An unusual meeting today, Tuesday, August 9, 2016 at the Live Oak headquarters of SRWMD. Unusually long, as it continued well into the afternoon after lunch. The reason for this was that the public comment did not finish until almost 12 o’clock. And the reason for that, was that a large group from Gainesville, Fort White, Madison, Hamilton County, and Valdosta, GA came to express their concerns to the governing board.
Terry Phelan OSFR Maryvonne Devensky Sierra Club Gale Dickert Garden Club
And chairman Quincey listened, and listened, and patiently listened even more. One can speculate that the Grassroots Summit to Stop the Sabal Trail, which took place in Gainesville on Saturday, inspired the many individuals to attend today’s Live Oak meeting.
Karen Garren, Gainesville Karen Arrington, Gainesville John Quarterman, WWALS
No fewer than 11 people spoke, mostly against the pipeline company which has pushed relentlessly into Florida and run roughshod over landowners, falsified its reports to FERC and brazenly trucked its pipe illegally into Florida before obtaining the required permit.
Chris Mericle, WWALS John Dickert, Madison
A measure of success was attained today when Chairman Quincey, with approval of Executive Director Noah Valenstein, announced that the board would write a letter of concern to the Army Corps of Engineers regarding the Sabal Trail controversy over the inaccurate Environmental Impact Statement (EIS.)
Drawing nearly as much controversy as the pipeline was the topic of excessive water withdrawals and the damage this inflicts upon the aquifer and springs. There exists between the environmentalists and the water managers a rift, or disagreement. Basically, the environmentalists hold that we are withdrawing too much water, resulting in decreased river and spring flow, and the managers believe that they are doing the most possible and that their achievements go unrecognized, and additionally they believe that the law dictates that they must issue the permits if requested. This description is over-simplified, but either group can explain at great lengths the reasons for their holdings.
In spite of these disagreements, the dialog today did bring some of the feelings out into the open, and Chairman Quincey is applauded for encouraging the exchange. President Pam Smith led the way and spoke at length with questions and answers from board members. Your writer believes that if it were possible for an informal discussion to take place without the formal settings of the board meeting structure, even more might be achieved.
Another positive result today was when Darrell Smith, agriculture director for the SRWMD expressed his interest in visiting the board meeting at OSFR. The board would be delighted for him to visit and sees that as a step toward promoting better relations with the agriculture sector.
Other issues of concern touched on by speakers were the excessive algae in the Santa Fe River, and the phosphate mine in Bradford and Union Counties.
Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life: once taken, it cannot be brought back-