silver springs alliance

SSA Blog

Welcome to the SSA Blog! This is a place to view current news and events concerning Silver Springs. SSA members are encouraged to join in the conversation by submitting comments below the main posts. 


  • Wednesday, September 17, 2014 9:42 PM | Deleted user

    Ocala Star-Banner E-Edition Article


    Amendment 1, the Water and Land Conservation Amendment, dedicates funding for environmental conservation by amending our state constitution. The money is sourced from Florida’s already existing excise tax on documents created when real estate is sold, known as the “documentary stamp tax.”

    Since 2009, funding for conservation purposes has decreased by more than 95 percent. Meanwhile, the degradation of our environment continues unstopped and unprotected. Amendment 1 ensures funding for the next 20 years from a reliable source.

    Amendment 1 secures onethird of documentary stamp income for the protection, restoration and conservation of Florida’s land, drinking water, beaches, rivers, lakes, streams and springs and the wildlife and vegetation in those habitats. The amount put aside for this amounts to less than 1 percent of Florida’s annual budget of more than $77 billion. An impartial analysis by the state’s Fiscal Impact Estimating Conference shows that unless the Legislature makes changes, the level of funding for nonconservation purposes will continue to grow, and the money will be deposited in the Land Acquisition Trust Fund and cannot be co-mingled with other state funds. While the Legislature must approve the appropriations, there are a number of existing, well-functioning programs already in place to select conservation projects based on objective criteria and sound science.

    Other facts to bear in mind: 72 percent of Florida’s land, 25 million acres, is privately owned. Approximately 1,000 new people move into Florida every day, straining our already declining natural systems. An additional two million acres have been identified as essential for conservation and protection of what brings people to Florida: beaches, rivers, wildlife, lakes and springs.

    While tourism is hugely important to our state, the well-being of future generations is even more important.

    Amendment 1 ensures the future of the environment for us. Vote “YES” on Amendment 1!

    Barbara Brandon Schwartz

    Ocala


  • Tuesday, September 16, 2014 12:23 PM | Deleted user

    Help on way for springs

    But is it enough?


    Published: Monday, September 15, 2014 at 7:24 p.m.
    Last Modified: Monday, September 15, 2014 at 7:24 p.m.

    Pollutants from septic tanks and unwanted nitrogen from out-of-date wastewater treatment plants are the target of a proposed $10 million project designed to better protect Silver Springs.

    The project is part of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s $69 million fund for springs projects and Gov. Rick Scott’s $30 million “It’s Your Money Tax Cut Budget.”

    The project was proposed by the St. Johns River Water Management District, whose board is slated to approve it during its final budget meeting Sept. 23.

    The project includes closing 850 septic tanks in the immediate Silver Springs springshed, decommissioning two northeast Ocala wastewater treatment package plants, and asking residents newly hooked up to Ocala’s wastewater treatment system and freshwater supply to voluntarily shut down their wells.

    One package plant serves about 75 customers; the other serves a commercial shopping plaza and restaurant.

    The water district predicts that shutting down the septic tanks and decommissioning the two package plants will reduce nitrogen loading into Silver Springs by about 23,000 pounds annually. A recent study estimates that nearly 470,000 pounds of nitrogen annually is loaded into the 10-year capture zone around Silver Springs.

    “We’re trying to target those (issues) closest to the springs that would benefit fastest the springs’ flow and water quality,” said Casey Fitzgerald, the water district’s Springs Protection Initiative director.

    Fitzgerald said the water district annually ranks various projects in terms of their prospects for reducing groundwater nitrogen in relation to the cost of the project.

    Page 2 of 3

    “And this (the plan up for approval) came to the top of a very strategic program,” Fitzgerald said.

    The water district will pay $2.5 million of the project’s costs, FDEP will pay another $2.5 million, and the city of Ocala will pay the remaining $5 million. The project is slated to begin next year, although the city is already meeting with the package plant owners about decommissioning.

    Fitzgerald said disconnecting the septic tanks will have an immediate positive impact. Advanced treatment plants reduce nitrogen in waste to 3.0 milligrams per liter, while septic tanks reduced the amount to only 60.0 mgl.

    Darryl Muse, Ocala’s utilities service manager, said the septic tank area being targeted is five miles in length around the spring.

    Although Florida law mandates that septic tank owners hook to municipal wastewater service when available, Ocala will not force the affected customers to do so. But it will offer the hook-up for free to those in the area who want it, Muse said.

    “At this point the city is not going to strong-arm anyone,” he said.

    Although there is a usage cost to using city wastewater treatment services, “there is a cost environmentally” not to, he said.

    “Someone is paying now in order to keep Silver Springs what it’s supposed to be,” he said.

