The Gainesville Sun has an excellent editorial about the state’s purchase of Blue Springs. An action to be lauded, a responsibility to protect. Continue reading for the article or go to this link for the original article.
Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life: once taken, it cannot be brought back-
Protect springs beyond park purchase
By The Gainesville Sun editorial board
Posted at 2:01 AM
After weeks of depressing news about diminished flows, springs advocates finally have something to celebrate.
Last week, Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet voted to buy Blue Springs Park in Gilchrist County for $5.2 million. The 407-acre acquisition includes a mile of land fronting the Santa Fe River and six springs, including Gilchrist Blue Springs, a second-magnitude spring that has produced an average of more than 44 million gallons of water a day.
Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Noah Valenstein rightly called the park “a jewel of North Florida.” He should know. Valenstein grew up in Alachua County and previously headed the Suwannee River Water Management District, which issues groundwater permits for a region that includes the park.
Those permits are the reason for anxiety among springs advocates. Protecting the land immediately around springs certainly benefits the quality and quantity of the groundwater flowing through them. But those benefits are offset when lawmakers and regulators fail to curb excessive groundwater pumping and pollution in the surrounding area.
We’ve seen three high-profile examples in recent months in the inadequate minimum flows and levels set for Silver Springs, Rainbow Springs and the Crystal River springs group. These levels will allow already diminished springs to be further degraded due to reduced flows and nitrate pollution fueling algae growth within them.
While there are different water management districts involved, most of the state’s springs face similar problems albeit from different sources. For Blue Springs, the threats include the increasing intensity of nearby agricultural operations and groundwater pumping all the way to Jacksonville.
Blue Spring has the fastest rising and highest nitrate concentrations of any large spring on the Santa Fe, according to Robert Knight, director of the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute in High Springs. Knight correctly argues that flawed minimum flow studies and a lack of enforcement from the districts are worsening the problem.
State officials should be lauded for funding projects aimed at reducing nitrate pollution and conserving land around springs. The Blue Springs purchase means nearly 40 percent of about 16,000 acres slated for protection around Florida’s largest springs have been acquired or are under agreement to be, according to DEP.
Such protection provides environmental as well as recreational benefits, ensuring the public maintains access to these natural wonders. The state should invest in infrastructure improvements at Blue Springs such as upgraded camping facilities and trails, but avoid intensive development that would change the park’s natural character.
But state officials are throwing taxpayer money away by failing to cut down the excessive pumping and pollution that degrades springs. Lawmakers and regulators need to protect the public investment in places such as Blue Springs Park by ensuring the springs that draw people to them stay clear and flowing strong for generations to come.