It’s time to start letting you know who some of the players are. I’ve been trying to keep my neighbors’ names out of this fiasco, but I need to post the latest and greatest letters from the SJRWMD. Because of this, it’s pretty impossible to keep things “under wraps” so here goes:
Without going into a lengthy dissertation about the jurisdictional ping-ponging (like I said I was going to do), I'll just say that wetlands violations fell to the St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD) instead of the DEP to handle due to my neighbors’ alleged silviculture land use.
On August 5, 2009, Mr. Dale Lovell, and Mr. Vern Wickline with the SJRWMD inspected the fire line and sent the following letter dated August 24, 2009 to my neighbor.
What the letter doesn't mention is that this is wetlands. Please refer back to the same Mr. Lovell's letter dated May 27, 1997 (you’ll see it again later in this post) where he mentions the Walker property being located in the wetlands. That is my property. The wetlands doesn't end at my property line. It continues on to the neighbor's property as shown on the DOF and the US Fish and Wildlife National Wetlands Inventory.
I am baffled why, when Mr. Lovell specifically mentions the DOF's Silviculture Best Management Practices manual, he neglects to address the wetlands, or even mention the creek in his letter.
Let's take a look at that manual, shall we? You can download a copy of the manual here. To make it short and sweet for you, I was quickly able to pull out a couple of key pages:
The whole manual is chock full of special procedures the MUST be followed in wetlands. None of these procedures were followed. These pages CLEARLY state fire line plowing should be avoided in the wetlands.
Question: Why does Mr. Lovell mention the North boundary and nothing on the west boundary where the most significant damage occurred even to the creek? He merely mentions one area where the equipment bogged down. There were two, and one was dead smack in the creek.
Question: Why is Mr. Lovell giving the “green light” for grading? He doesn’t specify who must do that grading. That means anyone can take a tractor or bulldozer into the wetlands and tear it up some more. Since when is this allowed in wetlands with no permit? By the way, I recently received a letter from the DEP stating it will cost $250.00 for a permit to put up a post and wire fence in the wetlands, yet grading, bulldozing, and the neighbor’s post hole digging is OK with no permit? HUH?
Further, Mr. Lovell states the damage to my property is not “a violation of District regulatory". Whose is it then? The DEP again, for the third time? They’ve already washed their hands of it…hmmm, I’m wondering if the DEP even knows about the DOF’s and the SJRWMD’s decisions….
The Fritch neighbor certainly has not expressed any desire whatsoever to right these wrongs. So again, I guess our only avenue is litigation, and we were trying to avoid that.
Now, you may come to the conclusion that Mr. Lovell does not think this area is wetlands. Here is another letter dated August 31, 2009 addressed to me.
As you can see, Mr. Wickline included a copy of Mr. Lovell’s 1997 letter. I might as well tell you some background on this:
We called a meeting with my attorney Jennifer Springfield, Dale Lovell (SJRWMD), Vern Wickline (SJRWMD), and Mike Green (County) on August 5, 2009 to discuss a drainage problem from water coming from Highway 315C to our neighborhood. This highway water contributed greatly to the washout of Blueberry Hill Road. Mr. Green with the County presented a plausible plan to relieve the area of this water problem and all three men asked me if I would help them to contact several of the neighbors about the proposal. I agreed. During this meeting, I expressed great concern for the road and my neighbors, and was just recently seeing the horrific washout since I had been out of town for awhile. I told the men that clearly work needed to be done, that the road was in very bad shape, and asked if they could give some guidance to the neighborhood so that the work could go on unhindered. The SJRWMD guys agreed and prepared the above letter in response to that request. Unfortunately, Mr. Wickline sent everyone in the neighborhood a copy of the 1997 letter that included my notes. There had previously been some neighborhood meetings during which apparently there had been some hard feelings and hostilities expressed…I don’t know too much about that because I was out of town and was not able to attend the meetings, and what I have heard about them has strictly been word of mouth scuttle through the neighborhood. But during the last meeting, the Spokesperson indicated that “someone was out there trying to cause problems and THEY HAD BETTER QUIT!”
So, I guess everyone will think now that I am that person. Wrong.
Oh well. Thanks, guys! Good luck to me now trying to get folks to cooperate with the drainage proposal.
After that meeting was over, Mr. Green left since he was there only to discuss the County Road 315C drainage issues. Mr. Wickline and Mr. Lovell then took a few minutes to look at the fire line, and then left to go speak with the neighbors. They weren’t down there long, maybe about 10-15 minutes.
Anyway, that brings us current with the above August 31st letter, at least as far as the SJRWMD goes. In that letter Mr. WIckline again addresses the wetlands, includes the 1997 letter which acknowledges that the information in that letter holds true today, and in the attached 1997 letter my property is mentioned (#8 Walker property), along with a diagram (illustrative purposes only I am sure) to show the wetlands and creek. That letter also specifically states that my property is wetlands.
Again I must ask? Why no wetlands violations? Why is there no permit required?
If I did these things, the DEP would be all over me, and rightfully so.