Category Archives: SRWMD

No Valdosta City repair work at chronic sewage spill manhole, Wainwright Drive, Onemile Branch 2021-07-08

Update 2021-07-14: Valdosta Manhole Rehabilitation lists 2021-07-13.

“Doesn’t look good,” WWALS member Scotti Jay summed up the situation at the Wainwright Drive Onemile Branch manhole that spilled yet again in Tropical Storm Elsa. “No lime was put out.”

[Caution, Sewage Spill, Manhole ajar, Wainwright Drive, Onemile Branch, Valdosta, GA]
Caution, Sewage Spill, Manhole ajar, Wainwright Drive, Onemile Branch, Valdosta, GA

This is a manhole at 1212 Wainwright Drive, where Valdosta, Georgia, spilled 37,500 gallons of raw sewage on July 7, 2021, during Tropical Storm Elsa. That’s the same place Valdosta has spilled numerous times before, listing it as 1208 Wainwright Drive, or “1200 block”, including 51,800 gallons 2018-12-14, 166,275 gallons 2018-12-03, 9,800 gallons 2017-01-22, and 90,500 gallons 2016-02-04. That’s a total of 355,875 gallons spilled at that one location.

Is a third of a million gallons of raw sewage not enough for Valdosta to pay attention and fix that location? Will it require a million gallons?

Back on November 11, 2017, Valdosta Utilities Director Darryl Muse joined WWALS on a cleanup of Onemile Branch, including at the bridge in these pictures. He said they were trying to get the number of sewer spills down to zero.

Yet a year later at a Valdosta City Council meeting and then at a SRWMD Board meeting, Director Muse neglected to mention the 218,075 gallons spilled at that location alone in December 2018. In both cases I had to stand up and correct him in public.

SRWMD Board member Virginia Sanchez noted, “You don’t want to swim in a little sewage versus a lot of sewage either. Both of them are bad. A spill is bad.”

When I asked him another year later during one of the Florida dozen-county Valdosta sewage Task Force meetings with the Valdosta City Council when Wainwright Drive would be fixed, Darryl Muse did not recall that location.

Still years more later, Scotti Jay last week observed, “You would be amazed at all the incompetent work being done around the Wainwright location. With no effort whatsoever towards improving the faulty, damaged manhole. Absolutely nothing.”

WS

“Will the City of Valdosta finally repair the most dangerous sewer hole that threatens sewage intrusion. Ask your local government to update the sewer system.” Asked about the sign, Scotti Jay wrote, “it’s just zip tied. But some locations have permanent signs.” Continue reading

Worse than Falling Creek: SRWMD wants to pipe Suwannee River water twice to Ichetucknee Springs 2021-06-08

Four years ago SRWMD proposed to pipe Suwannee River water from near White Springs to a sinkhole near Falling Creek to replenish the Ichetucknee River. Now the District has come up with something worse: not one, but two pipelines, adding one from Branford, both to spread water on the ground nearer the Ichetucknee headspring. SRWMD told reporters these were just tentative plans, but SRWMD’s own slides lay out a process just like four years ago when a plan was rubberstamped by SRWMD and SJRWMD despite numerous objections. Head it off now!

Here are some easier, less costly, and simpler methods than pipeline boondoggles: send pine plantation ditch water into the aquifer; three ways to limit water withdrawals, and Right to Clean Water.

[Map: Recharge %]
Map: Recharge % in SRWMD’s slides Prevention and Recovery Strategy for the Lower Santa Fe and Ichetucknee Rivers and Priority Springs.

What we wrote four years ago applies twice as much this time:

“The Falling Creek project has very large up-front expense, involves environmental risk in running a large-diameter pipe through wetlands, and has high maintenance cost. In addition it only benefits the Ichetucknee Springs watershed. It is seasonal, for instance at the water levels now in the Suwannee, there is no water to pump to Falling Creek.”

Back then we included in our comments to SRWMD a much simpler and less costly proposal Continue reading

Cattle and hogs: Withlacoochee River water quality status 2021-06-27

Update 2021-06-28: Filthy GA-FL Line, Withlacoochee River 2021-06-26.

Most Withlacoochee River contamination comes from cattle manure runoff, according to extensive testing. Yet there is the myth that every problem with the Withlacoochee River comes from Valdosta sewage. Actually, Valdosta has not had a spill that got into the river in more than a year and a half.

Other cities do have sewage spills (especially Quitman), which do cause problems. But when the rivers have E. coli after big rains, it usually comes from cattle manure runoff.

Most of the time our rivers are clean, and here’s how we know that.

