SOS Newsletter September 2012

Newsletter of Save Our Suwannee, Inc.  September 2012

Our Water Our Future

What is all the talk about water? Is there something we can do?

Join us for an evening with John Moran, Dr. Robert Knight

and Columbia County Community Leaders to answer these questions.

Friday, September 7, 2012 at 7:00 pm
at the Alphonso Levy Performing Arts Center at the Florida Gateway College.
The College is located on US 90, 4.5 miles east of 441/41 in Lake City.
Sponsored by the Florida Gateway College and the Lake City Columbia County Chamber of Commerce. For more information call Jacqui Sulek (386) 497-4187 or visit


Concerns about Consumptive Use Permitting Process Consolidation between Water Management Districts


On the face of it, it makes complete sense that all of the State’s five water management districts would have the same rules and processes for acquiring a consumptive use water permit.

However, things aren’t always as they seem. I attended the meeting to discuss what the Suwannee River Water Management District is planning to do to conform to the other water management districts. Changing the forms and paperwork was an easy primary fix—no worries. What I took away from the meeting was that one of the primary goals of this new CUPCON (Consumptive Use Permit Consolidation) exercise is to make it easier and faster for those wishing a consumptive use water permit to get one.  The goal of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection as the oversight agency of the water management districts appears to be to bend over backwards to rush the process making it more simple, less expensive and with less oversight of ongoing permits for large water users.

Again, on the face of it, what’s so bad about that? That’s simple, there just isn’t enough water for everyone to use as much as they want for as long as they want. One of the complaints from the “stakeholders” who currently hold water permits is that they have a 5-10 year review and have to re-apply for a permit every 20 years. To accommodate these stakeholders, the FDEP plans to extend water use permits by as much as 10 years if the permit holder is following good conservation practices.  As for the 5-10 year reviews, they are proposing that these review not be as stringent or be eliminated all together.

What the FDEP is not acknowledging is that Florida’s water supply isn’t at a steady state and isn’t endless. These interim reviews had a purpose in a world where our ground water aquifers have become depleted by over pumping and climate changes. Salt water intrusion is real and is happening, springs and lakes have dried up yet the FDEP wants to get rid of the review process that might be able to halt or at least slow down these terrible problems.
The argument from the stakeholders is “How can we plan ahead and do business if we aren’t promised a steady, reliable ,water supply?” The FDEP’s answer is to promise them water that may or may not be there. It seems to be that pretending Florida’s water is abundant and inexhaustible is the new game plan.

The tougher problems between districts are some of the issues that are haunting us today at the intersection of the St. Johns River Water Management District and our own Suwannee River Water Management District—Minimum Flows and Levels. In the past, the Suwannee River District set MFL’s that have been affected by activities in the St. Johns District.

Sadly, it will be a few years before this issue is addressed by this CUPCON process.
We will keep you updated on the process or you can check it out at:

Failure to Conform Gilchrist Comprehensive Plan: Don Bennink/North Florida Holsteins
2740 W. CR 232, Bell; from Gilchrist County Public Records 7/30/12

The Waccasassa Flats is a unique piece of Gilchrist (& Levy) County’s topography that is basically a big clay saucer, covered mainly with poorly drained soil types. Freshwater swamp is an apt description. Surface water tends to remain in the saucer until it
becomes full enough to spill over the edges, especially into Waters Lake sinkhole, and around Cow Creek which flows into the Santa Fe River. After Hurricanes Francis & Jeanne, Waters Lake flooded into nearby homes for a considerable time.

After the 2004 hurricanes, SR 47 was closed for some time where the flow crossed from West to East. The previous flood of ’98 closed CR 232 west of the 47 light. Nearby residents understand the importance of the Silviculture/Ag 6 designation for most of the Flats. In Gilchrist we are talking 120 square miles of land that needs to remain in timber and wildlife habitat. You can see the green “band” of the Wacassassa Flats in this Google Maps photo. You can also see the proximity of the farm operation to the wetlands the fields surround. Liquid waste from the nearby diary have been applied on this land in the Flats.

North Florida Holstein’s Piedmont Tract consists of four parcels in The Flats: 920 acres in Sections 3 ,4, by 5 of T9S/R15E or North side of CR 232 between US 129 and SR 47; Future Land Use Map designates 625 acres. as Silviculture/Ag6 which does not permit
intensive agricultural uses. The remaining 285 acres are Ag5 which requires a Special Use Permit for Intensive Ag, defined by a Florida Dept. Environmental Protection permit (FDEP). The Gilchrist County Comprehensive Plan standards for intensive agriculture
specify that manure should not be spread within 500 feet of a wetland, a condition which cannot be met in the Piedmont Tract.

Most of the Piedmont land was purchased in 2008 and timber clear-cut by 2009 as shown on Dept. Revenue aerial photos. Gilchrist Comprehensive Plan allows one rotation of only row crops such as melons on Type A or B soils between timber plantings;
This land does NOT have A or B soils, but much wetter terrain mostly. So only grazing between timber crops is allowed. Yet manure has been spread and millet planted since approximately 2009. NFH obtained a DEP permit FLA282821-003 for five years April of 2011.

