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A controversial plan approved by state water board to pump Ginnie Springs

Nestle Waters North America has been tied up in court over the controversial move to allow them to pump water from Ginnie Springs. Nestle Waters North America will be able to ramp up bottling to nearly 1 million gallons of water a day from the Ginnie Springs area after a permit was approved Tuesday over the objections of opponents who said it will continue the degradation of the state’s natural springs and rivers.

Joe Little, an attorney representing Florida Defenders of the Environment and Our Santa Fe River, said his groups will discuss plans to legally challenge the permit for failing to provide a monetary benefit to the state as Nestle will pay Seven Springs to draw a projected 400 million gallons of water a year from the Ginnie Springs area.

“If the district grants this permit without requiring it to be amended to provide for payment of substantial amounts of money to the state of Florida, it is not consistent with the public interest of Florida,” Little said. The permit is $115 bucks so you know.

After hours of public comment, mostly opposed to the proposal, the Suwannee River Water Management District Governing Board approved a permit application from Seven Springs Water Co. that will help Nestle expand its bottled-water operations in Gilchrist County.

Doug Manson, an attorney representing Seven Springs, disagreed with people who contended the permit will result in negative environmental impacts. Manson said water flow issues were thoroughly reviewed by staff members of the water management district.

“They found that there wouldn’t be environmental impacts, there was not going to be any issue with the pumpage and reductions in spring flow or the river,” Manson said. “So, those issues were looked at by staff before you got to the (administrative) proceeding.”

Last month, Administrative Law Judge G.W. Chisenhall issued a 44-page order recommending that the district approve the permit, writing Seven Springs, which has supplied water to the local bottling plant since 1998, has “provided reasonable assurances, supported by competent, substantial evidence during the final hearing” that the plant would be able to process the requested amount of water.

“Seven Springs provided competent, substantial, and unrebutted evidence of the contractual obligation between it and Nestle, and of the obligation for all water to be used at the … bottling plant,” Chisenhall wrote. “Thus, the district now has reasonable assurances that all of the water withdrawn by Seven Springs will be utilized for a beneficial use, i.e., bottled water for personal consumption.”

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