Adena Springs Ranch gets more time to answer water district's request
Published: Wednesday, December 25, 2013 at 7:43 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, December 25, 2013 at 7:43 p.m.
Adena Springs Ranch's request for permission to pump groundwater for its Marion County cattle operation and meat processing plant will enter its third year in the permitting process in 2014.
This month, the St. Johns River Water Management District granted Adena another extension in collecting information the district says it needs in deciding whether the ranch should be allowed to pump 5.3 million gallons of water per day for its Fort McCoy operation.
The ranch is being developed by Canadian-based billionaire Frank Stronach, who owns at least 30,000 acres of land in Marion County and more than 30,000 acres in Levy County.
Adena Springs Ranch now has until March 12, 2014, to give the district the information it wants or ask for another extension.
Adena's initial water request for 13.3 million gallons was submitted in December 2011. The withdrawal would have exceeded the amount all of Ocala is permitted to pump from the aquifer.
A year later, Adena reduced its request to 5.3 million gallons per day.
Many environmentalists and scientists have warned that allowing such a withdrawal would damage the springs in Marion County and dangerously reduce the groundwater level.
Under the permit request, Adena would still be allowed a potential maximum daily irrigation use of 21.57 mgd for its operation of more than 15,000 grass-fed cows.
If Adena supplies the district the information it wants, and staffers are satisfied, the staff would make a recommendation to the district board. The board would have 90 days to make a decision.
The board could approve or deny the request, or could approve the request but with a lower allocation, district spokeswoman Teresa Monson said.
Monson said the district's repeated requests for information, and Adena's requests for additional time to respond, are not unusual for a water request this size.
The district analyzes the effects of proposed water withdrawals using complex computer models.
Adena engineers predict their proposed withdrawal would lower the water level at Silver Springs in Marion County by no more than about 0.3 inches. Opponents argue, however, that the springs and river have already seen a reduction in flow of about 30 percent due to over withdrawal.
As for the new March deadline, Adena Springs Ranch spokeswoman Honey Rand said, "While it's true that longer processing time costs more, the more important question is, does the district have the information it needs to make a decision?
"Adena Springs Ranch has fully cooperated with the district throughout the process, making modifications, improving operational systems and changing management tactics. The result will be a permit that protects the environment and still allows economic development," she added.
Contact Fred Hiers at 867-4157.