|Suwannee Progress Recommendations to the North Central Florida Water Supply Working Group|
Date: January 23, 2012
To: North Central Florida Water Supply Working Group
From: Tim Williams, Suwannee Progress, Water Resources Sub-Committee Chair
Subject: Suwannee Progress Recommendations to the North Central Florida Water
Supply Working Group
Suwannee Progress congratulates our local county governments and the currently elected County Commissioners for addressing the declining water levels and water supply in North Central Florida. We salute your acknowledgement that all people, agriculture, business and industry, tourism and the environment, depend upon water, our most precious natural resource.
We offer the following as a foundation for dialogue, to expedite formulation of an effective plan to best address these issues, and as evidence of our support for certain ideals which we feel must be incorporated into an effective process in order to obtain the desired result for our region and the State of Florida. We hope to work closely with you to ensure that we achieve protection and availability of our future Water Supply Needs in perpetuity for North Central Florida.
Below please find a grouping of ideals we are hopeful the working group will implement through this process:
Non Duplication of Process, Planning, Study, Report, or Scientific Analysis
As a rule, we don’t need, nor do we want, more bureaucracy. We should, therefore, caution ourselves against and agree not to replicate or duplicate Suwannee River Water Management District or DEP activity. Our Tax Dollars are already at work with these agencies. We should include these agencies in our process. We may find that they are slow and ineffective, but they are working on long term solutions to these problems.
The Florida Forrest Service, Florida Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Soil and Water Conservation Districts, etc., all have funding, expertise, resources and responsibility in this area and should be included now at the beginning of this process.
Costly consultants and lawyers can often eat up a budget and fail to deliver the desired result.
We strongly suggest including the Land Grant University system in the beginning stages of this process as we believe this is the best way to obtain the desired result based on unbiased cost effective science.
The first priority should be to engage the Land Grant University System or a competent consulting group to identify all applicable completed or ongoing science relative to water supply in the applicable region. Based on that analysis, define the region, identify gaps in knowledge and create a scope of work to obtain the “gap info” required.
Second priority would be to engage a consultant to analyze all applicable laws, rules and regulations that apply to water use and supply, protection, etc. Then consider what mechanisms are in place currently which may be applied to protect our water supply and or obtain injunctive relief until the “gap knowledge” is obtained or new more appropriate laws, rules and regulations can be created and adopted. There may be enforcement of existing rules and regulations which should be happening and these areas should be identified as well.
Engage State Land Grant University Resources
As stated above, we should leverage these resources and acknowledge their work as being desirable, unbiased and cost effective. Some of our members have seen the University of Florida science employed to resolve long standing difficult water resource issues involving multiple state and federal agencies in Florida and we recommend them for this process.
Include and Empower the Public in This Process
Each county should identify stakeholders and immediately create a mechanism or methodology empowering their participation in the working group.
The format for public participation could include formulation of a Working Group Advisory Committee. This committee could meet to craft a scope of work and recommendations as to structure, form, content, funding and administration of the group. They could oversee the actual creation of a scope of work for hiring consultants to deliver required input, etc. All actions would take the form of recommendations to the Working Group Boardmembers who would then act upon, modify or decline the recommendations of the advisory committee.
Three separate public workshops or charrette’s should be planned to coincide with seminal points in the process.
What is a Charrette? A charrette is an intensive planning session where citizens, designers and others collaborate on a vision for development. It provides a forum for ideas and offers the unique advantage of giving immediate feedback to the designers. More importantly, it allows everyone who participates to be a mutual author of the plan.
Having public “ownership” of the process is critical to maintain broad unified support so as to ensure positive legislative or other types of final action.
The first point to include the public would be after deciding upon a format or structure, defining what you hope to accomplish, and how you plan on proceeding.
The second point would be when you get back the “science gap assessment” and applicable current law/rules and regulation information.
The third would be after you incorporate all the above including the public comments and have developed specific actions and language which need to be implemented.
Consider Including the Federal Legislative Branch
All indications are that the state of Georgia will be a major player in the ultimate resolution of these issues. All available science we have reviewed seems to indicate that a good portion of our water supply originates in Georgia. Some mechanism of cross state jurisdiction should be explored and considered at the outset of this process.
