Lucinda Merritt has posted on the Ichetucknee Alliance Facebook an interesting article from the Madison Recorder dealing with certain farmers’ concerns with excessive water permits issued by SRWMD. Similar concerns were expressed to SRWMD at their retreat/meeting of the Governing Board in Cedar Key last spring. Here there were farmers as well as representatives from the city of Lee, who spoke against excessive water withdrawals even as the Governing Board voted their approval to a major withdrawal permit at this meeting.
Here we have small agriculture versus big agriculture, municipalities versus big agriculture. Another interesting aspect of this situation is that we learn that Mr. Tommy Reeves is the attorney for Madison County, and we know also that he is an attorney employed by SRWMD. How can he work for both sides? Just a question.
The original article by Lynette Norris appeared in the Madison Recorder on August 19, 2014, and can be read in the original at this LINK. Continue reading here for the reproduced article:
Lee Farmers Requesting Deep Well Moratorium
David and Cynthia Dell Langston of Lee appeared before the Madison County Commission during the public input segment to present a petition on behalf of several family farms in the Lee area, requesting “a ban to immediately prohibit additional deep well irrigation system approvals in Madison County, Florida.”
The petition, Langston said, was in its infancy stages, but was already signed by nearly two dozen neighbors, which he said was a reflection of their growing concern with the number of corporate farms and other big water users that were buying up whole subdivisions and tracts of agricultural land around the community of family farms in east Madison.
The document listed multiple concerns of area residents. The big farming operations were drilling wells up to 300 feet deep, compared with a depth of 60, 80 or perhaps 100 feet for a residential farm. The existence of these huge commercial farms with their enormous pivot irrigation systems worries the small farmers nearby, who fear that these large water-using commercial farms, in addition to other big water-users like the Nestle water-bottling plant, are encroaching on current water levels. Some nearby small farms and residences are already experiencing difficulties with their water supply. There were also concerns about the loss of trees and timber-related jobs impacting the county economically. Another economic concern was less prime residential property tax revenue coming in to the county, as entire subdivisions and individual residential farms were swallowed up into huge commercial farms.
Environmental concerns included the groundwater contamination from animal feces, pesticides, fertilizers and other toxic chemicals sprayed on the ground, and the usual toxic soup of agricultural runoff making its way into surface waterways.
Petitioners also worry that any residential development might be slowed in the areas immediately adjacent to such huge farming operations, since such areas are usually uninhabitable.
However the overall worry for the residents was the fear of the deep wells and big water users causing their water supply to dry up, forcing residents to relocate.
Commissioner Rick Davis stated that he had asked the Langstons to come before the CountyCommission with their concerns, although he acknowledged that “realistically, (the county commission) has no regulatory authority” over the well-drilling. That would have to come from the Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD), which issued the drilling permits. Referencing SRWMD’s presentation to the CountyCommission at their June 25 meeting, wherein the former explained their permitting process, he added: “Their position is that ‘we have plenty of water.’ My question is, ‘where does it end?’”
There were already a number of the deep wells in place, he noted, and outside entities were coming in at a rapid rate.
County attorney Tommy Reeves explained that since SRWMD was the permitting authority, any ban or moratorium would have to come from them; there was a whole lot the county could do except petition the SRWMD or the state legislature regarding the issue.
Davis reminded every one that SRWMD would be the investigating authority if a residential well went dry.
Other commissioners spoke up, saying they shared these concerns, and Commissioner Clyde Alexander said he appreciated the Langstons for being proactive on matter, asking if the board could somehow amplify those concerns to the SRWMD.
Reeves stated that water was supposed to be big at the next legislative session in Tallahassee, adding that some officials were already calling it “the year of water.”
Commissioner Ron Moore made a motion to put the issue on the agenda at the next regular meeting for further discussion.