Sunday, September 30, 2007

Ocala Water Wars Summit

Ocala, Florida—(September 18. 2007) Marion County residents and many of their neighbors in North Central Florida are fighting mad over the St. Johns River Water Management District’s (SJRWMD) plan to pump up to 108 million gallons daily from the Ocklawaha River to 18 utilities in Central Florida.

That’s why the Smart Growth Coalition of North Central Florida (SGC) in conjunction with the Putnam County Environmental Council (PCEC) is sponsoring a ”Ocala Water Wars Summit” on Sunday, October 7, from 2:00 to 4:00 at the Marion County Commission Auditorium, McPherson Government Complex, 601 SE 25th Ave., Ocala.

Event planners fear environmental damage will occur if SJRWMD’s 136 mile, $500 million pipeline is built. They also point out that losing the Ocklawaha River to Central Florida deprives residents of Marion, Putnam and other counties of a possible local water supply for their own future needs.

In addition, they question the legality, the necessity, and the methods being used to justify the pipeline. “We’ve assembled a host of qualified people--journalists, elected officials, environmental activists and a scientist--to address these issues,” says SGC’s Susan Dunn., the summit’s moderator. ”We want to inform the public about the issue, the need for good science, the possible lawsuits and legislative attempts to stop the pipeline, and the need for the public to speak out against what’s happening.”

The key speaker at the October 7th event is Cynthia Barnett, a veteran reporter for Florida Trend magazine, and author of Mirage: Florida and the Vanishing Water of the Eastern U.S. Part investigative reporting, part environmental history, Mirage tells how the eastern half of the nation – historically so wet that early settlers predicted it would never even need irrigation – has squandered so much of its abundant fresh water that it now faces shortages and conflicts.

Barnett’s book also examines Florida’s water wars, the politics of development, and inequities in the price of water, the bottled-water industry, privatization, and new-water-supply schemes. In a glowing review, Publisher’s Weekly notes that Mirage "should become vital reading for citizens and policymakers as global concerns over water scarcity grow." Barnett will focus her expertise on the pipeline threat at the Ocala summit.

Other summit speakers include: Brad Rogers, editor, Ocala Star Banner; former Senator Nancy Argenziano, Florida’s Public Service Commission; State Representative Kurt Kelly; Marion County Commissioner Andy Kesselring; Robin Lewis, professional wetlands scientist and PCEC Lead Science Advisor; Karen Ahlers, president, Putnam County Environmental Council, Inc.; and, Guy Marwick, environmental activist, and member of the SGC, Marion Audubon Society, and other organizations.

For details call 685-2434 or 694-4461.

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