“…instead of a serious, committed recovery plan, our water managers say these endangered natural icons can give even more water…. It makes no sense.”
The Gainesville Sun published the Ocala Star Banner’s editorial today, March 25, 2017. Yes, this editorial is correct, that the water managers have lost trust, credibility and respect. We see the constant decline of springs, rivers and the aquifer, yet they continue to pump and tell us it is OK. We don’t need to be scientists to know that it is not OK.
Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life: once taken, it cannot be brought back-
A water deficit, a trust deficit
More than 100 people filled a meeting room last week in Ocala to hear St. Johns River Water Management District officials unveil and explain their long-awaited minimum and flows recommendations for Silver Springs and the Silver River. Of all those packing the room, not a single person stood and spoke in support of the district’s proposal. In fact, those in the audience not only challenged the findings but questioned the objectivity of those who compiled them.
In short, there was a palpable absence of trust — in the findings and in the water management staff itself.
As for the minimum flows and levels, which arrived 44 years after they were first mandated by the Florida Legislature, the water district said the springs and river, which have lost a third of their water flow over the past half century, can withstand another 6 percent reduction. Seriously. It was an incredible assertion, given that the water managers also said that by 2025 the springs’ MFL will likely reach the point of “significant harm” to the ecosystem.
While serious observers of St. Johns and Florida’s other four water management districts were not really surprised by the MFLs, they nonetheless are right to question not only the science but the policy itself.
If the district knows water levels are going to reach a destructively low level within a decade, why would it proceed with business as usual, only to have to implement a multimillion-dollar “protection strategy” down the road?
Why, with a lack of rainfall over the past three decades being blamed for much of the reduced spring flow, would the water district not adjust its policies and measurements to adapt to what is, according to them, a long-term weather pattern of less rain?
Why, when algae blooms have marred the springs’ and river’s beauty, would the district not implement an aggressive, measurable program to reduce the flow of nutrients and the growth of vegetation, both surficial and submerged?
Of course, the answer to these questions is the water district, all the water districts, are in the business of not only protecting Florida’s water resources, but also ensuring that those water resources are available for new growth, both residential and commercial, when needed. That is why whenever water managers run into a ecological roadblock it seems they invariably come up with “a new model” for calculating water supply, spring flows or public consumption. Time and again, St. Johns has moved the goal posts when faced with problematic science.
The springs — and we are not just talking about Silver Springs — are in trouble and everyone knows it. Their flow is declining, and that means the aquifer is declining. They are increasingly choked with algae and other invasive plants. They are seeing declining fish populations. And, simply, they just are not as beautiful as they were before growth and water mismanagement allowed them to decline to their current state.
Yes, there is a lack of trust in the what our water managers tell us. It is obvious and documented that Silver Springs and the Silver River are ailing, yet instead of a serious, committed recovery plan, our water managers say these endangered natural icons can give even more water. In other words, pump, baby, pump, and we can worry about actually restoring the springs in a decade when the water flow has reached to point of irreparable harm.
It makes no sense.
— This editorial first appeared in the Ocala Star-Banner, one of The Gainesville Sun’s sister publications.