SOS Newsletter Nov/Dec 2012

SAVING THE SUWANNEE

 

www.saveoursuwannee.org

 

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Save Our Suwannee needs you!

It’s time for many of our members to renew your memberships to Save Our Suwannee, Inc. and we are always looking for volunteers to serve on our Board of directors. We will hold our annual membership meeting in February next year and will be voting on officers for the organization. We are always looking for members willing to serve on our board of directors.
If you are interested in volunteering for the board, you can contact Annette Long at long5892@bellsouth.net or at (352) 490-8930.
Save Our Suwannee is changing the membership year to a calendar year. All memberships now come due in January as your most recent membership renewal letter has stated. We are making this change to become a little more efficient in getting everyone renewed. Please renew your membership in January because we really need all our members.
To keep up the work that we do we need you as a member. Numbers do count and the more members we have the more we will be able to influence our decision makers. This year we have had ample rain but it still hasn’t brought the water table back to the level it once reached. It stopped raining in September and we are now in another drought. Without your memberships we don’t have the clout to educate and investigate. So be prepared to renew your membership in January so that we can continue saving not only the Suwannee but our way of life in Florida.

 

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We need your help!

 

 Report Finds Water Pollution in Florida Costs up to $10.5 Billion, Annually .

Wednesday, 28 November 2012 12:41 Press Release Science and Environmental EPA action on clean-up plan expected soon

Tallahassee, FL–(ENEWSPF)–November 28, 2012. In the first comprehensive review of its kind, the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), based at Tufts University, has released a white paper entitled Valuing Florida’s Clean Waters. The paper finds that algae and red tide outbreaks caused by water pollution cost Floridians between $1.3 billion and $10.5 billion each year.
The EPA will soon decide whether to accept a state-written water pollution plan (which clean water advocates say won’t do the job) or to step in with stronger federal rules and enforcement.
Download and read the white paper. http://earthjustice.org/sites/default/files/ValuingFloridasCleanWaters.pdf
SEI researchers compiled data from dozens of studies and assessments to come up with the valuation of environmental services provided by clean water for Florida.

 

Among the findings of “Valuing Florida’s Clean Waters”:

 

  • Clean water directly consumed by humans, wildlife, and agricultural operations generates more than $7 billion in value each year for Florida.
  •  Clean freshwater and marine ecosystems attract more than $67 billion in tourism and recreational spending each year in Florida.
  •  Clean marine and coastal water provide habitat and recreational opportunities including a significant fishing industry which adds $4.3 billion to Florida’s economy, annually.
  •  The Florida Department of Environmental Protection had assessed just 20 percent of the river miles in the state and found 53 percent had pollution-related impairment.
  •  FDEP assessed 54 percent of lake and reservoir acres and found 82 percent had pollution-related impairments.
  •  Florida’s springs have dangerously high levels of nitrates. The iconic Silver Springs has reached a nitrate level 1,000 times normal levels and is still rising. Florida’s springs and groundwater are being polluted by inadequately treated sewage, manure, and fertilizer.
  •  Harmful algae outbreaks can have dramatic impacts on water-centric and tourist destinations. Even one harmful algae outbreak may very well cause visitors to avoid a region, or even the state of Florida as a whole.

 

According to the Stockholm Environmental Institute:“The scientific community is now clear that pollution is a primary cause of harmful algae outbreaks. What remains is for for federal and state agencies to set, and fund, an agenda for gathering the underlying data needed to comprehensively assess the value of Florida’s clean waters.”
David Guest, managing attorney at Earthjustice who has represented the Florida Water Coalition in numerous legal battles to enforce the federal Clean Water Act in Florida said, “Slime and red tide are costing Floridians up to $10 billion a year. The government needs to stop polluters from using rivers and lakes as their private sewers.”

 

Florida Today reported that an algae outbreak in the Indian River Lagoon cost the region’s economy up to $10,000 for every acre of seagrass it smothered. During a seven-month outbreak last year, an estimated 31,600 acres of seagrass were destroyed, and the area’s sport and commercial fishing industry lost up to $316 million.