    Some environmentalists think the project is too limited. They say Florida instead needs a long-term, funded, comprehensive plan to remove many more septic tanks statewide. Marion County has at least 50,000 septic tanks.

    “It’s not going to make as much difference as they anticipate, but it is a decent first step,” said environmentalist Guy Marwick.

    Page 3 of 3

    Marwick said the water district should take a broader view of nitrogen pollution. For example, while the water district works to close septic tanks, the agency is at the same time considering granting water permits to the new 30,000-acre farm and meat processing plant in Fort McCoy that will raise at least 6,000 cows.

    The farm is Sleepy Creek, formerly Adena Springs Ranch.

    Robert Knight, director of the nonprofit Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute and president of Wetland Solutions Inc. in Gainesville, said the project isn’t “much bang for the buck.”

    What nitrogen savings this project would bring about would easily be erased by the Sleepy Creek project and all the nitrogen from so many cows. He also said the projects the water district proposed for funding were not adequately vetted by independent third-party scientists.

    “The benefits are overstated ….This is a silly way to do government,” Knight said. “But it doesn’t mean we should discount (efforts to clean Silver Springs).”

    Reach Fred Hiers at fred.hiers@starbanner.com and 352-867-4157.


  • Sunday, August 31, 2014 4:02 PM | Deleted user

    Written by Linda Bystrak, current President of the Oklawaha Valley Audubon Society, an avid kayaker with 5 paddle clubs, and a water issues activist.


    About 130 people stood in line at the entrance table inside the administration building of the SJRWMD headquarters in Palataka Thursday night, Aug. 28.They waited patiently to sign up to speak on behalf of their beloved rivers, the Silver, Oklawaha and the St. Johns.  There were enough of them to fill the chamber. One by one they held up their right hand and swore to the judge that they would tell the truth about their experiences with the river, or what it was like to live next to a billionaire’s cattle ranch and slaughter house.


    I was first to speak, and used my time to show pictures that I had taken from my kayak of Silver Springs and its river, during lowest flow conditions. Pictures of the submerged aquatic vegetation floating on the surface of the water instead of below it; pictures of the stone seawall next to the spring head with a 4 inch air space under it; pictures of the boat ramp area high above the water. Pictures of the USGS water flow map showing a sharp decline from the norm.


    The speaker that came after me showed aerial photos she took of the ranch showing the sinkholes on the property.  Her pictures negated the argument that the ranch was not in a karst area like the one where the dye tests were performed. The dye test had indicated a travel time of only 181 days instead of a 100 years through conduits and crack in the limestone to the spring.


    At least 3 other speakers talked about how the ranch next to them was negatively affecting their property values, private wells or air quality. One complained about the large increase in flies, and another showed a short video of the animal wastes being carried across her land during a heavy rain event, and into a neighboring creek that empties into the Ocklawaha. 
    Another speaker talked about Garret Hardin’s famous theory the “Tragedy of the Commons”, regarding how an individual’s self- interests sometimes are contrary to the best interests of the whole group. The SJRWMD purpose is supposed to be to manage the resource in the public’s best interests.


    Artists and poets talked about the rivers inspirational value, and one song writer and musician shared a 4 minute video of himself paddling the Ocklawaha, while singing a song that he wrote about the river. Tears rolled down my cheeks and those of others as we listened to the song that filled the air in the official chambers. The audience applauded loudly as the applicant’s lawyer shook his head in disbelief? No one at this public meeting spoke or sang a song on behalf of this cattle ranch or the slaughter house.


    This event was only part of an ongoing administrative hearing that began Aug. 25 and may not end for weeks, after the judge has reviewed all his notes and the evidence.  At the end, the judge will have to rule in favor of or against the 1.4 million gallon per day (MGD) water permit for this high density (19,000 head) cattle operation. This is only part of the 5.3 mgd that the owners originally asked for before they changed their company name and their strategy. In addition to the 3 lawyers representing the stakeholders, there were technical experts testifying all week on hydrology and nutrient issues. Months ago, the SJRWMD staff  determined that the computer model used to study  groundwater withdraws is a flawed model, and that the area has  already reached capacity on withdraws, but this information has been labeled “inadmissible” for this 1.4mgd permit hearing. That information, connected to a future, additional 1.1mgd permit request would have been very useful  for this administrative hearing.


    I paddled the Silver yesterday and the surface water levels are back up to “normal” following a great rainy season.  But what most people do not realize is that the AVERAGE annual flow of the groundwater is sharply declining, with continued over pumping. That is the water that maintains the flow during our long droughts.  Also the excessive nutrient load from too much animal waste that is already in the springshed is a serious issue. We don’t need more cattle to add to the problem, especially a high density cattle operation.


