The state Department of Environmental Protection has renewed a permit for a canal system at a Florida Power & Light plant in Miami-Dade County, after a long-running legal battle about the issue.
Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Shawn Hamilton issued an order Friday approving a recommendation from an administrative law judge and granting the renewal.
The issue involves a 5,900-acre canal system at FPL’s Turkey Point complex that Administrative Law Judge Cathy Sellers likened to a “radiator.”
Discharges of heated power-plant cooling water circulate through the system and are ultimately reused as cooling water for the plant’s nuclear reactors. FPL and state and local officials have grappled with problems of high-salinity water moving west from the site, resulting in the 2016 agreement known as a consent order.
Among other things, FPL was required to install wells to withdraw hypersaline water and inject it deep underground, Sellers wrote in a recommended order. The Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority, which supplies drinking water to the Keys, and the Florida Keys Fishing Guides Association challenged the permit renewal and were joined by Monroe County.
The challenge, in part, contended that continued operation of the canal system would lead to increased salinity in groundwater that would threaten the drinking-water supply in the future. But Sellers, in a February recommendation that was revised slightly later, rejected the arguments.
“Issuance of the renewal permit for the CCS (cooling canal system) is in the public interest,” Sellers wrote. “As discussed … the Turkey Point electrical generating facility, and, specifically, Units 3 and 4 (the nuclear units), are an essential source of electricity for South Florida. Thus, (a section of state law) provides authority for issuance of the renewal permit.”