 

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Federal Action Needed

The Florida Water Coalition strongly supports the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed numeric nutrient criteria regulations for Florida, and opposes the numeric nutrient standards currently proposed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection that are under review by EPA. The purpose behind developing and implementing these criteria is to protect non-impaired waters and restore impaired water-bodies. EPA’s standards would do that and would prevent severe water quality degradation from nutrient pollution.
The SEI US Center draws upon engineering, economics, ecology, ethics, operations research, international relations and software design. It conducts applied scientific research: bringing the best available science to policy makers.

http://www.sei-international.org/us/about-sei-us
The Florida Water Coalition is made up of Earthjustice, the Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, the Florida Wildlife Federation and St. John’s Riverkeeper.

For more information about the risk posed by harmful algae outbreaks, please visit: http://www.floridawatercoalition.org
Source: http://earthjustice.org

 

EPA Approves Florida’s Rules to Protect Waterways from Nutrient Pollution

Release Date: 11/30/2012 US Environmental Protection Agency Contact Information: Davina Marraccini, 404-562-8293 (direct), 404-562-8400 (main), marraccini.davina@epa.gov

ATLANTA – EPA has approved the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s (FDEP) rules to protect Florida’s waterways from excess nitrogen and phosphorus. These pollutants, called “nutrients,” cause algal blooms, contaminate drinking water supplies and are among the largest contributors to water quality problems in Florida. FDEP’s rules establish numeric limits on the amount of nutrient pollution allowed in statewide springs, lakes, streams and some estuaries. Following a thorough review of the state’s adopted rules and supporting documents, EPA determined they are consistent with the requirements of the Clean Water Act and applicable federal regulations for the water bodies they cover.

“Nutrient pollution threatens human health and the environment, hurts businesses, costs jobs, reduces property values and otherwise impacts the quality of life for all Floridians,” said EPA Regional Administrator Gwen Keyes Fleming. “Clean water is vital for Florida and EPA commends FDEP for taking this significant step towards protecting and restoring water quality across the state.”

EPA determined that FDEP’s new method of deriving numeric limits for the amount of nutrient pollution allowed in lakes, springs, streams and estuaries is technically and scientifically sound, and more effective and efficient than the previous narrative approach.

The numeric limits for nitrogen and phosphorus in springs, lakes and streams (outside South Florida) are virtually identical to those in EPA’s 2010 rule. FDEP also has adopted additional biological and chemical indicators that are used to identify and prevent nutrient pollution in streams and to protect sensitive downstream waters. This combination of numeric limits with biological indicators was used in the Santa Fe River. Although the river met the numeric limits, FDEP was able to use biological information to determine that it was impaired and needed restoration. FDEP’s rules are intended to improve water quality and protect public health, aquatic life and the long-term recreational uses of Florida’s waters, which are a critical part of the state’s economy.
The Clean Water Act (CWA) envisions states being primarily responsible for protecting water quality, and EPA fully supports Florida’s efforts to implement its own water quality standards.

However, in accordance with a 2009 consent decree with the Florida Wildlife Federation—and because the state’s rules do not cover certain waters—EPA is also proposing two federal nutrient rules. One rule proposes numeric limits on the amount of nutrient pollution allowed in Florida’s estuaries and coastal waters, as well as streams in South Florida, which were not addressed in Florida’s rules. The other clarifies some provisions in the 2010 rule EPA promulgated establishing numeric limits on the amount of nutrient pollution allowed in Florida’s inland waters. These provisions were remanded to EPA for further action by the District Court.
EPA welcomes public comment on its proposed rules and will host public information sessions in Tampa on January 17-18, 2013, along with web-based public hearings on January 22-24, 2013, to gather input. While EPA must finalize the remanded portions of Florida’s inland waters rule by August 31, 2013 and the coastal waters rule by September 30, 2013, the Agency is prepared to withdraw, or not move forward with its federal rules for any waters that become covered by state law that meets the requirements of the Clean Water Act. Florida recently adopted nutrient rules for Panhandle estuaries, and EPA expects FDEP will soon submit the new rules for EPA’s formal review and approval under the Clean Water Act.
More information about EPA’s approval of the FDEP rules: http://www.epa.gov/aboutepa/states/fl.html

 

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection wasn’t as happy with the decision.

