Tag Archives: Law

Capitol Conservation Day 2021-03-03

No need to trek to Atlanta this year to show Georgia state legislators that many people and organizations throughout the state care about water. Capitol Conservation Day is online, this Wednesday, March 3, 2021.

When: 12-1:30 PM, Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Where: Online: register here
https://nwf-org.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJAodumqpzgsHtNgHr3nLG6rX7m4gw_7fY_f

Event: facebook
Don’t forget to register, then you can click Going on the facebook event to encourage others.

What: Experts from the Georgia Water Coalition will brief you on important legislative issues. Then you will put your new skills and information to work! Following the event, meet with your local legislators virtually to advocate in support of important legislation.

[2019 and 2020]
2019 and 2020

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

You can join this fun and work by becoming a WWALS member today!

The regulatory trap at SRWMD: 30 speakers, yet unanimous Nestle permit 2021-02-23

A textbook case: “We present our three-minute, passionate oration about the risk to community health, but in the end, nothing we say must be taken into account by the state in issuing the permit.&rdqup; Common Sense: Community Rights Organizing, by CELDF; thanks to Karma Norjin Lhamo for the reminder.

[Mermaid, Suwannee Riverkeeper, OSFR, Regulatory Fallacy, Charles Keith, Attorneys, Motion to Permit, unanimous SRWMD Board]
Mermaid, Suwannee Riverkeeper, OSFR, Regulatory Fallacy, Charles Keith, Attorneys, Motion to Permit, unanimous SRWMD Board

About 30 speakers gave impassioned orations for denial, after which the Suwannee River Water Management District Board unanimously approved the Nestlé permit as fast as the roll could be called.

[SRWMD Board: Larry Thompson, Lower Suwannee Basin; Charles Keith, At Large; Virginia H. Johns, Chair, At Large; Virginia Sanchez, At Large; Charles Schwab, Coastal Rivers Basin; Harry Smith, At Large; Larry Sessions, Upper Suwannee Basin]
SRWMD Board: Larry Thompson, Lower Suwannee Basin; Charles Keith, At Large; Virginia H. Johns, Chair, At Large; Virginia Sanchez, At Large; Charles Schwab, Coastal Rivers Basin; Harry Smith, At Large; Larry Sessions, Upper Suwannee Basin. Notice nobody on the SRWMD Board representing the Santa Fe River Basin. Water taxation without representation.

As one prominent local activist said afterwards, “Two years out of my life I’ll never get back! I don’t know if I’ll ever come back here.”

Sure, voting in a governor who would appoint better WMD board members would help, and into the legislature, too. New legislators would help pass what is really needed: a Bill of Rights for Nature.

That is a way out of the Regulatory Fallacy Box. Continue reading

Help SRWMD reject Nestle permit 2021-02-23

You can help the Suwannee River Water Management District Board uphold the public interest and reject Nestlé’s water withdrawal permit application.

[Agenda, Board, No Permit]
Agenda, Board, No Permit

Even SRWMD’s legal counsel only recommends approving the Seven Springs permit “under protest.” The DOAH judge’s Order is actually only a RECOMMENDATION, and the District filed eighteen pages of exceptions to that Order. The judge disallowed most of those exceptions, but SRWMD is still holding open the possibility of appeal with that “under protest”.

The Judge’s Order dances around the basic question: is putting water in plastic bottles after taking it from the Floridan Aquifer next to a depleted river and springs, all for profit of a Swiss company, in the public interest? Florida law and the judge attempt to narrow what can be considered down what can be considered for the public interest to what is in Florida rules or a handbook, even though none of those adequately address the real issues. The plain fact is that a contract to sell water does not determine any public interst in cleaning up plastic bottles from our springs and rivers, nor does it determine any public interest in lower springs and rivers, with bad effects on wildlife, public use of those waters, and eventually on drinking water.

The SRWMD board can deny this permit because it is not in the public interest. You can help them do so.

It almost looks like the SRWMD counsel is asking people to come protest, since he repeatedly mentions that Our Santa Fe River (OSFR) filed legal motions and both Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson and Michael Roth spoke in the legal hearing. Disclosure: WWALS has provided some financial support for OSFR’s legal actions in this matter.

