Rayonier Performance Fibers and West Rock permitting process and public participation

Updated on 8-10-2017

News articles published in summer 2017 mislead the public about the St. Johns River Water Management District’s permitting process, following the Governing Board’s approval of consumptive use permits for Rayonier Performance Fibers (permit 915-5) and West Rock (permit 50077-9). Vital information that would allow you, the public, to see the full scope of the issue was left out of the articles, despite the information being readily available.

The Governing Board voted on Aug. 8, 2017, to approve two permit renewals both with significant water reductions. To see video of these board items, including the presentation and discussion on the item, click here.

  1. Fact: Both of these permits represent renewals of permits that have been in existence for decades. Neither permit represents new water withdrawals and further both represent decreases in permitted water allocation.
  2. Fact: Both permit applicants requested and received decreases in their water use allocation because both applicants reduced the amount of water used for production. Rayonier received an 11.6 percent decrease and West Rock received a 4.5 percent decrease.
  3. Fact: No objectors or media attended the board meeting or provided comments about the permits before or during the Governing Board’s review. In fact, at no point during the 18-month review process were there any objectors to either permit.
  4. Fact: The permitting process is a public and transparent process. Permit documents are available online, and the public is invited to provide written or in-person input on permit applications being considered by the Governing Board. View our permitting database here.
  5. Fact: The review and analysis of the permit applications was a lengthy process. Over the course of 18 months, extensive analyses using site-specific data corroborated by regional modeling were completed and evaluated by district staff as part of the permit applications and before recommending permit approval to the Governing Board. Prior to voting during Tuesday’s meeting, the permit data was reviewed and discussed by board members.
  6. Fact: One board member abstained from the vote to avoid the appearance of conflict.
  7. Fact: Water management districts are required by Florida Statute to promote the availability of sufficient water for all existing and future uses and natural systems. This applies to all water use classes including public supply, agriculture, commercial, and industrial. Virtually every economic endeavor requires the use of water. Without allocating for the use of water outside of public supply, Florida’s economic and employment opportunities would wither on the vine.

The district believes the media are a critical conduit for sharing information with the public, but in cases such as this, when information is omitted or exaggerated the public is misled. Charged with ensuring the sustainable use of Florida’s water for people and natural systems, the district’s permitting process strives for accountability and transparency in its work to protect water resources. The district stands by the board’s vote to approve these permits.