HIGH SPRINGS – A study conducted by the Suwannee River Water Management (SRWMD) will likely lead to tighter regulations on water use and consumptive use permits according.
Speaking at the July 11, 2013 High Springs City commission meeting, SRWMD Assistant Executive Director Jon Dinges discussed a project his agency has been working on to establish minimum flows and water levels of the Santa Fe and Ichetucknee rivers. This project is referred to as The Lower Santa Fe River and Ichetucknee River and Priority Springs Minimum Flows and Levels (MFLs).
Florida Statutes direct the state’s water management districts to establish a baseline of the minimum amount of water required to keep rivers healthy for fish, the passage of fish through the river and recreation, as well as to continue to provide water to communities.
Dinges identified the study area as the lower Ichetucknee, Worthington Springs to Leon State Park and down to the Suwannee River. “The area is chock full of springs that need to be protected as well as the rivers,” he said.
Dinges mentioned several ways in which the SRWMD obtains comments from the public and anyone interested in knowing more about the study, how it was conducted and what it is designed to do.
The SRWMD held a science exposition at their district headquarters July 2, 2013, answering questions about the work and their methodology and requested input from attendees. A stakeholder advisory committee meeting of the North Florida Regional Water Supply Partnership was scheduled for July 15 at Florida Gateway College in Lake City. A July 17 meeting at the University of Florida Water Institute for peer reviews had also been scheduled.
“The degree of public involvement is very high,” said Dinges. “We continue to seek input from the public through our web site and will continue peer review and public input through mid October.”
Dinges encouraged anyone interested in providing feedback to use their online comment form or send an email to MFLs@srwmd.org. Although they will not be responding to public comments individually, the water management district will complete responses to public comments at the same time responses to the peer review are completed.
Once the minimums are established, Dinges said Senate Bill 244 gives the water management districts the ability to hand off the data to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for adoption. It will establish the distribution of water use across north Florida, he explained.
Once approved by DEP, it will be considered as a flow level standard. “It is expected to provide a mechanism to help the water management districts work together on each water body,” said Dinges. With the effects of rainfall and water withdrawals, actual flow has dipped below minimum water levels in the past.
Dinges expects that consumptive use permitting will be an important component of water regulations. “Instead of issuing 20-year duration permits, they may be issued for a shorter time period,” said Dinges.
Applicants may be required to provide more stringent water recovery projects as a condition of being issued a permit. Applicants may also have to start participating in water management projects financially. They may have to design and implement their own mitigation projects and have them in place before a permit is issued. “We have to very carefully look at allocations of water and could require an estimate of water use from anyone wishing to drill a well that is 8 inches or larger,” he said.
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