If you’re going to attend this Special Meeting in person, get there early to get a spot. To attend online, be sure to sign up for both the webinar and cal in for audio. If you want to comment, you must also sign up for that separately. Don’t wait for the second day: if that happens at all, there will be no public comment.

So come early on the first day, in person or online, Tuesday, February 23, 2021.

The entire SRWMD Special Meeting Board packet is on the WWALS website: https://www.wwals.net/pictures/2021-02-23–srwmd-nestle-special-meeting-packet/

Here is the agenda, with how to attend online: Continue reading

Nominating Okefenokee NWR for UNESCO World Heritage List 2021-01-26

The U.S. National Park Service in January announced a 15-day comment period for nominating sites to the UNESCO World Heritage List. We nominated the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, using testimony from some of WWALS members. I added the illustrations to this post of the WWALS nomination letter. And you can still help stop the titanium strip mine from locating too near the Swamp.

[Okefenokee Swamp, Suwannee River, birds, mine, paddlers]
Okefenokee Swamp, Suwannee River, birds, mine, paddlers


January 26, 2021

To: Jonathan Putnam
Office of International Affairs
National Park Service
1849 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20240
jonathan_putnam@nps.gov
(202) 354-1809

Re: Nominating Okefenokee NWR for UNESCO World Heritage List, Docket Number NPS-WASO-OIA-31249 PIN00IO14.XI0000

Dear Mr. Putnam,

As you know, the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge (ONWR) is on the UNESCO Tentative List for the United States, and thus is eligible for the U.S. to submit an ONWR nomination file.
https://whc.unesco.org/en/tentativelists/5252/

[Suwannee River in Okefenokee Swamp]
Suwannee River in Okefenokee Swamp
in WWALS map of all public landings in the Suwannee River Basin.
The purple line is the approximate actual divide between the Suwannee and St. Marys River watersheds in the Swamp, still being worked out with St. Marys Riverkeeper.

As Suwannee Riverkeeper and for our umbrella organization WWALS Watershed Coalition, Inc., I would like to encourage you to nominate ONWR this year. The vast majority of the Okefenokee Swamp is in the Suwannee River Basin, and some 85% of the outflow of the Swamp goes down the Suwannee River, which continues through Georgia and across Florida, where it is the subject of the state song, to the Gulf of Mexico.

[Okefenokee, Suwannee River, Gulf of Mexico]
Okefenokee, Suwannee River, Gulf of Mexico

WWALS member Bobby McKenzie sums it up from his perspective:

“As a world traveler for the past 20 plus years I must say that the Okefenokee Swamp holds its own when it comes to enchantment. I never would have thought I would have used the term enchantment to describe a swamp, but it happens to be the best one. My adventures have taken me to many places, each with their own charm and enchantment and history. I recall my first experience outside the United States, it was to the Chagos Archipelago part of the British Indian Ocean Territory. The crystal-clear waters of the islands and the sanctity of the massive coconut crabs and the hawksbill sea turtles. Soon I found myself living in South Korea and experiencing the Buddhist temples embedded in the cliffs of the East Sea (more well known as the Sea of Japan) and the fishing islands of Sunyu-do in the yellow sea. At Jeju Island with its botanical gardens, lava tubes, and extinct volcano, I ascended the stairs of Mt Sanbanggulsa Temple where a spring drips from the ceiling pools into the temple cave and had a ceremonial sip. Years living in Europe showed me the awe of the Dolomites, the Carpathian Mountains, the Iron Gates, the Danube Delta and the switchback road of Transfagarasan. I have met the wonders of the Black Forest, I’ve skied Mount Blanc, Matterhorn, and the Zugspitze and swam in the ocean at Vilamoura in Algarve with its ocean caves. I dove the cliffs of Ischia and enjoyed the hot thermal springs of the Mediterranean. I’ve hiked miles through the Ardennes Forests and the ancient vineyards along the Mosel River. I have witnessed the famed White Cliffs of Dover, the puzzling Stonehenge, the North Sea, English Channel, and the beaches of Normandy. My time in Hawaii introduced me to the many natural phenomena such as the Makapu Tide Pools, the Queen’s Bath at Moku Nui, and the Mermaid Caves in Nanakuli. The pill boxes at Lanikai, Coco Head along with the Hidden Lagoon offered breath-taking views of the island of Oahu.

