The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) has begun a monumental water use permit renewal program. Many unknowns currently exist regarding the exact process to be used by the SFWMD to renew water use permits in the massive and predominantly agricultural region known as the Lake Okeechobee Service Area (LOSA). One thing that is clear is that the permit renewal period begins on Oct. 31, 2008 and extends to Feb. 28, 2009 and these dates are unlikely to change.
The process will be affected by the LOSA Regional Water Availability Rule that the district intends to adopt prior to the basin renewal period.
While there are many unknowns regarding the final rule language, it is absolutely imperative that all growers in the basin obtain or renew their water use permits during the renewal period. Any existing user in the basin who fails to renew a permit or obtain a new permit during the established permit renewal period will lose their legal right to use surface water from the system.
SFWMD staff and the governing board recognize that it has been many years since these permits have been renewed and that many or most of the district’s records will not accurately reflect the current ownership, acreage, crop type, volumes, etc. The district intends for these corrections to be made during the renewal process or during a pre-renewal “grace period” that has been approved in concept by the governing board.
FFVA will provide more complete information in a Water Lines bulletin during the coming weeks. In the mean time, we strongly advise anyone who is currently using water in the LOSA basin without a valid permit to immediately file a water use permit application. While this could result in the assessment of administrative fines, it is the only way to protect your future legal access to water in this basin.
For further information, producer members may contact the FFVA Government Affairs Office at (850) 521-0455.