The Suwannee River Water Management District issued five wells with pivots  2-83-00122M4 August 2011.  Both of these Florida agencies are negligent to issue permits AGAINST the public interest; i.e. Violations of Gilchrist County Land Use Elements. It appears from the public records that NFH may have as many as 8,000 animals on their property which was given a limit of approximately 3,100 as of the l993 rules in Gilchrist with no additional Permit obtained.

As of July 2012 the timber has NOT been replanted when the usual practice would have it done by one year. Gilchrist County has notified the owner of his failure to conform and given 120 days to correct by late Nov. 2012.
You can make comments to the following:: FDEP<> SRWMD <dinges_j@srwmd> Submitted by the Gilchrist Action Committee, compiled August 13, 2012


Suwannee River Water Management District Rescinds Water Conservation Restrictions Following TS Debby Water restrictions remain in effect for Alachua, Bradford, Columbia, Gilchrist, Jefferson, Levy, Madison, and Union counties.
The amended order also extends the water restrictions to all unincorporated areas of Alachua County that are located in the St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD), in accordance with a delegation agreement between the two water
management districts and the Alachua County Board of County Commissioners.

The water shortage order was rescinded for Baker, Dixie, Hamilton, Lafayette, Putnam, Suwannee and Taylor counties. In those counties the District’s permanent, year-round landscape irrigation rule is in effect. The rule allows lawn and landscape watering two
days per week from mid-March to the first Sunday in November, but not between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Watering is allowed one day per week throughout the rest of the year. Some local governments have adopted or plan to adopt their own permanent, year-round
conservation ordinances so please check with your city and county.
Historically following tropical rain events, groundwater levels have dropped back down very quickly. It may be too soon to have rescinded these ground water saving rules.

Contact: Eric Draper (850) 251-1301 or Manley Fuller (850) 567-7129
Florida’s Water & Land Legacy Campaign Launches Constitutional Amendment Drive to Guarantee Funding for Environmental Protection in Florida


TALLAHASSEE––Aiming to provide a stable, dedicated funding source for the acquisition of conservation and recreation lands in Florida, a coalition of leading defenders of the state’s environment today launched a Constitutional amendment petition drive to ask
voters to guarantee support for this long-term state priority.
“This will be the most significant vote in Florida for our environment in our lifetimes,” said Will Abberger, the campaign’s chair and the director of conservation finance for the Trust for Public Land. “We are launching a grassroots effort to let the people decide if
clean water and natural land are a legacy we want to leave for our children and grandchildren––and generations to come.”

The amendment would take effect July 1, 2015, and for 20 years would dedicate one-third of the net revenues from the existing excise tax on documents to restore the Everglades, protect drinking water sources, and revive the state’s historic commitment to
protecting natural lands and wildlife habitat through the Florida Forever Program.
Under the amendment, the monies deposited into the Land Acquisition Trust Fund will remain separate from the State’s General Revenue Fund. The amendment would provide more than $5 billion for water and land conservation in Florida over the next ten
years and $10 billion over the 20-year life of the measure, without any tax increase.
The Florida Water and Land Legacy Campaign brings together the Trust for Public Land, Audubon Florida, the Florida Wildlife Federation, the Sierra Club, the Nature Conservancy, 1000 Friends of Florida, Defenders of Wildlife, and others. The campaign will
reach out to gain signatures of at least 676,811 registered voters to put the issue on the 2014 ballot.

The Coalition notes that since 2009, the Florida Legislature has provided only $23 million for the landmark Florida Forever program.
This is a 97.5 percent reduction in previous funding. State appropriations for land management and ecological restoration, including the Everglades, have suffered similar declines.

In 2012, the Legislature allocated $8.5 million to safeguard important water protection areas and conservation lands. In light of a state budget of $60 billion, that means that for every dollar the state spends in 2012, less than two-hundredths of one penny will go
to water and land conservation––less than $1 for each Floridian.
“We are reaching out across our state to business leaders, conservationists, people of every age, ethnicity, creed, and political stripe, to ask them to protect what is fundamental to our economy and our quality of life in Florida––the land and water that makes this
such a special place,” added Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon Florida. “Florida Forever has been cut drastically since 2009.

We can’t protect this state on less than a dollar per year per Floridian. It just won’t work.”
The Coalition sees the proposed amendment as a responsible remedy to counter the dramatic reduction in funding for environmental protection and preservation, without having to raise taxes.
“When it comes to dedicating funding to protect Florida’s environment, the Great Recession has led to a complete depression. State funding to protect our most precious natural resources has slowed to a trickle,” said Manley Fuller, president of the Florida Wildlife Federation, and a leader in the effort. “This amendment is not a tax increase. It is the dedication of an existing funding source back to its historic purpose. Passing this amendment will ensure Florida’s long-term traditional conservation values are secure and
protected from short-term political pressures.”

