On Tuesday, March 4th, St. Johns Riverkeeper officially filed for an administrative hearing to challenge the permit request from Seminole County to withdraw an average of 5.5 million gallons of water per day (MGD) from the St. Johns River for irrigation purposes. In addition to challenging the permit through an administrative law court (DOAH), St. Johns Riverkeeper is joining Public Trust Environmental Law Institute of Florida to pursue other legal actions, as well.
St. Johns Riverkeeper and Public Trust Environmental Law Institute of Florida have notified the St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD) and the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) of their intent to seek an injunction to require the SJRWMD to do the following:
1. Cease granting any consumptive use permits (CUPs) involving the St. Johns River;
2. Cease granting any consumptive use permits involving the Ocklawaha River;
3. Cease giving "assurances" to municipalities that the municipalities will be awarded CUPs involving the St. Johns and the Ocklawaha River surface water prior to proof that the legal requirements of issuing CUPs have been met.
The injunction would be effective until all the pending studies are completed by both the SJRWMD and the DEP.
The administrative legal challenge by St. Johns Riverkeeper and the pursuit of an injunction are in response to the recent announcement that the St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD) staff has recommended approval of the Seminole County request to withdraw an average of 5.5 million gallons of water per day (MGD) from the St. Johns River for its proposed Yankee Lake project.
The SJRWMD Governing Board was scheduled to decide upon the permit request at its next meeting on March 11th, but the legal action taken by St. Johns Riverkeeper will postpone any decision by the Board.
Seminole County is proposing to use the surface water from the St. Johns River for irrigation purposes. Seminole County is seeking to withdraw an average of 5.5 million gallons per day, but the amount of water withdrawn from the St. Johns could be as much as 11 million gallons per day during certain times of the year.
After 2013, Seminole County proposes to use the St. Johns River to supplement its drinking water needs, as well. Seminole County has plans to eventually withdraw as much as 80 MGD from the St. Johns River at the Yankee Lake facility. Water withdrawal proposals from Seminole County combined with those from other counties and utilities total nearly 400 MGD.
"Today, we are making good on our promise to do everything within our power to protect the St. Johns River. We will not allow Seminole County to move forward and destroy the River's health,” says Neil Armingeon, the St. Johns Riverkeeper. "This permit is not about 5.5 MGD; it is about the future of the St. Johns River."
Armingeon continues, “We could not take the chance that the Governing Board would do the right thing and deny this permit. We need to try and nip this in the bud, and put an end to these withdrawal proposals now before the flood gates are opened.”
Regarding the injunction, Warren Anderson of the Public Trust Environmental Law Institute of Florida stated, "It is not just Seminole County wanting to draw-down the River. We want a judge to order the SJRWMD to stop granting these permits until all the appropriate scientific studies are completed. Finish the studies first. With the health of the St. Johns River at stake, is that too much to ask?"
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
St. Johns Riverkeeper Takes Legal Action
Here is the press release that we sent out yesterday announcing the legal action that we are taking to stop the withdrawal of water from the St. Johns by Seminole County.