Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Atlantic Beach Battles over Permit to Provide Water; Commissioners Unhappy about Ordinances Required by St. Johns River District

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Atlantic Beach Battles over Permit to Provide Water; Commissioners Unhappy about Ordinances Required by St. Johns River District

Article excerpt

Byline: DREW DIXON

ATLANTIC BEACH - City commissioners faced off with the St. Johns River Water Management District on Monday over the agency permit that lets the city provide water service to paying customers.

The district granted a consumptive use permit about a month ago, but city officials now say the permit's conditions are too demanding and infringe on local rule.

"They're trying to coerce us," Commissioner John Fletcher said. "They're trying to dictate to an elected body with the nature of ordinances that we pass."

Water district officials are puzzled by the city's objections to the conditions in the permit because there was ample opportunity to appeal before the permit was issued.

"Any regulation could be viewed as something as not pleasant," said Hal Wilkening, director of the district's Department of Resource Management. "I don't agree with it being coercive. It's their [Atlantic Beach's] choice to be a water utility. It's their choice to seek additional water. It's up to them to provide assurance that their water use is efficient and qualified to get a permit."

Wilkening gave a presentation before the commission Monday, but his stance put off some commissioners even more.

The permit is necessary for any water provider, such as city utilities, before the city can charge for water service. Atlantic Beach's permit technically expired in 2007, but after negotiations between city administrators and water district officials, the city was allowed to continue service until the permit was renewed this year for another 10 years.

But with the water district permit comes dozens of conditions that must be met and monitored. The city must adopt ordinances such as a "Florida friendly" landscape ordinance that is supposed to be approved by the end of the year. The permit also calls for water conservation ordinances to be adopted for landscape irrigation and reuse stipulations.

Fletcher said while the city needs the permit, it doesn't need to be told to enact new laws over water use.

"The city of Atlantic Beach has proven to be an excellent steward of its water resources. Many of these conditions are treating us as if we are causing problems with how we handle our water resources," Fletcher said. …

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