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Making Minnows Happy Is Important to Special Interests

March 17, 2014 - 7:00pm

In marshes somewhere south of Lake Helen Blazes, the St. Johns River is formed.

It slowly meanders north one of only a few rivers in North America that flow in that direction. Near the end of its 300-mile journey it turns east, passes in a broad swath through the city of Jacksonville, and then merges into the Atlantic Ocean.

In addition to scenic beauty, it is a valuable resource that provides a way of living to many Florida residents. As Florida's natural attractions lure more people there is more activity in and around the river but, fortunately, people who care work constantly to protect it and it has friends in Tallahassee.

On Monday the 4th St. Johns River Caucus was held in the Senate. The caucus was started by state Sen. John Thrasher to give legislators whose districts are touched by the river a venue to monitor the river's status.

One of the major steps in improving the river came 40 years ago when the city of Jacksonville spent $150 million to cut off sewage outfalls into the river. In earlier times it was acceptable to put sewage in the river because the river was able to assimilate it, but Jacksonville officials decided to end that practice when the Clean Water Act was passed, unlike other cities that continued to dawdle.

Although point-source pollution has been eliminated, there is still runoff from agriculture and other sources. But it is a manageable problem, despite occasional outbreaks of hysteria from Big Environment.

In some cases, liberal solutions are worse than the problem.

Georgia-Pacific began 20 years ago trying to help the river by building a pipeline that would carry wastewater from its paper mill in Palatka into the river.

Little-brained columnists and reporters often described this as an effort to dump pollution into the river.

Treated wastewater from the plant has been going into the river for nearly 60 years. It is emptied into Rice Creek, which is beside the plant and runs a short distance into the river.

Furthermore, the discharge met all environmental standards until regulators raised the standards a few years ago. Suddenly, what had been legal discharge became pollution.

Georgia-Pacific spent $200 million to clean its wastewater, but still needed the pipeline.

Water from Rice Creek oozes into the river and tends to remain near the shore. The pipeline pumps the wastewater into the main body of the river where it is diluted quickly to a level that meets the standards.

The net effect is akin to dumping a teacup of wastewater into an Olympic-sized swimming pool.

Truly, the solution to pollution is dilution. Although slow, the St. Johns empties nearly a billion gallons a day into the ocean.

Yet, even after regulators and the courts had approved the $30 million project, various special interests continued trying to block construction. Fortunately they failed.

Had they succeeded in shutting down the plant and putting 1,000 people out of work, they would have considered it a victory because in their view minnows are more important than humans.

Liberals never can get it through their skulls that people are part of the environment.

Lloyd Brown was in the newspaper business nearly 50 years, beginning as a copy boy and retiring as editorial page editor of the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville. After retirement he served as speech writer for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

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