Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The River's Future Rests in Sanford

Hello Friends of the St. Johns,
Tomorrow the administrative hearing on the Yankee Lake permit begins. The hearing goes October 1 through the 3rd, October 6th through the 10th, and resumes, if necessary, October 16-17th. I will be attending the hearing each day, save a few, and will be posting a recap each night on the St. Johns Riverkeeper blog.
Our challenge is to the SJRWMD's recommended issuance of a permit to allow Seminole County to remove 5.5 million gallons per day (MGD) from the St. Johns River. But, our fight goes well beyond the SJRWMD legal staff.
Seminole County intervened, and frankly, they are driving the case. We're facing a tough battle; Seminole County is spending over $2 million to push the Yankee Lake permit through. They have listed 30 witnesses and 1,100 exhibits! Despite this display of money, political influence, and power, I'm feeling optimistic about our chances.
Riverkeeper has two excellent attorneys, Riverkeeper Counsel, Michael Howle, and local attorney Ken Wright. They both deserve our thanks for long hours and dedication as they prepare our case. We also have some excellent expert witnesses who will help us make our case against the proposed water withdrawal.
Thanks go to Jacksonville and St. Johns County for sticking with their individual challenges to the permit. Specifically, I want to thank Mayor Peyton and the City Council for recognizing the importance of this case and directing the city's legal efforts. Thanks, too, to Chairman Tom Manuel and his fellow commissioners in St. Johns County. We're all in this together.
We've already made progress on this issue. Two weeks ago, the SJRWMD convened a panel of experts to objectively review the potential impacts from withdrawing hundreds of millions of gallons of freshwater each day from the St. Johns and Ocklawaha Rivers. This group has some world class scientists aboard to review, and in some cases, collect data, to truly evaluate the environmental impacts of the proposed withdrawals. The results of this reanalysis will then be reviewed by a panel convened by the National Academy of Science.
None of this would have happened without Riverkeeper, other groups, and countless citizens who have challenged the SJRWMD's misguided proposal to remove freshwater from our rivers to continue unsustainable growth in Orlando and Central Florida.
Our voices and actions forced the District to conduct the type of research that should have been completed before any permit to withdraw water from the river was considered. This is real progress. Thank you.
The withdrawal issue has also cemented real relationships between citizens up and down the St. Johns River. I want to thank Friends of the Wekiva, the Sierra Club, the Seminole Audubon, and countless citizens in central Florida who oppose water withdrawals and want to see real, meaningful, water conservation programs in their counties and cities. Special thanks go out to Peggy Belflower for all her hard work.
The withdrawal battle begun a statewide debate on the future of water use in Florida. We all must be active in this debate--Our river's futures depend on it.
I'll keep you posted on the hearing through this blog. Please share it with your family and friends. If you would like mto attend the hearing contact the Riverkeeper office for directions. I'd love to see friendly faces.
Thanks for all your help and support. It means a great deal to me.
For the River,
Your St. Johns Riverkeeper

1 comment:

Robert King said...

Neil, All,

It is scary and exciting times. About 20 years ago it seemed that those of us complaining about this very thing were lonely voices.

Then County commissioner, Pat Warren, heard some of our voices and began a public dialog about today. It was amazing how quickly and loudly the howl of growth proponants grew to deny any such eventuality. Instead the consultants for local governments preached the endless supply of groundwater. More, shallower wells drilled everywhichwhere were installed to sip the last skim of non-brackish water from beneath Seminole County. No one wanted to discuss the truth.

As The end of this charade approached, the MFL program was initiated. No mention of repairing the already intense damage to the Floridian Aquifer that has already occoured, rather a plan to degrade it further. We are today poised to take it to the point of iminent collapse and only then take a half step backward.

This is not what we hired the Local leaders or SJRWMD to do. 20 years ago this all could have been fixed. But the Ol' Boys in Seminole will not go quietly. This promises to be an ugly fight. God be with you as this unfolds.