Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Orlando Sentienel: Hearing officer sides with Seminole County in its quest to take water from St. Johns River
Hearing officer sides with Seminole County in its quest to take water from St. Johns River
Sentinel Staff Writer
10:48 AM EST, January 13, 2009
A state hearing officer has sided with Seminole County in its controversial quest to take water from the St. Johns River.
Ending a year-long legal review, Administrative Law Judge J. Lawrence Johnston of Tallahassee recommended late Monday that state water authorities grant the county's request to withdraw 5.5 million gallons of river water daily.
Environmentalists and North Florida local government officials are trying to stop Seminole County and other Central Florida utilities from turning to the St. Johns River as a major supply of water for population growth.
"I hope that other utilities are not naïve enough to think this is the end of the issue," said Neil Armingeon, a leader of the St. Johns Riverkeeper group in Jacksonville. "We're not going to tuck our tails and run because we've had a setback."
Armingeon said his group will try to organize a heavy turnout when the St. Johns River Water Management District -- led by governor-appointed board members -- meets to make a decision on Seminole County's application for a water-withdrawal permit.
District officials have not set a date for that meeting.
Also in the works is a likely attempt by the Riverkeeper group to fight Seminole County in a state appeals court, Armingeon said.
A Seminole County spokeswoman said Tuesday morning that county officials are pleased by the hearing judge's ruling but have not had time to analyze its contents. Overshadowing the legal drama is the economy's slowdown, which, combined with a decline in population growth leaves unclear how pressed the region is to supplement its traditional supply of well water with river water.
Kevin Spear can be reached at email@example.com or 407-420-5062.
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