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?’”
Lauren Ritchie, Orlando Sentinel, 30 June 2017, Commentary: Stop letting developments such as The Villages suck up water,
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Orlando Sentinel reporters were quoting officials of the St. Johns River Water Management District saying that the underground water level had dropped up to 10 feet in the area below The Villages. They warned that the sweet water of the upper aquifer would be running out — right about now, actually.
Yet, St. Johns officials today say there are 850 million gallons a day — 310 billion gallons a year — more to withdraw if it’s done with care. Woo-hoo! We could build 25 more Villages-type communities! Let’s get crackin’!
“Where you pull the water from can make a difference. We’re looking at ways of distributing out the withdrawals so they don’t have as large an impact,” said Mike Register, division director of Water Supply Planning at the St. Johns. “We’re using surface water in conjunction with groundwater, and asking Are there opportunities we have to increase recharge?’”
In Register’s answer, folks, lies the problem. The water planner and his colleagues are looking under every rock and using every trick they can devise to string out the water supply — they see their goal as meeting “the needs.” That’s code for “so developers can keep building across in Florida.” He was quick to point out that the district wouldn’t let the rape of the aquifer hurt the environment in the quest for more water.
All this makes Jim Gross laugh and not in a Santa Claus kind of way.
Gross, executive director of the Florida Defenders of the Environment, held Register’s job until shortly after he declined in June 2014 to change a water-supply plan to show that there was plenty of the wet stuff left for anyone who wanted it.
“They didn’t want it changed because there was anything inaccurate or wrong with the plan — it was purely 100 percent political,” said Gross, a licensed geologist who was let go shortly after a confrontation with his bosses.
He snorted at the notion that 850 million gallons a day of water remain in the aquifer available for use in Central Florida before the environment would be damaged.
“When it comes to water supply, they’re not going to tell you the truth,” Gross said. “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?’”
Please read more in the entire Orlando Sentinel article. especially for Lauren Ritchie’s commentary. Jim Tatum also posted this story for Our Santa Fe River, illustrating it with this picture he took from a WWALS Southwings overflight of the Sabal Trail pipeline, which also illustrates how close The Villages, sucking up all that water and with frequent sinkholes, is to that sinkhole-causing pipeline (about 20 miles):
The first time I met Noah Valenstein, shortly after he became Executive Director of the Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD), he told me the Florida legislature had defined his job as finding resources for economic development. Full stop. Now he’s Secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection: James Call, Tallahassee Democrat, 23 May 2017.
With the same attitude at St Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD), it’s pretty clear it’s emanating from the top, namely Florida Governor Rick Scott.
Those words, Environmental, and Protection: I don’t think they mean what they think they mean.
“This rides on where you want to draw the line in the water. Do we want to protect lakes and springs and wetlands? If we want to protect what’s left, we can’t issue more permits,” Gross said.
“We have to stop now.”
-jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®
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