Items moved rapidly before the board on Tuesday, Feb. 9 at the Live Oak headquarters of the SRWMD. The more or less usual praises and complaints were aired before the board members, among those OSFR policy director Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson who voiced concern about a fifteen-square mile mine proposed for an area near the Santa Fe River in Bradford and Union Counties. This issue has yet to have widespread exposure before the public, and seems to be in its beginning stages. As this develops, our Newsletter will bring you the information.
Merrillee also voiced concern about the Falling Creek proposal which is recorded in the Florida Forever Work Plan 2016 Update, (page 3). This is a project using $48 million for an eleven-mile pipeline to transport water that is skimmed from a natural recharging system. Logic begs the question, (and it was asked) as to why not dole out fewer free permits to private, individual for-profit water users and save the taxpayers the $48 million? Merrillee did not receive any type of answer from Chairman Quincey, other than a “thank you.”
The Florida Forever Work Plan 2016 Update is commendable, as it has several projects directly benefiting the Santa Fe River. While OSFR agrees that we need some projects to recover groundwater, we are pursuing conservation projects as our main goal. That includes our monthly request for a moratorium on large excessive water use, 100,000 gallons or more in our district. Of course surface water conservation is beneficial, but excessive groundwater withdrawals are obviously and uncontestedly the principal cause of our continued depletion of springs, rivers and the aquifer. OSFR prefers to see more land acquistion to protect wetlands and fragile aquifer recharge areas instead of spending huge amounts of money on small “band aid” type of quick fixes. This, of course, is the intent of Amendment 1 funds, which have largely gone misdirected by irresponsible Legislators pursuing personal interests.
OSFR is also pleased to see the effort made to reduce nitrates in our water resources. A fine example is the Hornsby Springs/Camp Kulaqua project with the city of High Springs, and also the Newberry Reuse Project, as well as others. Larger issues remain, namely the DEP’s tolerance for fertilizer applications and the failed septic tank legislation. Attacking these issues would make great strides in improvement, and definitely cost much less, by passing the solution on to the polluters instead of the taxpayers. It is easier (and cheaper) to prevent than repair.
Other things that happened at the meeting is that Tom Mirti was officially appointed as Director of Water Resources. El Nino is still expected to arrive, although late, and the aquifer is generally maintaining the status quo or rising, although it is losing ground (water?) overall, in spite of our BMAPS, blindfolds and beating of chests.
Mr. Paul Still had plenty of corrections and questions about the final draft of the “Strategic Plan 2017-2021.” It seemed that perhaps the report was a bit premature, or else the writers thought that no one would read it carefully to see if the figures checked and added up (which they did not). Thanks to Paul for showing the SRWMD that they indeed have readers who care enough to inform themselves 0f what is happening in our taxpayer-based agency who spends millions of our dollars. Accountability is alive and well, yes, Paul Still. Thank you from the taxpayers!
As a result of Mr. Still’s comments, the board recognized that some improvements and modifications were in order, but they still voted approval of the Plan.