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Mayor Curry Opposes St. Johns River Water Withdrawals In Central Florida

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry
Shannon LeDuke

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry says he opposes a draft water plan that includes a possible withdrawal of water from the St. Johns River.

The draft plan is part of a larger strategy to deal with a projected shortfall in central Florida drinking water.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry sent a letter opposing the St. Johns River withdrawals to the Central Florida Water Initiative, a consortium of water managers and stakeholders, the last day of extended public comment on its draft plan.

Curry said although he sympathizes with Central Florida’s impending water shortage, he’s not sure the St. Johns River can sustain a total of 155 million gallons per day in possible withdrawals. But St. Johns Water Management District’s representative at CFWI, Joanne Chamberlain, says that total can be misleading. She says there are a number of options being considered.

“These are potential projects. There’s options,” Chamberlain said. “There are 150 water supply projects in the plan. There are 17 surface water projects in the plan. Not all of these projects will be implemented.”

Chamberlain says she welcomes Curry’s comments and that his and the public’s concerns will be taken into consideration when revising the draft plan before the next meeting of the initiative’s steering committee in October.

According to the CFWI, Central Florida uses around 800 million gallons of water a day and that’s estimated to rise to 1.1 billion a day as a result of population growth in the next 20 years.

It’s unclear whether CFWI should expect legal action to be taken against it, though that was exactly what happened in 2009 when the St. Johns Riverkeeper and the City of Jacksonville unsuccessfully sued to stop withdrawals sought by a utility company in Seminole County.

Ryan Benk is a former WJCT News reporter who joined the station in 2015 after working as a news researcher and reporter for NPR affiliate WFSU in Tallahassee.