Day 1 of the MFL Administrative Hearing

Quick impressions from Day 1

Much of Day 1 involved spending time to prove that the Ichetucknee Alliance had legal standing to challenge the proposed new MFL rule. The Florida Wildlife Federation was tossed off the challenge because of failure to prove standing to the judge’s satisfaction. Luckily the Alliance passed this test so far with flying colors, with 17 members coming from our area on the first day of the hearing to stand up for the river and another member due to appear on the second day.

Many of our members spoke eloquently and movingly about what the Ichetucknee and the Santa Fe Rivers mean to them and how changes in the rivers are affecting them:

  • A member who swims every day at the Ichetucknee headspring said, “Losing this river would be like losing a limb on my body.”
  • A business owner/outfitter mentioned the importance of the river to her livelihood.
  • A member who lives on the Santa Fe River described how in the 1970s and 1980s, he could run a boat over shoals in the Santa Fe; today, he can’t.
  • A member who was “born and raised on the river” spoke about watching water quality and quantity diminish; “It’s important that the grass get green again and the water get blue.”
  • A homeowner on the Santa Fe River spoke about a small spring on his property that “only flows in flood now” and described his boat dock as being eight feet above the water level; “I can’t dock a boat there.”
  • A Fort White resident said, “If the springs aren’t flowing properly, my community won’t have jobs.”
  • A woman who left New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina said, “That’s not something we can do anything about. This (Ichetucknee) is something we can affect. The basis of everything we do is water and if we don’t take that seriously, everyone in this room will suffer.”
  • “The Ichetucknee is my lifeblood. Everything is covered in algae and it breaks my heart. I have never seen it look so bad.”
  • “It has been heartbreaking for a photographer who wants to shoot beautiful pictures, but reality keeps getting in the way…I believe I have an ethical obligation to show and tell the truth. We are failing the test to preserve and protect our precious waters.”
  • “This is a water body that is center to a lot of lives—a cultural and spiritual centerpiece where baptisms are held and where I paddled my daughter to her wedding…a magical place.”
  • “I’m dubious about MFLs; they are not designed to protect the river.”
  • “The original intention of MFLs was to reserve water for natural systems, not big water permit holders. This is really about the health of the aquifer and if Florida cannot save the Ichetucknee, we are in sad shape.”

I was humbled by the participation of our Alliance’s members and their willingness to give of their time and talents to demonstrate to the judge and all parties involved in this case how much the rivers mean to us. It is truly a joy to work with people who care and—no matter what the outcome of this case—are standing strong on behalf of our waters.

Insight:  Proving “standing” to challenge bad environmental rules would be a lot easier if our natural systems could be granted legal rights to exist; if that were the case, the Ichetucknee could have a legal guardian with standing to represent the river in court—standing that no one could challenge.

To be continued…