 

STATEMENT FROM THE FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION REGARDING EPA’S DECISION ON STATE’S NUMERIC NUTRIENT CRITERIA FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Nov. 30, 2012 CONTACT: DEP Press Office, 850.245.2112, DEPNews@dep.state.fl.us

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is pleased with today’s decision by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approving the State’s numeric nutrient criteria.  The result will be cleaner water.
EPA’s decision confirms the efforts of hard working scientists at DEP. EPA’s decision is also supported by Judge Canter who, after fully reviewing the science and criteria, upheld DEP’s rules entirely.
DEP and EPA are working diligently to complete the job statewide, returning the focus to restoration rather than litigation.

 

While EPA has approved the State’s criteria, we are disappointed about EPA’s decision to issue new proposed federal rules. We will work with them to craft solutions that will allow the State to assume all nutrient criteria rule making in Florida.
Florida knows its waters best and we remain committed on the path to a state-lead solution, which is the best answer for Florida.
Branford Spring at Ivey Park in the city of Branford suffers from an explosion of algal growth. The nitrates in this spring are not dangerously high, but high enough to cause this spring to be “un-swimmable.”
Many springs in the Branford area have springs that exceed the safe drinking water standard and will need to have nutrient pollution reductions of over 90%.
If these springs are “cleaned up” the Suwannee will follow as much of the Suwannee and Santa Fe are fed by spring flows.

 

 

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Feds impose tough water pollution rules on Florida
By BILL KACZOR, Associated Press Updated 4:34 p.m., Friday, November 30, 2012 TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — The federal government ordered tough water pollution rules for Florida on Friday in a victory for environmental groups after a lengthy court battle.
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson filed a notice in federal court in Tallahassee saying she has complied with a consent decree requiring adoption of the rules.
They are designed to curtail pollution from such sources as fertilizer, animal waste and, sewage effluent that have been blamed for causing toxic, slimy algae blooms that have choked Florida’s waterways. The blooms can kill fish and make people sick.

State officials as well as agriculture, business and utility interests opposed the rules, arguing they’d be too expensive to implement. They had touted an alternate proposal offered by the state Department of Environmental Protection, which environmentalists said was too weak.
“This is absolutely everything we hoped for,” said Earthjustice lawyer David Guest, who represented environmental groups in the court case. “This is the reddest letter day of them all.”
U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle had pushed back the deadline for action several times since the consent decree was signed three years ago, but when he ordered a six-month extension in June he said it would be the last delay.

The June order reset the deadline for Friday.   EPA last week asked for another delay of 120 days to continue talks with state officials on their alternative proposal, but Jackson filed her notice after Hinkle took no action on the latest request for more time.
The notice will trigger the establishment of numeric nutrient criteria for some 100,000 miles of Florida waterways and 4,000 square miles of estuaries. Standards previously had been set for lakes and springs.
Guest said the case has national implications because most states, like Florida, currently have only vague standards. Putting numbers on how much pollution is allowed is expected to greatly strengthen enforcement.

“EPA’s response here will set the standard for the nation,” Guest said. “What we’ve lacked is a set of quantifiable numbers that are basically a speed limit sign to make the law clear and enforceable.”

The Florida Wildlife Federation, the Conservancy of Southeast Florida, the Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida, St. Johns Riverkeeper and the Sierra Club sued EPA. They alleged the agency had failed to enforce its own regulations requiring states to establish numeric criteria for such nutrients as nitrogen and phosphorus.