[Bobby McKenzie in canopy towards Floyd's Island]
Photo: Gretchen Quarterman, of Bobby McKenzie in canopy towards Floyd’s Island 2020-11-07

“There are many places I that I can recall that I have not mentioned. But all these places share one thing in common, they are amazing places that most people have never heard of or will see in their lifetime. They are all wonderous and inspiring places in their own right. This is true with the Okefenokee Swamp. I first learned of the Okefenokee as I was planning my move to South Georgia from Hawaii. I was searching for outdoor activities and the first thing I came across was a website talking about 120 miles of water trail and multiple camping options in the swamp. I immediately wanted to do this trip or at least a portion of it. I have since made a handful of trips into the swamp and learned about the history of Billy’s Island, the Sill, the timber operation and among other stories. My most recent trip into the swamp was with the WWALS Watershed Coalition. We paddled 8 miles out to camp at Floyds Island. The entire journey was just so peaceful. However, when we made the turn onto the green trail from Stephen C. Foster State Park, the swamp became extraordinarily enchanting. The cathedral-like tunnel that we paddled through for miles until we reached Floyd’s Island was like a portal to a fairytale dimension. In many instances, the colors of the fall, the canopy formation of the trees and the mirrored reflections were hypnotizing, we could have paddled this natural tunnel for hours and still want more. Upon reaching the camp site, everyone in our party was just magically delighted about the spiritual connection that the swamp bestowed upon us. The return trip the next day was even more mesmerizing. I never would have thought that I would have used the word enchanting to describe a swamp, but it was just that. I am glad to add the Okefenokee Swamp to my long list of must-see places. As with all of the places listed above, I never knew that I needed to experience them until I did. The Okefenokee is no different, it’s an enchanting place that you never knew you needed to experience.” Continue reading

Back to Live Oak and online: SRWMD Nestle Special Meeting 2021-02-23

The Suwannee River Water Management District has moved its Special Meeting, to decide the Nestlé permit for Ginnie Springs on the Santa Fe River, back to Live Oak, with online participation, February 23, 2021, plus possible continuation the next day.

[No Nestle permit, 2021-02-23 or any other date]
No Nestle permit, 2021-02-23 or any other date

That didn’t take long, due to complaints by OSFR, Ichetucknee Alliance, and others. Meeting only in-person during a pandemic, and far from both the usual meeting site and the site of the problem, was never a good idea. The tradition SRWMD has established with their regular board meetings, such as the one this morning, of meeting at their headquarters with online participation, is a much better idea.

An even better idea: deny the permit.

At the bottom of the SRWMD press release:

The mission of the Suwannee River Water Management District is to protect and manage water resources using science-based solutions to support natural systems and the needs of the public. The District holds true to the belief of water for nature, water for people.

There won’t be enough water for people or nature unless SRWMD stops issuing permits for frivolous uses such as plastic bottles for a Swiss company. The “needs of the public” include the public interest, which includes not having to pick up plastic bottles from springs and rivers, having enough water in the springs and rivers and the Floridan Aquifer, and not subsidizing a foreign company at the expense of our waters. Besides, people are part of nature, last time I looked, and pretending they are not is how you damage both.


[No to Nestle!]
No to Nestle! 2019-12-10

Remember back in December 2019, when 32 people spoke against the same Nestlé permit, and delivered 384,000 petition signatures?

It’s not a good idea to crowd together people during a pandemic, but you can still send a postcard to SRWMD:

SRWMD Board Members
9225 CR 49
Live Oak, FL 32060

NO Nestlé PERMIT

[Landscape Postcard]
Landscape Postcard
PDF

Or contact SRWMD by other means: NO Nestlé PERMIT.

LOCATION UPDATED FOR DISTRICT SPECIAL MEETING

Continue reading

Special Nestle permit meeting 2019-02-23; Regular SRWMD business 2021-02-09

Update 2021-02-09: Back to Live Oak and online: SRWMD Nestle Special Meeting 2021-02-23.

This time the judge recommended accepting the permit, as the Nestlé case bounced back to SRWMD from DOAH for a second time.

So the Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD) has scheduled a special meeting at 9AM on Tuesday, February 23, 2021, at the Suwannee River Fair Pavilion in Fanning Springs. I wonder if all those postcards had any effect on scheduling a special meeting?

