Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Protests Needed to Protect Springs

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Protests Needed to Protect Springs

Article excerpt

Byline: Ron Littlepage

Monday morning found me sitting on the edge of a frost-covered pasture as the sun rose.

Where I was the sky was a brilliant blue, the temperature 20 degrees and the wind, thankfully, calm.

I watched as three gobblers walked across the pasture. The early morning sunlight lit up the iridescence of the great birds' multi-colored feathers.

The sight was stunningly beautiful.

So what does that have to do with a protest Tuesday morning at the Palatka headquarters of the St. Johns River Water Management District, which is what this column is really about?

The Silver River and Silver Springs were also stunningly beautiful once.

That's before the flow of the springs was reduced dramatically with the blessing of the water management district, which has issued hundreds of consumptive use permits that allow millions of gallons of water to be pumped daily out of the Floridan aquifer, the lifeblood of the springs and river.

And that was before pollutants from development and agriculture turned the water there into a petri dish for algae.

The iridescent brilliance of the sand that sparkled through the once-clear water and gave the springs and river their names is gone.

The protesters were at the water management district's headquarters to say enough is enough.

Their particular aim this day was the recommendation by the district's staff that the governing board approve a permit to allow Sleepy Creek Lands, a giant cattle operation located in the springshed of Silver Spings, to pump more than a million gallons of water a day out of the aquifer for its operations.

In 2014, the district's staff had recommended denying the permit because of the harm to the river and springs that would result.

Under Gov. Rick Scott, who controls the state's five water management districts through his Department of Environmental Protection, scientists aren't looked upon kindly if their findings are at odds with development and creating jobs. …

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