Water Districts Are ” Environmentally Reckless, Economically Irrational. “”

brooksville bldg In: Water Districts Are " Environmentally Reckless, Economically Irrational. "" | Our Santa Fe River, Inc. | Protecting the Santa Fe River in North Florida
SWFWMD Headquarters in Brooksville

Following is a fine editorial by the Orlando Sentinel, which gives a good picture of the situati0n with our  rivers and springs and with our water managers.

Both are in a very sorry state.

armstrong
Brian Armstrong

It seems that this editorial, and others similar, are the reason Southwest Florida Water Management District Governing Board Chair Brian J. Armstrong wrote a sad, misinformative editorial today in the Gainesville Sun.  You can see the link here, but it is so misleading I will not waste space here to post it.

To clarify some of Brian J. Armstrong’s statements:

MFLs do not protect the rivers, they allow them to be drawn down instead of being restored.  By their nature  Minimum Flows give us less then the current  flow.

To appease industry and developers, they set a limit beyond which they say the river will be harmed.  They sometimes base the “norm” not on historic flows, but on flows that are already severely harmed.   If some business, like Mr. Stronach needs more, they suddenly and miraculously find new and better science that will make the numbers fit.

The permitting process is a sham.  Current policy is and has been that if the permit seeker fills out the application, water managers interpret the law as obliging them to issue the permit.  We see time after time, when industry or development want water, they get it at the expense of the environment.

Just because a peer group might agree with you for whatever reason, that does not make your science correct.  There were also peers at the meetings who said your science was terribly wrong.

You have been told by competent scientists that your science is “intellectually dishonest” and a “sham.”  You have been told that you have intentionally ignored historic information from credible sources that was not favorable to your conclusions.  This is dishonest research and your 30 years of study means absolutely nothing.

You have also been told that the public has no confidence in you, your “best science” nor your agencies.  This is not without reason.  You can write columns in newspapers all day, but it will not change the facts.

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


 

 

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/opinion/os-ed-stop-draining-florida-springs-20170613-story.html

Now that the Florida Legislature has finally wrapped up its work for the year, its leaders, along with Gov. Rick Scott, have been crowing about their accomplishments, including funding for a new reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee and $50 million to speed up repairs on the lake’s dike. In April, when Scott endorsed the reservoir and requested money for the dike, he vowed, “I am going to be very aggressive at doing whatever we can to protect our environment.”

A key group of Scott’s appointees never got the memo.

The five regional agencies charged with managing Florida’s water resources are overseen by boards of directors who were appointed or re-appointed by the governor. In a series of votes this year, boards at two of the agencies put a higher priority on promoting development than protecting the environment.

In March, the Southwest Florida Water Management District — which includes all or parts of 16 counties extending north, east and south of Tampa Bay — voted to allow a 5 percent reduction in the flow of groundwater to Rainbow Springs and the Rainbow River. The decision would open the door wider for the district to issue permits for more groundwater pumping in the area to support more development.

Environmental groups contend the condition of these waterways in Dunnellon, about 100 miles northwest of Orlando, has already degraded due to a decline in flow from excessive pumping. The district, known as Swiftmud, blamed most of the decline on lower rainfall, and said the river could withstand a further reduction in flow from pumping without “significant damage.”

In April, the St. Johns River Water Management District’s board unanimously voted to accept a 2.5 percent reduction in the flow of groundwater to Silver Springs, Florida’s best-known natural spring, and the Silver River. That vote cleared the way for the board to approve a request from a billionaire businessman with a nearby cattle ranch to pump another 1.2 million gallons of groundwater a day to irrigate his pastures.

Yet Silver Springs, outside Ocala, already is in decline — nutrient pollution has clouded its once crystal-clear waters with algae — in part because its flow has fallen at least 30 percent from historic levels. Following the same script as Swiftmud, the St. Johns district argued that lower rainfall, not pumping in the area, was largely responsible for the reduced flow to the spring. It also blamed submerged vegetation.

In May, Swiftmud’s board voted 9-1 to allow an 11 percent reduction in the flow of Crystal River and Kings Bay, home of the second largest springs group in Florida. The board insisted the Citrus County waterways could withstand the cut without significant harm. But users of the waterways have been reporting algae and signs of saltwater intrusion.