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The Drought is On Again

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You can read the entire November 2012 Hydrological Conditions Report for the District at the SRWMD Water Data Portal:
http://www.srwmd.state.fl.us/index.aspx?NID=345 and click on Monthly Hydrological Conditions and click on Most Recent Report
Notice the “red and orange” areas in the Northwest portions of the Suwannee District.

 

These extremely low ground water levels are a result of abusive overuse of water in southern Georgia. In south west Georgia there is a moratorium on new permits, but all over the state, there is a water shortage that is affecting Floridians from the Panhandle to the Suwannee Basin. The State of Georgia doesn’t have comprehensive water rules like Florida does.

They don’t have a plan.

Florida has been in Federal Court against Georgia specifically regarding how much water that Atlanta is allowed to use out of Lake Lanier and how much water is released to flow downstream to Alabama, Florida and the Gulf of Mexico in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) Rivers.  During the drought we are still in, there has been a nearly 100% oyster mortality in Apalachicola Bay.

Governor Rick Scott has promised that he will do everything he can to help restore the flow at a meeting of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Since the tropical rainfall events this summer, there have been limited improvements in oyster production in Apalachicola.
Rivers: Stages at all District gages fell steadily. By the end of the moth, most Suwannee River and coastal river gages remained in a range considered normal, but the Santa Fe River and the lower Withlacoochee and Alapaha rivers fell below normal.
Lakes: Levels fell at all monitored lakes, dropping by an average of 4”. Nine of 15 lakes were lower than average. Water’s Lake is below the limit of the gage. Ocean Pond, Crosby, Sampson, Altho, Santa Fe, Governor Hill, Low Lake, Cherry Lake and Sneads Smokehouse Lake are below average.
Springs: Spring response was varied in November, but in general flows either remained stable or declined. Exceptions were Hornsby Springs on the Santa Fe and Hart Springs on the Suwannee, where measured flows were the highest in 6 years.
Shortage
CONSERVATION: A Phase I Water Advisory remains in effect. Users are urged to eliminate unnecessary uses. Landscape irrigation is limited to once per week between November and March based on a water conservation rule that applies to residential landscaping, public or commercial recreation areas and public and commercial businesses that aren’t regulated by a District-issued permit.

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A Disconnect Between Regular People and Our Water Decision Makers and Regulators

In the words of current SRWMD Governing Board Chairman Don Quincey, “We can’t just shut the front door and tell people no one can move to Florida. It just wouldn’t be fair to tell people who want a new business that they can’t have the water they need.”

The Chairman said this at the Board Workshop in November 2012 following a scientific presentation from the staff. If Florida’s appointed Governing Boards don’t plan to turn down any new consumptive water permits or even to ask existing users to give back water they aren’t using or to require mandatory conservation, why do we even have water management districts?
As for what is fair…What Chairman Quincey doesn’t seem to understand is that farmers, businesses and homeowners that already have well permits will have to deal with salt water intrusion and with drilling new wells when groundwater levels drop if the rains don’t come soon. What is not fair is to tell those who have been living and farming in the area for generations that they are less important to the economy than newcomers. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that older wells are shallower and will be the first to fail. Some were going dry in May 2012.

 

The citizens of Cedar Key have already had to find the money to treat their public drinking water supply for salt water intrusion.

 

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Farmers are moving to our District from the St. Johns River Water Management District because of salt water intrusion, yet the St. Johns water managers continue to issue new consumptive use permits—even when the data is clear that there is a problem.

The way our water rules are written, a new permit must pass many tests, the most important of which is that

“It will not affect any existing users.”

 

Our own SRWMD has been trying to get cooperation from the SJRWMD to augment the documented drawdown of the groundwater between the two districts. Knowing that there is a serious problem, new permits are being issued as I type this newsletter by both Districts.
SRWMD Executive Dr. Ann Shortelle told the Governing Board at the December 2012 meeting that there was no way we could conserve our way out of our current water problems. Instead, lots of taxpayer money is being spent on studies and plans to do artificial recharge using wastewater, flood water and just plain old river water diverted back into ground. No one really knows whether or not it will even work or what effect it will have on water quality and public health.

