We say “small step” after the huge devastation caused by the Sleepy Creek permit recently dispersed by the St Johns District which will do further irreparable harm to the springs. Fortuitously, this purchase will prevent what was to be inevitable development of the area. Thanks also to the Felburn Foundation for their assistance. This was a purchase which should have been made with Amendment 1 funds.
The article by Kristine Crane in the Gainesville Sun can be read at this link.
State buying 4,900 acres near Silver Springs to enhance groundwater recharge
Published: Wednesday, September 9, 2015 at 12:27 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, September 9, 2015 at 12:27 p.m.
The St. Johns River Water Management District made a landmark decision Tuesday when its governing board unanimously agreed to purchase 4,900 acres north of Silver Springs State Park. The district is partnering with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and Conservation Trust for Florida in the $11.5 million purchase of the land, called Silver Springs Forest, from Rayonier, Inc.
“This partnership acquisition allows us to contemplate restoration projects that will benefit Silver Springs and provides a valuable opportunity to preserve and possibly enhance groundwater recharge close to the spring,” board Vice Chairman Fred N. Roberts Jr. said in a district press release issued after Tuesday’s meeting. “Also, linking thousands of acres of public lands will provide additional recreational opportunities in the region and creates a 20-mile migratory corridor that will enhance wildlife habitat.”
John Miklos, chairman of the board, noted the favorable purchase price during the meeting. The district will spend $8.7 million, with the DEP contributing $2 million and the Conservation Trust Fund nearly $1 million. Of that, the Ocala-based Felburn Foundation, a philanthropy nonprofit that is focused on water preservation, is contributing $250,000.
The foundation’s executive director, Guy Marwick, agreed that the purchase is a “bargain,” especially compared to the $76 million price tag of the adjacent property, Indian Lake State Forest, which was purchased in 2007 and 2008.
The purchase of Indian State prevented the transformation of that area into residential and commercial properties, Marwick said, which would have devastated Silver Springs.
With this latest purchase, the district, which will manage the land, has the opportunity to “keep the nitrates down and improve the water quality,” Marwick said. “I do believe this project is one that could help clean up the water quality of Silver Springs immensely.”
Casey Fitzgerald, district initiative director, said the purchase will benefit both water quantity and quality. “This system is already getting about 3.5 million gallons per day of recharge. We will get more recharge, the more water we can store on the property,” Fitzgerald said.
In terms of water quality benefits, he added, “This is a fairly good area for recharge that will get to springs quickly.”Marwick added that it will especially help the restoration of Halfmile Creek.
“With every rain, it turns Silver River from crystal clear to chocolate brown,” he said. Importantly, the purchase will prevent consumptive use permits from being issued on the property. “This is a huge step for Marion County,” Marwick said.
County Commission Chairman Stan McClain attended the meeting to voice the commission’s support for the purchase. “We think it’s a very important acquisition,” he said.
Contact Kristine Crane at 867-4117 or [email protected].