[Map: Quitman, Valdosta, Okapilco Creek, Knights Ferry Boat Ramp, Withlacoochee-River]
Map: Quitman, Valdosta, Okapilco Creek, Knights Ferry Boat Ramp, Withlacoochee-River in the WWALS map of all public landings in the Suwannee River Basin.

These questions from a year ago still reflect many we get to this day: Continue reading

OSFR kayaktivism at Ginnie Springs, Santa Fe River 2021-05-29

Not a WWALS outing, but we recommend it: Our Santa Fe River (OSFR) is doing kayaktivism tomorrow, Saturday, May 29, 2021, on a mile and a half of Santa Fe River frontage next to Ginnie Springs.

This is to protest the recent ridiculous award of a water withdrawal permit by the Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD) to Seven Springs Water Company (SSWC) and Nestlé or Nestle Water North America (NWNA) or BlueTriton as NWNA is called after being bought by One Rock and Metropoulos. It’s so ridiculous SRWMD is appealing its own decision, in addition to three or more other lawsuits.

Paddle if you can, with signs.

Group of paddlers at Ginnie Springs

For all details about outing, see this OSFR blog post: KAYAKTIVISM Sat. May 29, 11am-2pm On The River By Ginnie Springs Campground.

WWALS has contributed financially to the lawsuit OSFR has brought against SRWMD.

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

You can join this fun and work by becoming a WWALS member today!

SRWMD disclaims responsibility for new Chemours titanium mine near Starke

Much like the SRWMD Board listened to its attorneys and approved Nestlé Ginnie Springs water withdrawal near the Santa Fe River, SRWMD says it has no authority to stop the proposed new titanium mine Chemours wants near Starke, the fifth one in Florida, plus the two or three Chemours has in Georgia, plus the proposed Twin Pines Minerals mine near the Okefenokee Swamp, all on Trail Ridge, the north-south divide between the Suwannee River and St. Johns River Basins in Florida, and the dam that holds in the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia.

The reporter has a good idea: SRWMD could charge Chemours for access through state property to its mine site.

Meanwhile, FDEP Mining and Mitigation has issued a Notice of Intent to Issue Environmental Resource Permit, which includes contact information for comments, and how you could file a request for a legal hearing.

You can also still ask Georgia officials to stop the other proposed mine far too near the Okefenokee Swamp:
https://wwals.net/?p=55092

[Location, Mine, SRWMD, Bradford BOCC]
Location, Mine, SRWMD, Bradford BOCC

Craig Pittman, Florida Phoenix, 20 May 2021, FL allowing mining of state-owned wetlands has a certain smell to it,

But the region also boasts a multitude of springs, lakes, creeks, and rivers, including the Santa Fe and the famous Suwannee, celebrated in our problematic state song. Overseeing these watery state assets is the Suwannee River Water Management District, which in 2015 spent $3.9 million to buy more than 2,000 acres of forest and swamp near Starke from the timber company Rayonier.

“It seemed like a good purchase,” Tom Mirti, the district’s deputy executive director, told me this week.

District officials figured they could use that land for a variety of environmentally beneficial projects, including creating a wildlife corridor for bears and other wide-ranging animals between the Ocala National Forest and the Osceola National Forest, he said.

There was just one problem: Rayonier kept the mineral rights to the property. Then the timber giant turned around and leased those mineral rights to Chemours. And there wasn’t a thing the water agency could say about it.

Continue reading

The regulatory trap at SRWMD: 30 speakers, yet unanimous Nestle permit 2021-02-23

A textbook case: “We present our three-minute, passionate oration about the risk to community health, but in the end, nothing we say must be taken into account by the state in issuing the permit.&rdqup; Common Sense: Community Rights Organizing, by CELDF; thanks to Karma Norjin Lhamo for the reminder.

[Mermaid, Suwannee Riverkeeper, OSFR, Regulatory Fallacy, Charles Keith, Attorneys, Motion to Permit, unanimous SRWMD Board]
Mermaid, Suwannee Riverkeeper, OSFR, Regulatory Fallacy, Charles Keith, Attorneys, Motion to Permit, unanimous SRWMD Board

About 30 speakers gave impassioned orations for denial, after which the Suwannee River Water Management District Board unanimously approved the Nestlé permit as fast as the roll could be called.

[SRWMD Board: Larry Thompson, Lower Suwannee Basin; Charles Keith, At Large; Virginia H. Johns, Chair, At Large; Virginia Sanchez, At Large; Charles Schwab, Coastal Rivers Basin; Harry Smith, At Large; Larry Sessions, Upper Suwannee Basin]
SRWMD Board: Larry Thompson, Lower Suwannee Basin; Charles Keith, At Large; Virginia H. Johns, Chair, At Large; Virginia Sanchez, At Large; Charles Schwab, Coastal Rivers Basin; Harry Smith, At Large; Larry Sessions, Upper Suwannee Basin. Notice nobody on the SRWMD Board representing the Santa Fe River Basin. Water taxation without representation.

