The Ocala Star Banner has published the following article where Whitey Markle asked some pointed questions. He will get no answers, as our water managers are taking Florida down the tubes of no return, slowly but surely killing our springs and rivers, all the while issuing more withdrawal permits and dropping the MFLs lower and lower.
They spend millions and do studies, and do this little thing and that, but the springs are diminishing in volume, flow and clarity and nothing is restored. Science is kicked this way and that, rationalizations abound, and those who stand up and tell the truth are ignored.
And industry and development continue, at the expense of our treasures, as the anger mounts.
Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life: once taken, it cannot be brought back-
Whitey Markle: Officials ignore springs realities
By Whitey Markle / Special to the Star-Banner
Posted Jun 11, 2017 at 2:01 AM
Do the Ocala City Council and the Marion County Commission understand that Silver Springs is in a death spiral? Why can’t they see what is obvious to other Florida politicians?
Both of our local boards have gone on record in favor of increased pumping from the aquifer, which could reduce the flow of an already suffering Silver Springs by an extra 2.5 percent. A few days later, their counterparts in Citrus County and Crystal River actually had the courage and good sense to pass a resolution opposing the state’s plan to allow more pumping in the Rainbow River springshed.
Specifically, Marion County elected officials voted to intervene in an administrative appeal made by a concerned citizen, Karen Chadwick. Her challenge asserted that the St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD) isn’t doing enough to protect Silver Springs.
The issue centers on a disagreement over Minimum Flows and Levels (MFLs) for Silver Springs. As required by law, these values were recently set by SJRWMD to establish a threshold of protection against further ecological degradation. MFLs are defined in the Florida Statutes as the limit or level at which further withdrawals would be significantly harmful to the water resources or ecology of the area.
If the water and ecology of the area are already in decline, how could further withdrawals not be harmful? Do the City Council and County Commission think 2.5 percent reduction in flow and level is good for the springs?
In 2016, the Florida Legislature spelled out a mandatory timetable for producing MFLs for Outstanding Florida Springs, including Silver. The good news is that once the minimums are reached (and in my view, they’ve already been reached), true recovery will be mandatory with a whole new strict set of rules, including true restrictions on water withdrawals.
SJRWMD says it has complied completely with the mandates of the law by using the best available science. But is it really the best science? The public has heard every excuse available to rationalize the further withdrawal of clean water. Instead, the Sierra Club considers the obvious:
- The level and flow of Silver Springs is about 30 percent below the long-term average, and the proposed MFL will allow another 2.5 percent to be lost before state laws mandate restrictions on withdrawals and recovery strategies.
- Fish and plant life associated with a healthy spring are almost gone. Research done by springs scientists reveal that 98 percent of the fish are gone compared to 40 years ago,
Blaze the Weather Horse talks about a wet day and probably wet week. Its will most likely rain today. Highs in the mid 80’s.
- The once bright green grasses and silver sandy bottom are now turning black with algae growth.
- The Springs flow has been reduced not only from drought but also overpumping of new development allowed by the pro-growth land use changes by the County Commission and the city.
- The decrease in flow makes it harder to wash away increasing nutrients out of the water and off of the plant life.
According to the Star-Banner, the City Council received its lesson on springs hydrology from their city attorney, Jimmy Gooding, who reportedly says that flow issues “followed a 25-year cycle.” Really? Flows have nothing to do with population growth, overpumping, and nutrient loading on a scale never seen before in Florida?
Did any of the Marion County commissioners or the Ocala city councilmen attend even one of the hearings when the SJRWMD was deliberating the Silver Springs MFL? Or the Springs Summit in Ocala last winter? If so, they would have heard the real experts on springs ecology presenting the true and scary facts. Did any one of them solicit advice from the springs scientists? Public meetings are where the people who care about issues gather. It wasn’t long ago when you would see local politicians at public meetings. We even invited the Marion County Commission to the deliberations two blocks from their offices. None attended. That would conflict with the all too common habit of Marion County politicians keeping their distance from those who are concerned with the environment and springs protection. Maybe that’s why it is so much easier to just listen to the city attorney rather than springs scientists.
Above all, government should not thwart the good intentions of a citizen who had the audacity to keep the springs from further degradation and abuse. Shouldn’t we expect Marion and Ocala elected officials to have as much common sense as those in Citrus County?
Not adequately caring for Silver Springs is not only ecological neglect, it’s also costly. The practical, long-term solution is to conserve what clean water we have left, and to keep it clean.
Whitey Markle is chairman of the Suwannee/St. Johns Sierra Club Group. He lives in Orange Lake.