Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Atlantic Beach Studying River Diversion Issue

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Atlantic Beach Studying River Diversion Issue

Article excerpt

Byline: DREW DIXON

ATLANTIC BEACH - While the tally of cities that oppose a controversial water diversion proposal from the St. Johns River grows, Atlantic Beach is still holding off. It's having a workshop this week to discuss its position.

"Oh, we're taking hits for that," said Atlantic Beach Mayor John Meserve.

He acknowledged the commission is receiving criticism as Neptune Beach, Jacksonville Beach, Jacksonville and Keystone Heights in Clay County have all passed resolutions opposing the plan under review by the St. Johns River Water Management District.

The 11-member Duval County Legislative Delegation will consider a similar resolution on Jan. 18.

The proposal would divert about 155 million gallons of water a day from the river to Central Florida's depleted aquifer. St. Johns tributaries such as the Ocklawaha River could be diverted for the same purpose.

That's water that would have made its way to the ocean at Mayport.

The Atlantic Beach workshop begins at 6 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 800 Seminole Road.

The commission has agreed to hear presentations from the Water Management District and the St. Johns Riverkeeper, which has vigorously opposed the water diversion plan and convinced many local governments to pass the resolutions.

Despite the peer pressure from other municipal governments in Northeast Florida and some Atlantic Beach residents, Meserve said the commission wants to hear all sides before taking any formal action.

"There are people that are saying, 'Why don't you just do it?' It doesn't matter that you don't know what you're talking about," Meserve said. "I think it's bad government to take actions based on emotion without knowing facts."

Beyond government, Northeast Florida commercial interests are also voicing opposition to the river diversion proposal.

Shrimp Producers Association Executive Director Janie Thomas denounced the plan in November in a letter to the water management district. She said it could harm the salinity of the St. Johns River near the mouth at Mayport and the fragile shrimp nursery grounds not far from Mayport, which is a hub for shrimpers. …

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