Tag Archives: St. Johns River Water Management District

A Resolution Against Phosphate Mines in Florida –Florida Waterkeepers 2017-12-18

Delivered via email as PDF to the Union BOCC before their phosphate mine workshop of Monday, December 18, 2017.


A Resolution
Against Phosphate Mines in Florida

WHEREAS, Waterkeeper Alliance Members are obligated and dedicated to protect the water resources, citizens’ interests, and related benefits in their jurisdictions; and

WHEREAS, Resolution WHEREAS, phosphate mines have been shown to threaten and cause actual harm to these resources, interest, and related benefits; and

WHEREAS, there are several phosphate mine projects in various stages of permitting in local, state, and federal agencies including county and city governments, Water Management Districts (WMDs), Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE); and

WHEREAS, there seems to be no public list of current phosphate mines and related facitlities, which include at least

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SRWMD kept money from Florida for “routinely anticipated budget shortfalls”

Where does the buck stop for these “routinely anticipated budget shortfalls”? Who let a budget include those? Isn’t the point of a budget to, well, budget for what’s needed? Or, given the history of deliberate downsizing of environmental agencies in Florida, maybe shortfalls were the point.

Noah Valenstein
Noah Valenstein got the job as secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection on Tuesday May 23rd, on a unanimous vote by Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet. His previous job? Executive director of the Suwannee River Water Management District, which was flagged by state auditors for $22.5 million in “questionable costs”. The audit covered the time Valenstein led the district. He oversees the district in his new job. [Special to the Times]

Mary Ellen Klas, Miami Herald-Times Tallahassee Bureau, 14 July 2017, Auditors find millions in ‘questionable costs’ at water district,

Weak budgetary controls led to $22.5 million in “questionable costs,” auditors found. Officials had transferred $13.3 million of it into the district’s operating account without proper authority. They may have overspent some areas of the budget and directed money to other areas to make up for shortfalls. They set aside $3.8 million “in the event of an economic crisis” without authorization, and they steered $1.7 million “to cover routinely anticipated budget shortfalls” without explanation.

Contingency funds, sure, but “routinely anticipated”? And in an economic crisis, wouldn’t it be the legislature that should be authorizing funds?

Auditors concluded that accounts were “misclassified because district personnel misunderstood” standard accounting requirements and budget staff members were “somewhat new to the process” so they couldn’t explain how and why it happened.

That is what happens when a state massively defunds its environmental agencies and makes political tests and servicing economic development more important than competence. The article goes into that, rightly pointing a finger repeatedly at Governor Rick Scott, who said “ensuring that Florida’s precious water resources are protected and managed in the most fiscally responsible way possible” while:

The five districts, whose boards are appointed by the governor and operate under the oversight of the Department of Environmental Protection, were purged of hundreds of veteran professionals, and budgets were cut in half. They continued cutting their budgets through 2016. Suwannee, because of its small size, had proportionally fewer cuts.

The article discusses and quotes SRWMD staff, with some pretty amusing tidbits, including this one from “Roary E. Snider, the district’s chief of staff”, who

also disputed the auditor’s claim they don’t have documentation. “While we absolutely will provide these records, these documents were largely in hard copy,” Snider said. “Staff couldn’t assemble these additional records in time.”

SRWMD staff don’t know how to use a scanner? Or they didn’t know where they put those paper documents? Or maybe the dog ate them.

The article even quotes Eric Draper of Audubon Florida about “problems we’ve seen at the Suwannee River district with the change of leadership over the years,”. If Audubon Florida “works closely with the water management districts”, what did Audubon Florida know, when did they know it, and why are they only speaking up now?

The actual audit report lists on page 2:

Executive Director
Noah Valenstein from October 13, 2015
Carlos Herd, Interim, from May 14, 2015, to October 12, 2015
Dr. Ann B. Shortelle to May 13, 2015

The article mentions that:

The district is overseen by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, which is now headed by Noah Valenstein. His last job was executive director of the Suwannee River WMD during the time the audit was underway.

Guess which fox the foxhouse is turning to for assistance:

The district said it would turn to the Department of Environmental Protection for advice on how to resolve the dispute over whether money is owed to the state.

“DEP has communicated with staff at the Suwannee River Water Management District, and they have informed us that they are reviewing accounting and land acquisition records for additional information,” said Lauren Engel, spokesperson for Valenstein.

“If it is determined that these funds should be returned to DEP, they would go to the trust fund from which the funding was issued, however, DEP would require spending authority from the legislature to use it.”