The money being spent on these projects is a bitter pill to swallow. The aquifer recharge projects are very expensive and will have little or no effect if the Districts keep issuing new water use permits. They take a step forward with a recharge project or conservation retrofit, then take two steps back by issuing permits for brand new wells and new land use conversions.

From listening to the “Recharge Workshop” at December’s Board Meeting, if we hadn’t drained so many wetlands, paved so much natural recharge to build our cities, cut down so many forests and replaced them with irrigated farms and issued so many water use permits, we wouldn’t be in this situation. Oh yea, it would help if it would rain like it used to.

What our water managers have to understand: We can’t make it rain so we MUST manage and conserve the water we have. It’s like a bank account, if you take out more than you put in, you go broke. They need to do the math and accept that they can’t have everything they want.

Our lakes, springs and rivers have already paid the price and are being sacrificed. Who will be next?

Some of the Board Members at the Suwannee River Water Management District do seem to understand, but they need to hear from those of us who care about the long term health of our drinking water and environment.

Another issue where the current Governing Board and a large number from the public seems to disagree on are the surplus of public conservation lands. At the December 2012 Board Meeting when I pointed out that there were a number of the public that had complained about the surplus and sales of District Lands from the first meeting until today. Chairman Quincey scoffed and admitted that people who were for the sale of the district’s public lands didn’t show up to complain at meetings but instead collared him “all the time” at the grocery store and “called him at work” to tell him what a great job the District was doing selling land as “everybody thinks they had too much land already.

I have posted the recordings of the Aquifer Recharge Workshop on Facebook Page “The Water Management District Channel” and on Youtube at: http://youtu.be/i7Z6Ek_bzu0 Part 1, http://youtu.be/-0-wvMf2xk0 Part 2 and http://youtu.be/KUuf18a1DN4 Part 3. Video of discussions about public lands surplus are at:
http://youtu.be/yHs0ZtcEzCU Part 1 and http://youtu.be/sMJx-ID4xFE #2 and http://youtu.be/7R1LwBDZB-w

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Save Our Suwannee Addresses the Agriculture State Technical Committee
Most folks have no idea, but there are a number of federal programs that provide cost sharing for various aspects of land management and farming.

They are funded by “Farm Bills” from the Congress and administered by the Natural Resource Conservation Service as a part of the US Department of Agriculture. A large part of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s plan to clean up the pollution from the springs is to use funds from these types of programs to assist and encourage farmers to upgrade their irrigation equipment and fertilization equipment and techniques so that less water is used and less fertilizer is applied, thus theoretically cleaning up our groundwater and springs.

The reality is that yes, retrofitting old equipment will save water and fertilizer, but those meager savings cannot possibly make up for the acres of forests being cleared for new irrigated fertilized crops. What I found out from a couple of sources was that the State Technical Committee, through the NRCS EQUIP program, has provided cost share to farmers for NEW wells and NEW irrigation equipment on land that was recently converted from forest or un-irrigated pasture and not just for retrofits of old systems.
I gave the committee a visual tour of our impaired springs above and below the water and let them know that our springs, rivers and lakes are in real trouble. Drought, over-permitting of water withdrawals and excessive nutrient pollution are causing noxious algae blooms and dangerous water column algae blooms have caused hazards to public health. I also reported that I had doubts that the voluntary best management practices proposed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection would be a real solution.

I explained that the NRCS and the State Technical Committee were in a unique position to offer real relief to water quality and quantity by fine-tuning their Conservation Practice Standards to fund cost share that discourages land use conversion from less intensive to more intensive land uses.

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I also asked that they consider paying land owners for ecological services to encourage keeping property in very low impact agriculture like forestry. I requested that when they fund cost share for equipment that it only be for retrofits to upgrade for conservation and that they also fund projects that restore hydrology to drained wetlands. I questioned whether or not they could reward agriculture producers for growing the right crop in the right place along the lines of what Florida Yards and Neighborhoods has done for landscape assistance–cost share for crops that are drought tolerant and don’t need fertilizer.

