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The Death of the Silver River

When, in our wildest dreams, did we ever think that such a treasure and historic landmark as the Silver River, one of the largest first magnitude springs in the world, would disappear in our lifetime? I regret to inform you it is happening right now before our very eyes - not decades from now, but right now.

Over the past 30 years of being on the river and watching as a Perfect Storm evolved, it is with horror that we see decline on a daily basis. Our springs, rivers and lakes are being assaulted by not only historic droughts and climate change, but overpopulation, agricultural interests, and bottling companies sucking out more water than can be replenished by rainfall. Nitrates caused by fertilizing our golf courses, lawns and pastures have increased by over 2600% over the last century!! The river no longer runs clear, and for the first time ever is not flowing clear out of the cave and main spring. Along with the algae that darkens the water, we have lost over 92% of our fish population!!

Silver Springs used to put out over 1000cfs (cubic feet per second). In times of severe drought, such as during the 30's and 50's, it would go down to 600 - 800cfs, only to rebound when the rains came. Our population was far less at the time, so we were not withdrawing what we are today.

As of May 2012, it is down to less than 240cfs or only 32% of its original flow. On April 2, 2012 the flow was 357cfs - so it dropped over 100 cfs in just one month! In a few short months, the springs will stop flowing.

As if this was not enough, we are facing an assault by Canadian billionaire Frank Stronach, who has asked the St John's River Water Management District for a consumptive use permit (CUP) for over 13.27 Million gallons a day (yes MILLION) for the Adena Springs Ranch Project. His proposed cattle ranch and slaughterhouse is being built just a couple of miles north of the Springs in the recharge area. He wants more water than the city of Ocala, which uses 12.5 mgd. The St John's River Water Management District (SJRWMD) has never refused a permit. His 10,000 acre ranch will support 30,000 cattle which will be slaughtered there. The manure, effluent, and fertilizer will go where? Why, right into the recharge area for the Springs.

The Springs will not be able to sustain such an assault. What can we do? Is it so hopeless? Maybe, but there are lots of people out here fighting for our springs and our water.

The Silver Springs Working Group was established in 1999, but was disbanded last year due to lack of funds. They had been collecting data on the springs during that time. A newly formed group, the Silver Springs Alliance, will be the next voice for the Silver River by protecting the ecosystems and wildlife, educating the public on the state of the springs and the Florida Aquifer. After a public meeting in April, the group hired an environmental law firm to fight the Adena Springs Ranch Project.

As of August 22, 2012 - An Update on the Adena Springs Consumptive Use Permit

On August 22, 2012 the Adena Springs Ranch held a public meeting to explain their cattle operation and justify the need for the 13.2 mgd consumptive use permit. This was the first chance a lot of the public had to hear exactly how they intend to use the precious water. Their farm managers, lawyer, environmental scientists - each spoke about cattle raising, the slaughterhouse business and the perceived effects on the Silver River and Silver Springs. They claimed the pumping of 13.2 mgd would have a negligible effect- reducing the height of the Spring by about 3/4".

The auditorium was fairly filled, and the Ranch even arranged for the sheriff to have a major presence, fearing a riot, I suppose. We were not to express any opinions by clapping or yelling our approval or disapproval. They did arrange for a question and answer period from the audience- one had to register their questions ahead of time, and they had 3 minutes for that discussion.

Just before the Q & A, Adena Springs suddenly announced that they were reducing their CUP to 5.2mgd. We got the distinct feeling that this was done as a way to appease public pressure and scientific opposition. The decrease in the CUP request would be the result of not having the entire herd of cattle on the farm for the full period of time prior to slaughter. The animals would be housed at other Adena facilities for longer periods of time. No mention was made of proposed CUPs for these additional facilities. The fact that their other farms are in western Marion County and Levy County, and are overseen by the Suwannee Water Management District and the Southwest Florida Water Management District (Swiftmud), and opposed to the St John's River Water Management begs the question that our water is still be pumped from the aquifer. It all comes from the same place! Adena did not say how many more CUP's they would request from Suwannee and Swiftmud. The scientific and general consensus is that even 5.2 mgd is too much for a river and spring as stressed as it is. Unfortunately, the Water management people have never refused a permit, and because we have now had a more normal rainfall this summer- the first in many years - they feel that we have enough water!!!!! Even with all the rainfall, the average flow in the river as of August was between 440+ - 550 cfs- less than half its historic flow! We need many more seasons of good rain to make up the 10 year deficit, but many climatologists are telling us that because of climate change, Florida will be much drier. We cannot count on enough rain.

It was generally thought that having Adena sponsor a public forum was a good idea, but their plans were met with skepticism, and many of the questions to the panel representing Adena Springs interests could not be answered with any certainty.

My question is, why are we allowing these water management districts and our government officials to give away our water without thought to the future? Why can we not charge these large consumers of water, the same way as homeowners are charged and metered? We All must be held accountable!

We will continue to fight for the future of Silver Springs and the River, but I fear it is too late....

We need your help and your voice...joining the Alliance is only $15 per year.

Please read in more detail all the things that are happening to the Springs at http://www.silverspringsalliance.org

Email: silverspringsalliance@gmail.com

Check out the blog with Dr. Robert Knight at http://swfwmdmatters.blogspot.com

To keep up on the Adena permitting process, follow the directions below.

1.Go to the SJRWMD permitting page. https://permitting.sjrwmd.com/epermitting/jsp/Search.jsp?option=permitNumberOption

2.Select "search by Application/permit number" in the right-hand column.

3. Enter the application number 129419 and click submit.

4. Then, click on the Permit Number in far left cell to access the permit documents and to comment and receive notifications.

5. Click "To comment or receive notifications" in the middle of the page to receive updates and to voice your opposition.

You can also send comments via email to: applicationsupport@sjrwmd.com and SJRWMD Executive Director Hans Tanzler at htanzler@sjrwmd.com. (You may have to copy and paste these into your email "to" box.)

We cannot hope and pray that we get a couple of hurricanes and tropical storms - only a short term fix for a long term problem.

Please make your voice heard, keep informed on all our water issues - without public involvement, we are all dead.

If we can't do something soon, Silver Springs and the Silver River are doomed and will be no more...and we let this happen on our watch...

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