Utilities challenge strategy to raise Keystone Heights lake levels; costs questioned–

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KeystoneHeightsColl In: Utilities challenge strategy to raise Keystone Heights lake levels; costs questioned-- | Our Santa Fe River, Inc. (OSFR) | Protecting the Santa Fe River in North Florida
Part of the chain of Keystone lakes chain. Photo Wikipedia Commons.

Here we see agencies’ complaints and challenges to this ill-conceived plan  for all the wrong reasons.

This project, on the outer fringes of the Santa Fe basin, has been on-going for years.  OSFR believes that most water transfers eventually reveal negative impacts that may not be seen until later.

The lowered lake levels are human-caused and is because of over-pumping.  The only solution is to pump less, not take water some somewhere else  .Read the original article here in the Florida Times Union.

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


Utilities challenge strategy to raise Keystone Heights lake levels; costs questioned

Steve Patterson

Florida Times-Union  May 7, 2021

Utilities from Jacksonville to Gainesville are challenging a plan by the St. Johns River Water Management District to raise water levels at perennially dry lakes in Keystone Heights.

An organization representing eight water utilities with a combined 1.2 million customers referred to an “invalid exercise of delegated legislative authority” in a case filed Tuesday with Florida’s Division of Administrative Hearings.

Filings in the case weren’t made public until Wednesday and weren’t all reflected on DOAH’s docket, but the management district posted petitions for legal challenges on its website after being contacted by a reporter.

In the filings, attorneys for members of the North Florida Utility Coordinating Group contended the district wrongly tried to bill members for cost overruns on a 17-mile pipeline planned to carry water from Black Creek to Lake Brooklyn.

The utilities’ arguments challenge the management district’s strategy for reaching healthy minimum flows and levels (MFLs) of water in Lake Brooklyn and Lake Geneva, landmark parts of a chain of lakes around a recharge area for the Floridan aquifer

The Black Creek Water Resource Development Project in southwest Clay County involves moving water from Black Creek to a recharge area near Keystone Heights to feed the Floridan aquifer.”

“[T]e district had crafted a strategy, whose primary purpose is to coerce permittees … into contributing money to the Black Creek Project in order to make up the district’s monetary deficit, rather than a strategy that meets the requirements” of state law, argued attorney Edward de la Parte, who represents the coordinating group, JEA and the Clay County Utility Authority in the challenge. He was joined in the petition for an administrative hearing by Eric Olsen, an attorney for Gainesville Regional Utilities.

The management district had about $48 million it either received for the project from Florida’s Legislature or earmarked from its own funds, but it hadn’t accounted for a roughly $15 million filtering system it decided to add last year to end two years of waiting for approvals from other environmental agencies.

Attorneys argued the management district tried to cover the gap by asking JEA, the Clay and Gainesville utilities and St. Johns County’s public utilities department to contribute a combined $29.9 million.

A briefing paper CCUA Executive Director Jeremy Johnston sent to his board last month said the district also sought another $6.3 million from three private businesses that, like the utilities, have permits from the management district to take water from the aquifer in areas affected by the lakes’ health.

The management district suggested payments from each utility and business that, by 2035, the agency projected would account for more than one percent of an expected drawdown in the aquifer, the briefing indicated.

Some of the utilities’ permits specifically refer to aquifer levels around the lakes, and all of the coordinating group’s members will be affected by the strategy for restoring the area, the attorneys’ petition said.

The management district has forecast that water from the  pipeline, designed to carry up to 10 million gallons per day, could raise Lake Brooklyn’s typical water level almost 10 feet. That prospect is something Keystone Heights residents have wanted for years, as water levels have receded and lakes have gone dry in some areas lined with docks now far from water….

 

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