Workshop set for June 23 over area's water problems
Published: Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 6:44 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 6:44 p.m.
The Florida Conservation Coalition is hosting a water workshop and festival to educate the public and influence policy makers about the problems facing Florida's troubled water bodies.
If you go
What: "Speak Up for Silver Springs and Florida's Waters" festival
When: 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Saturday, June 23
Where: Silver River State Park, 1425 NE 58th Ave., Ocala
The organization, founded and chaired by former Florida Gov. Bob Graham, will try to bring attention to the problems that drought, over-pumping, saltwater intrusion and pollution have had on the state's waters.
The coalition also is trying to coordinate efforts to reinstate former funding levels for Florida's five water management districts and support the agencies' land purchase and conservation programs, recently gutted amid budget cuts.
Among the speakers scheduled for the "Speak Up for Silver Springs and Florida's Water" festival are Graham and former state senator Lee Constantine.
Graham said during a Wednesday telephone interview that it's Florida's responsibility to pass on its resources to future generations.
One of the best examples of Florida's resources are Silver Springs and the Silver River, he said.
"But they've become known for something else: the icons of the decline of Florida's springs and rivers," Graham said.
Asked if Florida's water districts were adequately protecting the state's waters, Graham said they were not.
"If you look at the results (of the water districts' policies), the answer would be no. There is something wrong," he said.
"Now who's going to launch the effort to find out what went wrong and who's going to fix it?" Graham asked.
Coalition spokesman Ryan Smart said the recent Adena Ranch application to use 13.2 million gallons of water daily for a planned cattle operation in Fort McCoy is not on the agenda for the June 23 meeting, "but I imagine it will be spoken about during the day."
The application by ranch owner and billionaire Frank Stronach has become a lightning rod for environmental groups saying the area's aquifer, springs and rivers are already too depleted and the additional withdrawal would make matters only worse.
"Obviously that is the impetus behind the event," Smart said of how Adena has become symbolic of large volume withdrawals.
"(Granting) water-use permits is more or less a given and that was not the intention (with the creation of the water districts)," Smart said.
Smart said that some of the Florida Conservation Coalition's member groups are calling for a moratorium on water-use permits until safe minimum flow levels are determined for the Silver and Rainbow rivers.
The plan is to host similar events in other areas such as Tampa, Jacksonville and the Suwannee River area.
Participating with the coalition in hosting the event will be the Silver Springs Alliance.
Lisa Saupp, of the alliance, said the Florida Conservation Coalition is typical of a change she is seeing among environmental groups as they become more focused on trying to impact public policy.
Organizations such as the Marion County Springs Festival committee, of which Saupp is president, has focused on educating the public on water issues.
"We never tried to address policy issues," she said.
The June 23 event will look at "what will Florida's future water policies look like?" she said.
Saupp said she still wants more facts about the Adena Ranch water application, but she said the issue is forcing the public to pay more attention to the issue of water.
"It is forcing us all to come to a common table to vet the science and hopefully understand the implications (of the 13.2 mgd withdrawal)," she said.
Adena Ranch lawyer Ed de la Parte said that if the Adena application brings people together to discuss water issues, that would not be a bad thing.
De la Parte said Adena was already meeting with environmental groups to discuss the application and this summer also would host public meetings on the issue.
But Florida's water problems should not be put on Adena's door, he said, adding that Adena isn't yet pumping any water and its application would be "strenuously reviewed" by Florida water officials.
"We realize the (water) debate will go on and on," he said.