Neptune Says No to River Water Diversion; the Town Is the Only One in Northeast Florida to Go on Record Opposing the Plan

Article excerpt

Byline: DREW DIXON

NEPTUNE BEACH - The City Council unanimously passed a resolution Monday opposing a plan to divert millions of gallons of water daily from the St. Johns River to provide water to communities in Central Florida.

The Neptune Beach resolution states that it "strongly encourages the St. Johns River Water Management District to reconsider its plan, which will endanger the water resources of the St. Johns River."

The measure was lauded by residents and other supporters of the river.

"I can't tell you how proud I am that this city is taking the lead in trying to save our water," said resident Nancy Jensen during the portion of the meeting for comments from the public.

St. Johns Riverkeeper Neil Armingeon, an environmental watchdog of the waterway in the North Florida area, is glad that at least Neptune Beach has voiced opposition.

He's tried to alert other communities in North Florida to the plan, but few have expressed interest, he said.

"In a small room here [in Neptune Beach City Hall] is the beginning of really a historical debate," Armingeon said. "In this room currently is the only place that this issue is being discussed by elected officials in Northeast Florida."

The proposal under review by the St. Johns River Water Management District plans to divert water from the river near its source, in the Melbourne area, to a depleted aquifer in Central Florida. St. Johns tributaries such as the Ocklawaha River could be diverted for the same purpose.

Councilwoman Harriet Pruette sponsored Monday's resolution and that city now is the only municipality in North Florida to raise objections to the proposed water diversion proposal.

The Water Management District has estimated the plan could redirect about 155 million gallons from the river each day. That's water that would have made its way to the Atlantic Ocean at Mayport.

Armingeon said such a huge diversion of water resources could disrupt the delicate ecosystem of the river near its mouth at Mayport because it depends on infusions of fresh water that will be depleted if the proposal is implemented. …