Friday, September 23, 2011

Floral City Water Board Buys Wellfield Site From Board Member

Here’s a little follow up on the wellfield being pursued by Floral City Water in the springshed of the Chassahowitzka River.
First, I’ve learned that the Floral City Water Association’s proposal is for a wellfield only and not, at least for the moment, a waste water treatment facility.  So, I had that wrong.
But, how about this?  The land was owned by a fellow who sold it to the Floral City Water Association, Inc.  This company is overseen by a seven member non-compensated Board of Directors of which he is a member.  So, as a member of the association board, he would obviously have been instrumental in determining a new water source was needed. As a member of the association board, he would have been involved in developing the feasibility and justification for locating a wellfield at that particular location. As a member of the association board, he would have been involved in making the final selection of that particular site.  And, as a member of the association board, he would have been involved in deciding what price the Association would be willing to pay for it.  All while he was also the owner of the property and deciding what to ask the association of which he was a member to pay for it!  Sort of like deciding how much he wanted from himself for his own property but using somebody else's money.
Starts to smell a little, doesn’t it?
Also, the Citrus County Land Development Review Board (LDRB) is the Board that granted the conditional land use permit to the Floral City Water Association to change the use from a platted and deed-restricted property to one that allows for a water treatment and production facility.  The board approved the zoning change despite the objections of hundreds of very vocal and angry residents from the area.
What was the justification for the LDRB to make the decision over the objections of the residents?  Where in the world was the County Commission on such a controversial issue?  How did the staff come to the conclusion that allowing the zoning change was in the best interest of Citrus County?  What consideration was given to other sites or potential sources of supply such as a connection with the City of Inverness water system, and could other alternatives have offered a cheaper way to go?
I don’t know if any of these types of questions were asked and answered.  I do know they should have been.  Any responsible water system routinely would engage in this kind of analysis before making a final decision that could have a major impact on the cost its customers will have to pay for inappropriate folly, if that is what it is.
But my concern here is not whether the decision was made inappropriately, illegally, or even if the unfortunate folks on the Floral City water system are getting a fair deal.  Certainly someone needs to be concerned about those things, but not me right now.
My foremost concern is that the Floral City Water Association has now applied to SWFWMD for a water use permit to withdraw water from the site, or maybe to modify its existing permit so withdrawals permitted from alleged tainted wells located elsewhere can be moved to the new site.
My concern is whether the new withdrawals are from within the Chassahowitzka spring-system watershed.  If they are, where and when the governing board sets the new minimum flow and level for the springs and river will become critical.
If MFLs are set at the level that will allow no further withdrawals within the springshed, as they should be, then this permit request, presumably, will not be granted. But the district will need to make that decision before a final decision is made on the permit request for the denial to be supported by the MFL finding.
If the permit is approved before the board makes its decision on the MFL for the springs and river, and the board sets the levels where it should, the opportunity to prevent any further impacts on the system will have been lost, perhaps forever.
Hopefully, the board will set an MFL level that reflects the position that the river and its contributing springs have been impacted enough and further withdrawals from within the springshed will not be allowed.  Hopefully, this will precede any decision to grant such withdrawals.
If, on the other hand, the district sets the MFL low at a level that allows further withdrawals and grants the permit from within the springshed, then our fears will become justified.  Gallon by gallon we will have methodically begun the reduction of the river to a level that will take it to the brink of “significant harm,” forever.
As they say, timing is everything.

1 comment:

  1. I recently bought a house on Lake Rousseau and am very concerned about the political skullduggery that seems to swirl around 'water grabs' along the imcomparable Nature Coast (from Chassahowitzka/ Weeki Wachee watersheds, right up through Rainbow River). Have you been asked to provide assistance to the hapless residents, who find themselves outmanuevered by these wily water boards? You would be invaluable in assisting these good folks, in ways to insure these permits/ MFLs, etc. are properly negotiated...