Minority Office — Press Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 15, 2015
CONTACT: Michelle DeMarco, 850.487.5833
Senator Darren Soto Calls on Water Management District to Reverse Course
Faults water permit favoring Canadian billionaire rancher as “detrimental to the public interest”
Orlando —Appalled by the decision by the St Johns Water Management District to side with a Canadian billionaire rancher’s interests over those of Central Florida’s residents, Senator Darren Soto (D-Orlando) on Wednesday called on the state regulators to reverse course and yank the controversial water use permit they approved just yesterday.
“One of the primary duties of Florida’s water management districts is to ensure that any water use permits they grant are ‘consistent with the public interest.’ In the case of the permit St. Johns just issued on behalf of Sleepy Creek Lands, it is anything but. To greenlight 1.5 million gallons of water pumped daily from an endangered aquifer to fatten cattle for the benefit of a Canadian billionaire smacks of political collusion at best. It needs to be reversed.”
The controversial water pumping permit for Sleepy Creek Lands – a 30,000 acre cattle ranch in Marion County – was approved by the water district board despite sharp criticism from environmentalists and concerned residents over the threat such operations pose to the deteriorating conditions at nearby Silver Springs. The once-renowned tourism draw and home to unique native animal and plant species has become a shadow of its former self. As ground water flow which feeds the spring has suffered from over pumping and agricultural run-off seeps into the surface water, the crystal clear spring has degraded into a noxious murky green from algae overgrowth.
Compounding matters, the regulatory authority has seen a sharp reversal in its mission thanks largely to the recent ouster of key personnel under the watch of Governor Rick Scott. The governor, who has made deregulation at any cost a prime objective, has also approved lucrative tax breaks to Sleepy Creek owner Frank Stronach, including $1.2 million for the construction of Stronach’s 61,000 ft. slaughterhouse near Ocala.
“The governor’s shake up of the St. Johns Water Management District was by design,” said Senator Soto. “He cleaned house so this could be rammed through.”