Water managers want more data on Adena ranch plan


Published: Monday, May 20, 2013 at 5:22 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, May 20, 2013 at 5:22 p.m.

Adena Springs Ranch's request to syphon an average of 5.3 million gallons per day from the aquifer for its cattle operation has hit another clog.

The St. Johns Water Management District is asking Adena for more information about its request, making it the third time it's done so since Adena originally asked for a permit for the Fort McCoy ranch back in December 2011. Opponents of the 25,000-acre project say it is just the latest in the back-and-forth volley that involves Adena, environmentalists, and lawyers.

Environmentalists have opposed the project, expressing concern about the effect such a large water withdrawal would have on the aquifer and nearby Silver Springs.

Adena now has up to 120 days to provide the water district the information it wants or ask for additional time to answer.

Honey Rand, spokeswoman for the Adena Ranch project, said that Adena will respond to the additional information request.

"This permit has received an unprecedented review. Adena Springs Ranch has been asked to conduct tests that haven't been required of much larger permits, permits many times larger than this," she said in an email to the Star-Banner.

"Good thing we're up to the challenge," she wrote. "We have fully cooperated with the District, we've engaged with our neighbors, and the greater community and we'll continue to do so — just like we always have."

Robert Knight, an aquatic and wetland scientist opposed to granting the application, said the more he has learned of the application and how the withdrawal effects Silver Springs, the less he understands how it could be granted.

Knight cites the water district's preliminary minimum daily flow standard for Silver Springs, showing that only another 1.3 million gallons per day can be withdrawn safely from the recharge area without adversely affecting the spring.

"I don't see how they can issue that (permit)," Knight said.

In addition to the average 5.3 million gallons requested, Adena also wants to pump a maximum of 24.5 million gallons of water a day for irrigation should the need arise.

Adena has said ever since it dropped its original request from 13.3 million gallons per day to 5.3 million gallons that the withdrawal will reduce Silver Springs no more than about 0.3 inches.

Knight argues that the spring's flow has already fallen about 30 percent, most of that due to water withdrawal.

Environmentalist Karen Ahlers thinks the added water district's scrutiny is a result of the publicity the Adena project has created.

"We feel we've been backing up the water district and encouraging them to do the most comprehensive review possible," she said. "And we've been doing ... our own parallel, independent review."

Ahlers said now that environmentalists have joined the debate with their own lawyers and scientists to evaluate the project's impacts, it's brought much more attention on the water district and how the agency is evaluating the data.

"But that's how you care for a shared resource," Ahlers said.

Contact Fred Hiers at 867-4157 or fred.hiers@starbanner.com.

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