“Meeting the letter of the law is fine and good. We understand — the water managers are doing their job.”
Anyone who has taken the most fleeting look at the water situation in Florida will disagree with the above sentence. The water managers are not doing their job as mandated by law. They have waited over 40 years to establish minimum flows and levels, and they are basing these not on historical flows of even 40 years ago, but on later levels, and blaming these lower flows on reduced rainfall. They are trying to squeeze the last drop from the rivers. Why? Answer is below.
They use models that disinterested, competent, scientists say are flawed. These same scientists say that the districts’ mathematical calculations are also flawed. Objective observations show that without a doubt these managers cater to developers and industry and not to restoring the rivers and springs.
Even many water managers agree that the problem is over-pumping, excessive nitrates from fertilizer, and septics, yet they prefer to spend millions on senseless, useless studies, all the while continuing to issue pumping permits.
Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life: once taken, it cannot be brought back-
Editorial: Disconnect on springs strategy
Posted Apr 20, 2017 at 2:01 AM
Another water management district, another iconic group of springs, another unpopular approval of allowing the springs and the river they feed to be lowered even more.
The St. Johns River Water Management Governing Board last week approved new minimum flows and levels (MFLs) for Silver Springs and the Silver River, as mandated by law. After years of study and, frankly, seemingly ever-changing approaches to their calculations, St. Johns scientists recommended that the MFL of Silver Springs be set at 2.5 percent lower than its current level — a reduction in flow of about 10 million gallons a day. The MFL is the point at which plant and wildlife would experience significant harm.
The St. Johns decision came just weeks after the Southwest Florida Water Management District (Swiftmud) voted to allow Rainbow Springs and the river it feeds to be lowered 2.5 percent as its MFL. In both instances, the water boards’ decisions drew bitter opposition and criticism from springs advocates.
It was clear throughout the discussions by both boards and the members of the public who addressed the issue that there is a disconnect between the two about what the MFLs should be aimed at accomplishing and what the mission of the water management districts is, or should be.
During both the Silver and Rainbow MFL processes, water management officials were clear that their mandate was to meet the requirements of state law. When asked why they would agree to allow the water flow and level decline in the face of decades of declining flow, the water managers repeatedly defended their position by saying they followed the law — despite, in both instances, of conceding the MFLs will be reached in less than a decade.
Springs proponents repeatedly asked water managers how lowering the water flow would help lead to the restoration of the springs. From the advocates’ perspective, the goal of every major policy decision regarding the springs should be restoration.
The response from both districts was that setting MFLs is not part of the restoration process — a mind-boggling response.
Both St. Johns and Swiftmud have undertaken a number of initiatives over the past half decade presumably aimed at restoring the springs. They have acquired land to serve as buffers and watersheds. They have provided millions of dollars to upgrade wastewater treatment systems in order to reduce nitrate pollution. They have spent millions more for septic tank removal. They have created Basin Management Action Plans, aka BMAPs, and set ambitious nitrate reduction goals.
Yet, for all that, springs lovers are seeing no improvement. Nitrate levels remain dangerously high. Spring flows remain down. And, now, the water districts are saying it is OK to let the water levels go even lower.
The fact is, as we have noted many times, the water flowing out of the springs is the same water we drink and bathe in every day. When the springs are unhealthy, so is our drinking water.
Meeting the letter of the law is fine and good. We understand — the water managers are doing their job. But what we don’t understand is why every action taken regarding Florida’s springs is not measured by how much it will help to restore our springs, including setting MFLs. We cannot imagine how lowering the flow of our springs will help restore them — and we are sure the water districts can’t either.
— This editorial was written by the Ocala Star-Banner, one of The Sun’s sister publications.