Earthjustice Wins Flooding Appeal Against SWFWMD
Earthjustice, on behalf of the Crowley Museum and Nature Center, recently won on appeal a major case aimed at stopping damaging flooding that killed thousands of trees on the nature center's property and in Flatford Swamp in the upper Myakka River.
The flooding is due to the practice of flooding vegetable fields with groundwater for irrigation. So much water is wasted in this practice that a river of irrigation water floods and kills thousands of trees downstream of the farms. The Southwest Florida Water Management District issues permits for the flood irrigation, despite the fact that the farms sit in an area that's been severely impacted by excess water withdrawals from the underground aquifer.
In the appeal, the district unsuccessfully argued that it could not be required to halt this wasteful practice and had no legal responsibility to stop the flooding. In a strongly-worded opinion, the appeals court ruled otherwise and suggested that it might be appropriate to revoke the permits issued by the district.
"This ruling vindicates our claim that the Southwest Florida Water Management District should be required to stop flooding from wasted irrigation water," said David Guest, managing attorney of the Earthjustice Florida office. "It seems unbelievable that the district still allows flood irrigation in an area where only last year people were getting fines for watering their lawns."
In its ruling today, the Second District Court of Appeal in Lakeland decided that a trial court improperly dismissed the case on the theory that the water management district could not be required to stop the flooding.
"This is a victory for the Crowley Museum and Nature Center and a clear statement from the court that the district can be held accountable," said Bill Cowdright, executive director of Crowley Museum and Nature Center. "This flooding is destructive and wasteful and it needs to stop."