The following are included for illustrative purposes only. We feel the St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD) displays a high level of sophistication, attention to detail and crafts a positive public message. Only by “beating them at their own game” or changing the rules can we expect to obtain what we desire with ease.
The SJWMD seems to be applying the current requirements to bring their local governments into compliance. This may be an area where legal action could provide injunctive relief. If the SJWMD is not in compliance or their local governments fail that same test, perhaps no more withdrawal permits should be issued until they comply?
Bottom Line? They seem to be attempting to meet their responsibilities under the current law/regulations. The following is from their website.
Traditional water supply sources in some areas of Florida are not sufficient to meet the future needs of the state’s growing population and the needs of the environment, agriculture, industry and mining. Water management districts have identified areas where existing and planned water supply sources will not be able to meet all future needs without resulting in unacceptable impacts to water resources and related natural systems. Legislative changes to growth management laws were made in 2002, 2004 and 2005 to more effectively address the state’s water supply situation by improving the link between local governments’ land use plans and water management districts’ regional water supply plans. Local governments must address the enhanced water supply planning requirements by demonstrating that future land use map amendments are based upon the availability of water supplies and water supply facilities and by completingupdates to their comprehensive plans and adopting related amendments. The information provided below is to assist local governments in complying with the enhanced water supply planning requirements.
Future land use map amendments
The legislative changes require comprehensive plan amendments, including map changes or policy changes relative to the set of land uses allowed on the Future Land Use Map, to be based upon the availability of water supplies and water supply facilities. Guidelines regarding the appropriate data and analysis to support the amendments are being developed by the Department of Community Affairs (DCA), in coordination with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the water management districts.
St. Johns River Water Management District (District) has developed a “Potable Water Availability Work Sheet” that is designed to help local governments calculate changes in water demand and identify water supply availability, considering infrastructure, permitted allocation under consumptive use permits and source. Local governments can submit the completed work sheet as data and analysis in support of future land use map amendments or provide the information requested on the work sheet in their staff reports used to support the amendments.
Required updates to comprehensive plans
The legislative changes require local governments to update their comprehensive plans to address water supply planning and to adopt related amendments. Guidelines regarding how to complete the updates and amendments have been developed by the Department of Community Affairs (DCA), in coordination with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the water management districts. Many of the comprehensive plan updates are now linked to water management districts approving updated regional water supply plans. Senate Bill 360 and Senate Bill 444, enacted in 2005, created that link. For local governments within the District, the comprehensive plan updates are required subsequent to the Governing Board approving an update to the District Water Supply Plan (DWSP).
The District’s Governing Board approved an updated DWSP on February 7, 2006. Many local governments are now required to update their comprehensive plans to incorporate alternative water supply projects selected from the water supply development projects identified in the DWSP or proposed by the local governments. In addition, local governments in areas identified as priority water resource caution areas in the DWSP are now required to update their comprehensive plans to identify alternative and traditional water supply projects, conservation and reuse necessary to meet the water needs in their jurisdictions and to include a 10-year work plan for building public, private and regional water supply facilities that are necessary to meet the water needs. Additional information regarding the DWSP, alternative water supply projects and priority water resource caution areas is available on the District’s website.
Here’s an example of how SJWMD is using the current framework of laws and policy to present a pro-active image of addressing the “problems” while permitting necessary withdrawals to secure future supply for users in their system. Taken from their website.
Implementation of Senate bills 360 and 444
Traditional water supply sources in some areas of Florida are not sufficient to meet the future needs of the state's growing population and the needs of the environment, agriculture, industry and mining. Some of those areas are in the St. Johns River Water Management District. In fact, about 40 percent of the District has been identified as a priority water resource caution area where existing and planned sources of supply will not be able to meet all future needs without resulting in unacceptable impacts to water resources and related natural systems.
Addressing these water issues was a priority during the 2005 legislative session. Two bills — Senate Bill 360 and Senate Bill 444 — were passed and signed into law by former-Gov. Jeb Bush. This legislation focuses on encouraging cooperation in the development of alternative water supplies and improving the linkage between local governments' land use plans and water management districts’ regional water supply plans.
Information about the legislative requirements and the District’s implementation plans for the requirements are provided below.
Please refer any questions you may have about this recommendation report to Tim Williams 386 590 9015.