SRWMD will not accept any comments on this subject at their regular board meeting next Tuesday.

[Special SRWMD Meeting, Suwannee River Fair Pavilion, 2021-02-23]
Special SRWMD Meeting, Suwannee River Fair Pavilion, 2021-02-23

This time, SRWMD should take the public interest into consideration.

Which would mean a Swiss company profiting on plastic bottles, at the expense of the Floridan Aquifer, Ginnie Springs, and the Santa Fe River levels, is not in the public interest.

You can still send a postcard to SRWMD:

SRWMD Board Members
9225 CR 49
Live Oak, FL 32060

NO Nestlé PERMIT

Here’s the announcement of the special meeting in the current SRWMD Board packet: Continue reading

Public interest should be considered with water-bottling permit –Mike Roth, Gainesville Sun 2021-02-01

WWALS member and OSFR president Mike Roth wrote an op-ed in the Gainesville Sun, February 1, 2021, Public interest should be considered with water-bottling permit,

Despite the impression given by a recent ruling on Nestle’s water-bottling operation near High Springs, the public’s right to clean and plentiful water has been protected by the Legislature.

Mike Roth addressing SRWMD
Photo: John S. Quarterman, of Mike Roth addressing the SRWMD Board.

Previous legislative bodies (no, not the current one) were interested in protecting the public. Section 373 of the Florida Statutes, the section that governs water permitting, makes 46 references to “public interest.”

What they forgot to do, unfortunately, is define “public interest.” Anywhere.

Judge G.W. Chisenhall, the administrative judge ruling on the water-bottling permit, recently decided that Seven Springs Water Co. met requirements to pump water from the Ginnie Springs aquifer for Nestle. His decision was based on a part of the administrative code (Rule 40B-2.301) that cites “public interest” not once, but twice.

So why did he not consider the almost 19,000 comments from the public in opposition to this permit? Maybe it is because the issue was specifically banned from discussion in the case, primarily because it was not raised by the Suwannee River Water Management District in the first place. It would be interesting to see the work papers in the district’s files where the staff even considered the “public interest.”

For every water permit that district staff approve, they assert that the request is in the public interest. How can they make this assertion when the term isn’t even defined in the law?

Judge Chisenhall also alludes to Rule 40B-2.301 when he asserts that “all of the water withdrawn by Seven Springs will be utilized for a beneficial use, i.e., bottled water for personal consumption.”

Beneficial to whom? Nestle? It is certainly not beneficial to the health of the Ginnie Springs complex springshed — which, by the way, might be considered to be in the “public interest.”

Our Santa Fe River tried to get into the skirmish and have our very experienced and diligent scientists demonstrate that the withdrawals would be harmful to the springshed and the Santa Fe River. But that issue, too, was banned from discussion because it was not raised by the Suwannee River Water Management District in the first place.

Even the Seven Springs attorneys happily pointed out that “none of the grounds for denial at issue in this proceeding include any environment or resource protection criteria.” Well, why the heck not?

And while we’re speaking of “beneficial use,” does the Suwannee River Water Management District recognize that the Santa Fe River has been running below Minimum Flows and Levels since MFLs were established? With water beneficial to everyone, part of their job is triage.

Seven Springs asserts that its withdrawal “represents between 0.6% and 0.9% of the combined Ginnie Springs flow rate” as compared to permitted agricultural water withdrawals in 2018, which represent “between 15% and 22% of the approximated spring flow.” But was there any consideration of the relative importance of grain and meat compared to putting water in polluting plastic bottles?

“Ownership and control” was yet another disallowed issue, even though it is a major underlying concept of Section 373 of the Florida Statutes and the related Rule 40B-2.301. Why? Because the Suwannee River Water Management District never brought it up.

Seven Springs does not own the wells, the pipeline from the wells to the bottling plant, or any part of the bottling plant or the land that it is on. It does indeed have an “extraction agreement” with the owner of the wells that the land is on, the matriarch of the family that owns Ginnie Springs Outdoors.

Presumably, then, you or I could dig a well in our backyard, pull out a million gallons a day and sell it to a third party. It only took Suwannee River Water Management District Board member Donald Quincy a few minutes when this permit first came before the board last August to question this, going so far as to cause the board to table the permit to get the ownership and control matter settled.

