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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. 

  • Monday, April 14, 2014 1:52 PM | Deleted user

    By Fred Hiers 

    Staff writer 

    Adena Springs Ranch for the second time has adjusted the amount of water it seeks to withdraw from the aquifer for its massive and controversial cattle operation in north Marion County.

    Adena engineers say the water draw’s effect on Silver Springs would be negligible. But environmentalists say the modified application is little more than slight of hand.

    In this new modification to its water use permit application, Adena lawyers notified the St. Johns River Water Management District that they were reducing their request from an average 5.3 million gallons of water per day (mgd) to 2.4 mgd.

    But the modified application applies only to what’s called the North Tract undefined a 7,200-acre portion of the proposed 30,000-acre cattle operation near Fort McCoy.

    The previous 5.3 mgd request was for the whole operation, which planned for as many as 30,000 cattle.

    The previous application called for using the ranch’s 34 wells for withdrawal. The modified application calls for cutting that to 15 wells in the northern third of the range.

    In the same stroke, however, Adena representatives told water regulators that it will, sometime in the future, submit another water use application for 2.7 mgd for the ranch’s South Tract. The lawyers do not say when that second application will be forthcoming.

     on Page 6A 

    Article Continued Below

    See ADENA on Page A06

    ADENA:Originally was seeking permit for 13.3 mgd 

    Continued from 1A 

    Adena engineers predict that the modified withdrawal for the North Tract would reduce the depth of Silver Springs by only 0.008 feet. Adena lawyers said this is because the North Tract is outside Silver Springs’ 100-year water capture zone and springshed. 

    “The reduction in the requested allocation for the North Tract is substantially a result of the ongoing discussion and cooperation between (water) district staff and representatives of (Adena),” Adena lawyer Michael Minton wrote in the modified application. 

    Star-Banner telephone calls to Adena Springs Ranch representatives for this story were not returned. 

    Adena Springs Ranch is owned by billionaire Frank Stronach, who founded and formerly led an international car parts manufacturing company. 

    During the past few years, Stronach purchased at least 30,000 acres in Marion County and another 35,000 acres in Levy County. 

    He owns several thoroughbred racing facilities and businesses, including Gulfstream Park in Hallandale and Pimlico Race Course in Maryland. 

    Adena originally submitted its water use application in December 2011, asking for 13.3 mgd. But facing strong public opposition, fueled by fears the withdrawal would harm an already diminished Silver Springs, Adena a year later cut its request to 5.3 mgd. 

    Karen Ahlers, one of the lead organizers opposing the Adena application, said the modified permit is misleading. 

    “I’m thinking it’s a ploy, a way for Adena to get a consumptive use permit on a smaller piece of land,” she said. 

    While this latest modification is no victory, Ahlers said public opposition has managed to force St. Johns regulators to take a more serious look at the application and ask Adena questions about the effects of its proposed water withdrawal. 

    “We have obviously made a difference approaching this. They would have gotten the 13.3 mgd two years ago if we had not fought them,” she said. “I think now that citizens are going to do more than just write letters.” 

    Ahlers would not say how much money she and others have raised to pay lawyers and hire their own engineers and geologist to rebuke Adena’s research, but she did say it was in the tens of thousands of dollars. 

    Including free, donated work, Ahlers said hundreds of thousands of dollars in either cash or services has been committed to the cause. 

    Chemist and environmentalist Lisa Saupp said the modifi ed application should be carefully scrutinized, including Adena’s claims that Silver Springs’ recharge area does not include the ranch’s North Tract. 

    Many environmentalists and scientists say the recharge area is much larger and complex than those established by the water district, and that water withdrawn from one area affects many others. 

    “The recharge area is vast and much bigger than we think,” Saupp said. “This is generating a lot more questions than answers. 

    “These (recharge areas) are not static lines. And they are going to move based on the hydrology. These lines are very fluid,” she said. 

    Meanwhile, the water district this week has also submitted its Minimum Flow and Level for Silver Springs. The MFL indicates the river’s volume necessary to prevent significant harm to the water resources or ecology of an area. 

    The water district’s preliminary MFL for Silver Springs is 677 cubic feet per second. If adopted, the MFL would only allow an additional 2 cfs withdrawal without violating the MFL. 

    Water district spokesman Hank Largin said the water district now has 30 days to respond to Adena: either making a recommendation to its board or requesting more information. 

    But Largin said that only Adena’s current 2.4 mgd application will be considered, not what Adena might ask for in the future for its South Tract. 

    The earliest the modified application could go to the water district board for consideration is June. Contact Fred Hiers at 867-4157*

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  • Monday, April 14, 2014 1:43 PM | Deleted user

    In the window to the aquifer
    f Floridians remember one thing about our springs, it should be the words of Jim Stevenson, a longtime state biologist and springs advocate who came to be affectionately known as “Mr. Springs.”

