Friends of Perdido Bay
10738 Lillian Highway
Pensacola, FL 32506
Tidings The Newsletter of the Friends of Perdido Bay
March 2003 Volume 16 Number 2 Jackie Lane -Editor
Sharpen Those Pencils And Start To Write
As the environmental agencies begin to issue the permits for the IP/ECUA project which entails piping wastewater to a wetlands between Eleven Mile Creek and Perdido River, public input will be sought. The first round of public input is due April 7, 2003. The Florida DEP has issued a "Florida Finding of No Significant Impact" for the portion of the project which deals with construction of a new 2.5 Million Gallon per Day Wastewater Treatment Plant for the central part of Escambia County and a 48-inch diameter, ten mile long effluent pipeline to wetlands. This "Finding of No Significant Impact" will allow ECUA to get loans from the Florida Revolving Loan Program". The potential amount of loan for this part of the project could be $60,000,000.
Friends of Perdido Bay's position on this project is still tentative. While there is the potential for Perdido Bay to be better, there is also the potential for Perdido Bay to be worse. Several of our worries will be listed.
The bottom line is, if we could depend on our environmental agencies to really protect our environment and do the job which our taxes pay for, then the IP/ECUA project would be much more satisfactory. But as we have learned over the years, politics has an overriding influence on the environmental process. The state and federal agencies are not allowed to do the jobs which they are supposed to do because of political meddling. Laws be damned. If lawmakers can't change them, then they will ignore them. This is the state of environmental protection on Perdido Bay (and maybe the U.S.).
WRITE comments about this "Florida Finding of No Significant Impact" to: Troy Mullis, Bureau of Water Facilities Funding, Department of Environmental Protection, 2600 Blair Stone Road, MS#3505, Tallahassee, Florida 32399-2400. Comments must be received by April 7, 2003. You can use the above information in a letter or make up you own comments. The IP/ECUA project most definitely WILL impact the environment. Whether it is "significant" or not, depends on your point of view.
Check Out Friends of Perdido Bay Website
Over the years, people keep asking "Do you have a website?". Now the answer is, yes. Our website address is www.friendsofperdidobay.com. We have several pages on the website which contain photos, newsletters, description of IP/ECUA project, and links. You can also read the latest DEP letter to IP explaining what information is still needed for IP's permit application to be completed. You can also read the seven page "Florida Finding of No Significant Impact".
The thing I like about the web page is the ability to post the latest foam and/or scum photos. Over the years we have taken hundreds of photos of the nasty conditions at our beach - photos which show that these waters are certainly polluted. On the worst days, I have called the Florida DEP to come out and see the scum and foam. Sometimes they came, but many times by the time they got here the foam would be gone. Now, I post the photos on the internet. If they want to see the foam, they can look on the internet. Hopefully, the rest of the world will see the nasty conditions as well.
If you have any recent photos of foam and nasty water you would like us to post on our internet site, send the photos, along with the date and place where the photo was taken, to us at the address listed a the top of this newsletter.
Next General Meeting - April 24, 2003
Friends of Perdido Bay will be having our first general meeting of 2003 on Thursday, April 24, 2003 at the Jim Bailey Middle School in the Cafeteria. The meeting will begin at 7:00 PM. DEP wastewater permit engineers will be explaining the permitting process which IP is now going through in order to obtain their permits for the extensive IP/ECUA project. International Paper submitted their "revised" permit application October 1, 2002. Since then the DEP has issued two letters which informed IP of additional items which are necessary to process the application. IP now has until April 15th to submit additional information. So come and hear how the permitting process works. Public comment will eventually be sought on the permits which are issued.
If you want to read DEP's entire 23-page, 2nd Completeness Letter to IP, you can go to our website and click on the place where it tells you to click here. You will need to download Adobe Acrobat if you don't already have it, to read the letter.
