Turn down permits, don’t build pipeline

SRWMD board meeting break. Photo by Jim Tatum

We have already expressed our opinion of this crackpot idea.

Read the original article here in the Gainesville Sun.

Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
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EDITORIAL THE GAINESVILLE SUN Editorial Editorial The Gainesville sun

Turn down permits, don’t build pipeline

The word ‘no’ appears to be absent from the Suwannee River Water Management District’s vocabulary.

District officials seem unable to say ‘no’ to developers, farmers, water bottlers and anyone else who seeks a permit to pump groundwater, despite the reduced flows being caused as a result in the region’s rivers and springs. For example, the High Springs-based Florida Springs Institute has found that excessive groundwater pumping has reduced the Santa Fe River’s flow by about 28%.

Now, to add insult to injury, district officials are suggesting that hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars be spent restoring those flows. The money would be used to build a pipeline bringing water from the Suwannee River to recharge the groundwater that flows through Ichetucknee Springs and eventually into the Santa Fe.

It would be laughable if it wasn’t so insulting. But don’t take our word for it.

‘It is crazy — totally crazy,’ Robert Knight, executive director of the Florida Springs Institute, told Politico, which first reported the story.

‘It’s a ridiculous proposal from an environmental perspective and from a cost perspective,’ Ryan Smart, executive director of the Florida Springs Council, told The Sun.

Even members of the water district’s governing board question the idea.

‘You just start to wonder when you start to mess around with Mother Nature like this what the unintended consequences are,’ board member Virginia Sanchez said.

District officials say the pipeline, which is only in the conceptual stage at this point, would draw water from the Suwannee only when its level is high and there is more water than necessary to maintain the health of the river and its estuary in the Gulf of Mexico. River water would be piped either 16 miles from Branford or 19 miles from White Springs to a 2,500-acre site near Ichetucknee Springs State Park.

The price tag of building the pipeline ranges from about $200 million to $450 million, plus $2 million to $4.4 million in annual operation and maintenance costs. The estimates do not include potential costs of treating the river water, in order to remove any pollutants and prevent its dark color from clouding the spring water.

And that isn’t the only costly idea being considered. Another option is paying landowners to reduce the number of trees in pine plantations to let more water seep into the aquifer.

The ideas come just months after the district approved a permit allowing Seven Springs Water Co. to pump nearly 1 million gallons of groundwater per day to supply a water-bottling plant near High Springs. Seven Springs and others seeking such permits pay just a $115 one-time application fee to the state, while taxpayers are stuck with the bill for hair-brained schemes to make up for excessive pumping.

The same scenario is playing out elsewhere in Florida as well. The St. Johns River Water Management District has a $48 million plan to pump water from Black Creek on the St. Johns River to lakes in the Keystone Heights region, which have also seen reduced levels.