Photos from Robert Karl Hutchinson's post in Ichetucknee Alliance
A few weeks ago, the Alachua County Commission authorized $100,000 to be spent on legal proceedings pertaining to the "Minimum Flows and Levels" rule proposed for the Lower Santa Fe and Ichetucknee Rivers. Our assumption was that the Water Management District would submit their proposed rule, and that it would be challenged by North Florida water utilities and agricultural interests. Alachua County would then intervene on the side of the SRWMD to support the rule, and more importantly, the "recovery plan." While we recognize that the rule is based on imperfect science, the recovery plan did have merit, such as a limiting consumptive use permits to five years in length. However, the utilities, behind closed doors , prevailed on the Florida "Department of Environmental Protection" to gut the MFL rule and recovery plan; for instance utilities can now get 20-year CUPs.
The dilemma the County faces is that we could mount an administrative challenge, but regardless of whether we win or lose, the end result will be the same: "Wait five years for a new groundwater model." During the time of the challenge, any benefits the MFL Rule might convey would be stayed.
I have suggested two other ways to spend the remaining funds (about $80K). The first is for Alachua County to get into the business of challenging many or all Consumptive Use Permits (both new applications and some existing permits). Being an official pest, especially a principled one, could have a significant impact on the size and speed of permits issued.
The second way we could use these funds is to become involved in the development of the "Georgia/North Florida Groundwater Model" which will become the basis for the next set of MFL rules. This is highly technical work and would require outside expertise if we wish to be effective. The interests who would over-exploit our groundwater will certainly be participating during this five-year process and they are likely to suggest more reasons to kick the can another five years into the future.
I'm interested to hear your suggestions about other ways Alachua County can spend the $80K to protect the public trust of our aquifer, springs, and rivers.
Thanks for reading, and for your suggestions.