It was business was usual at the Suwannee River Water Management District Governing Board meeting, until President Pam spoke eloquently to the board about her hopes and aspirations related to the board and its water policy. After addressing the board members, she presented each, along with Executive Director Valenstein, with a personal copy of Dr. Bob Knight’s Silenced Springs: Moving from Tragedy to Hope. (Alta Press, Gainesville, 2015.)
Chairman Quincey graciously accepted and expressed his recognition that the board must attempt to maintain a balanced agenda with the economy counter-posed to the needs of the aquifer. To achieve this he sees the need for long term projects, some cross-district, especially with the St Johns River District, and emphasized his hope that OSFR would support the district in this endeavor.
The Christmas activities being over, the meeting once again returned to normal, with OSFR Policy Director Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson addressing the board regarding a recent letter published by Secretary of Agriculture Adam Putnam in which he extolls the good work agriculture is doing to conserve water, mentioning the Water Resources Act of 1972 (which by the way has not been observed nor followed.)
This letter is hugely reminiscent of a letter written a year or two ago by the then head of the FDEP, Herschel T. Vinyard, Jr. Both letters are immensely misleading and have little bearing on reality.
On another note, District Counselor Tom Reeves reported on the Fort White chicken factory under construction, to whom the district issued an Environmental Resource Permit, which was the only one required by any environmental protection agency, even though this factory sits on an aquifer high recharge area, very close to the Santa Fe River, and with open access to the aquifer.
A Columbia County citizen generated a petition challenging this but Counselor Reeves reported that it was denied “without prejudice” because the petitioner was deemed not to have standing and not to have filed in a timely manner. He added that the petitioner has 2 weeks in which to re-file.
A final item on this day of meetings is the exchange of land tracts, a project begun some time earlier and which benefits local residents.
Today at the SRWMD Lands Committee, they voted to swap a small land parcel connected to Shingle Landing and a small parcel next to the 47 Bridge Park also known as Santa Fe River Park.
This effort was to improve both parks within the Gilchrist County’s jurisdiction. A road is intended, as seen in the overview of the 47 Bridge Park, so that traffic will be routed away from the unsafe turnout near the Santa Fe River bridge.
Gilchrist has also secured several grants to improve the actual park.
This effort began over four years when a resident and his friend, Gary Miller and Stan Hemphill, came to the county asking for improvements. With 23 members of the community representing local and state governments and agencies, and a few local groups including our Santa Fe River, we all worked together to achieve a dream plan. Soon we will begin to realize the fruits of our efforts.