  • Sunday, August 17, 2014 11:46 AM | Deleted user

    By John Dunn, Special to the Star Banner

    8/17/2014


    Star Banner editorial page editor Brad Rogers got it right. Silence, he wrote recently, is what we get from many local elected officials instead of solutions to our most vexing problems.

    But we do have leaders undefined only they're not elected.

    Consider Karen Ahlers and Jeri Baldwin. They are two exceedingly brave and determined women who are waging a legal battle to stop billionaire Frank Stronach from getting a water permit for a 30,000-acre cattle farm and slaughterhouse in Marion County. Known as Adena Springs Ranch (which is now calling itself “Sleepy Creek Lands”), the agribusiness plans to raise 17,000 cows and slaughter them on site.

    What makes the project unique is the cattle will be fed lots of grass, hydrated by water pumped from the aquifer we all depend on. Adena, initially, requested a consumptive water permit from the St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD) to pump as much as 13.3 million gallons a day (mgd) from our aquifer. Since then, however, public opposition led by Ahlers and Baldwin may have helped to reduce that request to 5.3 mgd.

    However, critics, including springs scientists and experts hired by Ahlers and Baldwin, believe the Adena/Sleepy Creek Lands project still poses problems. They fear this massive water extraction could harm Silver Springs, wreak ecological damage and reduce our water supply. Manure from 17,000 cows, they argue, also will promote the growth of algae which hurts wildlife and can turn drinking water toxic as residents of Toledo, Ohio, now know.

    Adena/Sleepy Creek Lands officials disagree with these charges and are pursuing the project.

    Meanwhile, two lawsuits are challenging their water permit request. Ahlers filed the first one.

    Who is she? Among other things, she is the former head of the Putnam County Environmental Council, and the current executive director of the Florida Defenders of the Environment. Ahlers also is smart, funny, hyper-informed, articulate, fearless and formidable.

    Her co-litigant, Jeri Baldwin, is a no-nonsense, intelligent, captivating storyteller, softball team manager, organic farmer, and founder of the Crones' Cradle Conserve, an ecological preserve and education center in Marion County.

    Neither woman wants to be in court. They won't make a nickel from their efforts.

    Instead, they face mounting legal expenses, never ending stress, threats and criticism, which sometimes comes from the very officials who are supposed to protect our water supplies, but usually don't.

    So, why are they sticking their necks out when almost everyone else isn't?

    “We felt we had to,” Ahlers says, “because we can't trust the people whom we've entrusted with the authority to protect our resources. More than a year ago, 3,375 people submitted our objections to Adena Springs Ranch. But the St. Johns River Water Management District announced its intention to grant permits to move the project forward, anyway.”

    Early on in the conflict, Ahlers thought that even the big environmental organizations, such as the Sierra Club and Audubon, were not going to get involved in the Adena issue. (Recently, however, the St. Johns Riverkeeper and Sierra Club Northeast Florida have filed their own joint lawsuit, which also opposes granting the controversial water permit.)

    When it became apparent nobody else was going to birddog the permit and protect the public interest, Ahlers and Baldwin decided they had no choice but to prepare to go to court.

    “In our lawsuit, filed in early June, we declare our belief that Adena Springs Ranch/Sleepy Creek Lands LLC and the District have not provided reasonable assurances that water resources will not be significantly affected,” Ahlers says.

    There's something else that motivates Ahlers. In 2002, the Jacksonville Energy Authority (JEA) scooped up water utilities in seven counties in Northeast Florida. In the process, it consolidated its acquired consumptive water use permits into one huge permit and emerged as a major water supplier in Northeast Florida with little competition.

    “At the time, nobody would challenge what JEA was doing,” she says. “Not water management officials. Not the Sierra Club. Not Audubon. Not big environmental groups.”

    Ahlers' own environmental group at the time also did nothing. They were worried, she said, but didn't stand up to JEA.

    Today, she thinks that was a mistake. Lakes are disappearing in Keystone Heights and elsewhere. Ahlers and others believe JEA's water extractions are partly to blame.

    Haunted by that memory, Ahlers vows that never again will she allow a big water permit request to take place without doing her “damnedest to get people to pay attention.”

    So, when the Adena/Sleepy Creek permit application was submitted to SJRWMD officials 2½ years ago, she took it personally, hired an attorney and experts to prepare, if necessary, to go to court. Baldwin signed up, too. Another 400 individuals donate what they can to the cause.

    Today, Ahlers and Baldwin are on a crusade. They speak at springs forums and water management public hearings, beg for money, sponsor fundraisers and dip into their own savings.