I also referenced the Santa Fe River Restoration Plan produced by the Florida Springs Institute (Page 15):

Nevertheless, if the springs are to be fully restored, some agricultural producers will need to shift to more sustainable crops that do not require irrigation-such as managed forests. Monetary incentives in the form of conservation subsidies will be needed to compensate these producers for the reduced economic return of these less water-intensive and more sustainable practices.

See the entire report at: www.floridaspringsinstitute.com I brought along a number of handouts detailing statewide water quality problems as well as a report that studied the true cost of pollution to Florida’s economy. I also referenced the recent decision and agreement between Florida and the USEPA for new numeric nutrient criteria.

Our groundwater can no longer bear the pressure of excessive nitrate runoff coupled with ever increasing water withdrawals. It’s not just our springs, lakes and rivers that will suffer, but the homeowners, farmers, businesses, cities and towns that already have water permits. They will begin to feel the pressure from increased salinity and the financial drain from the need to drill deeper wells.

Numerous studies show that silvaculture has value far beyond that of the sale of trees for pulp, biomass and timber. A representative from the Florida Division of Forestry spoke about the current demand for forest products and the likelihood that there would be shortages of timber in Florida’s economic future. Forests don’t require artificial irrigation and artificial excessive fertilization, they mitigate atmospheric deposition of nitrogen, they take up greenhouse gasses and they increase real estate values for surrounding properties.

As a bonus, forest lands offer ecosystem services for native game, many of Florida’s threatened and endangered species, groundwater recharge, and have overall positive impacts on air quality and aquatic systems compared to almost every other land use.

 

More on Public Land Sales and a Problematic Land Swap at SRWMD

Governor Scott has given the political directive to the FDEP and to water management districts to sell “unnecessary” public lands. Wild lands that were considered desirable for conservation that were either donated or purchased with Preservation 2000 or Florida Forever funds are now being assessed by the Land Surplus Committee of the SRWMD.

If lands are found to be “outside of the mission” of the District, they are considered for sale. It looks like the lands they are holding on to are riverfront, floodplain, well fields, possible recharge project lands, popular recreation areas and springshed protection lands.
The definition of what has value to the State of Florida has become very narrow.

The SRWMD has owned land being surplussed this month since 1988 and has been managing it for wildlife, pine timber and water recharge. It is becoming apparent that the current Governing Board doesn’t have a great appreciation for threatened and endangered habitats and species on their lands. If the Madison County property proposed for the swap with Damascus Peanut Company is cleared for cultivation, the gopher tortoises and associated species will no longer be able to survive there.

To be fair to the Board and the Surplus Committee, the river front tract is exactly what the SRWMD usually tries to acquire. Most of the uplands that are owned by the District were purchased as parts of larger tracts that were connected to river frontage. According to staff the riverfront property owned by the Damascus Peanut Company has 1.64 miles of river front, is 97% floodplain (570 acres), 14% surface water (87 acres) and springs protection 18% (110 acres).

If the land swap is not completed, the water management district should make an offer to Damascus to purchase the river front property. There are monies left from previous years of Florida Forever funding that were never spent. Since this land is almost 100% flood prone and has wetlands and important recharge for a spring that feeds the Suwannee River, it would be negligent for the State not to pursue purchase of the property. If they couldn’t purchase the property outright, they should at least try to purchase a conservation easement to protect water quantity and quality in the Middle Suwannee.

The SRWMD property that was proposed for the “Ellaville” swap has been identified as ideal gopher tortoise habitat by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission commented on the need to move the tortoises if the land swap/sale was executed and noted the richness of the habitat in its comments. The Gopher Tortoise is listed as endangered in many other southern states and the US Fish and Wildlife Service is considering listing it in Florida due to habitat destruction.