    Stevenson, who headed the now-disbanded Florida Springs Initiative under former Gov. Jeb Bush, once famously stated, “Our springs are windows to the aquifer.” It was a colorful and accurate reminder that what we see happening to our springs also is happening to our groundwater supply.

    So, we were given pause this week when reading the recent Florida Parks Service draft development plan for Silver Springs State Park, which cited a “preliminary” report on the minimum flows and levels study of Silver Springs and the Silver River.

    Under Florida’s 1972 water management law, water districts were mandated to determine “the minimum flows and levels” of the state’s springs and rivers in order to know at what level significant environmental harm would begin occurring.

    It took the St. Johns River Water Management District 40 years to get around to measuring Silver Springs’ MFLs, but when they did last year, the findings were disturbing, although, frankly, not really surprising.

    They measured the springs and river flow for wet, average and dry periods. During the average and low periods, St. Johns scientists concluded the springs and river already are at near-minimum levels. At “average” levels, set at 708 cubic feet per second, the water flow could drop 31 cfs before hitting the MFL, or about 4 percent. At the low level, 677 cfs, the cushion is a negligible 2 cfs.

    In other words, Silver Springs and the Silver River undefined at least at the time of the study, using St. Johns’ “most restrictive analysis” undefined are already at their minimum healthy levels.

    And these words of warning in the report’s executive summary: “However, current uses are below permitted allocations. Full use of the existing permitted allocations would cause exceedence (sic) of the recommended MFLs. Therefore, reduction of the existing permitted allocation needs to be a part of the required prevention strategy.”

    So, if the springs is a window to the aquifer, we all need to cut back on our water usage if we are to ensure an adequate water supply in the future undefined and preserve Silver Springs and the Silver River.

    There is still more study to be done before the final MFL is determined. But the preliminary analysis, again, using “the most restrictive analysis,” should clearly give the St. Johns staff and board hesitation when considering whether to grant nearby Adena Springs Ranch its multimillion-gallon-a-day consumptive use permit.

    Scientists, private and public, have been documenting the decline in Silver Springs’ flow for years. Now, the water management district’s official MFL analysis is confirming what they have been saying.

    The numbers may change, a bit. And there will be wet spells and droughts. But the numbers don’t lie, and the time has come to quit talking about water conservation, and curbing new water permits, and saving Silver Springs and begin taking aggressive and measurable steps to reduce our water consumption. A look in the window is all you need to know why.*

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  • Saturday, March 15, 2014 5:01 PM | Deleted user

    Click Here to read the entire article including videos.
  • Thursday, February 27, 2014 4:05 PM | Deleted user

    Immediate Release: February 21, 2014

    Ocala undefined “Silver Springs is no longer the world’s biggest first magnitude spring,” Gainesville-­‐ based springs scientist, Dr. Bob Knight, announced today. ”And if drastic steps are not taken now to reverse the damage being done, the springs could stop flowing in the next twenty years.”

    Knight’s remarks reflect the results of a recent report conducted by the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute. Among other findings, the December 2013 study reveals that Florida’s fabled Silver Springs’ average water flow has declined by 44% since flow rates were first recorded.

    The famous Florida landmark also continues to be polluted by rising levels and nitrate–nitrogen concentrations, according to the study.

    The main cause of the springs’ water flow decline is over pumping of the underground Floridan aquifer by farms, businesses, and residences, said Knight, who was the principal researcher of the study. Meanwhile, the Silver Springs river basin is also being contaminated by fertilizers and pesticides and seepage from tens of thousands septic tanks.

    A previous study conducted by Knight indicated Silver Springs’s fish population has declined 95percent in the past forty years.

    For more than a century, Silver Springs was a popular Florida attraction that drew millions of visitors worldwide. It was also the site for numerous underwater photo shoots for motion pictures, television programs, and commercials. Tourism, however, dropped in recent decades because of degradation of the springs and increased competition from other Florida attractions. In late 2013, the attraction became a state park.

    “Dr. Knight’s study underscores the urgency for action at the highest government levels,” said Andy Kesselring, president of the Silver Springs Alliance, an Ocala-­‐based, non-­‐profit organization that works to protect Silver Springs. “That’s why the alliance is urging state legislators to craft  powerful  springs  and  water  protection  legislation  during  this  next  legislative  session.” Meanwhile, the Florida Springs Institute study recommends that state agencies implement a comprehensive ecological monitoring program of the “overall health of the Silver Springs and Silver

    River ecosystem “to help develop a plan for the restoration and protection for them.

