Appeals filed against water withdrawal permits for dairy farms


Published: Monday, January 16, 2012 at 4:02 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 16, 2012 at 10:59 p.m.

A conservation board member is challenging the Suwannee River Water Management District's recent approval of permits that would allow the pumping of a combined average of 5.2 million gallons per day from the aquifer.

The environmental group Save Our Suwannee is also contemplating challenging the three permits, which were among four related to North Central Florida farm operations that the district's Governing Board approved last month.

The unanimously approved permits allowed withdrawals of:

3.8 million gallons per day combined for two dairy farms that the Alliance Grazing Group plans in Gilchrist County.

An additional 900,000 gallons per day for Piedmont Farms Dairy in Gilchrist County, which is owned by a sister company, Alliance Grazing.

An additional 500,000 gallons per day for an expansion of the William Douberly cattle and crop farm in Gilchrist and Levy counties.

A fourth permit, which allowed a Madison County farm to withdraw an average of 300,000 gallons per day, was not challenged.

Paul Still, a member of the Bradford Soil and Water Conservation District, has filed the requests for administrative hearings to appeal the permits.

In addition, Save Our Suwannee has requested and received a 45-day extension to appeal the permits approved for the Alliance Grazing Group and Piedmont Farms Dairy.

Annette Long, with Save Our Suwannee, said the organization has concerns with the impacts the groundwater pumping may have on Ginnie Springs and Gilchrist Blue Springs.

“The springs are already so impacted that we wanted time to review the hydrology submitted by the applicants,” Long said. “We have to study it.”

In a phone interview Monday, Still said he did not feel there was adequate scientific data presented to show that the withdrawals would not have negative effects on area springs, lakes, wetlands and rivers, including the Lower Santa Fe.

His written request for appeal noted that minimum flows and levels for the Lower Santa Fe still need to be set.

The water withdrawals could impact water levels before the establishment of those levels, which are intended to determine the point from which further reduction would have an environmental impact.

“My real concern is the approval of consumptive use permits without adequate review when we have declining groundwater levels as it is,” Still said.

He said he would prefer not to have an administrative hearing on the appeal.

Instead, Still said he would like the water management district and the farms to agree to negotiations in order to have the permits modified.

A staff member at Alliance Grazing said no one was available for comment Monday.

Contact Christopher Curry at 374-5088 or chris.curry@gvillesun.com.

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