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HIGH SPRINGS – On Jan. 23, the High Springs City Commission weighed the pros and cons of the letter produced by the city attorney regarding the Seven Springs’ renewal permit request to increase the allowable amount of water withdrawn from their wells. The discussion lasted more than an hour and resulted in the Commission directing the attorney to go back to the drawing board.

Commission concern stemmed from the observation that the letter only represented the citizens against the permit renewal and made no mention of those area citizens who spoke on behalf of issuing the permit during the previous Commission meeting.

As part of the lengthy discussion, Commissioner Nancy Levin remarked about the thoroughness of the minutes from the previous meeting. In an effort to represent both sides of the comments heard during that meeting, commissioners agreed to keep the next letter short, but to refer members of the Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD) and their Governing Board to those minutes rather than try to incorporate the detailed comments into a letter.

Rather than advocating for or against the application, the letter will be written in such a way as to remind SRWMD members of the importance of the health of area springs and rivers to surrounding communities. Commissioners directed the attorney to suggest that the water management district should be mindful of the relationship between the health of the springs and the economic health of the surrounding communities while also considering the overall use of that water.

Commissioner Scott Jamison strongly suggested that the letter reflect the belief that the permit, if issued, should be for the amount of water that has been extracted in the past, rather than the amount of water Seven Springs wishes to extract. Other Commissioners seemed to agree.

The proposed permit renewal, if approved, would allow for an increase in water withdrawal from 270,000 gallons per day, which is what has been taken in the past, to 1.152 million gallons per day

Additional concerns expressed by citizens and commissioners involved increased truck traffic if increased production was to be approved as well as the damage that could result to the roadways.

In addition to those area citizens who previously expressed concern that they may lose their jobs should the permit not be granted, another issue was brought up by Jamison.

He expressed concern that the nearly 100 acres now being managed by Nestle in a natural state would be sold should the plant close. “It’s a matter of economics,” he said. “If the land is sold, it would probably be to a developer who will build on that property and could end up sending more contaminants into the water.”

Following those comments, the city attorney agreed to rewrite the letter to Virginia Johns, Chair of the SRWMD Governing Board, and bring it back to the next meeting for Commission approval.

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