Attorneys for the Florida Springs Council and the Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD) stood together today in a courtroom in Gainesville. Today's Oral Arguments before the 1st District Court of Appeals is a step in our challenge to reverse the “Nestle” water bottling permit.
The permit allows Seven Springs Water Company to pump almost a million gallons of water per day from the already damaged springs of the Santa Fe River. For over a year the lawyers for Seven Springs Water Company have attempted to keep our case from being heard.
At the heart of the issue is the plain language of a SRWMD rule pertaining to when affected parties, like FSC, can challenge an agency’s decision. The rule says that if the District makes a
decision that is different from what they originally proposed (like deciding to approve a permit instead of denying it) affected parties can challenge that decision. FSC attorney Doug MacLaughlin and Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD) attorney George Reeves (pictured here) both argued that our challenge was improperly dismissed by Administrative Law Judge Francine Ffolkes and should be allowed to proceed. They asked the Court to simply uphold the rule and affirm FSC’s right to challenge the permit.
Seven Springs attorneys argued that the Court should ignore the plain language of the rule and block FSC’s access to a hearing because a challenge would be unfair to their client. We think it’s unfair that corporations want to bottle Florida’s most valuable natural resource without paying a cent, leaving Floridians with degraded springs and costly projects to repair the damage.
Just after the hearing, of FSC attorney Doug MacLaughlin and our Executive Director Ryan Smart unpacked what had just happened in the courtroom.
We feel optimistic about the outcome of today’s hearing.
But the fact that 18 months after we first challenged the “Nestle” permit we are still fighting for our day in court to protect the Santa Fe River shows the resources of our opposition. If you can, please consider supporting our work by making a donation to the FSC Legal Fund or becoming a Sustaining Member with an automated monthly donation.