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HIGH SPRINGS – The High Springs City Commission once again found itself on the hot seat at the Feb, 13 City Commission meeting. At issue was a letter from the City to the Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD) regarding a Water Permit Application by Seven Springs.

Although the City has no authority to grant or deny the application, some area citizens have appealed to the Commission on several occasions to take a forceful stand to encourage the water management district to deny the Seven Springs permit. Water from Seven Springs wells have, in the past, been sold to Nestle for their water bottling plant.

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

At the Jan. 9 City Commission meeting, residents packed into the commission chambers to voice their opinions on the matter. Some residents expressed their strongly-held views that this permit should be denied. Other residents, many of whom are employed by Nestle, expressed their just as strongly-held views that the permit should be approved.

Initially, the City Commission directed the city attorney to write a firmly worded letter encouraging the SRWMD to deny the permit. When the letter came back to Commissioners at the Jan. 23 meeting for review, Commissioners, who by that time had a chance to review the previous meeting’s minutes, seemed to agree that all of the citizens’ points of view should be shared with the water management district and not just those of the opposing citizens.

Commissioners also asked that the attorney include wording emphasizing the importance of the area springs and rivers to the economic, aesthetic and natural wellbeing of High Springs and surrounding area.

The city attorney was sent back to the drawing board and asked that the revised letter reflect both sides expressed by area residents, and commissioners suggested the attorney refer the SRWMD to the Jan. 9 meeting minutes and to the YouTube video of the actual proceedings.

At the Feb. 13 City Commission meeting, a second letter was presented for Commission consideration. Although the crowd was not as large this time, some area residents in attendance asked Commissioners to approve the original, more strongly written letter.

Some of the same issues were brought up by opponents at this meeting as had been discussed earlier. Concerns included fears about increased truck traffic, noise and air pollution, road damage and reduction of water levels.

City Attorney Scott Walker read the letter out loud as some citizens said they had not seen it. With no further comment from the audience members, commissioners unanimously approved the new letter and authorized Mayor Byran Williams to sign it.

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