This latest decision, like the others, will enable more groundwater pumping to support more development. In the face of another legal challenge from environmental groups, Swiftmud is rewriting the rules that would implement both its decisions, but is not backing away from the flow reductions.

Both districts have relied on questionable science to justify their decisions. Both have discounted the impact of groundwater pumping in the decline of the waterways.

Putting Florida’s endangered springs at further risk is not just environmentally reckless; it’s economically irrational. The 100 largest springs in the state attract 7 million people a year, and pump at least $300 million into the economy, according to the Florida Springs Council.

Scott and legislative leaders are quick to point out that they have steered tens of millions of dollars into restoring springs in recent years. The water districts have invested millions more to protect springs through initiatives such as purchasing land to create buffers around them, upgrading water treatment systems and expanding the use of reclaimed water. But whatever progress is made in restoring and protecting springs will be undermined by decisions allowing them to be drained in the name of development.

“I want to make sure we leave our future generations a pristine environment,” Scott said in April. He needs to make sure his water district appointees hear that message loud and clear.

Environmental groups contend the condition of these waterways in Dunnellon, about 100 miles northwest of Orlando, has already degraded due to a decline in flow from excessive pumping. The district, known as Swiftmud, blamed most of the decline on lower rainfall, and said the river could withstand a further reduction in flow from pumping without “significant damage.”

In April, the St. Johns River Water Management District’s board unanimously voted to accept a 2.5 percent reduction in the flow of groundwater to Silver Springs, Florida’s best-known natural spring, and the Silver River. That vote cleared the way for the board to approve a request from a billionaire businessman with a nearby cattle ranch to pump another 1.2 million gallons of groundwater a day to irrigate his pastures.

Yet Silver Springs, outside Ocala, already is in decline — nutrient pollution has clouded its once crystal-clear waters with algae — in part because its flow has fallen at least 30 percent from historic levels. Following the same script as Swiftmud, the St. Johns district argued that lower rainfall, not pumping in the area, was largely responsible for the reduced flow to the spring. It also blamed submerged vegetation.

In May, Swiftmud’s board voted 9-1 to allow an 11 percent reduction in the flow of Crystal River and Kings Bay, home of the second largest springs group in Florida. The board insisted the Citrus County waterways could withstand the cut without significant harm. But users of the waterways have been reporting algae and signs of saltwater intrusion.

This latest decision, like the others, will enable more groundwater pumping to support more development. In the face of another legal challenge from environmental groups, Swiftmud is rewriting the rules that would implement both its decisions, but is not backing away from the flow reductions.

Both districts have relied on questionable science to justify their decisions. Both have discounted the impact of groundwater pumping in the decline of the waterways.

Putting Florida’s endangered springs at further risk is not just environmentally reckless; it’s economically irrational. The 100 largest springs in the state attract 7 million people a year, and pump at least $300 million into the economy, according to the Florida Springs Council.

Scott and legislative leaders are quick to point out that they have steered tens of millions of dollars into restoring springs in recent years. The water districts have invested millions more to protect springs through initiatives such as purchasing land to create buffers around them, upgrading water treatment systems and expanding the use of reclaimed water. But whatever progress is made in restoring and protecting springs will be undermined by decisions allowing them to be drained in the name of development.

“I want to make sure we leave our future generations a pristine environment,” Scott said in April. He needs to make sure his water district appointees hear that message loud and clear.

 

2 Comments

  1. Rick Scott has sold Florida down the drain…he has continually given big business a free hand.
    By appointing Carlos Barouff to head up SWFWMD, he changed all environmental laws to suit developers and ram rod the Sabal Trail Pipeline with no repercussions! Scott has his own longterm business interests in play so he can clean up financially and help his big business partners…soon, we will have no clean water and no tourism to bring people to our once beautiful state! I hope he chokes on all the money he makes, cause there won’t be any water to drink….

  2. If Governor Scott really was concerned about future generations’ environments, he would stock the water district management boards with environmentalists instead of businessmen and lawyers. “Water management”, the way it’s practiced in this state, is a complete sham.

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