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Neighbors want changes to Keystone Heights area lakes plan

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Updated: 11/12/2013 7:33 pm

PALATKA, Fla. – The St. Johns River Water Management District Board voted to postpone a plan to adopt new minimum flows and levels on Brooklyn, Geneva and Compen lakes in Clay and Putnam counties. The time would allow the board, neighbors, utilities and other stakeholders to discuss future plans.

Members of the group Save Our Lakes showed up to the meeting wearing red shirts. They were pleased that the board voted to postpone the plan, but they said that the plan needs changes.

“It would basically be two small dots of water in our lakes, our lakes would be dried up,” said Vivian Katz, president of Save Our Lakes. So we're saying no, you can do other things, you can bring water back in, there's many ways to do it, do not lower the MFLs.”

The group said the lake levels are currently too as it is, which has affected property values, tourism and the local economy.

“We're talking millions and millions of value that been pulled away from us,” Katz said. “Our ecotourism is nonexistent.”

The district said Brooklyn, Geneva and Cowpen are sandhill lakes, meaning some of their water seeps into the aquifer below. The current levels were set in the early ‘90s. New science has emerged since then, so the district feels it is time to adjust the baselines.

“Some of these lakes vary considerably so the margin might be a little larger than what some people are comfortable with,” said Alfred Canepa, an assistant director with the SJRWD.

Canepa said he and other officials are listening to the neighbors’ concerns.

“Low levels certainly do impact their quality of life,” he said. “But what our job is to parse out the difference between the low lake levels due to climate and drought and how much of the low level is due to pumping.”

Save Our Lakes is touting a plan that would take water from Lake Lowry upstream into Alligator Creek, which flows into the lakes. A pilot program earlier in 2013 helped raise the levels. Canepa said all options are on the table to deal with the problem, and that the district has already has a number of potential projects in place.

Neighbors plan to meet again with district officials in December. The new MFL plan should be released sometime in early 2014.

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