Tom Palmer reports for The Ledger – “The recently reported dispute between the Polk Regional Water Cooperative and Peace River Manasota Water Authority is only the latest in the decades-old discussion about tapping the river to feed future growth… The initial debate was over how much water PRMWSA could withdraw from the river without causing environmental harm… The current controversy involves whether PRMSWA’s permit request will somehow endanger long-range plans by the cooperative to divert some of the flow… into reservoirs that would recharge the aquifer. The thinking… is that the supposed increase in local recharge would allow the cooperative to sustainably withdraw more water from the aquifer… [O]verpumping of the aquifer [between Bartow and Fort Meade] caused a second-magnitude spring called Kissengen Spring… to quit flowing in 1950… The aquifer level was once high enough that it fed not only Kissengen Spring, but also supplied base flow to the Peace River. Now the flow is reversed and a portion of the Peace River’s flow – sometimes all of it – in southern Polk county flows through fissures in the riverbed into the aquifer. As a result, the flow in the Upper Peace River today is entirely dependent on recent rainfall… So, when water planners announce plans to recharge the aquifer by storing water in the Peace River’s headwaters, it seems they are only shifting the location for a phenomenon that is already occurring elsewhere… [T]he important question will be whether the withdrawals, either from the aquifer or from the river, will leave enough water for natural systems to function properly… The Legislature mandated water management districts to establish minimum flows and levels in the 1970s, but they were not established until relatively recently. By then there was no hope of restoring aquifer levels, so water managers raised the level of Lake Hancock to use as a reservoir to replenish the river when it started running dry. No water withdrawals are supposed to be allowed these days if they cause demonstrable environmental harm, but whether that’s what actually happens is often a matter of dispute. What’s not in dispute is the taxpayers have paid tens, perhaps hundreds, of million dollars to fix past bad water management decisions.” Read Peace River’s been focus before
The Ledger’s Editorial Board writes – “[W]e applaud the Polk County Regional Water Cooperative and its member governments for objecting to a proposal to shift a massive amount of water to the Sarasota area…. The fact that Polk Regional officials weren’t aware of this effort much, much sooner is concerning… Polk has plans for that water… [I]t’s unclear how the Manasota Authority withdrawal would affect [Polk’s] plan… What is known,… is that if Manasota gets access first, Polk will be shut out of water in its own backyard… Lakeland City Manager Tony Delgado… raised the most important point. Polk County and 15 city governments combined forces to form the co-op because Swiftmud indicated that was the best way to protect and preserve the community’s long-range water supply. ‘We thought we were doing the right thing, working in a cooperative manner,’ Delgado told The Ledger. He’s right… So, it’s disconcerting that Swiftmud stood ready to so easily hand over part of the county’s water supply without so much as a nod to Polk’s effort… [U]nless Swiftmud can prove Polk County will not be adversely affected by this permit, or if an amicable, satisfactory settlement cannot be worked out with the Manasota Authority, then no one should expect there to be peace over plans to pump Polk’s piece of the Peace River.” Read A worthy fight for a piece of the Peace River
Cindy Swirko reports for The Gainesville Sun – “Salt water can creep into the aquifer during droughts that deplete fresh water, allowing the salty liquid to flow in. It can also invade the aquifer when too much fresh water is pumped out… As the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico rise higher, salt water (heavier than fresh water) will push its way into the aquifer and then overtake the fresh water. It will also push farther up rivers such as the St. Johns and Suwannee, changing their ecosystems and in some cases flowing into freshwater springs… Saltwater intrusion began years ago in wells along the coast of Volusia and Flagler counties… Some coastal utilities in St. Johns River Water Management District’s 18-county region already are experiencing increased salinity in their public supply wells… Some cities have installed reverse osmosis systems in their municipal utilities… Clearwater is the first utility in Florida implementing a groundwater replenishment system to clean used water to potable standards. Permits are being issued now and construction is expected to begin late this year or in early 2019. ‘We are taking highly treated effluent from our wastewater treatment plant that is already being used for reclaimed water. We are going to put it through an entirely new advanced water purification facility…’ Porter said. ‘It will be better than drinking water quality and we are going to inject it into the lower Floridan zone. That is going to raise the pressure of the aquifer to combat saltwater intrusion and to provide more water in the upper zone for people to use.’… Unless massive amounts of rain can recharge the aquifer or large amounts of rainwater can be stored, saltwater intrusion is going to happen along the coasts… ‘The estuaries will be salinated. The aquifer will be salinated,’ Valle-Levinson said. ‘The most basic resource that we need – fresh water – will be contaminated, but also all of our infrastructure. Salt water will start corroding our sewage, our drainage, our communications, our vehicles…’” Read Salt water creeps inland
Adam Markham reports for the Union of Concerned Scientists – “The report, Sea level rise and Storm Surge Projections for the National Park Service, was published late on Friday, May 18th, with no official announcement or accompanying press release – indeed, no easy way to find it unless you know where to look. The report has been several years in the making, and was delayed for several weeks after a draft showing edits removing mentions of human-driven climate change emerged… In the wake of these revelations, Department of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke was questioned about the changes by House Democrats… Since then, the references to human-caused climate change and climate attribution that had been proposed for deletion, have been restored. What we now have… is a hugely important and detailed analysis of how projected future sea levels and storm surges may impact 118 US national parks. The findings are quite dramatic.” Read If You Can’t Censor It, Bury It: DOI Tries to Make a Stark New Study on Rising Seas Invisible
