This week, I’d like to discuss the formation of FOLA. The archives have lots of documents discussing the issues leading to FOLA’s formation. I’ll try to summarize them here.
The Friends of Lake Apopka began as a Legislative Action committee, part of the West Orange Chamber of Commerce. In 1991, in reaction to certain actions taken by the St Johns Water Management District, it was decided to split off into their own independent group. To give the full context, we have to go back to 1988.
According to these minutes from the WOCC, prior to 1988 “pumped discharge” (i.e. from the muck farms) was regulated by the Florida Department of Environmental Regulation. (The DER is now part of the Florida Dept of Environmental Protection). In 1988 this type of regulation was delegated to the SJRWMD. Also noted in these minutes: In 1989 the SJRWMD signed a consent order with the Zellwood Drainage District.
This 1989 order is in the archives. It’s 20 pages long. The archives also hold a document noting various issues with this consent order, written by Jim Hawley. Some of the major concerns include various loopholes and ambiguities in the language of the order. A major issue is the duration of the order: it would allow the ZDD to continue dumping phosphorus for the next 10 years.
This consent order was challenged. Various amendments were drafted, attempting to strengthen the language of the order and shorten its duration. None of these were sucessful. The archives also hold several of these proposed amendments, some of which include comments by SJRWMD staff.
The order was approved in May of 1991, and then challenged by James Hawley. These challenges failed:
Another issue with the consent order was the lack of holding ponds required for Zellwood. One point in favor of these ponds was their successful construction by the DUDA farms which neighbored Zellwood on the North Shore. DUDA had begun construction of retention ponds back in 1989. Zellwood, though, felt these ponds weren’t economically feasible for their own holdings.
So, after the consent order was upheld and finalized in October 1991, the Friends of Lake Apopka were formed.
A position paper was drafted, outlining FOLA’s major concerns and potential routes towards restoration. Letters were sent to various Florida officials, including the Governor, Lawton Chiles. A recruitment drive was began, soliciting members from the various communities around the lake, as well as corporate sponsors. The first meeting was scheduled for January 14 of the next year.