Protecting the Santa Fe River in North Florida

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Suit: Water belongs to residents of Florida

Ginnie Nestle old plant In: Suit: Water belongs to residents of Florida | Our Santa Fe River, Inc. (OSFR) | Protecting the Santa Fe River
Nestle water plant at Ginnie Springs. Photo by Jim Tatum.

Shameful it is that our tax-supported agencies must be sued in order to make them do their job.  Shameful it is that our state government values money over our irreplaceable water resources. Shameful it is that our citizens are so  unaware or uncaring that they elect the wrong leaders.

One problem is that many people have the attitude that “Oh, our  DEP and our water districts would not do anything to harm our water!”  I have heard a naive [or lying] state lawmaker say “I will support this bill because I can’t believe our DEP would allow anything to harm our water.” Was he serious? Maybe or maybe not.

Serious or not, he was totally wrong.

Our DEP is allowing the slow death of our springs and rivers and they indeed know it and it is intentional.

This article appeared in the Gainesville Sun.

Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
– A river is like a life: once taken,
it cannot be brought back © Jim Tatum

Suit: Water belongs to residents of Florida

Argues Nestle bottled water operation is illegal

Cindy Swirko

Gainesville Sun USA TODAY NETWORK March 20, 2021

A lawsuit that has the potential to break new legal ground in Florida water law was filed by two environmental groups challenging a permit that will enable NestleWaters to expand its Ginnie Springs bottling operation.

The suit against the Suwannee River Water Management District contends the transferring of water off the site of the property owner for profit is not legal.

“(The) DISTRICT has violated the laws and public interest of Florida by granting permits to private persons that transfer the monetary value of water owned by the people of Florida to the private gain of private persons,” the suit states.

It was filed in Gilchrist County, where the Nestle plant is located, by Our Santa Fe River and Florida Defenders of the Environment.

District spokeswoman Lindsey Covington said in an email that the district is aware of the lawsuit but has not been served. Once it is received and evaluated, the district will respond accordingly, she added. Gainesville attorney Joe Little, representing the groups, previously told The Sun he could not find any other case that makes the argument about transferring water.

Water in the aquifer and in navigable streams is considered to be owned by the people of the state. Reasonable use is granted to property owners for household use, recreation, agriculture and similar activities.

Seven Springs Water Co., owned by members of the Wray family that owns  the Ginnie Springs Outdoors recreation area, since 1998 has had a district permit to pump water off its property to a nearby bottling plant.

The plant was bought by Nestle in January 2019. Nestle plans to add new bottling lines and will need more water than has historically been used by the plant.

The district, acting on a recommendation from a state administrative hearing judge, agreed to a permit to pump up to 984,000 gallons of water a day. Initially sought was a permit for up to 1.152 million gallons a day….

Should the groups prevail in the lawsuit, the impacts to Nestle and other bottlers in the state could be far-reaching.

A court victory could lead to a monetary value being placed on water.

“It has quite widespread ramifications. The water belongs to the people of Florida. We give it to agriculture and industry, and to some degree we don’t have issues with that because we get something back,” [OSFR president Michael] Roth said. “But giving it to a private corporation to bottle it and sell it out of the area — that’s not something that is reasonable.”

The lawsuit is the second legal action to hit the district this week. Our Santa Fe River and the Florida Springs Council took the first step toward a filing with the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings over the decision to issue the permit.

It argues that Seven Springs should not have been granted the permit because it has no control over whether Nestle will comply with the terms. It also contends that bottling is not a beneficial use in the public interest as required.

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