In the Suwannee Democrat Thursday and a longer version in the Gainesville Sun today, Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson: Natural gas highway proposed in the springs heartland -jsq.
The springs have been taking a beating in our recent history and now they are poised to brace for another blow. Spectra Energy Corp. and NextEra Energy Inc. have teamed up to build a $3 billion gas highway that will connect an Alabama natural gas bulk transfer station, cut through Georgia and bisect Florida’s springs heartland.
It would extend down to Orlando, where the gas will be dispersed into two more pipelines, ultimately benefiting Florida Power and Light. The two corporations have created Sabal Trails LLC for the surveying and construction team. Spectra Energy Corp. constructs pipelines and created Sabal Trails to get the job done, while Florida Power and Light wants the gas and is a subsidiary of the electricity supplier NextEra Energy Inc.
The Florida citing commission has ruled to allow NextEra and Spectra the right to survey and build another gas transmission pipeline through Florida’s vulnerable landscape. Land impacts will be plentiful; protected animal and plant species will have to suffer losses by being destroyed, relocated or uprooted.
In terms of the Santa Fe River and the Ichetucknee River, Sabal Trails has been in our neighborhoods for the past several months trying to survey a 100-foot-wide corridor. Homeowners in Three Rivers Estates Property Owners, Ichetucknee River Estates Property Homeowners Association, Cypress Shores, Waccasassa Flats, Springs Ridge, Columbia County, Suwannee County and Gilchrist County have all received letters from the company to access their private properties to survey.
There is a glimmer of hope here. There will be no digging under the Ichetucknee River. As the result of a concerted effort of many individuals, elected officials, organizations and Florida Power and Light officers, the pipeline has been moved completely out of Columbia County.
And recently, Sabal was showing maps at a Gilchrist County Commission meeting in which the proposed pipeline path running parallel to the Santa Fe River has been moved south through the center line of the Waccasassa Flats. What has not been moved is the company’s “preferred route” that is planned to run through a Santa Fe River springshed, about a half-mile from the confluence of the Ichetucknee River, an old riverbed slough, a neighborhood wildlife sanctuary — all in and around a canopied road leading up to a community park called Davis Landing on the Santa Fe River.
As a matter of concession, because we really do not want this destruction at all in our area, Our Santa Fe River Inc. suggested that Sabal move this project to the existing Florida Gas Transmission pipeline under the Santa Fe River near the SR 129 Bridge. Unlike Sabal, Florida Gas Transmission developed its corridor so far under the radar several years ago that by the time we were made aware of the construction in that corridor, it was too late to do anything in opposition to it.
We are wiser now. Springs culture has arrived in our great state. Citizens are dangerously close to losing one of the most valued cultural phenomena, the Florida springs, magical windows into our ever flowing Floridan Aquifer. Environmental, moral and ethical burdens are at an all-time high in our great state.
Do we bisect the entire springs heartland to allow energy companies to capitalize on the unsustainable business of “fracking” our Earth’s crust? Or do we make them a responsible energy behemoth and demand only sustainable energy growth found in sun, wind and hydrological powers?
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is the final say-so on the gas highway project. Scoping meetings begin this month in our area, starting March 24 at 6 p.m. in Live Oak City Hall. Additional meetings will be held March 25 at 6 p.m. at Bell High School and March 26 at 6 p.m. at Rainbow Springs Country Club in Dunnellon.
These are important meetings where they will take depositions from the public. Plan to come bearing facts and knowledge of our area and explain to our federal government, in your own words, why putting a trench into the springs heartland, where our very water supply is manifested from the Floridan Aquifer, will scar us for generations to come.
Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson is president of Our Santa Fe River Inc., a nonprofit group working to protect the aquifer, springs and rivers within the watershed of the Santa Fe River.
What happened in Georgia at this week’s FERC Scoping Meetings in Albany, Valdosta, and Moultrie.
This coming week you can go to the Alabama FERC Scoping Meetings in Seale, Alexander City, or Butler, Alabama.