State Buys Land to Protect Wakulla Springs

TALLAHASSEE – To enhance water quality protection and restoration efforts for Wakulla Springs, Governor Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet today approved a $1,525,000 acquisition of 678.67 acres within the Wakulla Springs Protection Zone Florida Forever project.

Wakulla Springs, located south of Tallahassee, is one of the largest and deepest artesian springs in the world. This parcel will help to close the conservation lands gap between the Apalachicola National Forest and the Wakulla State Forest and will also provide valuable aquifer recharge and surface water quality protection.

“The Department continues to focus on acquisitions that address water quality and quantity needs and this land purchase will help to buffer and protect Wakulla Springs,” said department Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. “This is another piece necessary for protecting our state’s springs, which staff has been so committed to doing under the leadership of Governor Scott.”

Wakulla Springs is protected by Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park and Wakulla State Forest. However, enormous caverns that feed the spring spread far to the north and west of the park. The land will be managed by the Florida Forest Service as an addition to the state forest. The site is also designated within the “primary range” for movement and reproduction of the state-threatened Florida black bear and will provide a travel corridor from the Big Bend to St. Marks.

“This acquisition represents an important next step in the protection of Wakulla Springs, one of northwest Florida’s most treasured water resources,” said Northwest Florida Water Management District Governing Board Member Jon Costello. “As the Governing Board member representing the St. Marks River Basin, I look forward to seeing the District continue to work with state and local agencies to improve water quality in Wakulla Springs.”

The property is located within the Upper Wakulla River Basin, and this area exceeds the total maximum daily load for nitrate, adopted in 2012. The Basin Management Action Plan, or restoration plan for the basin, is being developed, and acquisition of this property will help protect the spring and lead to its restoration.

“It is outstanding that this land is going to be protected by the state,” said Wakulla County District 3 Commissioner Howard Kessler. “Adding the purchased lands to the larger environmental protection effort will enhance the quality of the greater Wakulla area.”

The total Wakulla Springs Protection Zone Florida Forever project contains 7,438 acres, of which 4,158 acres have been acquired or are under agreement to be acquired. Upon today’s approval of this agreement, 3,280 acres, or 44 percent of the project, will remain to be acquired.

For more information, contact Florida Department of Environmental Protection Press Office, 850.245.2112, DEPNews@dep.state.fl.us

Upcoming Water Meetings in Florida

Saturday June 23
Stand Up for Silver Springs and Florida’s Waters
Sponsored by the Florida Conservation Coalition
10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Silver River State Park, Ocala FL

Concerned Florida residents and organizations will gather on Saturday to learn about imperiled waterways and how they can be protected.The FCC was founded by former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham (D) and other organizations in 2011 to campaign for the protection and sustainable management of Florida’s natural environment and water resources. Former Fla. Gov. Graham will speak at the event with former state Sen. Lee Constantine (R). Other guest speakers include Bob Knight, Jim Stevenson, and John Moran. Whitey Markle and the Swamprooters will provide live music.

Monday June 25
First meeting of north Florida water supply stakeholder representatives
North Florida Regional Water Supply Partnership
6 p.m.
St. Johns District’s Governing Board Room, 4049 Reid St., Palatka FL

The stakeholder committee is an advisory body that will offer viewpoints of stakeholder groups with the St. Johns River and Suwannee River water management districts and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to help address the region’s water supply issues. The partnership was established by the Suwannee River Water Management District, the St. Johns River Water Management District, and DEP as an initiative to protect natural resources and ensure cost-effective and sustainable water supplies in north Florida. The initiative seeks to improve program coordination and communication among water managers, local governments, concerned individuals and other stakeholders by working together to protect the shared resources of the Floridan aquifer system.

Thursday June 28
Central Florida Water Initiative Open House
4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Lakefront Marina Building,
1104 Lakeshore Blvd. St. Cloud FL

The public is invited to an information session to learn more about the Central Florida Water Initiative and how to become involved in the planning process. The information session will be an informal, open-house format with no formal presentation.

The Central Florida Water Initiative is a collaboration of agencies that address water issues in southern Lake, Orange, Osceola, Polk, and Seminole counties.

The St. Johns River Water Management District is part of the initiative, which is focused on water resource planning, development and management for the central Florida region. Other participating agencies are the South Florida and Southwest Florida water management districts, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and regional water utilities.

