Staff recommends approval of the resolution in support of St. Johns River Water Management District’s plan for use of the St. Johns River as a surface water source.
The St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD) is mandated by the Florida Legislature to develop a District-wide water supply plan. In brief, that plan must determine both needs and sources for future water needs. The District has established the aquifer cannot continue to sustain increased yields beyond the year 2013, as a practical matter. Therefore, the District, as mandated, has identified a number of sources of water to meet future needs. These sources are delineated further in the District’s Water Supply Plan. For this purpose, three sources are of significance to the City of Leesburg and Lake County in general: Seminole County’s Yankee Lake project on the St. Johns River, the St. Johns River at Deland, and the Lower Ocklawaha River. The other viable, future water source for long-term needs is the sea water project the Commission authorized participation in several weeks ago.
With regard to surface waters (the St. Johns River in particular), two key issues are associated with the issuance of consumptive use permits. The first is the establishment of Minimum Flows and Levels; the second is the degree to which any particular project may cause environmental damage. Taking each in turn:
The District has established Minimum Flows and Levels for the St. Johns River for the vicinity of Yankee Lake and the river at Deland, among other locations throughout the length of the river. Minimum Flows and Levels are set to establish the water quantities available at the specific sites – one may not withdraw water in such quantity as to decrease either water level or flow level below those minimum levels.
The concerns relating to environmental harm are generally two-fold: the first is a presumed increase in salinity in the river water associated with removal of water and subsequent release of the concentrate back into the river, and the localized environmental concerns relating to the release of the concentrate and the blending of that release with river flow. For the first concern, the District has presented credible data which shows the increase in salinity is several orders of magnitude less than the normal changes in salinity associated with tidal flow. The second concern is a matter which will be addressed through engineering design and the permitting process for the construction of the plant through FDEP rules, in addition to District permitting. As a biologist, I believe neither concern is of significance – the first because nature itself produces greater changes and the second because I believe there are suitable engineering solutions to minimize any risk to the environment.
Seminole County is required to develop a surface water source, as a condition of their permit. They have been pursuing this requirement for at least four years, to my knowledge. They have, as required, submitted an application for withdrawal of 5.5 MGD of surface water from the St. Johns River at Yankee Lake. This application has been challenged.
Seminole County has asked those agencies, such as Leesburg, which may find themselves with future CUP conditions to use surface waters to voice support for Seminole County’s application. The City should support this request for several reasons:
1. Approve the resolution as presented, or;
2. Such alternative action as the Commission may deem appropriate
There is no fiscal impact to this action.
Department: Environmental Services
Prepared by: R. Sharp
Attachments: Yes X No ______
Advertised: ____Not Required ______
Attorney Review : Yes X No ____
Reviewed by: Dept. Head RSS
Finance Dept. __________________
Deputy C.M. ________EFS ______
City Manager ___________________
Account No. N/A
Project No. ___________________
WF No. ______________________
A RESOLUTION OF THE CITY COMMISSION OF THE CITY OF LEESBURG, FLORIDA, SUPPORTING THE ST. JOHNS RIVER WATER MANAGEMENT DISTRICT’S PLANNING FOR THE USE OF THE ST. JOHNS RIVER AS A SURFACE WATER SOURCE, OPPOSING A MORATORIUM ON THE ISSUANCE OF CONSUMPTIVE USE PERMITS FOR WITHDRAWALS FROM THE ST. JOHNS RIVER; SUPPORTING THE ISSUANCE OF A CONSUMPTIVE USE PERMIT TO SEMINOLE COUNTY FOR THE WITHDRAWAL OF 5.5 MILLION GALLONS PER DAY FROM THE ST. JOHNS RIVER; PROVIDING AN EFFECTIVE DATE; AND PROVIDING FOR ADOPTION.
WHEREAS, the St. Johns River Water Management District (District) has adopted rules requiring public water supply utilities located in the Central Florida Coordination Area (“CFCA”) to develop alternative water supplies, such as surface water from the St. Johns River to meet their post-2013 demands;
WHEREAS, the City of Leesburg, acting in conjunction with other municipalities in Lake County has developed and adopted a county-wide water supply plan which identified two project sites located on the St. Johns River, as potential alternative water supply sources for meeting its post-2013 demands;
WHEREAS, the District has conducted deliberative and reasoned evaluations and planning for the withdrawal of reasonable quantities of water from the St. Johns River to meet future water demands in the region;
WHEREAS, as a result of the District’s CFCA rules and planning initiatives, and in concurrence with the county-wide water supply plan the City of Leesburg has a substantial interest in supporting the District’s efforts to fully develop the St. Johns River as a supply source through the issuance of consumptive use permits (“CUP”) and to oppose any attempts by downstream communities to impose politically motivated, non-scientific limitations on the use of the St. Johns River by restricting the issuance of CUPs for alternative source of water;
WHEREAS, the City of Leesburg recognizes the importance to its residents and property owners of the St. Johns River as a supply source in accordance with the county-wide water supply plan,;
WHEREAS, the District also provides input through the District Water Supply Plan and grant funding efforts as to the ability of local governments to obtain future CUPs or the expansion of the yield permitted by a CUP;
WHEREAS, this input is critical to local government and provides the basis for local governments to plan for new water plants or the expansion of existing facilities to meet consumer demands, a process that can take years and is very costly;
