Despite about 30 people requesting the opposite, the governing board of the Southwest Florida Water Management District approved the recommendation of their staff, and approved an 11 per cent reduction in flow for the river and springs.
The district scientists insisted the aquifer has not fallen in that area, although Resource Management Director Mark Hammond admitted that the river and springs are negatively impacted, but not because of groundwater withdrawals. They insist their science is the “best available,” although Dr. Robert Knight and other geologists disagree completely.
Opponents say the district is ignoring data collected earlier by the U.S. Geological Survey which prove that the flow in the 1960s was 58 per cent higher than currently. Several people accused the district staff of using later, diminished flow numbers as a baseline, to give the district a means to rationalize their withdrawals.
No less than five opponents of the proposed MFL referenced the name Dr. Robert Knight in their comments to the governing board. Dr. Knight has published an extensive study of the Crystal River and Kings Bay, but it was not listed in the bibliography of the district’s report. From this came the accusations of some that the district staff did not do competent research.
The staff of the SWFWMD used the words “science” and “best available science” many times during this meeting. The governing board members did also. Many of those in the audience were not convinced.
The vote was unanimous among those board members attending save for one “nay,” unidentified for now but thought by some to be newcomer Joel Schleicher.
Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life: once taken, it cannot be brought back-