Water Agency, Utilities Eye Deal to End Legal Fight Over Keystone Heights Lakes, Pipeline–


SJRWMD Headquarters. Photo by Jim Tatum.

More shenanigans from the  St Johns River Water Management District which gave support and permission for the plan to pipe water from Black Creek to certain Keystone Heights lakes.   The environment was never a concern here for the players, plus we have Administrative Law Judge Francine Ffolkes involved.  A quick Google search  indicates that Judge Ffolkes consistently rules for industry and polluters and against the environment.

All in all, this is a sad situation where it seems that the sure loser will be our water.  More reason for everyone to endorse FL5.org and give Black Creek protection so that everyone will just leave it alone and let it be what is supposed to be.

Read the complete article here in the Florida Times Union.

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


Water agency, utilities eye deal to end legal fight over Keystone Heights lakes, pipeline

Steve Patterson

Florida Times-Union

Water utilities who have been fighting state plans for protecting Keystone Heights lake levels around a major aquifer recharge area have negotiated a tentative settlement to their dispute with the St. Johns River Water Management District.

The deal still has to be approved by governing boards at the management district and the utilities.

But the two sides made enough progress that an administrative law judge on Friday called off a nine-day hearing she had scheduled for next month to decide the dispute over the management district’s minimum-level rules for Lakes Brooklyn and Geneva in Clay County’s southwest corner.

“It is anticipated that all petitioners and respondents will execute the agreement,” management district attorneys told Administrative Law Judge Francine Ffolkes, who told the two sides to report back by Aug. 3 on whether the dispute has been resolved.

How the dispute is resolved could be important at levels ranging from the supply of water that utilities draw from the Floridan aquifer to the years-long plea by Keystone Heights residents for steps to raise water levels on their shrunken lakes, which now stand far from the docks built decades ago as waterfront amenities when the town was a hub for boating and watery weekend fun .

No one has publicly discussed a deal that still isn’t final.

“It’s not quite nailed down. I’m a little leery of saying a word,” said Vivian Katz-James, president of the Save Our Lakes Organization (SOLO), a Keystone Heights civic group that last month received Ffolkes’ permission to intervene in the fight involving utilities serving more than a million Floridians.

The Clay County Utility Authority’s governing board has scheduled a shade meeting Tuesday afternoon to privately discuss the case with its attorneys.

The management district’s governing board is scheduled to talk about the settlement during its July 13 meeting.

CCUA, Jacksonville’s JEA, Gainesville Regional Utilities and the informal North Florida Utility Coordinating Group all filed petitions in May challenging the management district’s development of new lake-level rules and the state agency’s suggestion of a cost-sharing deal to help finance construction of a 17-mile pipeline to carry water from Back Creek to Keystone Heights.

A 50-page packet of material relating to the the lake-level plan, including an unsigned cost participation agreement between the management district and Gainesville Regional Utilities, was uploaded to the management district’s website just before 5 p.m. Friday….

Combining its own funds and a special appropriation from the Florida Legislature, the management district had about $48 million to put toward the pipeline. After unforeseen expenses arose, however, the agency projected needing $81 million.

Although the utilities broadly praised the pipeline idea, they questioned management district calculations that suggested JEA, CCUA, the Gainesville utility and St. Johns County’s public utility might pay a combined $29.9 million to address impacts their water withdrawals have on the aquifer and lake levels.

The DOAH dispute grew in recent weeks to also include SOLO, the city of Keystone Heights and the nonprofit Lake Region Development Corp., all of whom supported the management district.



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