Although Sabal Trail is forging ahead with its proposed pipeline, and although FERC and the Florida DEP have both signed off on permits giving their blessings, serious conflicts, contradictions, discrepancies and questions remain.
As yet, the Army Corps of Engineers have not issued a permit. Concerned, responsible environmental groups and counties have protested and requested more accurate studies. Professional, objective geologists have done studies which indicate that Sabal did not truthfully report their findings when surveying the river crossing sites.
As far back as October of 2015, a professional, licensed geologist, Dennis Price (Price Geology Report submitted a letter to the FERC commissioners outlining his conclusions in a study regarding the proposed river crossings which are significantly different from those of Sabal Trail in their report. In essence, Price found that the pipeline corridor crosses areas of karst windows and sinkholes, that Sabal chooses to ignore:
Many many sinkholes occur in retention basins throughout the Karst regions of Florida. These occur in shallow excavations as well as deep excavations. … Our worry is that excavation for pipe lying across the Falmouth cave system and the boring depth under US 90 will result in collapse into the cave system. The Karst mitigation plan describes how sinkhole features that appear during construction will be restored. When caverns are encountered, they propose completely filling the void with cement and then filling the hole.
They cannot plug the cave system because it is a cultural and natural resource in the county, divers depend on being able to reach the end. Filling the cavern will slow flow at the spring discharge point in the SRSP, something they are not allowed to do.
Sabal Trail does not have a karst mitigation plan that describes how they will address a collapse into the cave system.
So from this we see that Sabal Trail’s plan of action, in case they break into a cavern with an underground river flowing through, is simply to dam up the river with concrete, destroy it? This is totally unacceptable.
Chris Mericle, WWALS Watershed Coalition Board Member, has pointed out, in letters to authorities, (MericleCommissionerLetter) that even though Sabal Trail says that they used LiDAR maps to survey the river crossings, their findings are significantly different from those of Mr. Price, who also used the LiDAR maps. Sabal writes that the nearest Karst feature to the centerline of the pipe corridor is 750 feet, but Mr. Price documented two only 50 feet away.
Sabal Trail also denies that there is water flow in the karst below the river and states that potential impacts would be confined to the vicinity of the pipe crossing. Ample proof exists that neither is true as shown by mapped cave systems outlining water flow into widespread areas.
Sabal also fails to include existing springs and springsheds on its maps, which they claim to be accurate maps of the geology. Two examples are Falmouth Spring and Lime Run Spring, both Magnitude One springs, certainly not too small to accidently overlook. At 1.7 miles from the pipe, Sabal lists Madison Blue as the closest Magnitude One spring, but Falmouth and Lime Run are both closer, and not even listed.