CONSERVATION REPORT by Whitey Markle


Adena/Sleepy Creek C.U.P. approved by SJRWMD

Despite having appealed decision to transfer a Consumptive water Use Permit (C.U.P.) for 14.2 million gallons/day (GPD) of fresh groundwater the Florida Administrative Code (F.A.C.), the St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD) Governing Board approved it on July 14th.

50 persons spent the afternoon in Palatka protesting a recommendation from an administrative law Judge (ALJ) a few months back. We would dearly love to thank each and every person that showed up or wrote in in protest of this bad decision.

I wish I could say here and now that we are moving ahead to appeal this decision to a real court, but despite my inquiries, no news is forthcoming at this moment.   It is my humble opinion that citizens of Florida must get past the F.A.C. roadblock in order to get to a just court room.

Administrative Law Judges are appointed by the good Governor and, like most successful workers, they follow the instruction of the boss. The excuse for the “recommendation” which the District’s attorney said mandated an approval by the Board, was the Florida Administrative Code. And, of a matter of course, the Governing Board subsequently voted unanimously in favor of approval.

201507 Whitey Silver Springs

Silver Springs

I was quoted in the Orlando Sentinel and the Ocala Star-Banner for saying that the water managers should “stop worshipping the sacred cow called Agriculture and start paying attention to the true science” (not skewed modeling from within). I also pointed out that in Florida agriculture is using 40% of our water and producing 4% of our total state economy. Unfortunately the papers only reported that agriculture is using 40% of our fresh water and omitted the comparison to their production.

There must be a handle attached to the big farmers in Florida. And this is a monumental task for us. Adam Putnam, Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture, is very popular among young and old Republicans alike. He is very likely to be our next governor, so beware of more of the same insider political policy-making when he is elected after Governor Scott’s next (and last) 3 years is over.

One great example of how the Ag. People work is the system of “projects” that the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (F.D.E.P.) runs when implementing their Basin Management Action Plans (BMAP’s). Farmers or other entities such as municipal utilities and local governments are awarded stipend under a “Cost Share” program administered by the Water Management Districts. In the Silver Springs BMAP, $4million has been awarded so far to 20+ projects in the name of “water efficiency/improvement/conservation”.

I asked the representatives from the SJRWMD staff who were present at the July 23rd BMAP were meeting in Ocala to tell us exactly what the ratio of sharing is. After much squirming, one of them finally said that these gifts were at the rate of 90% to 10% this year and 75% to 25% next year. So this tells me that not only is the “cost-sharing” program really a gift program, but it is also ongoing. In other words, these were the first of several gifts granted in the BMAP budget.

Another issue I hammered home (on mostly deaf ears) is the fact that, like the Orange Creek Basin BMAP that is already approved by the Governor and Cabinet, there is a gross lack of adequate funding in the (draft) BMAP to fund the goals and objectives of the plan. If the plan is adopted, which it will be very soon, without adequate funding, milestones, monitoring, and projects that do indeed improve the Basin’s water quality (that is the reason for mandatory BMAPs to begin with), then the syndrome will continue to revolve. The administrators from FDEP simply shrugged their shoulders and blamed the prior administrations (since the Clean Water Act of 1972) for the rising percentages of pollutants in our drinking water and water bodies.

Ever since I have been involved with the Conservation issues and their state agency counterparts, I have noticed a massive and universal lack of urgency in the work by agency staff and administration. They are appointed to the positions of responsibility and they appear to be doing what they have to do under the circumstances. It appears that they are caught between the devil and the Sea. I feel that it is my obligation as your Conservation Chair to point out this lack of urgency as well as the deficiency in the official plans.

These BMAP’s, when approved, become part of that impossibly penetrable Florida Administrative Code, like all other state plans, making the public’s ability to be involved in those plans that much more difficult.

It has been said lately that Florida is the most corrupt state in the union and I am sorry to say I am beginning to believe it.

Suing the agencies over policy decisions such as BMAPs and C.U.P’s is time-consuming and expensive, (The Adena Springs/Sleepy Creek C.U.P. administrative appeal took several years from the beginning to the end and cost all parties involved something like $300,000 by the time the judge issued his recommendations), but the greatest problem is that you can’t sue over policy that is “legal”. The F.A.C. makes all these bad policies “legal”. This is why I premised my meager 2 minute statement to the SJRWMD Governing Board with, “We’ve been Out-Moneyed”.

Does anyone have an extra Million Dollars we could use to go to court with? That’s about what it would take to get a fair shake in this Florida system. And the sad part is that the money the agencies use against the public is public money. How did it ever get this way?

SUPER-SIZED HOG FARM AND PROCESSING PLANT ASKING FOR PERMITTING IN LEVY COUNTY BY SLEEPY CREEK/ADENA

Adena Springs (owned by the same Frank Stronach that owns the massive grass-fed beef processing plant and farm in Ft. McCoy (Marion County) and the culprit in the afore-mentioned C.U.P. deliberations has applied for a modification of an existing C.U.P. by the Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD) to graze 70,000 hogs near Chiefland in Levy County. Although he has not asked for a C.U.P. for the processing plant, he has indeed asked for a Special Exception to the Land Use Plan by the Levy County Planning and Zoning department.

201507 Whitey PigsFortunately there is a little time to lodge a challenge. We call upon any and all Levy County citizens to get involved in protesting this massive enterprise. We can, with some effort by citizens, produce an effect public relations campaign to attempt to persuade the Levy County Planning and Zoning Board to deny this Special Exception. We are again up against a giant, but we think this is an issue that deserves our effort. Please email me at whmarkle@gmail.com or 352-595-5131.

MULTI-USE STATE PARKS?

With the onset of the Governor’s plan to change our Florida State Parks from single use to multiple use, the vulnerability of our conservation lands becomes an item of more importance. Privatization, farming, and timbering are the 3 uses that first come to mind. Can you imagine places like Oleno and Devil’s Millhopper with no trees? Harvesting of Alligator eggs and Palmetto berries201507 Whitey Alligator by private corporations? Hunting on nature trails (closed to birders and hikers during hunting season)?   Florida’s parks have been lauded nationwide for their quality and beauty for decades. People come from all over the world to see the Florida State Parks. It makes no sense whatsoever to convert them into industrial/commercial sites now. Is there no place left where citizens can go and appreciate natural beauty without commercial interference?

Hopefully we can successfully defend our State Parks in the face of such disdain and disrespect.