But Judge Chisenhall wasn’t hearing any part of it: Continue reading

WWALS thanks FERC for confirming that NFE never asked and FERC never inquired about oversight of Miami LNG facility 2020-12-31

FERC took more than two months to admit New Fortress Energy never asked FERC to say it had no oversight of NFE’s Miami LNG facility, and FERC never inquired.

So, is that facility operating illegally?

[WWALS letter and FERC 404]
WWALS letter and FERC 404


December 31, 2020

Cc: Toyia Johnson
FERC FOIA Public Liaison
foia-ceii@ferc.gov
202-502-6088

To: Ms. Kimberly D. Bose, Secretary
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
888 First Street, N.E.
Washington, DC 20426
kimberly.bose@ferc.gov

Re: FERC response of December 8, 2020 to WWALS Freedom of Information Act Request, FERC FOIA No. FY21-04 or FOIA-2021-4, about New Fortress Energy, Miami, Florida, for copy of PETITION FOR DECLARATORY ORDER or ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE, as well as any responses to either and any records of meetings between FERC and NFE about that Miami facility

Dear Ms. Bose and Ms. Johnson:

Thank you for your response of December 8, 2020, to the WWALS FOIA request of October 12, 2020. Per request from FOIA Public Liaison Toyia Johnson in her cover email to which that FERC response was attached, this letter is confirmation that I did receive that response.

Thank you for confirming that FERC has no PETITION FOR DECLARATORY ORDER from New Fortress Energy (NFE) about its Miami Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) facility, and FERC sent no ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE about that facility, as well as confirming that FERC has no correspondence nor records of meetings with NFE about that facility

We conclude that because your letter of December 8, 2020, says:

“The search of the Commission’s non-public files identified no documents responsive to your request.”

In addition, in her email communication of November 25, 2020, FERC FOIA Liaison Toyia Johnson wrote: Continue reading

FDEP assumes Clean Water Act permitting from U.S. EPA 2020-12-17

Despite opposition by Waterkeepers Florida and many other people and organizations, last Friday U.S. EPA gave a big present to Florida developers, by approving FDEP’s assumption of Clean Water Act Section 404 permitting from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The EPA announcement says “The action formally transfers permitting authority under CWA Section 404 from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to the State of Florida for a broad range of water resources within the State.” It neglects to mention that almost all of the Suwannee River Basin got left out, including the middle and upper Suwannee River, and the Withlacoochee, Alapaha, Santa Fe, Ichetucknee, and New Rivers, as well as the Withlacoochee South River basin.

[EPA announcement over WKFL opposition, our rivers left out]
EPA announcement over WKFL opposition, our rivers left out

FDEP got around to releasing a Draft Retained Waters Screening Tool a few weeks ago, after the public comment period. It seems to confirm what we already deciphered from FDEP’s assumption documents: only part of the Lower Suwannee River and Estuary, ditto the lower Withlacoochee South River, end up being covered by either USACE or FDEP. The vast majority of the Suwannee River Basin fell through the cracks. Of course, we and WKFL and many others will not stop working for fishable, swimmable, drinkable waters. About time for a Bill of Rights for Nature, too. Continue reading

Valdosta catching illegal dumpers, and some new management

Valdosta is actively pursuing the culprits ditching trash and dumping fecal waste into the Withlacoochee River, causing repeated spikes at GA 133.

They say they have even caught some.

And Valdosta has promoted two people: Catherine Ammons of Human Resources to Deputy City Manager of Administration, and Richard Hardy of Public Works to Deputy City Manager of Operations. Hardy is still Director of Public Works, but now he’s also over Engineering and Utilities, which also still retain their same Directors.

We don’t know whether these two news items are related. We do know we’re glad Valdosta recognizes that people downstream will continue to think they’re the cause of every Withlacoochee River contamination incident unless they actively find the real culprits.

Don’t worry: we post positive news about Valdosta when there is some, but we continue to watch them and other possible contamination sources like a hawk.

[Cleanups, Deputy City Managers]
Cleanups, Deputy City Managers

Pursuing dumping culprits

Valdosta PR, December 2, 2020, City Stresses Importance of Reporting Illegal Dumping in Local Waterways (see also Valdosta Today), Continue reading