South end developments on hold

South Santa Rosa, we may have a problem, at least according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP).

And that could mean new subdivisions, hotels, restaurants, retailers and other large-scale projects come to a screeching halt. In a letter issued April 16, FDEP officials questioned how much water South Santa Rosa’s wells could really provide to customers.

In fear that the demand on the area water utilities is dangerously close to outpacing their capacity, FDEP has declared they will not issue general permits for the systems. General permits do not impact single lot owners paying a tap fee, but larger projects seeking permitting for water usage may run into trouble.

Fairpoint Regional Utility System, Inc. (FRUS), a cooperative of South Santa Rosa County’s water utilities, argues FDEP is wrong.

FRUS sources water from wells in the north part of the county and sells it to the member utilities to provide to many customers in the south end. The member utilities include Holley Navarre Water System (managing partner), Navarre Beach, South Santa Rosa Utility (Gulf Breeze) and Midway Water System.

FRUS officials believe they are well within their capacity, according to public records of the exchange between FRUS and FDEP. In a Capacity Analysis Report submitted July 6, the stated permitted capacity of the water system is 10.08 million gallons per day (GPD). That is a measure of roughly how much water could be drawn from all the wells and piped to users.

But that may not be entirely accurate. Well Site 3 is split into two wells, 3A and 3B, both of which cannot be run at the same time.

“FRUS limits use of Site 3 to one well at a time as the operation of both wells has not been tested,” the report states.

FDEP argues that based on this limitation FRUS’s capacity is closer to 8.64 million GPD. By comparison, FRUS’s maximum day on record is 6.98 million GPD according to FDEP. That means 81% of the actual capacity could already be used up.

In an area where construction of hundreds of new homes is already underway and large-scale commercial projects are coming online, 19% wiggle room is not reassuring for long term capacity.

FDEP also questioned whether the pressure being used on the transition line was sufficient, and FDEP said the Capacity Analysis Report also indicated two wells were operating above their designed capacity, pulling more water that was allowable.

In an email response dated Aug. 5, FDEP environmental manager Dana Vestal wrote the departments concerns have not been resolved.

“Therefore, the Department cannot issue General Permits for FRUS systems until a hydraulic analysis of the current system to include the capacity of the transmission line, has been clearly modeled and submitted for review,” she wrote.

For development prospects in the south end that may be unwelcome news.

FRUS met Aug. 6 to discuss next steps. Holley-Navarre Water System chairman and acting FRUS executive Daryl Lynchard said they plan to issue a response to FDEP by next week.

“DEP is wrong. We are currently developing a response to them. Fairpoint has always been able to meet its customers needs and will be able to meet those needs well into the future,” he said.

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