Friday, August 8, 2008

Weavers Announce Challenge Grant

J. Wayne and Delores Barr Weaver, owners of the Jacksonville Jaguars, have awarded a challenge grant of up to $150,000 to St. Johns Riverkeeper. The matching gift will help the organization to raise awareness about threats to the health of the St. Johns and to legally challenge plans in central Florida to withdraw millions of gallons a day from the river.

The Weavers will donate one dollar for every two dollars that St. Johns Riverkeeper raises for its St. Johns River Awareness and Legal Fund up to $150,000. Neil Armingeon, the St. Johns Riverkeeper, stated that “the incredible generosity and support of the Weavers will enable us to raise the funds and acquire the resources necessary to defend and protect the health of the St. Johns River. This also sends a powerful message that the citizens and business leaders who love the river are not going to just stand idly by and allow the St. Johns River Water Management District and some public officials in central Florida to proceed with their short-sighted and irresponsible plans to take millions of gallons a day from the flow of the St. Johns River without a fight.“

“Wayne and I are deeply concerned about the plans to withdraw millions of gallons of water from the St. Johns and the potential harm that this could cause to our river,” said Delores Barr Weaver. “We absolutely love the river and recognize how important it is to Jacksonville’s economy and quality of life. We cannot just stand on the sidelines and allow Central Florida to gamble with its future. As a result, we have decided to get behind St. Johns Riverkeeper and their efforts to raise awareness about the threats facing our St. Johns and their legal challenge of the water withdrawal plans.”

As a result of years of poor planning, uncontrolled growth, and wasteful water-use practices, Central Florida communities are reaching the limits of their groundwater resources and are anxiously pursuing alternative water supply sources. Many of these communities are looking to the St. Johns River and Ocklawaha River (a major tributary of the St. Johns) to solve their water supply problems.

Seminole County is the first to submit a permit under the Alternative Water Supply (AWS) program to withdraw surface water from the St. Johns River. The proposed Yankee Lake project would withdraw an average of 5.5 million gallons per day but could exceed 11million gallons per day (MGD) during periods of high demand. However, Seminole County officials plan to eventually withdraw up to 80 MGD at the Yankee Lake facility. All of the withdrawal projects under consideration would result in a total of up to 300 million gallons per day being extracted from the St. Johns.

In February of this year, St. Johns Riverkeeper filed for an administrative hearing to challenge the permit application from Seminole County. The hearing is tentatively scheduled to take place in October.

“This is not simply a ‘water war’ between two different regions. This is also not only about stopping Seminole County from taking our water. We are advocating for a paradigm shift and a whole new approach to how we use water, how we manage water, and how we protect our water resources for this and future generations. The ultimate goal is a sustainable Florida where we have clean and healthy waterways and an adequate supply of groundwater to sustain our needs. We can have both, but we will need the resolve and political will to do so,” explains Armingeon.

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