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Public can have a say on water permitting

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OfferleBy MANDY OFFERLE

Special to the Beacon

About 25 citizens attended a public workshop  At the Tommy Usher Center Aug. 8 designed to gather input for rule development for the statewide water permitting.  

Hosted by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Suwanee River Water Management District, this presentation included  multiple topics addressed by various FDEP and SRWMD personnel and public comments. Ten such Rule Development Workshops are scheduled during August in all of the state’s five water management districts.  

The workshop was to make more consistent the language, policies and procedures employed by the state’s five water management districts:   the Northwest Florida Water Management District; the Saint Johns River Water Management District; the Suwannee River Water Management District; the Southwest Florida Water Management District; and the South Florida Water Management District. 

Workshop topics included proposed revisions to Chapter 62-40 of the Florida Administrative Code: in Section 62-40.210, to add and define the  such as those requiring the presiding water management district to consider the “impact offset” derived from the use of reclaimed water when evaluating a permit application. 

Further topics included proposed permit types and thresholds, conditions for issuance, and compliance reports. Proposed revisions of various forms included: Alternative Method Flow Verification; Annual Crop Summary; Crop Protection; Flow Meter Accuracy; three iterations of a Draft Water Use / Pumpage Submittal; and finally, the Water Use Permit Application with a Supplemental Application for Agricultural Use.

Public comment involved seven individuals residing in Levy, Alachua, Citrus, and Gilcrist Counties, several of whom specified that they would forward written commentaries to the DEP and SRWMD in addition to their public comment at this Chiefland workshop.  One individual presented the hosts, and others interested, with a 45-page glossily-printed pictograph series entitled Florida’s Springs:  Disappearing Fountains of Youth.    

Comments included: 

• grave concern for the overpermitting of groundwater and the subsequent dissolution of the aquifer;

• area wells going dry; 

• salt-water intrusion into Cedar Key area wells; 

• diminishing water quality in the Suwanee River;

• diminishing amount of water in the Suwannee;

• diminishing volume in area springs;  ranchers and farmers granted water permits who subsequently use the water and land designated solely for silviculture for other purposes and discharging deleterious substances;  lack of and / or inadequate monitoring of farm and cattle lands’ water use;  

• time involved for reused water substitution; concern that the DEP and water management districts’ assumptions about their models in reality work;  

• lack of clarity as to what constitutes and what standards are set for reused water;  

• water use models’ validity based on changing populations.  

 

  Many of the changes discussed, which are presented as a mechanism to provide a uniform permitting process, will require some water management districts to implement lower requirements and less regulation that are now in effect.  Further concern was expressed by the public that all ten Rule Development Workshops were designed and will be implemented at 9AM on weekdays, virtually eliminating real-time access to the working public.