As one prominent local activist said afterwards, “Two years out of my life I’ll never get back! I don’t know if I’ll ever come back here.”

Sure, voting in a governor who would appoint better WMD board members would help, and into the legislature, too. New legislators would help pass what is really needed: a Bill of Rights for Nature.

That is a way out of the Regulatory Fallacy Box. Continue reading

Help SRWMD reject Nestle permit 2021-02-23

You can help the Suwannee River Water Management District Board uphold the public interest and reject Nestlé’s water withdrawal permit application.

[Agenda, Board, No Permit]
Agenda, Board, No Permit

Even SRWMD’s legal counsel only recommends approving the Seven Springs permit “under protest.” The DOAH judge’s Order is actually only a RECOMMENDATION, and the District filed eighteen pages of exceptions to that Order. The judge disallowed most of those exceptions, but SRWMD is still holding open the possibility of appeal with that “under protest”.

The Judge’s Order dances around the basic question: is putting water in plastic bottles after taking it from the Floridan Aquifer next to a depleted river and springs, all for profit of a Swiss company, in the public interest? Florida law and the judge attempt to narrow what can be considered down what can be considered for the public interest to what is in Florida rules or a handbook, even though none of those adequately address the real issues. The plain fact is that a contract to sell water does not determine any public interst in cleaning up plastic bottles from our springs and rivers, nor does it determine any public interest in lower springs and rivers, with bad effects on wildlife, public use of those waters, and eventually on drinking water.

The SRWMD board can deny this permit because it is not in the public interest. You can help them do so.

It almost looks like the SRWMD counsel is asking people to come protest, since he repeatedly mentions that Our Santa Fe River (OSFR) filed legal motions and both Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson and Michael Roth spoke in the legal hearing. Disclosure: WWALS has provided some financial support for OSFR’s legal actions in this matter.

If you’re going to attend this Special Meeting in person, get there early to get a spot. To attend online, be sure to sign up for both the webinar and cal in for audio. If you want to comment, you must also sign up for that separately. Don’t wait for the second day: if that happens at all, there will be no public comment.

So come early on the first day, in person or online, Tuesday, February 23, 2021.

The entire SRWMD Special Meeting Board packet is on the WWALS website: https://www.wwals.net/pictures/2021-02-23–srwmd-nestle-special-meeting-packet/

Here is the agenda, with how to attend online: Continue reading

Back to Live Oak and online: SRWMD Nestle Special Meeting 2021-02-23

The Suwannee River Water Management District has moved its Special Meeting, to decide the Nestlé permit for Ginnie Springs on the Santa Fe River, back to Live Oak, with online participation, February 23, 2021, plus possible continuation the next day.

[No Nestle permit, 2021-02-23 or any other date]
No Nestle permit, 2021-02-23 or any other date

That didn’t take long, due to complaints by OSFR, Ichetucknee Alliance, and others. Meeting only in-person during a pandemic, and far from both the usual meeting site and the site of the problem, was never a good idea. The tradition SRWMD has established with their regular board meetings, such as the one this morning, of meeting at their headquarters with online participation, is a much better idea.

An even better idea: deny the permit.

At the bottom of the SRWMD press release:

The mission of the Suwannee River Water Management District is to protect and manage water resources using science-based solutions to support natural systems and the needs of the public. The District holds true to the belief of water for nature, water for people.

There won’t be enough water for people or nature unless SRWMD stops issuing permits for frivolous uses such as plastic bottles for a Swiss company. The “needs of the public” include the public interest, which includes not having to pick up plastic bottles from springs and rivers, having enough water in the springs and rivers and the Floridan Aquifer, and not subsidizing a foreign company at the expense of our waters. Besides, people are part of nature, last time I looked, and pretending they are not is how you damage both.


[No to Nestle!]
No to Nestle! 2019-12-10

Remember back in December 2019, when 32 people spoke against the same Nestlé permit, and delivered 384,000 petition signatures?

It’s not a good idea to crowd together people during a pandemic, but you can still send a postcard to SRWMD:

SRWMD Board Members
9225 CR 49
Live Oak, FL 32060

NO Nestlé PERMIT

[Landscape Postcard]
Landscape Postcard
PDF

Or contact SRWMD by other means: NO Nestlé PERMIT.

LOCATION UPDATED FOR DISTRICT SPECIAL MEETING

Continue reading

Special Nestle permit meeting 2019-02-23; Regular SRWMD business 2021-02-09

Update 2021-02-09: Back to Live Oak and online: SRWMD Nestle Special Meeting 2021-02-23.

