To protect a springwater manatee habitat, three Florida municipalities and the county in which they are located faced a mandate to reduce groundwater pumping, one that would severely diminish their water supply. Holland & Knight’s Water Law Team helped our clients develop an innovative alternative that could become a template for addressing similar water issues.
In this case, the local water management district suggested that our clients reduce their groundwater pumping because the withdrawals had the potential to reduce the flows in the nearby Volusia Blue Spring – and during cold weather, manatees, a protected species, rely on the relatively warm spring flows as a refuge. The problem was that the municipalities and the county rely on the groundwater pumping for their supply of potable water. Their aim was actually to increase their water supply while observing the "minimum flow regime" (MFR) for recovery of flows in the spring that would enable the manatees to be protected.
Holland & Knight's lawyers facilitated an unprecedented solution, one that met our clients' needs as well as governmental legal requirements and environmental interests. Alternative water supplies and recharge strategies were identified to address the MFR required by the water management district without reducing the groundwater withdrawals currently allocated to our clients. Holland & Knight was instrumental in advancing negotiations, drafting the details and coordinating with agency management.
In addition to approving the negotiated plan, the district agreed to provide partial funding, and other government grants were also procured. Ultimately, the proposed list of alternative water supply projects was deemed sufficient to avoid adverse impacts to the MFR while providing water for growth of the local governments, and a Prevention and Recovery Strategy was adopted with our clients' projects as the centerpiece.
This resolution – which stands out for its effectiveness, financial feasibility and sustainability – avoided a costly and time-consuming legal flight over the MFR that could have involved not only the water district, but also environmental groups and listed species officials.
Holland & Knight's Water Law Team assists public and private clients throughout the United States in water supply, water treatment and mitigation matters, and maintains effective lines of communication with key local, federal and state agencies.
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