    “If we don’t invest now,” Knight said, “we may lose Silver Spring and other springs forever.” To see the 2012-­‐2013 Silver Springs Ecosystem Study go to the FSI website.


    Contacts:            Dr. Bob Knight (386) 462-­‐1003                   Andy Kesselring (352) 622-­‐8899


    Working to ensure the protection of a healthy ecosystem at Silver Springs for future generations.

  • Thursday, February 20, 2014 10:16 AM | Deleted user

    The student sampling program was first suggested buy Dr. Bob Knight and Scott Mitchell to John Hare, IB Chemistry teacher at Vanguard High School about two years ago. A grant from the Felburn Foundation got it up and running for the first three years. 

    Kristie Armas and James Thrower are the two current Board Members of the Silver Springs Alliance mentioned in the article. Many chemistry students from 10th, 11th and 12th grade have participated in this research and helped create higher awareness of the plight of Silver Springs in Ocala and Marion county.  


    There’s nothing like being a legislator or regulator and seeing these young faces in public meetings and events. It drives home the message in a powerful way that this generation is receiving a very degraded Silver Springs from those who where charged with protecting and preserving it. No one wants to leave a legacy like that. The pressure is on to do something effective to change it. Inspired students foment change like no one else can.


    Kudos to our kids!

    John Hare, SSA and Vanguard IB Chemistry

  • Tuesday, February 18, 2014 4:34 PM | Deleted user
    Targeting the Ocklawaha 

    You reported that the St. 

    Johns River Water Management District announced that “pumping the Ocklawaha River for drinking water would be considered only as a last resort.” Those of us concerned about the ongoing damage to the river due to reduced flows (about a 40 percent loss of flows for the period of record) can only wish that were true. It is not. 

    I would refer you to the district’s Draft Water Supply Plan where there are four proposed projects serving Volusia, Alachua, Clay, Putnam and Marion County that combined would take 76-86 million gallons per day from the Ocklawaha River at two locations. 

    What they have backed off of is the old plan to pump Ocklawaha River water to Orlando and Jacksonville, not the plan to pump water to the five counties listed above. The district may say it is a “last resort,” but we all know how expensive desalination will be and, when push comes to shove, we are very fearful that Ocklawaha River water transfer will likely be seen as the “first resort.” 

    I would suggest you clarify the matter once and for all with district staff so the public is not lulled into a false hope that the district really understands our concern for further destruction of the Ocklawaha River. 

    Another telling report, the Minimum Flows and Levels recommendations for the Lower Ocklawaha River will be presented by the district on May 20. I would further suggest you follow that development closely to see how much water they suggest can still be taken from a harmed system. The answer should be none. 

    There simply is no water available from this currently damaged resource. Because of this, the district should be drafting a recovery plan, not a withdrawal plan for the Ocklawaha River. 

    Robin Lewis 
  • Monday, February 17, 2014 9:37 AM | Deleted user
    This is a picture of the Friends of Silver Springs State Park River Patrol volunteers. They are on the river educating boaters on how to protect the River and the wildlife. Education is the key to Protecting, restoring, and preserving the springs. What do you think?

  • Tuesday, February 04, 2014 2:59 PM | Deleted user

    The Florida Springs Institute would like to share the attached report with you that provides an update on the ecological condition of Silver Springs near Ocala, Florida. This report was prepared for the Springs Institute by Wetland Solutions, Inc. with financial support from private donations and a grant from the Felburn Foundation. This report documents the continuing decline in spring flows and deteriorating water quality at this spring group. These findings provide an emphatic wake-up call that the state’s efforts at establishing minimum flows and levels and a basin management action plan need to be completed and fully implemented as soon as possible to protect this iconic symbol of Florida’s natural treasures.

    Please let me know if you have any questions concerning the findings in this report.

    Best wishes,

    Robert L. Knight, Ph.D.

    Director, Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute

    Click Link Below for full Report:

    Silver Springs _ River Report Card_2009_Florida Springs Institute_Page_1.jpg

  • Friday, January 24, 2014 6:34 PM | Deleted user
      Feb 5. Bob Graham will be speaking at this event in Gainesville. Karen Ahlers is working with FDE now and she will have a few things to say too. Remember that pesky Cross Florida Barge Canal? Without the FDE's efforts I do believe it would been gouged into place all the way across the state. The restoration of the Ocklawaha remains to be done to return it to it's historic channel. Come to this event and get involved so we can get this issue resolved for the health of the river while vastly increasing access to all of the beautiful natural elements that have been drowning for decades. Reconnecting the channel will go along way to help improve Silver Springs too.
    Karen Chadwick

The Silver Springs Alliance, Inc. is a 501(c)3 non-profit. All or a portion of your donation may be tax-deductible. 

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