|Dear Bridgeport Friends,
The Southwest Florida Water Management District (our district) plans to make important regulatory decisions about the water levels in Lake Miona, Black Lake and other Sumter County lakes this month. They will be hosting a work-shop about their proposed levels in Wildwood at the Community Center on the evening of October 18, 2006. Today, I got an email from the District about the workshop and the proposed levels. It is provided below my message. To help place their proposed action in context, I have provided some background information so that you will know why we need to pay attention to this water issue.
First, let me be clear, we are not in danger of running out of water inside our homes. At this time, the issue is the need to protect Lake Miona and Black Lake from overpumping. The question is how big a drop in our lake levels is too much. As we can all see, Black Lake essentially has changed from a lake to a wetland.
Why am I conveying this information? We all share at least two long-term interests in these water issues. One is sustaining groundwater
supplies for irrigation. The second is sustaining our lakes, wetlands and the associated wildlife in perpetuity as required in the Development Order.
The District plans to drop the Minimum Lake Level for Black Lake and Lake Miona by another 0.3 feet compared to the low level that they proposed in October 2005. This reduction would facilitate additional pumping in The Villages of Sumter County. Also, the District staff has stated that if the minimum lake levels are set at this newly proposed lower level, they would not need to begin a recovery program. The purpose of a recovery program would be to raise our lake levels back up to more natural levels.
Our lake levels are a concern because since 1991 the District has included Lake Miona and Black Lake on their list of stressed lakes. Nevertheless, since 1998 the District has permitted The Villages to withdraw more than 14 million gallons a day in Sumter County. Most of that withdrawal was permitted after 2002. The 14 million gallons a day is the average total permitted withdrawals, not the peak withdrawals approved for drought conditions, which are much higher (more than double or triple).
Currently, the entire Villages is permitted to take an average of about 20 million gallons a day from the aquifer. Of that total, the St. Johns River Water Management District has permitted over 5 million gallons a day in Marion and Lake Counties. Basically, The Villages is pumping a large amount of groundwater within a relatively small geographic area. Beyond, the currently permitted 20 million gallons a day, The Villages has requested permits for an additional 7 million gallons a day of groundwater withdrawals from the Southwest Florida Water Management District in order to complete buildout in Sumter County south of us.
State law requires that surface water features be protected from significant harm caused by overpumping. In 2003 the St. Johns River Water Management District included their portion of The Villages in a Priority Water Resources Caution Area that covers a large multi-county area within their jurisdiction. The St. Johns River Water Management District is concerned that lakes, wetlands and streams could be significantly harmed if more groundwater pumping is allowed within their caution area.
The St. Johns' evaluation of groundwater conditions included our part of Sumter County, and they found that similar concerns exist where we live. However, Sumter County is not under their jurisdiction. Nevertheless, St. Johns is concerned that proposed pumping in the Sumter County portion of The Villages may harm surface water features within their existing caution area.
To address this concern, in July I spoke with the Governing Board of the Southwest Florida Water Management District. I requested that they designate a caution area in Sumter County where conditions are similar to those in the caution area that St. Johns already established in the Marion and Lake County areas of The Villages. In response, the Governing Board directed the staff to evaluate the issue and provide them a recommendation by January 2007.
The timing of the regulatory decisions about minimum levels for Lake Miona and Black Lake is unfortunate because we won't have our District's evaluation of the caution area question until January. Our interests may be better served if these lake level decisions were delayed until the District completes it's caution area assessment.
Hopefully, our village will be represented at the workshop. For these kinds of meetings, the number of attendees count. If no one from our village attends, they will assume we are not interested in how low the minimum levels of Black Lake and Lake Miona are set. If you are interested in attending the workshop, please check out the District's email below.
Although I will be out of town for the workshop, I do plan to speak at the Governing Board meeting at the end of the month and will let you know if something comes of it.
All for now,
Following is the notice of the meeting:
Staff of the Southwest Florida Water Management District have recently reviewed (and in some cases, revised) the proposed minimum and guidance levels for the Lake Miona/Black Lake system that were presented in the draft document entitled, Minimum and Guidance Levels for Lake Miona in Sumter County, Florida, Draft - October 2005 . The attached document, dated September 2006, includes information on the minimum and guidance levels currently proposed for the lakes by District staff. The September 2006 report is also available on the Documents and Publications page of the District web site at: http://www.swfwmd.state.fl.us/documents.
Minimum levels are defined as "the level of groundwater in an aquifer and the level of surface water at which further withdrawals would by significantly harmful to the water resources of the area" (Florida Statutes, Section 373.042). Minimum levels are adopted by the District Governing Board into District rules (Chapter 40D-8, Florida Administrative Code), and are used for regulatory purposes, including review of water-use permits. Guidance levels, which describe expected lake water level fluctuations, are also adopted into District rules and are used as advisory information for the District, lakeshore residents and local governments, or to aid in the management of water control structures.
The currently proposed High Minimum Lake Level and Minimum Lake Level for Lakes Miona/Black Lake are, respectively, 0.6 feet higher and 0.3 feet lower than previously proposed. The currently proposed High Guidance Level and Low Guidance Level are, respectively, 1.5 feet higher and 0.5 feet higher than previously proposed. The currently proposed Ten Year Flood Guidance Level does not differ from the previously proposed level.
A public input workshop on the currently proposed levels for Lake Miona, Black Lake and other priority lakes in Sumter County will be held on October 18, 2006, from 6:00 to 7:30 PM at the City of Wildwood Community Center (6500 County Road 139) in Wildwood, Florida. Public input on the proposed levels will be used to modify the levels, as appropriate, and on October 24, 2006, Staff plans to recommend that the District Governing Board approve staff efforts to incorporate the proposed minimum and guidance levels into District rules.
Please contact Lisa Henningsen (telephone: 1-800-423-1476, ext. 4268; e-mail: email@example.com) or me if you have any questions or would like to provide comment on the currently proposed minimum and guidance levels for Lake Miona and Black Lake.