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Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
– A river is like a life: once taken,
it cannot be brought back © Jim Tatum
On June 4, 2021, your historian attended and participated in the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) Division of Water Restoration Assistance meeting about the springs project proposals it received for funding consideration for Fiscal Year 2021-22, which begins July 1, 2021.
This group included 37 proposals in four of the five water districts. Several were in the Santa Fe River, one for the Ichetucknee and all had merit. Topics included water quality, conservation, stormwater treatment, wastewater collections, easements, and more.
The meeting was well organized and jointly executed by DEP employees Joe Kahn and Sandra Waters and its purpose was to receive public comment regarding the proposals.
Your historian had difficulty accessing the Zoom information, twice writing to the link given on the flyer, once to the link on the DEP web site, with no responses. Finally, minutes before the meeting, a phone call to the number on the web site resulted in an email with the link to join.
One of the projects affecting the Santa Fe River is a proposal to acquire a conservation easement to protect 718 acres surrounding Mill Creek Sink, with the object of reducing nitrates by reducing nutrient loading. State funding requested is one million dollars and local funds one million.
Project #4 is the Devil Ear Group of springs on the Santa Fe where a wastewater collection and treatment upgrade to provide reclaimed water for a recharge in a constructed wetland. The State would provide $700,000 and local provided funds would be $225,000. This would be a multi-year project. This may be the upgrade for High Springs wastewater system.
Another proposal which would benefit the Santa Fe is to extend sewers from Lake City to protect better the Primary Focus Area of the Ichetucknee springshed.
Strange how they throw out this term “Primary Focus Area” as being important, but when it comes to reasons for not issuing a water withdrawal permit, it doesn’t seem to count at all.
In Alachua County a proposal to upgrade septic systems near Lake Santa Fe would help in reducing nitrates in the river.
One of the most ambitious plans would be to spend $52,200,000 to build an advanced wastewater system for the development Top of The World, which would help the Rainbow River tremendously. This is the same river where the DEP recently decided they could change the Minimum Flows and Levels to give away more water to industry even though it is harming the river significantly.
If anyone want to add comments on any of these projects, they have until the end of June to submit them to the DEP at the Springs Public Comment Form .
Here we have the DEP spending millions to address water problems, and they are hitting some of the causes such as “septic to sewer,” but they are taking the easy way out and giving themselves a chance to thump their chests and throw money. But most of the sources remain unaddressed, these being excessive agricultural fertilizer and over-pumping of groundwater.
Your historian’s comments noted that all the improvements to the Santa Fe are good, but that at the same time giving away nearly one million gallons of water a day to Seven Springs Water Company so a few individuals can become richer surely will delay the restoration of the springs and river.