WHEREAS, the process employed by the District in issuing CUPs, developing water supply plans and approving alternative water supply grants is based on scientific data and principles rather than bureaucratic osmosis, and panic-driven hyperbole;
WHEREAS, some residents and commercial interests, especially in the Lower St. Johns River Basin, have become concerned about the issuance of CUPs for the withdrawal of water from the St. Johns River;
WHEREAS, these same groups of residents and commercial interests have raised concerns that the District is issuing “assurances” that are being relied upon by local government and which are not permitted by law;
WHEREAS, there is a belief by some members of these groups that the District is potentially allowing too much water to be withdrawn from the Upper and Middle St. Johns River Basins and this will ultimately have a negative effect on the environment and the economy of the Lower St. Johns River Basin;
WHEREAS, the City of Leesburg recognizes that the District has previously set minimum flows and levels (“MFLs”) at numerous locations to protect the water levels within the St. Johns River, and that these MFLs are based on scientific data and principles rather than unsubstantiated fears;
WHEREAS, the City of Leesburg finds that notwithstanding the concerns of various interests, the process by which MFLs have been set, input given, and CUPs issued, modified, or monitored, is rigorous and protective of the water resources and natural environment of the St. Johns River;
WHEREAS, Seminole County has proposed obtaining a CUP for the withdrawal of 5.5 MGD for reclaimed water augmentation and public water supply, and may ultimately look to withdraw an additional 80 MGD from the St. Johns River for public water supply;
WHEREAS, the Seminole County CUP and future water supply plans have stimulated two groups of interests based in the Lower St. Johns River Basin, including the St. Johns Riverkeeper, Inc. (“Riverkeeper”) and The Public Trust Environmental Law Institute of Florida, Inc. (the “Institute”), to file a Verified Petition with the District, in effect seeking a moratorium on the issuance of CUPs and assurances relating to the withdrawal of surface water from the St. Johns River or the Ocklawaha River for failure to set certain MFLs that can be safely withdrawn from the St. Johns River without endangering the water resources or the ecology of the area;
WHEREAS, the City of Leesburg was extremely disturbed to learn of the notice of intent to file suit against the District in the form of the Verified Petition;
WHEREAS, the Verified Petition, if acted upon in a manner to implement its goals, could have the effect of crippling the local potable water systems and possibly causing a public health emergency among local water users;
WHEREAS, the Verified Petition may be implemented in such a way as to prohibit any requests to permit new withdrawals of surface water from the St. Johns River, as well as barring any requests to modify existing permits to address the needs for the expansion of a potable water system;
WHEREAS, the City of Leesburg finds that the Verified Petition does not set forth a reasonable factual or legal justification for the severe impact that would occur to the water suppliers and consuming public in the Upper St. Johns River Basin, if the relief requested by the Verified Petition is granted;
WHEREAS, the City of Leesburg finds that the Verified Petition creates the false impression that the District has acted hastily and without good science in regulating the surface water use of the St. Johns River;
WHEREAS, the City of Leesburg finds that the District has been a good steward of the water resources under its jurisdiction;
WHEREAS, Section 373.042(1), Florida Statutes, requires each water management district to adopt and establish MFLs for all surface watercourses in the area, the MFL being the minimum water flow for a given watercourse at which further withdrawals would be significantly harmful to the water resources or ecology of the area;
WHEREAS, Section 373.042(2), Florida Statutes, requires each water management district to adopt and submit to the Department of Environmental Protection a priority list and schedule for the establishment of minimum flows and levels;
WHEREAS, Section 373.042(2) further provides that “the development of a priority list and compliance with the schedule for the establishment of minimum flows and levels pursuant to this subsection shall satisfy the requirements of” Section 373.042(1), Florida Statutes;
WHEREAS, on February 13, 2008, the District issued a consumptive use technical staff report for CUP application number 95581, recommending the approval to withdraw 5.5 MGD from the St. Johns River by Seminole County at Seminole County’s Yankee Lake facility;
WHEREAS, the Seminole County’s proposed 5.5 MGD from the St. Johns River is only one quarter of one percent of the approximately 2 billion gallons per day which flows through the St. Johns River ten miles downstream of Seminole County’s proposed withdrawal point;
WHEREAS, several entities based in North Florida have filed petitions challenging the issuance of a CUP to Seminole County authorizing withdrawals from the St. Johns River;
WHEREAS, the District has thoroughly evaluated the amount of water that can be safely withdrawn from the St. Johns River, and has concluded that the 5.5 MGD proposed by Seminole County will not have any adverse impacts on the St. Johns River or any uses of the river system;
WHEREAS the City of Leesburg fully supports the issuance of the CUP to Seminole County as part of the District’s well-considered plans to develop the St. Johns River as an alternative water supply source for Central Florida; and
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE CITY COMMISSION OF THE CITY OF LEESBURG:
SECTION 1. That the City of Leesburg
(a) Supports the District’s measured actions to plan for and permit the use of reasonable quantities of water from the St. Johns River as an alternative water supply source to meet the future water demands of public water supply use in Central Florida;
(b) Opposes any moratorium on the issuance of consumptive use permits by the District for the withdrawal of water from the St. Johns River;
(c) Supports the issuance of a consumptive use permit number 95581 by the District to Seminole County for the withdrawal of 5.5 million gallons per day from the St. Johns River.
SECTION 2. This Resolution shall become effective immediately upon its adoption.
SECTION 3. This Resolution was duly adopted on the _27th_ day of _May , 2008.
THE CITY OF LEESBURG, FLORIDA