Teresa Stepzinski reports for The Florida Times Union – “[E]nvironmental impact studies (for the Black Creek project) to be used as part of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection permit process are nearing completion. The district hopes to submit the studies by July… The project calls for using Black Creek – which floods frequently – as an alternative water supply… by helping replenish the Floridan aquifer… ‘The goal is to take the water when there is excess… available,’ Zammataro said. ‘The ideas is to leave a base flow which then will leave the Black Creek ecosystem intact…’… St. Johns Riverkeeper Lisa Rinaman along with some Black Creek residents and area environmental activists have multiple concerns the project will alter, if not damage or destroy, the creek – long considered one of Florida’s cleanest creeks. ‘It seems as if they are putting the cart before the horse by going out and buying property before they have the environmental assessments and the water quality issues well thought out,’ Rinaman said…. The creek’s water quality is different including containing more phosphorus than the water of the Keystone Heights lakes… The pumping could degrade water quality downstream in the creek as well as the Keystone lakes. There also is forested flood plain that needs water and needs it on a routine basis… That means there can be ecological damage done to the areas that need that routine freshwater flood, Rinaman said… Still, a retired [UF] biologist… noted the higher phosphorus content of the creek water was among the factors leading the [DEP] to reject a proposal to pump Black Creek water to the Keystone lakes several years ago.” Read Controversial Black Creek water project progressing
Adam Smith and Sara DiNatale report for the Tampa Bay Times – “A couple of hundred beach lovers, including assorted local and federal elected officials, clasped hands on Clearwater Beach Saturday to draw a line in the sand against offshore drilling. ‘As long as I’m around there’s not going to be any oil rigs out there,’ Sen. Bill Nelson declared… Held annually since the Deep Water Horizon explosion in 2010, the “Hands Across the Sand” demonstration was among 119 similar events staged simultaneously in 18 states and seven countries. This year’s demonstration occurred as President Donald Trump’s administration seeks to open more of the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean to oil exploration…. Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos noted that 40 percent of all jobs in Pinellas are linked to tourism, making environmental stewardship – from offshore drilling to litter – essential to the area’s economy and way of life.” Read Hundreds hold hands against offshore drilling on gulf beaches
Chad Gillis reports for News-Press – “The state is finishing a Glades County project that will chip away at water storage needs in the Caloosahatchee River watershed and help protect the estuary during heavy rain events.” Read State restoring parts of Caloosahatchee headwaters
Karen Esty writes for the Citrus County Chronicle – “In the path of the Coastal Connector are hundreds of acres of conservation areas… Potentially eligible historic sites will be destroyed, depending on the corridor selection. The true motive for the connector is Tampa to Jacksonville – port to port, and that’s it. Taxpayers should be outraged due to the fact that our legislators have not funded… Florida Forever… in several years. The program used to get $300 million…” Read Natural resources destroyed by ‘Coastal Connector’
From Our Readers
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Upcoming Environmental Events
May 22 – June 23 – Solar United Neighbors is hosting several solar co-op information sessions around Florida throughout the next few months. Attendees will learn about solar equipment, financing, and the benefits of joining a solar co-op. For a complete list of sessions, click here.
May 23, 5:30 pm – Attend Before the Flood at the Pensacola Public Library (239 N. Spring St.) in Pensacola. Before the Flood is a film that follows actor Leonardo DiCaprio to five continents and the Arctic to witness climate change firsthand. Following the film, 350 Pensacola and Northwest Florida Move to Amend will discuss how the influence of corporate money in politics is delaying action on climate change and how the public can take action to free the political system of that influence. Light refreshments will be served. For more information, email email@example.com.
June 2, 10:00 AM – Join the FCC for a Beach Clean Up & Celebration in Jacksonville Beach. The Celebration at 5:00 pm features BBQ, vendors, and a charity raffle benefiting the FCC. For more information, click here.
June 5, 12:00 PM – Attend Springs Academy Tuesdays, a lunchtime lecture series on Florida’s springs, in High Springs. June’s lecture is on “Water Chemistry – General, Nutrients, Trace Contaminants” with Chemist, Lisa Saupp. All lectures are free and open to the public. A recommended donation of $5 is appreciated. For more information click here or call (386) 454-9369.
June 8- June 10 – Attend Give Springs a Break in High Springs. Give Springs a Break is an educational retreat for students and young professionals. Along with creative skill workshops and fun activities, students will have the opportunity to learn from leading environmental scientists and advocates about freshwater and Florida’s springs. Admission to the event includes camping, kayaking, swimming, snorkeling, tubing, spring-side yoga, meals, and a reusable event bag. For more information and to buy your tickets, click here.
June 16, 10:00 am – Join the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute on a paddle outing exploring the Weeki Wachee River and Springs. Kayak/canoe rental with shuttle is $35 and shuttle only is $20. A boat launch fee of $6 will also apply. For more information and to register, contact Adventure Outpost at (386) 454 – 0611.
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