aquatic resources. While resource mitigation and aquifer recharge has been offered as a possible offset solution to it does nothing to stop the pollution created by the overwhelming discarded plastic waste that is already known to be poisoning our oceans – and our citizens. (See recent articles at https://oursantaferiver.org/?s=plastic ). Talk of recycling is merely lip service when one considers studies show only six percent of plastic is recycled and there is little economic incentive for recycling programs. (See recent articles at https://oursantaferiver.org/?s=recycle ).
Our Santa Fe River urges Columbia County to reject the Niagara proposal, and cater instead to responsible self-sustaining businesses that don’t seek to privatize declining public resources for individual profit. As the new decade advances and the resources become more limited, Columbia County has the opportunity to become a model of new world sustainable business and reject the old model of “nature be damned” habitat and resource destruction for profit. Just as OSFR Board member Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson participated on the committee that helped develop the program for the water degree at Gateway College, we would be honored to be a part of that discussion and assist in a movement to bring businesses to our freshwater community that have a sustainable water ethic and advance protection of our water resources.
Very truly yours,
Michael J. Roth, President
Our Santa Fe River, Inc.
cc: Charles Keith, Economic Advisory Committee
Hugh Thomas, Suwannee River Water Management District
Lake City Council
Joseph Helfenberger, Lake City Administrator