The amendment would create Article X, Section 28, of the Florida Constitution. Under the amendment, Florida’s Land Acquisition Trust Fund would receive a guaranteed 33 percent of net revenues from the existing excise tax on documents.

These funds would be dedicated to support financing or refinancing the acquisition and improvement of:

  • • Land, water areas, and related property interests and resources for conservation lands including wetlands, forests, and fish and
  • wildlife habitat;
  • • Lands that protect significant water resources and drinking water sources, including lands protecting the water quality and
  • quantity of rivers, lakes, streams, springsheds, and lands providing recharge for groundwater and aquifer systems;
  • • Lands in the Everglades Agricultural Area and the Everglades Protection Area, as defined in Section 7(b) of Article II of the Florida Constitution;
  • • Beaches and shores; outdoor recreation lands, including recreational trails, parks, and urban open space; rural landscapes; historic, archaeological, or geologic sites as well as management of lands acquired;
  • Restoration of natural systems related to the enhancement of public access and recreational enjoyment; and
  • • Payment of the debt service on bonds issued pursuant to Article VII, Section 11(e) of the Florida Constitution.

The Coalition says support for environmental protection remains strong in Florida and is solidly nonpartisan. Since 1994, Florida voters have approved five of the six amendments proposed to the state Constitution related to conservation and the environment––
an 83 percent passage rate. The average “Yes” vote for those successful conservation amendments was 68 percent.  Former Florida Governors Graham, Martinez, Chiles, Bush, and Crist all supported Preservation 2000/Florida Forever, Everglades’ restoration, and funding for land management. Historically, Democratic and Republican leadership in the Florida Legislature have supported funding for land and water conservation.

“Regardless of political party and in good times and bad, for more than 20 years Legislatures and Governors have supported these programs. Since the recent economic downturn, our water and land, our beaches and springs, have suffered greater cuts and more damage than almost any other area of statewide concern,” said Abberger.
The campaign will rely on volunteer signature gatherers and donors from across the state, and is urging supporters to sign up at, or call 850-629-4656, or e-mail:


Southern Legal Counsel to Fight Adena Springs Water Permit


Karen Ahlers

Dr. Robert Knight ~

Despite Adena Springs Ranch bowing to public pressure by holding a public meeting at Church at the Springs in Ocala Wednesday night, their presentation in no way signals a victory for Silver Springs or diminishes the public’s resolve to pursue independent
review of their proposed consumptive use permit. Representatives from Adena Springs Ranch announced they will reduce their water permit request from 13.26 million gallons per day (MGD) to 5.3 MGD.
St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD) has received thousands of letters and petitions expressing concern or objection. “We share these concerns and welcome a thorough evaluation of Adena’s water needs and a valid assessment of the likely impacts of their withdrawals. No permit should be issued without a complete assessment and plan to protect and restore Silver Springs, the Silver River and the Ocklawaha River Outstanding Florida Waterways,” said attorney John R. Thomas. Thomas, along with Southern Legal Counsel of Gainesville, represents private citizens Karen Ahlers and Jeri Baldwin in conducting an independent review of the permit application.

Ranch manager Mark Roberts explained less water would be used for the grass-fed beef because the cattle would begin their lives elsewhere and would only be finished at the Ft. McCoy property for six months before being slaughtered onsite. Roberts was  noncommittal about where the herd would be raised for the first 18 months of their lives or what groundwater withdrawals would likely occur at other locations.
The applicant’s team of advocates, presented by PR director Honey Rand, argued to the crowd that 5.3MGD withdrawals would cause only a small reduction in aquifer levels. They also stated that the Ranch would cause only a small increase in nutrient concentrations in the groundwater feeding Silver Springs because Adena would employ best management practices in their handling of cattle wastes and fertilizer.

“There is no additional groundwater to be taken – it has already been over-committed to existing permit holders by Florida’s water management districts,” said Dr. Bob Knight.

Long-term average flow in Silver Springs is already down over 30% or more than 160 MGD.

The Adena PR Team was unable to answer many questions about their nutrient management plan.  Meeting attendees were encouraged by Adena permitting attorney Ed de la Parte to trust the permitting process at SJRWMD to protect water resources.
Numerous comments from the audience denounced the reliability of SRWMD to uphold that responsibility. Silver Springs, the Silver River and the nearest Ocklawaha River reaches are OFWs that the State must afford the highest level of protection “because of their natural attributes.” Unfortunately, the State has not delivered on the protection promise, and theseFWs are in severe decline from over-allocation of water resources regionally and inadequate management and regulation of fertilizers and animal wastes locally. All of these OFWs are listed as impaired due to excessive nitrate concentrations.

The State recently released a draft study for Silver Springs calling for a 79% reduction in nitrate levels. To find out more about the looming threat to Silver Springs, go to or contribute to the legal challenge fund at:

Southern Legal Counsel, ATTN: Adena Springs Challenge, 1229 NW 12th Ave, Gainesville, FL 32601-4113 and click on “contribute”

SOS September 2012 Newsletter in PDF

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