An Administrative Law Judge just ruled that the Northwest Florida Water Management District comprehensively failed to meet the key statutory criteria for issuing a wellfield permit to Bay County. Judge David M. Maloney (Case No. 10-2983) found that the proposed water use permit was not reasonable-beneficial, failed to protect existing legal uses, and was not in the public interest. (p. 89-92). This important decision shows how far wrong a water management district can go when it is given the incentives to do so.
In this case, the fundamental problem is that the legislature gave the water management districts two incompatible missions: (1) protect Florida’s water resources for the future and (2) help local governments develop all the water they need. For mission (2), the Legislature even gave NWFWMD millions of dollars to dangle in front of local government for water supply projects. In response, the district and Bay County enthusiastically dreamed up the wellfield project that the Administrative Law Judge found so preposterous.
This built-in conflict of interest should be eliminated. How could a water management district possibly evaluate a water use permit application fairly that it encouraged the applicant to submit and that the district even promised to fund? The districts should get out of the water supply business. That would make for much better permit applications and also save money all around.