July 17, 2012
By James Orth, Special to Florida Sportsman
Recently, the Florida Conservation Coalition (FCC) and its local partners - Silver Springs Alliance, Silver River Museum, and Marion County Springs Festival – hosted "Speak Up for Silver Springs and Florida's Waters” at Silver River State Park in Ocala. The June 23rd event was a huge success with over 1800 concerned citizens from around the state in attendance. The “Speak Up” rally was organized to educate the public and policymakers about the significant water quality and supply challenges we are facing and to advocate for the protection and restoration of Silver Springs and all of Florida's imperiled waterways.
The FCC is a nonpartisan alliance of conservation organizations and concerned individuals that was formed last year by former Governor Bob Graham to ensure that safeguards are in place to protect and properly manage Florida's rich natural resources. St. Johns Riverkeeper is a charter member of the FCC.
At the event, Governor Bob Graham (D), former Senator Lee Constantine (R), Manley Fuller (Florida Wildlife Federation), Charles Lee (Audubon), Dr. Bob Knight (Florida Springs Institute), John Moran (renowned nature photographer) and Lisa Rinaman (St. Johns Riverkeeper) inspired the crowd with rousing and informative speeches. Sen. Graham called on Florida residents to be on the “front line of the protectors” for the state's water resources. He encouraged Floridians to apply common sense — and to encourage their elected leaders to do the same. “If we screw this up, we have killed the goose that laid the golden egg,” he said.
You can watch an interview with Governor Bob Graham and his speech from June 23rd by visiting our website - http://www.stjohnsriverkeeper.org/blog/speak-up-for-floridas-waters/.
Silver River State Park served as an appropriate backdrop for this important gathering for Florida's waters. Over the last several decades, the iconic Silver Springs has suffered from dramatic increases in nutrient pollution and declines in its flow by over 50%, partly due to excessive groundwater withdrawals, poorly treated wastewater, and excessive use of fertilizer. As a result, fish biomass in this National Natural Landmark has declined by over 90%. The Silver River, an Outstanding Florida Water, flows out of Silver Springs, and is also impaired due to excessive nitrate levels and reduced flow.
As a result, the Florida Conservation Coalition has started a petition (http://www.change.org/petitions/governor-rick-scott-speak-up-for-silver-springs) urging Governor Rick Scott to take immediate action to reverse the damage that has been done to Silver Springs and the Silver River and begin restoring these vital natural resources. So far, over 12,000 people have signed the petition seeking Governor Scott's help and leadership on this critical issue.
Unfortunately, these aquatic treasures are also facing additional threats from a proposed large-scale cattle operation that is seeking a permit for over 13.2 million gallons of water a day. This is more water than is used by the entire City of Ocala on a daily basis. Adena Springs Ranch is planning to raise as many as 30,000 cattle within the springshed of Silver Springs.
You can learn more about this permit issue and how you can submit comments to the St. Johns River Water Management District by clicking here. (http://www.stjohnsriverkeeper.org/blog/save-silver-springs/)
However, the “Speak Up” rally was about much more than just Silver Springs and Silver River. What is happening to these waterbodies is emblematic of the water quality and supply challenges we are facing throughout Florida, highlighting the significant pollution problems that exist and the impending water crisis that we face. As a result, this event was a call to action for all of Florida's rivers, lakes, springs, and groundwater and an intensification of an ongoing campaign by the FCC and its members.
By joining together and getting involved, the citizens of this state can protect the precious natural resources that are so critical to our health, economic well-being, and quality of life.
For more information about the FCC and upcoming events, visit www.floridaconservationcoalition.org.