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On the Saturday before closing, Executive Director Shortelle received an e-mail from Dave Hankla, a Field Supervisor with the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He urged the District to seek and alternative that would eliminate the relocation of the gopher tortoises. He also expressed concern for the federally listed eastern indigo snake which may potentially be coincident with the gopher tortoise and likely trigger the need for federal permitting to convert the land to agriculture.

The sale/swap was supposed to be completed on November 30, 2012. At the advice of the Board’s Counsel and with the concurrence of Damascus, the closing date was postponed until December 10th in order to allow the comment period on Madison County’s comprehend, ensive plan amendment to lapse. On December 10th, the closing was postponed again until January 23, 2013.

At a Public Lands Surplus Committee Meeting, Audubon representative Charles Lee questioned several of their practices and legal positions on the land swap.
The Committee took Mr. Lee’s recommendations into consideration but I think they missed his overall message. When the meeting was adjourned, I believed that they were going to remove the land swap from consideration by the Governing Board.
The Suwannee River Water Management District Requires Flow Measurement on Ag Wells 8” and Larger
In their September 2012 Governing Board Meeting the District elected to require monitoring of all agricultural wells that are 8 inch diameter or larger. The costs of monitoring will be absorbed by the SRWMD. This is the confusing part…Even if the District finds that a water use permit holder is using more water than they are permitted for, they will not be required to cut back or conserve.

The District voted to move ahead with the monitoring program because there is a catastrophic groundwater shortage in north Florida and it is not clear what is causing it. There is a lot of finger pointing, but not enough information. More water is allocated to agriculture than any other sector in the SRWMD and other industries are already required to monitor their water consumption and report it to the District.

Since there is no data on how much water agriculture is using, there is no way to ascertain exactly what is causing the disturbingly low drawdowns in the aquifer between the St. Johns River Water Management District and the Suwannee River Water
Management District. There is also a huge drawdown to the north east of the SRWMD from Georgia and this data will help to figure out what is causing it.

Curiously rather than just require that everyone with a large well begin monitoring, the District is not requiring existing permit holders to start the program. Instead they say they can’t require monitoring until a water permit comes up for renewal. I’m not sure this is true since there is a drought and our ground water is in such bad shape. Under emergency situations, the District can alter permits upon review of extenuating circumstances.

Instead, Executive Director Shortelle has offered a “carrot” to get farmers to voluntarily monitor and at the last minute, tacked this new rule onto the monitoring rule at the September 2012 Board Meeting. The “carrot” rule offers a permit extension of 5-10 years if a well owner voluntarily begins monitoring now.

Honestly, this “carrot” rule has made me very nervous. Our Florida Statutes say that water permits can be issued for up to 20 years. Part of the CUPCON Process is a plan to reduce mid-permit reporting and review requirements as water permit holders in the
“stakeholder committees” complained that the mid-permit review process was onerous and expensive. If the CUPCON review reduction passes and permits are extended out to 30 years, it can only make our terrible fresh water shortages worse.

I have personally objected to the “carrot rule” in writing and the District is ignoring me. However, I’m delighted that the Governing Board has moved forward with collecting the much needed data of actual water use by agricultural producers. We have to have the
facts to make a plan for the future.   Submitted by: Annette Long
Endangered Species of Mussel Identified on the Santa Fe River
When Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson first became an active concerned citizen regarding protecting the Santa Fe watershed, back in ’06-’07, she was looking for endangered species. She knew that the Federal Endangered Species Act was a precedent and created inherent governance’s to protect habitat. She found out that the Oval Pigtoe Mussel was just that sort of critter that was once in abundance here on the Santa Fe River and now as a result of habitat encroachment and destruction was lost….and now found…just one, but ONE is better than none!

The Oval Pigtoe Mussel is on the Federal and State Endangered Species list and was recently located in 2 places just up river from O’leno State Park (Bible Camp Road) and also at Worthington Springs (boat ramp). There are 4 other Mussel species in this report that are designated as Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Species of Greatest Conservation Need.

Mussels are a very important to our watery ecosystem. We are very pleased to know about the results of these findings.   Thanks for sharing this with us Merillee!

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