The results of the groundwater flow modeling indicate that JEA’s proposed withdrawals would be expected to cause the potentiometric surface of the Upper Floridan Aquifer to decline 4 to 6 feet from 1995 levels in much of Duval County and parts of southern Nassau and northern St. Johns Counties. In addition, as a result of JEA’s proposed withdrawals, decreases of 0.5 foot or more in the Upper Floridan Aquifer would be expected to occur southward into St. Johns, Putnam, and Alachua Counties, westward into Clay, Bradford, Union, Baker, and Columbia Counties, and northward into southeastern Georgia. The large area influenced by JEA’s water withdrawals contains many wetlands and lakes as well as streams, rivers, and springs. [Emphasis added.] #

The technical staff report goes on to reveal that modeling also predicts problems in wetlands, where decreases in aquifer levels could reach six inches due to the withdrawals: #

There are wetlands, ponds, and lakes in areas where surficial aquifer levels are predicted to decline. The wetlands consist mostly of swamps dominated by cypress and hardwood trees. Staff has observed wetlands and lakes already stressed in southwestern Clay and western Putnam Counties, an area where the model indicates that JEA’s proposed withdrawals would contribute to drawdown in the surficial aquifer. #

Nevertheless, the report goes on to recommend approval of the permit: #

Staff has concluded that the applicant’s use, as limited by the attached permit conditions, is reasonable-beneficial, will not cause or contribute to interference with existing legal uses, and is consistent with the public interest. Therefore, staff recommends approval for this application. #

Armingeon says that the permit could lead to irreparable harm and that the St. Johns River Water Management District is knowingly ignoring the facts. #

The condition states the applicant, JEA, must participate, “[….[U]nless the existing minimum levels for these lakes in rule chapter 40C-8 are revised so that a prevention or recovery strategy is no longer required under section 373.0421 of the Florida Statutes.” #

If issued, the permit will go into effect for 10 years before any substantial changes can be made. “Rarely, are issues of this importance to the community and to the environment, given this type of longevity, and lack of oversight,” wrote Armingeon. “Thanks to the political climate in Florida, this is where we are now.” #

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