The following letter was written by OSFR president Mike Roth and read to the SRWMD Board of Directors at their monthly meeting on March 9, 2021. He speaks for those working to protect the Santa Fe River, for those who love our springs and rivers, and he speaks the truth.
It is sadly apparent that the Board of Directors has no interest in protecting our resources nor in listening to the public. They have forgotten their oath to follow the statutes and water laws of Florida, and when the District’s attorney tells them what they can and cannot do, they think no further and follow like sheep, forgetting their role as judges in protecting our rivers and springs.
Today I did not register to attend the SRWMD meeting, but just called the number and listened to Mike’s letter which he read to the board. The board had no comments.
His letter says it all and if the board members feel no twinge of guilt then they have no soul nor conscience. I believe some on the board have limited capacity to understand the water situation and feel everything is fine and they are fulfilling their duties to the state and the public. They are the least guilty here but certainly not without guilt because they have the duty to learn about the water situation. I have told them that they will not learn about it by listening to their staff and lawyers.
Some on the board may suspect that we and others speak the truth, and the staff surely does know, but want to keep their jobs and they use little BandAid fixes which use up money but do little good. These bear the most guilt as they are selling their souls and our springs for money.
The bottom line of this is that I see no use in further relationships with this water district.
But know that we will not give up the fight as long as there is a trickle of water in the Santa Fe.
At any rate, thanks Mike for the excellent letter and saying one more time what needed to be said.
Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
– A river is like a life: once taken,
it cannot be brought back © Jim Tatum
I am usually here representing Our Santa Fe River, but today I am also representing myself as a riparian District resident and I am representing the public interest, referred to in Florida Statute 373.223(1)(c), which you appear to have completely disregarded in your consideration of the Seven Springs permit that you approved on February 23.
You will rarely, if ever, see an outpouring of the public interest as you have seen over this permit. While I seriously doubt that any of you has read any of the over 19,000 expressions of interest and concern in opposition to the permit expressed on your own website, I was present numerous times when many of your public spoke directly to you, including February 23, when out of about 50 speakers, 4 spoke in favor of the permit, of whom three were employees of the bottling company and one was the county administrator for the county that receives taxes from the bottling operation. You heard from many who spoke of observed decline in the Santa Fe River and its springs, many who complained about the purpose of the permit, which is to bottle publicly owned fresh spring water in polluting plastic bottles for sale back to the legal owners of the water, and some who were concerned that you were issuing a permit to an entity that owns nothing – not the wells, not the pipeline to the bottling plant, and not the plant itself. A water broker, which was certainly not what the legislature ever had in mind and which sets a dangerous precedent in the encroaching privatization and commodification of public waters.
You appear to have heard none of it. After the start of some reasonable and enlightening discussion by one of your members was cut off by the Seven Springs attorneys as irrelevant to the proceedings, you wasted no time approving the permit “under protest”, as your attorney suggested to retain appeal rights. Immediately thereafter, in a second slap in the face to the interested and concerned public, you determined not to appeal.
You are the panel that is supposed to be preserving the resource for the public. You are there to ensure that the public and their children and grandchildren have access to sufficient clean drinking water. We rely on you, as the law demands of you, to promote our – the public – interests. Yet nowhere in the history of this permit application, in the thousands of pages generated in staff reports and legal documents, is there any response to any of the comments levelled at you from the public you ostensibly represent. Our Santa Fe River, the public interest and I feel left in the lurch, unrepresented, and discarded even though you can sleep at night knowing you checked the box that says “let the public speak”. I do not desire to give you that comfort any longer.
Considering the policies of the two governors who selected all of you, coupled with the previous and current actions of this board, it is now clear that this board is not designed or inclined to hear our concerns or protect our interests. The very definition of insanity is trying the same thing and expecting different results. In the future, we will endeavor to find a more welcoming ear to express our “interests and concerns”, as this body has shown a preference for betraying the public trust.