This time the judge recommended accepting the permit, as the Nestlé case bounced back to SRWMD from DOAH for a second time.

So the Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD) has scheduled a special meeting at 9AM on Tuesday, February 23, 2021, at the Suwannee River Fair Pavilion in Fanning Springs. I wonder if all those postcards had any effect on scheduling a special meeting?

SRWMD will not accept any comments on this subject at their regular board meeting next Tuesday.

[Special SRWMD Meeting, Suwannee River Fair Pavilion, 2021-02-23]
Special SRWMD Meeting, Suwannee River Fair Pavilion, 2021-02-23

This time, SRWMD should take the public interest into consideration.

Which would mean a Swiss company profiting on plastic bottles, at the expense of the Floridan Aquifer, Ginnie Springs, and the Santa Fe River levels, is not in the public interest.

You can still send a postcard to SRWMD:

SRWMD Board Members
9225 CR 49
Live Oak, FL 32060

NO Nestlé PERMIT

Here’s the announcement of the special meeting in the current SRWMD Board packet: Continue reading

Public interest should be considered with water-bottling permit –Mike Roth, Gainesville Sun 2021-02-01

WWALS member and OSFR president Mike Roth wrote an op-ed in the Gainesville Sun, February 1, 2021, Public interest should be considered with water-bottling permit,

Despite the impression given by a recent ruling on Nestle’s water-bottling operation near High Springs, the public’s right to clean and plentiful water has been protected by the Legislature.

Mike Roth addressing SRWMD
Photo: John S. Quarterman, of Mike Roth addressing the SRWMD Board.

Previous legislative bodies (no, not the current one) were interested in protecting the public. Section 373 of the Florida Statutes, the section that governs water permitting, makes 46 references to “public interest.”

What they forgot to do, unfortunately, is define “public interest.” Anywhere.

Judge G.W. Chisenhall, the administrative judge ruling on the water-bottling permit, recently decided that Seven Springs Water Co. met requirements to pump water from the Ginnie Springs aquifer for Nestle. His decision was based on a part of the administrative code (Rule 40B-2.301) that cites “public interest” not once, but twice.

So why did he not consider the almost 19,000 comments from the public in opposition to this permit? Maybe it is because the issue was specifically banned from discussion in the case, primarily because it was not raised by the Suwannee River Water Management District in the first place. It would be interesting to see the work papers in the district’s files where the staff even considered the “public interest.”

For every water permit that district staff approve, they assert that the request is in the public interest. How can they make this assertion when the term isn’t even defined in the law?

Judge Chisenhall also alludes to Rule 40B-2.301 when he asserts that “all of the water withdrawn by Seven Springs will be utilized for a beneficial use, i.e., bottled water for personal consumption.”

Beneficial to whom? Nestle? It is certainly not beneficial to the health of the Ginnie Springs complex springshed — which, by the way, might be considered to be in the “public interest.”

Our Santa Fe River tried to get into the skirmish and have our very experienced and diligent scientists demonstrate that the withdrawals would be harmful to the springshed and the Santa Fe River. But that issue, too, was banned from discussion because it was not raised by the Suwannee River Water Management District in the first place.

Even the Seven Springs attorneys happily pointed out that “none of the grounds for denial at issue in this proceeding include any environment or resource protection criteria.” Well, why the heck not?

And while we’re speaking of “beneficial use,” does the Suwannee River Water Management District recognize that the Santa Fe River has been running below Minimum Flows and Levels since MFLs were established? With water beneficial to everyone, part of their job is triage.

Seven Springs asserts that its withdrawal “represents between 0.6% and 0.9% of the combined Ginnie Springs flow rate” as compared to permitted agricultural water withdrawals in 2018, which represent “between 15% and 22% of the approximated spring flow.” But was there any consideration of the relative importance of grain and meat compared to putting water in polluting plastic bottles?

“Ownership and control” was yet another disallowed issue, even though it is a major underlying concept of Section 373 of the Florida Statutes and the related Rule 40B-2.301. Why? Because the Suwannee River Water Management District never brought it up.

Seven Springs does not own the wells, the pipeline from the wells to the bottling plant, or any part of the bottling plant or the land that it is on. It does indeed have an “extraction agreement” with the owner of the wells that the land is on, the matriarch of the family that owns Ginnie Springs Outdoors.

Presumably, then, you or I could dig a well in our backyard, pull out a million gallons a day and sell it to a third party. It only took Suwannee River Water Management District Board member Donald Quincy a few minutes when this permit first came before the board last August to question this, going so far as to cause the board to table the permit to get the ownership and control matter settled.

But Judge Chisenhall wasn’t hearing any part of it: Continue reading