A Respect for Water

Running through an unfamiliar downtown is one of the best ways to get acquainted with the heartbeat of a city, especially in Nashville. With so many performance venues, open spaces either in front of the courthouse or between arenas, there is a lot to explore in Downtown Nashville to the banjo rhythms coming out of the Honky-Tonks. When you run up and up and finally to the look-out that is the state capitol, you look down on Bicentennial Park, an impressive tribute to statehood unlike anything that exists in Florida. It’s well known that a significant portion of Florida’s population is not native to Florida, and after seeing the physical manifestation of state pride in Tennessee; the problems Florida faces when it comes to protecting natural resources make much more sense. Tennessee has 13 rivers, and 13 lakes and Bicentennial park is built upon McNairy Spring which supplied the city when it was founded. These rivers, lakes, creeks, streams and springs all get a special tribute in the form of a monument, because Tennesseans have realized the value of water and in light of the 2010 floods, they understand that it can destroy all that it gives. Floridians haven’t caught on and being surrounded by water gives the false illusion that we have plenty while Tennessee, a landlocked state, has had time to learn how important the water is. The water monument is the physical manifestation of a respect for a precious gift, unfortunately you need to spend time somewhere in order to develop a respect like that. That’s the problem Florida faces: it just hasn’t quite nestled itself into the hearts of the 1,000 people who move to the state daily and they in turn haven’t developed the need to respect it.

Drying Times

Florida continues to experience low annual rainfall, the only source of water to replenish the Floridan aquifer. This deep underground storage tank supplies 90 percent of Floridians with fresh water for drinking, manufacturing, growing food, sprinkling on lush landscaping, washing cars and clothes, and filling swimming pools.

Is it in peril?

Floridians might take note of two Texas towns that have run out of water. More than 1000 towns in Texas have water restrictions and 17 are considered critical in terms of water supplies. A recent PBS News Hour story reported the following:

“Topping that list is the town of Spicewood Beach, a community of 500 homes on the shores of Lake Travis near Austin. Spicewood relies on wells fed by water from both the lake and the aquifer below the town. Too much water use and too little rainfall last year caused the water table to sink to historic lows. This January, Spicewood Beach became the first Texas town to run out of water.”

There are lots of ways to save water. Cities and counties all over Florida have materials and programs to help Floridians conserve water, fix leaks, and find water savings appliances. Check out information on Web pages for your local government or utility or go to the water management districts Web page to find a link to your district.

40 Years of Water Law in Florida

The 18th Annual Public Interest Environmental Conference is convening at the University of Florida Levin College of Law this weekend. The topic? Water in Florida. While emphasizing a retrospective of the laws designed to protect Florida’s water resources, panels have also included current topics of water quantity, water quality, water change, private and public ownership of water, and water resource advocacy. The history behind the 1972 Florida Water Resources Act was discussed by a lively panel made up of those who participated in creating and implementing the Act. Former members of three water management districts offered their insights into what went right, what went wrong, and what can be improved.

Other panels included Florida Waterkeepers, charged with keeping Florida’s waterways fishable, swimmable, and drinkable; a panel of writers who have published books on water led by Cynthia Barnett, the editorial consultant for this journalism water project; and a look at how climate change will affect water issues in the Florida. (Check out the water bottles on this photo of the writers’ panel!)

Carol Browner, a graduate of the UF law school and former administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (1993-2001) delivered the keynote address at the Friday night banquet. In addition she found time during the day to meet with a small group of students at the Bob Graham Center for Public Service who expressed interested in environmental issues and politics.

The sessions will continue on Saturday with the conference wrapping up on Saturday afternoon. The closing plenary session focuses on protecting Florida’s water for the next forty years.

Afternoon on the Silver River

Although the sun rarely peeked from behind the gray clouds, the weather was otherwise pleasant and Hannah and I enjoyed exploring the Silver River on Tuesday with four of John Hare’s advanced placement science students from Vanguard High School in Ocala. Lest you think we were just lazing away the day, Hannah will be uploading some clips or stills soon to show how the four students were working diligently to take measurements of water quality at 16 of the 120 springs in the Silver River. We meandered down the river at no-wake speed noting limpkins, cormorants, and anhingas, and many other birds. We saw alligators and plenty of turtles trying to get warm in the afternoon haze. We steered around a research team of divers investigating the world below the surface. And what a surprise to happen on a troop of monkeys peering at us from high in the trees along the river bank. Seems as if an entrepreneur in 1929 wanted to enhance his “jungle river cruise” with some non-native wild animals, but, as Captain Connie Neumann told us, “he didn’t know monkeys could swim.” And now there are hundreds of them all over the Florida, some as far away as Jacksonville and Tampa. The river bottom was mostly covered by eel grass with only tiny patches of the beautiful blue-silver sand for which the river was named. We also had an informative tour of the Silver River Museum, a great storehouse of Florida history complete with mastodon skeleton and other prehistoric wonders, pictorial history of native people, historical items from early European settlers, and lots of information about the river over the centuries. Stay tuned for visuals!