In order to fulfill our mission, we strive daily to identify what is right for our river and to determine how we can collectively protect and defend the St. Johns for current and future generations. That is why our team is rigorously investigating the Grove Land Reservoir and Stormwater Treatment Area project that straddles the southern boundary of the St. Johns River Headwaters with South Florida. 

Grove Land is being sold and advertised as a water quality and a water supply project. While disguised as a beneficial environmental endeavor, this project will inevitably and admittedly redirect polluted waters north from South Florida and our river will be used as a pipeline to fuel urban sprawl in Central Florida. 

As currently designed, Grove Land will increase pollution in the already impaired Headwaters of the St. Johns. This impact is salt in the wounds of the damage that resulted from Florida’s failed sewage sludge policy, consequently allowing South Florida to dump nearly 100,000 tons of its concentrated sewage on ranchlands in our river’s headwaters annually.

Now the Florida Legislature wants to fasttrack the Grove Land project. At the 11th hour during the 2024 Florida Legislative Session, $400 million appeared after closed-door budget discussions directing the St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD) to acquire land within the Grove Land Reservoir and Stormwater Treatment Area boundary.

In addition to the surprise of the SJRWMD as they did not request this funding, the agency continues to express significant concerns that remain unresolved about the unintended consequences and impacts to the St. Johns, as outlined in the most recent request for additional information (RAI).

In early April, state agencies consolidated their ongoing request for critical information regarding pollution loads and flood risk. Among the 20 pages of unanswered concerns, they ask for confirmation that Grove Land will not “cause or contribute to the impairment” of downstream water bodies and will not increase St. Johns River flooding. They also requested “defensible demonstration of reasonable assurance” that the project will not violate water quality standards downstream.

SJRWMD also stated “that as currently proposed, a beneficial use could not be verified.”

Yet, this enormous $400 million appropriation was not discussed in any committee, there was no opportunity for public comment and absolutely no discussion of the merits of this huge taxpayer subsidy. Nor did the Legislature seek the opinions of state agencies to verify the benefits of the project and understand the potential threats to the St. Johns.

We are working to get answers to ensure our river is protected and the public has an opportunity to weigh in on such a huge taxpayer expense that promises dubious benefits and provides limited assurances that our river wouldn’t be harmed in the process. 

Our River deserves better. Floridians deserve better.

Links to the RAI: