This situation is typical; the people with the power don't understand
science and technology. It is just one more compelling reason why college
graduates, especially scientists and engineers, should seek election to
local city and county commissions throughout rural North Florida and the
David E. Bruderly PE
Clean Power Engineering
Wise Gas Inc.
920 SW 57th Drive
Gainesville FL 32607-3838
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Bill or Susan Woods <[log in to unmask]>
Date: Thu, Jan 15, 2009 at 10:09 AM
Subject: There you go again, Jim!
To: Bill Woods <[log in to unmask]>
In his never-ending committment to the developers in Marion County, Jim
Payton speaks up again (below) on why yet another expensive study that the
county has paid for is not to be believed. (Other examples of more-or-less
million-dollar studies that we have paid for and then more-or-less ignored
would be the SR 200 Corridor Study, and the US Hwy 27 Corridor Study, which
is being distorted in the county's latest attempts to update the Future Land
To understand why the latest objections have been raised to the WRAM study,
(which in its pre-censorship days was an even more stunning achievement than
it is now) one need only look at what kind of effect it might have on future
development in the county (can you say "responsible" or "innovative" or
Those whose only concept of a future for Marion County is to keep doing the
same thing and hoping for the same profits might want to consider getting a
life. Preferably, one that is outside of politics.
That's just my opinion.
County's water 'roadmap' questioned
Some elected officials have expressed doubt about the science behind the
By Bill Thompson <mailto:[log in to unmask]>
Published: Thursday, January 15, 2009 at 6:30 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 15, 2009 at 5:47 a.m.
OCALA - Sixteen months ago, the Marion County Commission punctuated one of
its most innovative policy moves in recent memory by adopting the final
version of an exhaustive analysis of the community's future water needs.
The report, the Water Resource Assessment and Management Study, or WRAMS,
inventoried the county's current water supply and sought to project how much
water the community would need to sustain itself, and to identify where that
water would come from, 50 years into the future - or more than twice as long
as state water regulators map eventual water needs and resources.
That objective apparently was met, said many scientists who worked on the
But almost since adopting the WRAMS, some elected leaders have aired
suspicions about its scientific bona fides.
For example, in September, during a workshop on new regulations to safeguard
Marion County's springs, Commissioner Charlie Stone repeatedly dismissed the
WRAMS as "flawed" scientifically. He ridiculed it as being produced by
"University of Florida interns that were working on a, whatever, project or
doctrine or whatever. It wasn't real scientific data. It was something to
get them out of school."
Last month, commission Chairman Jim Payton, in a debate over a contract
extension for County Administrator Pat Howard, who had made water a priority
on the county agenda, said the WRAMS was "trite," poorly vetted and riddled
The question of how the county's elected leaders view the WRAMS, either
publicly or privately, is relevant as water-related issues emerge in the
Because short of ordering additional studies at additional expense, or
finding new sources of information, that report is intended to be their
primary guide to hammering out public policy on water, several decisions on
which are expected to be made throughout 2009.
Those include adopting new regulations for protecting freshwater springs;
mandating new water-saving landscaping techniques; possibly increasing water
rates for county Utilities Department customers (suggested in the WRAMS as a
And some of those decisions will matter beyond the county line.
Marion County recently reunited with the Withlacoochee Regional Water Supply
Authority, a partnership of three neighboring counties and the city of Ocala
that plans for long-range water needs of the nearly 665,000 residents under
its jurisdiction. In early December, representatives of the authority
briefed the commission on topics such as the benefits of establishing new
water wellfields in Marion County and the downside of the county's further
pursuit of a partnership in a Flagler County desalination plant.
Providing insight into such questions was the original purpose of the WRAMS
- the work on which began in January 2004 once commissioners mobilized
against a controversial recommendation from the Florida Council of 100 to
then-Gov. Jeb Bush.
The Council of 100, a panel of elite business leaders from around the state,
had suggested rapidly growing communities in South Florida could pay areas
in water-rich North Florida to ship their water to them. The proposal sent
shock waves of angst and anger throughout communities north of Interstate 4,
the border in the water skirmish.
The WRAMS was to supply the ammunition for repelling such assaults.
As noted in a November 2004 county document called the WRAMS "project plan,"
the study would "provide Marion County decision makers with a clear
understanding of the County's water resource base, its future water needs,
how those needs will be met and the methods and means to manage those
resources in an efficient and effective manner."
That resulted in what became known among county staff as the "million-dollar
report." The nickname accounted for the $550,000 in cash as well as all the
in-kind services and staff time spent by the county and two state water
management districts to complete the WRAMS, which wrapped up in April 2007.
Hank Largin, spokesman for the St. Johns River Water Management District,
noted the development of the study involved all current public water supply
utilities, two water management districts, cities in Marion County plus the
county's Planning Department and the local regional planning council - and
$350,000 in St. Johns contributions for financial support and in-kind
Additionally, during its development, the WRAMS was monitored by a panel of
scientists, senior government officials and citizen groups, including those
that faced future layers of regulations because of its findings.
"The report provides a solid base of information for the county to begin the
planning necessary to meet future water supply demands," Largin said. "The
report included strategies to meet those needs by accelerating water
conservation, reuse measures and expanding existing public water supply
facilities while exploring alternative sources of water supply. District
staff believes the report should be useful in guiding the Marion County
Commission in making decisions on water-supply and land-use planning."
Ron Basso, a senior geologist with the Southwest Florida Water Management
District, who served as the district's project manager on the WRAMS project,
said the WRAMS was a more generalized look at the county's water needs than
what state water regulators might undertake for the entire region.
Still, "We thought it was a good report. Looking at a 50-year horizon, it
was as good a technical job as could be done," said Basso, who was viewed by
county staff as the toughest critic of the document during its drafting.
"For this level of study, and going out that far, that was entirely
Pete Hubbell, a partner and senior hydrologist with the Tampa-based firm
Water Resource Associates Inc., which consulted on the project, said the
WRAMS had shortcomings. Its population projections, for example, must be
Yet overall, "If there were flaws and problems, at least through the
process, we sure didn't hear it," said Hubbell, whose firm also advises the
Withlacoochee River Water Supply Authority. "To have a local government take
a good, hard, specific look at population growth and water supply and demand
- that's a real progressive thing Marion County did. I think it's a great
It's possible some commissioners might agree. Knowingly or not, they have
enacted some of the report's recommendations, such as a 2007 utilities rate
increase to promote conservation, last year's tougher standards for
fertilizer usage and tighter restrictions on water irrigation that will be
enforced this spring.
Commissioner Payton, however, said he believes some board criticism directed
at the WRAMS represented a "conceptual issue." He explained that taken in
individual slices, it is difficult to argue with any of the science in the
report. But much of that science, taken in a larger context, was "anecdotal
and academic," and not practically applicable.
Moreover, some of the findings failed to account for information that might
refute those conclusions, he said. Payton suggested as an example that
findings blaming the septic tanks for polluting Silver Springs could have
been refuted by other studies pointing to parking lot runoff and aging
Payton also said he believed that a county staffer who primarily authored
the WRAMS had too little oversight.
Despite those complaints, he believes the board can somewhat rely on the
WRAMS to help guide water policy, and not repeat all of that effort and
"I'm not willing to scrap it. We can tweak it, and I think some of it has
been re-addressed," Payton said. "We will use it as a tool, and each
commissioner will have to put weight on parts to suit his own paradigm."
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