Columbia County officials will not allow a pipeline on its property which takes water from the Santa Fe River to a proposed water bottling plant in Fort White.In fact, the commission has decided to write another letter to state level officials reaffirming the county’s commitment to the environment and local water sources by requesting that water bottling plants be prohibited from taking water from the Suwannee River or any of its tributaries. Thursday night, county officials unanimously voted in favor or denying a proposal which requested the use of county property for a pipeline from Santa Fe Springs LLC owner Stephen Cheeseman. The pipeline would carry water from the Santa Fe River to a proposed water bottling facility in the town of Fort White.During the meeting Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson, president of the Our Santa Fe River environmental group, gave a presentation detailing how the local water tables have dropped in recent years and noted why she felt the commission should deny Cheeseman’s request.Jipson wasn’t the only person at the meeting speaking against the proposal, as Levy County resident Barry Cannon and his wife Renada also spoke against the proposal.“Don’t ever allow anyone to get your water because you can’t get it back,” he told commissioners.
Following remarks by the Cannons and Fort White residents, Loye Barnard of the Save Our Suwannee environmental group and Stewart Lilker, both of whom spoke against the proposal, commissioners unanimously voted in favor of denying the request.
“I will never, ever support a private pipeline going down that road,” said Columbia County District II Commissioner Dewey Weaver. “It’s just not going to happen. It’s not going to happen to Fry Road.”
Commissioners then reached a consensus and decided to send a letter to the Suwannee River Water Management District reaffirming the county’s position of prohibiting water withdrawal by bottling plant from the local rivers.