The editorials and public comment criticizing the water managers are getting louder and stronger. The people are not hoodwinked nor are they the fools that perhaps the managers take them to be.
The writer below asks why the water managers want to take our springs and rivers to the verge of destruction. The managers won’t answer that, but the logical reason is to supply those who want the water — more agriculture and more developers. We do not need either of these as much as we need our water resources.
Litigation is now the norm. That and new public servants (what a misnomer!) are the answer.
Just minutes ago as of this writing, we see that SWFWMD will re-visit the MFLs for the Rainbow River. Many are curious to see what they have to offer. We will post here as we learn.
Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life: once taken, it cannot be brought back-
Line in the sand?
How much can our springs and rivers take? Or maybe a better way of asking the question is, how much can they give? When the St. Johns River Water Management District and its sister agency, the Southwest Florida Water Management District (Swiftmud), approved new minimum flows and levels for three of our region’s first-magnitude springs — Rainbow Springs/River, Silver Springs/River and Three Sisters Springs/Crystal River — they said the objective was to determine at what point these precious waters would face significant environmental harm if the decades-long trend of declining flows and water levels continues.
What the governing boards of the two water districts were really seeking, however, was to know how much more groundwater pumping can be permitted for new development before those springs and rivers experience irreparable harm.
Of course, even the casual observer can see all of these waterways have already experienced lasting damage and are not getting better.
Swiftmud was the latest to approve MFLs for Three Sisters Springs/Crystal River, home to the magnificent manatees. Despite impassioned pleas from the public, the board approved an MFL that will allow 11 percent lower water levels, an astounding amount given the state of Florida’s springs. Swiftmud also earlier approved allowing a 5 percent drop in Rainbow Springs/River, again, amid howls from the citizenry.
St. Johns, meanwhile, faced an army of opposition and even lawsuits for its decision to lower the granddaddy of Florida’s springs, Silver Springs/River, by 3.5 percent.
No matter, the springs can take it. Never mind that the degradation of our springs is linked to the decline in their flows. Never mind that MFLs have nothing to do with restoration, but are supposed to protect the springs. How many
times during water district defenses of the MFLs did we hear “based on the best available science”? Oh, and in the cases of Rainbow and Silver springs, both districts expect to hit the MFL within a decade.
So then what? What if an MFL is reached (and, we suspect, it will be)? Casey Fitzgerald, director of the St. Johns Springs Protection Initiative, told us when Silver Springs hits its MFL — projected in 2024 — then no consumptive use permits could be issued in the springshed after that.
“There, frankly, is a line in the sand that wasn’t there before,” Fitzgerald said.
We believe that Fitzgerald believes that, except we have seen proverbial lines in the sand in the past that the water districts merely moved when they became inconvenient — always based on the best available science, of course.
The idea that Florida’s springs and rivers are threatened is hardly new; nor are MFLs. The landmark Florida Water Resources Act of 1972, which created the five water management districts to protect our waters for perpetuity, was acknowledgement that water is a vital resource to Florida’s economy and environment. Nothing has changed — except the quality and quantity of our water, that is.
Both water boards should revisit the MFLs. Why take our precious springs and the rivers they feed, already stressed, even imperiled, down to the verge of destruction? Why?
The water districts are doing a lot. They are spending tens of millions on wastewater and sewage. Good. They are investing in sensitive lands. Good again. Allowing the springs and rivers to be tapped to their breaking point, however, is reckless and irresponsible. Just because we know what the minimum is does not mean we should aim to reach it. It’s a line in the sand we don’t want to face.
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