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Today the St. Johns Governing Board followed the advice of their staff and legal advisors and decided, unanimously, to accept the recommendation of Administrative Judge E. Gary Early who ruled in favor of Sleepy Creek Lands, against the environmentalists and the springs.
No one in the large crowd in attendance was surprised. Board members listened to four or five speak in favor of agriculture, and to dozens who spoke against the permit.
After a few questions regarding monitoring the withdrawal, some board members began praising the St Johns staff for their diligence and competence, and extolling the cattle industry as a clean and exemplary enterprise. The lauditory remarks continued as several members expressed their admiration for Sleepy Creek and the benefits this foreign corporation would bring to Central Florida, a prelude to the unanimous vote.
The term “public interest” was repeated many times over in the room. First by several speakers who politely pointed out that permitting this additional damage to an already damaged springs system was certainly not in the public interest, then later by attorneys for Sleepy Creek and then the water district, who said the opposite.
None of the board members voiced concerns over the drawdown of the springs, and obviously did not believe those who repeatedly pointed out that this permit was an additional step in the deliberate killing of our resources. Or if they did believe, they felt it was not important.
At any rate, a controversial decision was reached by a controversial board, still smarting over recent firings of staff said by some to be the victims of political cleansings in order to remove obstacles to damaging and unconscionable actions such as those which transpired today in the district of the St Johns Water Managers.