OPINION Trouble in the Garden of Eden

symbob In: OPINION Trouble in the Garden of Eden | Our Santa Fe River, Inc. (OSFR) | Protecting the Santa Fe River in North Florida
Bob Knight

Your historian is a relative newcomer when it comes to trying to protect our springs and rivers.  We have been working on that less than a decade but we are sorry to say we have seen no indication from the water authorities in the state to make a serious effort to correct the continual and constant decline, perpetrated by them. They continue to give the water away to  just about anyone who asks for a new well, and they make no restrictions on fertilizer, nor do they stop pollution from dairies, chicken processing plants and installation of  septic tanks.

They continue to irresponsibly waste money treating symptoms  while  circling and circumventing  solutions.  They also cheat by finagling numbers and ignoring data before them to provide false and flawed science to justify their actions.  They set lofty goals with no plan to attain them, and they have no accountability when they do not.

In short, our state sees our water resources as expendable and subject to all types of  business and industry, and never, ever, must business be curtailed by environmental limitations.

Read the original article here in the Gainesville Sun.

Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
[email protected]
– A river is like a life: once taken,
it cannot be brought back © Jim Tatum


OPINION Trouble in the Garden of Eden —

Bob Knight
Guest columnist  Feb. 19, 2021

It was Voltaire’s “Candide” that reminded us to tend to one’s own garden. Whether he meant taking care of the Garden of Eden, or the small portion of the world that is closest and dearest to each of us, we are drawn to the importance of helping to make the world healthier and safer in our relatively small local area of personal influence.

In that regard, the Florida Springs Institute just completed a three-year study of our home river and springs — namely, the lower Santa Fe River, from Worthington Spring at the State Road 121 bridge, downstream to the river’s confluence with the Suwannee River. In addition to more than 30 springs large and small, this river segment receives much of the surface runoff from Alachua, Bradford, Columbia, Gilchrist and Union counties.

Worthington Spring, the uppermost spring feeding the river, stopped flowing in the 1950s. By the end of a prolonged drought in 2011 and early 2012, the entire Santa Fe River stopped flowing at Poe Spring, the first time on record. In 2012 several large springs on the river not only stopped flowing, but also reversed flow direction when a two-year drought was followed by the flood caused by Tropical Storm Debby.

While our Santa Fe River and springs still attract more than 1 million visitors each year, supporting more than 1,150 jobs, many visitors are literally loving the river and springs to death. Excessive human use of a shallow spring increases turbidity, smothering native plant communities and greatly reducing fish populations.

And every year these problems get worse.

In the current vacuum of environmental leadership at the state level, the Florida Springs Institute conducted the Lower Santa Fe River and Springs Environmental Analysis to detail the historic and current health of the aquatic ecosystems and offer recommendations for achieving springs restoration and sustainable protection. As amply evidenced by the scientific data we reported, the state’s spring flow and pollution protection efforts have been unsuccessful at avoiding the ongoing demise of these beautiful natural creations.

I was reminded of this ecological tragedy this month when my sampling team visited Santa Fe Spring (aka Graham Spring), a large first magnitude spring one mile upstream of Interstate 75 and three miles downstream from Worthington Spring. Santa Fe Spring was one of Alachua Conservation Trust’s most recent acquisitions as part of its 254-acre Santa Fe Springs Preserve. Buying the spring and the surrounding land is a logical way to restore and protect this spring….

As documented through data analysis, reducing regional groundwater pumping by at least 16 million gallons per day will be required to restore adequate flows to this one spring. And nitrogen loads in the springshed must be reduced by 260 tons per year, equivalent to a fertilizer load to about 3,500 acres of intensive farmland.

Restoring all of the springs feeding the Santa Fe River will require a combined reduction in pumping of nearly 200 million gallons per day and cessation of fertilizer use on more than 150,000 acres.

The healthy Santa Fe River and springs will only be a memory if nothing is done to save them.

Bob Knight is director of the High Springs-based Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute Download the institute’s Blueprint for Restoring Springs on the Santa Fe River at https://floridaspringsinstitute.org/santafeproject/

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