Friends of Perdido Bay Supports Science Fairs
Ever since Friends of Perdido Bay formed, we have presented awards at the local science fairs in Pensacola and Mobile. Junior and Senior winners are chosen in a category "Solutions to Pollution". Winners receive $25.00 and a certificate. This years winners in the Mobile Science Fair were Kirstie Skinner from Elberta Middle School for a project entitled "Turbidity effects on oxygen levels" and Patrick Johnson from Murphy High School for a project entitled "How water plants affect ammonia levels of pond water". We think that encouraging students to use science and the scientific method to solve problems is a worthwhile endeavor. Congratulations to our winners.
The Public Pays
Although the Escambia County Utilities Authority (ECUA) does not really need a new wastewater treatment plant in the Cantonment area, they have some how been forced into this "partnership". Part of the reason that ECUA is necessary for this project is to obtain public financing for the pipeline. In the formal agreement executed on December 23, 2002 between IP and ECUA, ECUA is given ownership of the pipeline and maintenance. IP is given 80% transmission capacity in the pipeline. IP has given to ECUA: 20 acres on the mill site in Cantonment for construction of the new wastewater plant, easements to build the pipeline, and easements on the 2000-acre site between the Perdido River and Eleven Mile Creek to dispose of the effluent. In the December 23, 2002 agreement, IP agrees to pays 80% and ECUA agrees to pay 20% of the cost of the project. ECUA does have authority to use a special tax assessment on the IP's property to assure payment of IP's share of the cost. The opening of the agreement states that project costs shall be funded by state and/or federal grants and loans to the ECUA. IP is not eligible to receive public funds because it is a private company.
IP will benefit from government help in other ways. According to a reporter from the Mobile Press Registrar, Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama has sponsored appropriations to buy easements from IP along the Perdido River. The proposed amount of payment is $2,000,000. Florida is also going to buy other land from IP for $12,000,000. This land is in the Blackwater Forest/Yellow River area. So as you can see, government (our money) is playing a big part in pushing this project through.
Public funds are also involved in supporting growth on Perdido Key. It seems like every week a new condominium starts on Perdido Key. All these new units require a lot more water. Several years ago, there was not enough water or water pressure on Perdido Key to support the units which were already there. ECUA to the rescue. ECUA built a water tank at the corner of Sorrento and Bauer Road to correct the water pressure situation. ECUA was going to put a new water well there as well. But the Northwest Florida Water Management District would not give them a permit because of the fear of salt water intrusion. So ECUA had to pipe water from the Avondale well down Blue Angle Parkway to the water tank. This was a rather large pipe that many people thought was wastewater being transferred from the downtown Mainstreet Plant to the Avondale Wastewater Plant. No, it was just a water line going to support growth on Perdido Key. My question is, "Did the developers pay for this pipeline with connection fees?". Probably not, it is much easier to get the unknowing and unsuspecting public to pay.
The way it was - Memories By Jim Lane
Most people who live on or use the bay don't remember what it was like before pollution. To remember, you'd need to be in your 60's and have used the bay in the 40's - the paper mill started in 1942 (but the pollution wasn't obvious at first). We'd like to collect and publish memories of people who knew the bay back then. If you are someone who does remember and would like to share your memories, give us a call, and we'll arrange an interview. Or, if you'd like to, write the memories yourself and mail them to us. (Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
To briefly start the series, I'll relate some memories from the early forties. We moved to upper Perdido Bay in 1940, and I remember the bay water as very clear. My father taught me and my sister to open our eyes under water by holding his closed hand under water, and after we'd put our heads under water he'd open some fingers. We had to count the fingers and, after popping our heads above water, tell how many fingers he had shown. There was no problem counting the fingers in the clear water.
Another distinct memory I have is of fishing from a rowboat in 1944. A friend's dad would row us out to water about 8 feet deep. After anchoring and tossing out our baited hand lines, we could see the anchor and the fish swimming to our bait on the sandy bottom.