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Florida signs off on St. Johns River withdrawals

A state commission has issued a final order rejecting a legal challenge dealing with water withdrawals from the St. Johns and Ocklawaha rivers.

The Putnam County Environmental Council argued in the long-running dispute that a St. Johns River Water Management District water-supply plan improperly designated withdrawals from the rivers as "alternative water supplies." But the Florida Land and Water Adjudicatory Commission, which is made up of Gov. Rick Scott and Cabinet members, issued a final order Tuesday siding with the water-management district.

The commission, which has the authority to review actions of water-management districts, took up the issue during a Sept. 29 meeting. "Petitioner's argument that the challenged water supply development projects do not qualify as 'alternative water supplies' is without merit,'' the order said. In a document filed in 2012, the Putnam County group pointed to potentially broad ramifications from the case.

"The precedential impact of St. Johns' (the water-management district's) designation of these surface water withdrawals as 'alternative water supplies' is statewide,'' the document said. "Other water management districts have designated or will designate river withdrawals as 'alternative water supplies' if St. Johns' designations are upheld."