This is the same Noah Valenstein who told me shortly after he was appointed to SRWMD that he believes that Florida law requires him and SRWMD to provide water resources for economic development. Maybe he should have paid more attention to making sure the economic resources of the District were properly organized.

The Miami Times-Herald story as carried by tbo.com (Tampa Bay Times) has a bit more pointed headline and picture caption (see top of this blog post), Auditors find millions in ‘questionable costs’ at water district, but will it matter? Continue reading

Presto, there’s plenty of water in Florida? –Jim Gross @ WiLFest 2017-06-17

Jim Gross showed at WiLFest in Orlando Gainesville what he described later in the Orlando Sentinel:

“It was known by everyone in the agency that we had more demand than groundwater. Did the science completely change overnight? Now, ‘Presto! There’s plenty?’”

Discharge 1980 and 2010 from the Upper Floridan Aquifer
Jim Gross showing central Florida as far over sustainable withdrawals at WiLFest in Orlando Gainesville 2017-06-17
Photo: John S. Quarterman for WWALS

Lauren Ritchie, Orlando Sentinel, 30 June 2017, Commentary: Stop letting developments such as The Villages suck up water, Continue reading

Videos: NFRWSP Plan passed at joint SRWMD-SJRWMD Board Meeting 2017-01-17

Pretty full The playwright could have added a bit more suspense. After listening to almost two dozen public comments, many recommending tabling the North Florida Regional Water Supply Plan (NFRWSP) or a moratorium on new water withdrawal permits, the boards of the Suwannee River Water Management District and the St Johns River Water Management District each voted unanimously to approve.

Here are WWALS videos of each of the speakers, with a few notes, followed by video playlist of the whole thing. Continue reading

SRWMD responds about NFRWSP; come to Alachua Tuesday 2017-01-17

SRWMD did post responses to comments from WWALS and others on the North Florida Regional Water Supply Plan (NFRWSP). A week before the planned NFRWSP adoption, same as for the agenda for the joint SRWMD-SJRWMD meeting next Tuesday in Alachua. After OSFR and WWALS posted critical blog posts, SRWMD Executive Director Noah Valenstein sent us and others an offer to meet this Friday in Live Oak to discuss. While many (including me), thanked him for his collegial offer, nobody took him up on it. See you in Alachua Tuesday (facebook event).

Below are Noah Valenstein’s letter and my response. Continue reading

North Florida Regional Water Supply Plan on agenda for joint SRWMD-SJRWMD meeting 2017-01-17

Update 2017-01-12: SRWMD did post responses to comments on the NFRWSP: they posted them a week in advance of planned adoption. Come on down to Alachua Tuesday!

Next week in Alachua without further public meetings or response to those who wrote in, SRWMD and SJRWMD plan to approve the North Florida Regional Water Supply Plan (NFRWSP), as the only item on the agenda.

Agenda

When: 11AM Tuesday 17 January 2017

Where: 15100 NW 142nd Terrace, Alachua, FL 32615

Event: facebook

WWALS never got a response to our letter about the NFRWSP, not about less water withdrawal, nor about better modeling and data, nor about more water retention, nor specifically about ditching the Rube Goldberg Falling Creek Aquifer Recharge Project for Dennis Price P.G.’s more cost-effective solution, nor with any mention of participation from farther afield in Florida nor in Georgia, for that matter.

The language of the memorandum accompanying the agenda is rather Orwellian:

The NFRWSP has identified sufficient sources of water to meet the needs of the environment and the projected demands through 2035.

That sounds like the environment is making projected demands. Actually, the maps in the NFRWSP are pretty clear that Jacksonville is making the most demands for water, along with other cities and corporate agriculture, and the plan would take from the environment, mostly from the Suwannee River Basin, to get that water.

Our Santa Fe River sums it up pretty well: Continue reading

Aquifer at max pumping in central Florida

Remember, this is our aquifer, too. And watch out! They’d rather pipe somebody else’s river water than conserve in Central Florida.

Kevin Spear wrote for the Orlando Sentinel yesterday, Analysis: Floridan Aquifer can only handle 6% more pumping before serious environmental harm,

Just how much more water can Central Florida pump from the Floridan Aquifer without causing real harm to the region’s environment? After years of debate, study and anxiety, state authorities say they have finally — and officially — figured it out.

The answer: hardly any.

Using the most advanced databases and computing methodology yet developed for such a task, a consortium of state water managers and local utilities have calculated that the current amount of water pumped from the underground aquifer each day can be increased by only about 6 percent — which means the region is already exploiting the huge, life-sustaining aquifer for nearly every drop it can safely offer.

Beware! Continue reading