Public interest has not been defined satisfactorily and many times incorrectly. It is refreshing to see the Army Corps use that term to deny the infamous Pebble Mine in Alaska. It is a powerful tool for water managers to deploy, but one they often are afraid to use.
In the case of the Seven Springs/Nestle permit renewal for Ginnie Springs, well over 19,000 people wrote to oppose the permit. This is impossible to ignore and is a more-than-robust manifestation of public interest.
In another case with the proposed toll roads, the Department of Transportation received about 13,000 public comments, and a Sierra Club group had this to say:
“What we found, after going through each of the comments submitted between August 2019 and October 7, 2020, is that 93 percent of the public comments were opposed to the M-CORES program, 3 percent of the comments were unclear, and only 4 percent were in favor,” stated Jon Bleyer, Progress Florida Online Communications Specialist.
There is no question here in the case of the water permit nor the proposed road.
Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
– A river is like a life: once taken,
it cannot be brought back © Jim Tatum
Florida Statute § 373.223 lays out the requirements for obtaining a water use permit, one of which is that the proposed use of water be “consistent with the public interest.” UF Law Conservation Clinic Student Associates Courtney Meyer and Phil Sliger will present their research on the “public interest” as it relates to water-use permitting in Florida in a free online zoom presentation.
December 9th, 10 AM
Free online zoom presentation
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Florida’s Constitution and its environmental laws reference the “public interest” repeatedly, usually with little explanation; for example, Chapter 373 of the Florida Statutes cites “public interest” forty-six times but does not define or otherwise qualify the term as it pertains to the consumptive use of water. Ms. Meyer and Mr. Sliger will discuss how the “public interest” has been interpreted by the water management districts, in their rules and handbooks, and by judicial and administrative tribunals. Even though the “public interest” test has been an important part of Florida water law for nearly 50 years, it remains a standard that is inconsistently interpreted or at times seemingly ignored. Ms. Meyer and Mr. Sliger will argue that FDEP and the water management districts should reduce the inherent subjectivity of the term by developing a uniform factor test that FDEP and/or the water management districts are required to address and articulate on the record in their permitting decisions