Wednesday, January 14, 2009
WJXT-TV: Judge OKs Water Withdrawal From St. Johns -- Water Management District Sets March 10 Vote On Permit
Judge OKs Water Withdrawal From St. Johns -- Water Management District Sets March 10 Vote On Permit
updated 12:46 a.m. ET, Wed., Jan. 14, 2009
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A Florida administrative law judge has recommended that the St. Johns River Water Management District approve Seminole County's plan to withdraw 5.5 million gallons daily from the river.
The permit for diverting the surface water for use in Seminole County's water supply was challenged by several entities, including the the city of Jacksonville, St. Johns County and the St. Johns Riverkeeper.
Judge J. Lawrence Johnston's 66-page ruling was released on Monday. The water management district announced Tuesday its governing board would hold a public hearing on Seminole County's permit request at its March 10 meeting and then hold a vote.
Seminole County's plan is the first of what the water management district says could be 200 million of gallons to be taken every day from the St. Johns and Ocklawaha rivers for use as potable water by communities in the Orlando area.
Environmentalists and officials across northeast Florida are concerned the withdrawals would destroy the balance of saltwater and freshwater needed to preserve biological habitat and submerged vegetation in the river.
Water-management officials said that Melbourne has been using water from the St. Johns for drinking water for decades and Cocoa and Sanford began withdrawing water from the river in 1999. A Seminole County utility expert told the judge that that the river's daily flow is about 2 billion gallons at the point where the new withdrawals would be made and taking 50 million gallons should have no measurable effect on the river.
St. Johns Riverkeeper Neil Armingeon told Channel 4 he is "deeply disappointed" by the judge's ruling, but the fight to project the river is not over.
"The administrative hearing process is often biased toward the water management districts," Armingeon said in a statement. "However, we firmly believe that we presented a compelling case and were able to clearly demonstrate that Seminole County does not need to remove water from the St. Johns River to meet its future needs, and that water conservation is the most environmentally sensible and economically viable alternative."
On The Net:SJRWMD.com: The St. Johns River As A Drinking Water Source
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