Florida Farm Bureau South Florida Ag Report for February

Gary Cooper Citrus, Florida, General, Sugar

This report from Charles Shinn, Asst Director, Gov’t & Community Affairs, Florida Farm Bureau Federation. You can e-mail him at charles.shinn@ffbf.org
Click Here To Go To Florida Farm Bureau Website
Deadline Approaching for Lake Okeechobee Service Area Water Users
Irrigation permits using surface water from Lake Okeechobee or its tributaries for landscape, golf course, nursery, livestock, improved pasture and agricultural uses need to be renewed to avoid losing the legal right to use this water.

Anyone using surface water from Lake Okeechobee or its tributaries for irrigation purposes must submit a permit renewal application to the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) Water Use Division by February 27, 2009 or lose their right to use water and miss the opportunity to obtain a 20-year duration permit. Failure to renew a water use permit could also result in an enforcement action that could include fines and a consent order to obtain the necessary permit. If an application is received prior to the permit expiration, the permit will remain in force past the expiration date until final agency action on the application is taken.

Why February 27? The expiration date of February 28 falls on a Saturday and the SFWMD is closed. The application must be received by close of business on Friday, February 27 (Not just post-marked). Applications may be filed electronically through the e-permitting portal at sfwmd.gov and also must be filed by close of business on the 27th. The expiration date applies to renewals in the Lake Okeechobee Service Area (LOSA).

On February 25, a LOSA Renewal Workshop will be given by SFWMD water use staff.

Location: Clewiston SFWMD Field Station, State Road 832, 2425 Hookers Point Road
Time: 10:00 AM Phone: (863) 983-1431 Map: See LOSA Renewal link on page 2.

The SFWMD water permit renewal hotline number is 800-547-2694 and the e-mail for renewals in general is wurenewals@sfwmd.gov

What follows is the link to the web page for LOSA renewals:


Please review the following six items to see if the permit renewal deadline applies to you.

1) Are you in the Lake Okeechobee Service Area (LOSA)?
Projects that utilize surface water from Lake Okeechobee, the Caloosahatchee River, the St. Lucie River/Canal or integrated conveyance systems that are hydraulically connected to any of these sources are in LOSA. You can find a map link on the web page link above at the bottom of the page labeled “Irrigation Permit Expiration Basin Map”. If there is any doubt contact the hotline number on page one for assistance.

2) Is your water use volume high enough?
If you use 3 million gallons per month (3 MGM) or more then you should have either a Major General Water Use Permit or an Individual Water Use Permit that needs to be renewed or newly obtained. Alternatively, you could be served by a Diversion and Impoundment water use permit holder that provides your water needs, but you will need a written legal agreement (see #3 below). The Major General Permit applies to water use between 3 MGM and 15 MGM. The Individual Permit applies to water use that exceeds 15 MGM.

Water Use Permits are still needed for non-exempt uses under 3 MGM but this group, known as Minor General Permits, is not in this renewal cycle. Water uses which are exempt from the permitting process include domestic uses for potable and home irrigation and water used for fire fighting.

3) If you are served by a Diversion and Impoundment (D&I) holding a water use permit, will they be obtaining the necessary permit for your water use?

Most, but not all D&I’s are water control districts. Check with your D&I to determine if they are including you as a dependent or an independent water user. If you are a dependent user they will ask you to sign an agreement acknowledging that you will abide by the D&I’s water use permit. If you are an independent water user you must obtain your own water use permit.
If you are not sure, apply by February 27, 2009. You can always withdraw if you are able to be covered by a D&I.

4) You have received a renewal package from the SFWMD.
Then you must submit a renewal application by February 27, 2009 to avoid losing your legal right to use water and potential enforcement actions, which can include penalties.

5) You know that you or a previous land owner had a water use permit with SFWMD but you haven’t received a renewal package.
Contact the SFWMD Water Use Division right away and work with them to track down the status of your water use permit and your water use permit renewal package.

6) You are using 3 MGM or greater but don’t have any knowledge of a SFWMD water use permit ever having been obtained by you or a previous land owner.

Contact the SFWMD Water Use Division right away and work with them to track down the status of your water use permit needs. They may be able to identify the location of the appropriate water use permit renewal package or you may need to submit an application for water use based on your unpermitted historic water use. (Thanks to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services for information included in this article)

‘River of Grass’ Acquisition Update

Keeping up with the specifics on the U.S. Sugar acquisition by the South Florida Water Management District is like watching a three-ring circus. The major events of the past month revolve around:

The Governor’s Office of Tourism, Trade & Economic Development (OTTED) has been holding meetings in the south lake communities to accept input to start formulating initiatives for economic stimulus. OTTED will be forming a Community Advisory Council and will continue with meetings to keep dialogue moving forward. Dale Brill, Director of OTTED will stay personally involved and in charge of this activity.
The district was in court on March 6 for a bond validation hearing. This is a voluntary action by the district requesting a judicial review of its action to undertake a certificate of participation financing program. The one day was not enough to receive testimony and complete the process therefore the judge scheduled March 16 – 18 for the continuation of the hearing.
The district is holding ‘River of Grass’ workshops twice a month. The goal of these public workshops is to determine viable configurations of purchased land for constructing a managed system of water storage and treatment to support ecosystem restoration efforts. Florida Farm Bureau is concerned that the parameters that the district is using for this process are too stringent and do not allow the proper latitude to keep area agriculture viable.
The “end of shop” date for U.S. Sugar Corporation to accept competing bids is Monday, February 23. After this time, the district has the right to match any competing bid.

Please contact me if you have any questions or need further detail on this acquisition.

Water Supply Concerns Increasing As Dry Conditions Are Projected Through Spring

South Florida’s dry season is from the end of November until the first several weeks of June when the afternoon summer rains become common. What is unusual this year is that this dry season thus far is the fourth driest on record. From the time that Tropical Storm Faye soaked us in mid-August, the district-wide average rainfall has been 2.37 inches.

In addition, the NOAA Climate Prediction Center (CPC) is forecasting La Niña ocean temperatures to continue in the central Pacific Ocean. La Niña conditions have a strong correlation with dry conditions in Florida in the winter and spring. The following CPC map shows below normal rainfall conditions from March through May throughout Florida.

Lake Okeechobee, the bellwether for water supply in south Florida is presently at 13.16 feet. This level is three feet higher than this date last year. District personnel are cautiously optimistic that the rainy season will begin before the lake reaches the level where costly water restrictions are implemented. Florida Farm Bureau continually speaks on the importance of an ample water supply for agriculture. We are pleased that governing board member, Melissa Meeker stressed the importance of water supply at the governing board meeting in February.

Monthly Reports Available on Florida Farm Bureau Federation’s Website. This report is also available on Florida Farm Bureau Federation’s website (www.floridafarmbureau.org). Click on ‘Issues and Public Policy’ on the left side of the homepage then click on the ‘Water and Natural Resources’ subheading.

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