This controversial plan to build a pipeline to transfer water from one point to another has been ongoing for many years. The purpose has been said by some as being solely to maintain property values of those living on lakes with low water levels. The Keystone Lakes area has its water table lowered from historical times because of over-pumping from mining, agriculture and especially the JEA cone of depression from Jacksonville. Lake Brooklyn, which figures into this formula, replenishes the aquifer which has been artificially lowered from historic times.
We think water transfer is always controversial and carries a risk of unwanted consequences somewhere.
We also have several earlier posts on this, including “Robbing Peter to pay Paul,” “Controversial Black Creek water project progressing,” “Trying to outguess Mother Nature can be dangerous,” and “Lakes advocates praise the Black Water Creek Project,” among other references to Black Creek.
Lame duck Senator Rob Bradley has pushed this project for years, and has comments near the end of the article. He is now a member of the St Johns River Water Management District Governing Board, which is very heavily laden with contractors, developers, construction, and business people. This board and recent members have allowed the on-going demise of Silver Springs, an icon of Florida springs. There are no environmentalists on this board. Having a degree in environmental protection does not make one an environmentalist.
Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
– A river is like a life: once taken,
it cannot be brought back © Jim Tatum
In seeking pollution permit, water agency sees shorter wait to build Black Creek pipeline
The St. Johns River Water Management District is speeding up construction plans for a pipeline to move water from Black Creek to Keystone Heights after dropping efforts to avoid getting a water-pollution permit.
The management district this month withdrew a request it had sent the state in January to use “site-specific alternative criteria” to judge dark creek water entering the clear water of shrunken Lake Brooklyn.
At the same time, the district changed its projected construction timeline to begin building in August and finish in August 2023 – 13 months earlier than previously scheduled.
But to operate the pipeline, the agency will have to get a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit, a common permit the district would have avoided if its request for site-specific criteria allowing darker water had been granted.
The management district expects to get the permit, usually used if water is treated to meet state standards, faster than it could get site-specific standards approved, spokeswoman Teresa Monson said.
Considering the creek’s natural dark color healthy for the lake would have meant the two types of water could be mixed without any question about impacting the lake’s water quality.
But U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials concluded the request was “not based on a scientifically defensible approach” and questioned whether adding creek water would restore the lake’s health or simply change it.
“Transferring colored water to a clear lake is not an established method of restoration. It is not clear that outside of adding water, this would restore the lake,” EPA officials wrote in a PowerPoint slide for a discussion with Florida Department of Environmental Protection officials in March.
Darker water can make it harder for underwater plants to grow and might affect the kinds of animals living there.
EPA wrote that the district’s request to use site-specific standards was inappropriate, “discussing ‘mitigation’ and ‘trade offs’ for water quality impact. SSAC are meant to be protective.”
Monson said extensive scientific evaluations showed no water treatment would be needed for Lake Brooklyn to remain a “healthy, well-balanced lake.”
A management district consultant has begun exploring technologies that filter creek water to make it clearer, Monson said.
The management district wants to pump up to 10 million gallons daily from Black Creek near Florida 16 to Alligator Creek, a small waterway that feeds Lake Brooklyn in Keystone Heights, near Clay County’s southwest corner. The management district has said it would only pump when the creek has “excess water,” which is about 75 percent of the time.
Water levels around Lake Brooklyn are dramatically below what residents counted on decades ago, when they built lakefront homes with docks that now stand high and dry.
Keystone Heights is a recharge area for the Floridan aquifer, the underground reserve that provides drinking water for most of the state.
The management district has said the main reason for the pipeline is to supply water that can relieve pressure on the aquifer. The project was first announced in 2017 and Monson said management district employees began working on the site-specific standards request in 2018.
At a meeting of the agency’s governing board this month, recently appointed member Rob Bradley aired his irritation with questions about the pipeline project’s environmental impacts.
“I’m growing more and more frustrated, because I feel as though the folks here at the district have done a really good job balancing all of these interests to make sure our river is protected,” said Bradley, a termed-out state senator who will be replaced in the Legislature after the November elections.
“…[T]he fact of the matter is, people are moving to Florida. We need more water and we have to be creative in our solutions.”
Steve Patterson: (904) 359-4263