Columbia expansion places springs in danger

Published: Monday, November 1, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, October 31, 2004 at 10:54 p.m.
Ichetucknee Springs is under assault again, but this time it is not a coal-burning cement plant or a dirty industry pouring toxic wastes into the water. The villain this time is much more of a threat. The villain is urban sprawl.
Columbia County is proposing extending its urban boundary 3 miles out from its present location. If this is approved, it will change the density allowable in this urban reserve from one dwelling unit per five-20 acres to one dwelling unit per one-three acre.
This could have potentially disastrous effects on the springs. Most of the land to the south of Lake City is in karst topography with multiple stream-to-sink connections to underground rivers and caverns that have been proven to directly connect to Ichetucknee Springs.
There is presently no infrastructure in place to provide sewer and water to this area. Increased density in this area will mean the proliferation of septic systems and wells that will significantly alter the hydrology and water quality of Ichetucknee Springs. The septic systems would potentially increase the already increasing nitrate problem in the Ichetucknee system.
Development at this intensity will increase impervious surface area to this important recharge area. This will increase storm water runoff, bringing even more pollutants to this underground springshed for the Ichetucknee.
Nitrate levels have been gradually increasing in Ichetucknee Springs, a first magnitude spring that is the crown jewel in the State Park system. This has been directly related to human activities in its springshed. Development that would be allowed in this proposed amendment to the comprehensive plan of Columbia County would greatly increase this problem.
We urge you to contact the County Commission of Columbia County and ask them to address this issue. You may contact the Columbia County Commission at: Post Office Drawer 1529, Lake City, FL 32056-1529.
Telephone: (386) 758-1005 or fax: (386) 758-2182.
Or, by e-mail: penny_stanley@columbiacounty
Kathy Cantwell is public lands issue chairwoman of the Conservation Committee of the Florida Chapter of the Sierra Club. She lives in Gainesville.

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