A change is in the water

The St. Johns River Water Management District is finding itself in a bit of a quandary lately. The district is understaffed and its workers are overloaded. Staff recently circulated a memo outlining some basic ideas to "improve the permitting and compliance efficiency" of the district's permitting office.

Although these proposals are only in the discussion stage, they still raised eyebrows in environmental circles. Activists are concerned that the streamlining will mean weakening the process, thereby jeopardizing Central Florida's already declining natural resources.

If adopted, the changes would transfer permitting control from the governing board in Palatka to the local offices. Says Sierra Club and Audubon Society member Marge Haberland: "It's one less step the developer has to go through."

The idea is that, for small projects, things should go more smoothly. "The problem with that," says Sierra Club spokeswoman Mary Slater-Linn, "`is that` really small projects cumulatively add up. What's going to happen is we're going to have flooding. Wetlands are going to be destroyed."