    But their resources are no match for Stronach's billions and political connections.

    That's why these two grown-up country girls are willing to play David against a formidable Austrian/Canadian Goliath.

    “We hope to show, by example, to other everyday citizens undefined who are fed up with corruption, inaction and seeing their state ruined undefined that they do have power and can make a difference if they take collective action,” says Ahlers. “We are the people we've been waiting for.”

    Leading by example and not silence? Some would call that real leadership.

    So, why aren't all of us speaking out? None of us should be silent.

    For more information, go to the Water Protection Fund at Southern Legal Counsel online at www.southernlegal.org.

    John Dunn is a history teacher at Forest High School and an environmental activist. He lives in Ocala.

    So, when the Adena/Sleepy Creek permit application was submitted to SJRWMD officials 2½ years ago, she took it personally, hired an attorney and experts to prepare, if necessary, to go to court. Baldwin signed up, too. Another 400 individuals donate what they can to the cause.

    Today, Ahlers and Baldwin are on a crusade. They speak at springs forums and water management public hearings, beg for money, sponsor fundraisers and dip into their own savings.

    But their resources are no match for Stronach's billions and political connections.

    That's why these two grown-up country girls are willing to play David against a formidable Austrian/Canadian Goliath.

    “We hope to show, by example, to other everyday citizens undefined who are fed up with corruption, inaction and seeing their state ruined undefined that they do have power and can make a difference if they take collective action,” says Ahlers. “We are the people we've been waiting for.”

    Leading by example and not silence? Some would call that real leadership.

    So, why aren't all of us speaking out? None of us should be silent.

    For more information, go to the Water Protection Fund at Southern Legal Counsel online at www.southernlegal.org.

    John Dunn is a history teacher at Forest High School and an environmental activist. He lives in Ocala.

    Link to the Ocala Star Banner Column




  • Friday, August 15, 2014 1:21 PM | Deleted user

    1) My vision for Silver Springs State Park is restoration as it was back in 1960 when I saw it for the first time.

     

    2) The contamination that the former lessee left is the biggest issue that I believe faces Silver Springs. A solution is to correct any leaking waste lines etc. that are a direct result of their involvement. I would have never allowed them out of their lease until I knew all of the problems they created were corrected. Granted we may have received some compensation but I believe we needed to make sure there was enough money set aside to correct any and all problems that they created.

     

    3) Anytime someone wants a consumptive use permit similar to Adena Springs Marion County citizens need representation. In the future I wound request any elected official that represents Marion County, all members of the Water Management District and any and all interested citizens to attend a meeting at the Commission auditorium. 
    It is imperative that the message from our citizens have their voice listened too. These representatives must listen to those they represent and take that message into consideration before making a decision regarding our water.

    I would also limit days and time of irrigation for existing lawns and shrubs.

     

    4) I believe the elimination of quick release fertilizers can reduce nitrate runoff.  Eliminate the sale of quick release fertilizer in Marion County may be the first step.

     

    5) Education, conservation and eliminating quick release fertilizer can contribute to the revitalization of the Silver Springs State Park.  

     

    Thanks Glen Fiorello


  • Saturday, May 17, 2014 10:05 AM | Deleted user
    Spring Flows are declining statewide! Click the link below to view the latest data. 

    Silver and Rainbow flows 051614.pdf
  • Thursday, May 08, 2014 4:39 PM | Deleted user
    I'm sure if you thought about for a minute or two you could guess what is polluting the Silver Springs. We have all been contributing in one way or another. There are things we can do to turn this around. It is pretty simple, when you turn on your tap water do want the water to clean and clear or do you one day care that you see brown murky water stuff coming out. If you wait to long, the latter will happen and before you know it, it will be too late. The link below is an article from the Star Banner about recent scientist findings.

    Click Here to read full article from the star banner.
  • Tuesday, May 06, 2014 1:03 PM | Deleted user
    A great article from the Tampa tribune about the springs in Florida. Do people really understand that our water is in trouble? What can you do?

  • Monday, May 05, 2014 5:57 PM | Deleted user
    Scientist now know with greater precision then ever before what the main pollutants are in Silver Springs. For more information read this article published by Ocala Star Banner.

  • Thursday, April 24, 2014 10:13 AM | Deleted user
    Yesterday afternoon a heavily amended version of Senate Bill 1576, the Springs and Aquifer Protection Act, unanimously passed the Senate Appropriations Committee, its final committee stopbefore going to the Senate floor. Several key elements of the bill were removed by the Senate sponsors in an effort to address concerns of House leadership, special interest lobbyist, and some Senate colleagues.

    To read the full report CLICK HERE


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