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The regular meeting of the Suwannee River Water Management District Government Board met today, April 12, 2016 in Live Oak. The presence of Board Chair Don Quincey was missed, and in his stead Board Member Alfonsas Alexander ran a fine, efficient and gracious meeting.
Interim Chair Alexander allowed public input/exchange with board members and opted to push through the break time and finished early, yet all topics were presented to everyone’s satisfaction.
Two issues of note are the following: Item 23. on the EO page, to wit: “Authorization for the Executive Director to enter into an agreement from the Florida Department of environmental Protection to receive funds for the Hornsby Springs Water Quality Improvement Project.”
And likewise, Item 24: “Approval of Memorandum of Understanding with City of High Springs to implement the Hornsby Springs Water Quality Improvement Project.”
The project entails building a lift station and considerable length of pipe to connect the Kamp Kulaqua sewage system to that of the City of High Springs. The expected result is that nitrate contamination of the Santa Fe River would be reduced considerably. The Florida DEP would contribute $450,000, and the district another $50,000 for this project.
OSFR applauds the district for it role in realizing a significant improvement in water quality of the Santa Fe River. And we also applaud the $50 million allotted by the state for springs protection. Of interest is a special springs project stakeholder meeting at SRWMD headquarters at 10 am on April 20.
Policy Director for OSFR Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson addressed the board on several topics of importance. Acting Chair Alexander graciously gave her all the time she wanted and Merrillee took advantage of it.
Among the topics she brought to the board were the ever-present request of moratoria on excessive water withdrawals, the problem of intensive agriculture on areas of high recharge of the aquifer, lately exposed with the JTC Chicken factory near Fort White, the threat/rumor of a second factory in the works, the action in progress with Columbia County authorities to change the Land Development Regulations, better to protect the aquifer, and lastly, the threat of the impending phosphate mine straddling New River in the immediate area of the upper Santa Fe River in Union and Bradford Counties.
Other topics of special interest was Tom Mirti’s explanation of the many and frequent sewage spills in the area if Valdosta, GA, finding their way into the Suwannee and Alapaha Rivers. His information is that the remedy, long in the works, is still ahead of schedule, even as these spills continue.
Be that as it may, somewhere, sometime, someone dropped the ball horribly, as these spills did not need to occur and did so because of human error.
A last item is Counselor Tom Reeves’ presentation regarding the Condemnation Action in federal court where Sabal Trail is suing for district land acquisition under the Right of Eminent Domain. Two areas only are in the works, although there may be more.
Strong evidence has been brought to light that Sabal Trail acquired necessary permits from FERC and FDEP fraudulently because they knowingly submitted EIN reports containing inaccurate information. Should this be the case, one wonders if there might be a role the district might play here, since they are charged with managing our water. Theirs is not to issue permits, but theirs is to protect our water. A letter to the corresponding agencies requesting a clarification would seem in order.