YouTube footage of the Yankee Lake project

The St. Johns River has been surrounded by its fair share of controversy as of late, and a recently begun Seminole County construction project is only adding to it.

Though many initially disapproved of the Water Management District’s approval of a permit that allowed for the removal of 5.5 million gallons of water a day from the St. Johns, the project’s latest steps have gone largely unnoticed in the local media. Much to the dismay of the St. Johns Riverkeeper, the project has been steadily moving along.

A recently uploaded YouTube video (which you can watch below) shows construction on the Yankee Lake facility to be in its early stages, but, as the Riverkeeper’s Neil Armingeon notes, destructive nevertheless: “Watching the video, you can see these huge cranes destroying 100-year-old cypress trees, just knocking them over like it’s nothing.”

In addition to the habitats that will likely be destroyed in the creation of the Yankee Lake facility, Armingeon warns that the St. John’s algal problems — which some activists have pegged to nutrient runoff from local industries such as Georgia-Pacific — are sure to worsen. “When we had the trial two years ago, we had hoped that the judge would revoke the permit,” Armingeon says. “Obviously, he didn’t, but he did rule that taking water out of the river will exacerbate those algal blooms. The Water Management District even testified to that. They know that the river is sick and that the algae is the problem, but they still gave Seminole County the permit. That just exposes the madness behind all of this.”

In 2008, Seminole County trademarked itself as “Florida’s Natural Choice,” a claim Armingeon finds ludicrous: ”The word ‘hypocritical’ doesn’t even begin to describe it.”

Seminole County’s Shared Water Works site states that the water will eventually be used for potable purposes, but is initially only supporting the county’s reclaimed water irrigation system. Armingeon says that, considering the large size of the Yankee Lake facility, the 5.5-million estimate is probably not a good one: “I think it will be closer to 55 million gallons a day, a pretty big number for water that will only be used to water grass.”

Armingeon says the Seminole County government is essentially involved in a large Ponzi scheme: “This is their attempt to control water and then sell it to adjacent counties at exorbitant prices. No one wanted this but them. They were supposed to have 11 co-sponsors, and ended up with zero.”

The Riverkeeper’s attorneys will make their case to appeal the permits on July 6 in Daytona, and Armingeon hopes the trip will result in a judgment stating that the permit was issued illegally: “We’re making oral arguments to show that the WMD is violating their own guidelines. We hope that the permit will be revoked.”

Yankee Lake vide:

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