Action Alert: comments needed immediately on statewide environmental, economic policy changes

 

On Wednesday, January 23rd, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection will hold a public hearing to receive final comments on important statewide policy changes that could weaken our State’s ability to respond to future environmental and economic needs. The Florida Conservation Coalition has serious concerns regarding proposed amendments to Chapter 62.40 of the Florida Administrative Code. In general, we contend that in striving for consistency fundamental protections for our natural resources will be lost and Florida’s economy will suffer. In addition to policy concerns, the Department of Environmental Protection lacks statutory authority to carry out these changes.

Read below and email or phone Secretary Vinyard (Phone: 1-850-245-2011; email: herschel.vinyard@dep.state.fl.us) to tell him you support the FCC’s proposal for balanced water management. Proposed changes limit the authority of Florida’s Water Management Districts to reduce the amount of water permitted to a user in a variety of situation. As water shortages develop, this could restrict the ability of new reasonable -beneficial users to successfully receive a permit for water use, reserving water for inefficient users while stifling economic growth in the future.  Further, giving existing water users across the board rights to bank unneeded quantities of water lessens their responsibility to reduce their actual water use when it is necessary to meet the needs of the environment. In short, by giving up management flexibility, the State is unwisely restricting its abilities to oversee the public’s interests in protecting our economy and environment.

The FCC also opposes proposed statewide criteria for supplementation of reclaimed water. As currently drafted the amendment gives unwarranted encouragement to utilities who might seek to deliver or use reclaimed water, thereby discouraging reasonable conservation measures. On its face, these proposed criteria downgrade the conservation value and the stated benefits of water reuse. Removing millions of gallons a day of surface waters for supplementation from the flow of Florida’s rivers, lakes and streams will worsen existing pollution problems, increase salinity levels, and adversely impact the fisheries, wildlife, and submerged vegetation in and along the water bodies. In the instances where supplementation is allowed, risk to our natural resources must be prevented. The application of appropriate engineering and regulation of the use of reclaimed water will markedly reduce or, if properly managed, eliminate the need for supplementation of reuse systems.

The Florida Conservation Coalition has proposed the following language be added to the amendment to promote environmental restoration:

(c) The use of water for supplementation shall be considered provided the applicant demonstrates that:

1. The supplementation will reduce the amount of reclaimed water disposed and result in a net reduction of water withdrawn from surface or groundwater, or make additional water available for implementation plans for minimum flows and levels, recovery and prevention strategies, basin area management plans or SWIM plans.

The FCC also encourages Florida’s Water Management Districts to be more receptive to public input and place greater emphasis on public concern. Therefore, the FCC proposes than in deciding whether or not to undertake a voluntary peer review of Minimum Flows and Levels the following language be added: (d) The degree of public concern regarding the minimum flows and levels. When a district declines to undertake a voluntary peer review and the public has expressed concern that one should be conducted, the district should specifically state how public concern was taken into account.

The FCC also strongly advocates for the preservation of regional differences in the implementation of water Reservations and for all consumptive use water conservation matters, regulations and incentives, to be considered comprehensively in the next phase of rulemaking.

Email or phone Secretary Vinyard before Wednesday, January 23rd, to tell him you support the FCC’s proposal for balanced water management:

Phone:  1-850-245-2011 Email: herschel.vinyard@dep.state.fl.us

 

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