Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

New Appointees Appear Set to Siphon River Water

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

New Appointees Appear Set to Siphon River Water

Article excerpt

Byline: Ronald L. Littlepage

The air sure got let out of that balloon.

Gov. Charlie Crist had three appointments to make to the nine-member governing board of the St. Johns River Water Management District.

I was hopeful he would name people who would be strong advocates for the river's health in the face of efforts to suck millions of gallons of water a day out of it to quench the thirst of overdeveloped Central Florida, and perhaps even South Florida.

While the three men Crist named to the board may be fine people, let's just say I'm not encouraged.

One is Arlen "Ole Jump" Jumper, 75, of Fort McCoy. Jumper manages Jones Turf Grass Farm in Marion County. That business, of course, depends on having a constant supply of water.

For instance, Jones Turf Grass Farm got a permit from the water management district in 2006 to draw 200 million gallons of water a year out of the Floridan aquifer to irrigate 600 acres of sod.

It's because the aquifer is being drained that the river's water is being hungrily eyed.

And the customers of Jones Turf Grass Farm need water to keep the sod they buy green.

Call me overly suspicious, but I'm guessing Jumper would side with those pushing to use the St. Johns River as a water trough.

Another appointment went to Michael Ertel, 36, the supervisor of elections for Seminole County whose apparent qualifications for the water management district post is being active enough in Republican politics that former Gov. Jeb Bush appointed him to the elections job.

The third appointment went to Hersey "Herky" Huffman, 70, of Enterprise. He's a fisherman and former member of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission who should know the importance of a healthy river.

And the health of the river could very well be at stake as the water management district seems determined to go ahead with plans to siphon as much as 150 million gallons a day out of the St. …

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