Letter: St. Johns River Water Management District failed to consider public input on I-95/Pioneer Trail interchange

What are your neighbors talking about this week?

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  • | 11:30 a.m. March 26, 2024
Letters to the editor
Letters to the editor
  • Ormond Beach Observer
  • Opinion
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St. Johns River Water Management Board gets 'two thumbs down'

Dear Editor:

On March 12, I traveled to Palatka, Florida, along with about 20 others to attend the St. Johns River Water Management District Board meeting; we were on a mission to “Save Spruce Creek." The board’s agenda included consideration of the controversial I-95/Pioneer Trail interchange issue. If constructed, as proposed, the interchange would directly affect 50+ acres of wetlands, and would adversely affect Spruce Creek.

SJRWMD board member Maryam Ghyabi — sister of the developer pushing this environmentally damaging project — appropriately recused herself. Nevertheless, to citizen attendees at the board meeting it appeared the deck had already been stacked.

It was a very irregular and disappointing proceeding; after their presentations to the board, principals were sent out of the room by the chair presumably to negotiate. The plaintiff’s spokesman was not afforded his three-minute rebuttal after FDOT respondents presented.

The chair started to proceed to other agenda items, but had to be “called out" by an attendee that “public comment” had not been heard. A dozen or so speakers, representing various environmental groups, and some representing themselves as affected property owners all spoke in opposition to issuing a permit for construction of the I-95/Pioneer Trail interchange.

No one spoke in favor of the interchange. Interestingly, the “public comments” were entertained by the board while the principals were out of the room.

When the principals returned after lengthy delay, no agreements had been reached. The board made no motion on the issue; there was no discussion or “consideration” by the board; there was no vote. By default, the issue went forward to the SJRWMD executive director to issue the permit, setting aside an administrative law judge’s recommendation to deny the permit.

Overall, the St. Johns River Water Management District Governing Board gets “two thumbs down.” It failed to seriously consider public input; it failed to uphold its core mission (per its website) to “protect our natural resources.”

As a kid growing up watching “Superman” on television, I never fully grasped its catch-line: “the never-ending battle, for truth, justice, and the American way.” Now I have a much better understanding. The fight goes on.

Rob Bridger

Ormond Beach

Editor's note: Rob Bridger is the political committee chair of the Sierra Club, Volusia-Flagler Group.


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