In conjunction with the Florida Conservation Coalition, former Governor Bob Graham asked Governor Scott to take immediate action that will begin the process of protecting and restoring Silver Springs, Silver River, Rainbow Springs and Rainbow River.
Pointing out the apparent continued decline of these storied Florida treasures, he asked the Governor to consider setting up a Resource Planning and Management Committee to identify the causes and generate options for reversing the problems.
Saying time is of the essence, he asked the Governor to, “… take the lead in preventing further damage to Silver Springs and Rainbow Springs by ensuring the implementation of effective restoration plans and strategies that can be replicated in other areas of the state.”
The letter is the culmination of a growing public concern for the water resources of Florida and its unique natural features characterized by the world’s greatest concentration of first magnitude springs.
In addition to Governor Graham, the letter was signed by a number of charter members of the Florida Conservation Coalition including Nathaniel Pryor Reed, Former Assistant Secretary of the Interior, Former Chairman SFWMD, Founder and Chairman Emeritus 1000 Friends of Florida, and Lee Constantine, Former State Senator, Former State Representative, Former City Commissioner and Mayor of Altamonte Springs.
Governor Graham and the Florida Conservation Coalition in partnership with Silver River Museum, Silver Springs Alliance, and Marion County Springs Festival will be hosting a “Speak up for Silver Springs and Florida’s Waters” gathering at Silver River State Park beginning at 10 a.m. on June 23. The call to action is “to protect and restore Florida’s imperiled waterways … (and) will include important public statements by FCC leaders, educational presentations, nature exhibits, outdoor activities, and live music.” Find information HERE
Here’s the letter in full:
June 18, 2012
Governor Rick Scott
Plaza Level 05, The Capitol
400 South Monroe Street
Tallahassee, Florida 32399-0001
Re: Two Florida Signature Spring and River Systems – Silver Springs and River and Rainbow Springs in urgent need of your immediate attention
Dear Governor Scott,
As members of the Florida Conservation Coalition, we are writing to ask for your leadership and assistance in protecting Florida’s freshwater resources. Springs, rivers, lakes, and groundwater throughout the state are suffering from dangerously low levels and unhealthy water quality conditions. As Floridians, all of us have the responsibility to do everything within our power and ability to protect and restore these natural resources that are so critical and inextricably linked to our health, quality of life and economy.
Two of Florida’s signature spring and river systems – Silver Springs and River and Rainbow Springs and River -- are in urgent need of your immediate attention and decisive action. Dramatic declines in the water flow and quality of these two first-magnitude spring systems in Marion County have been scientifically documented, confirming that current programs administered by state, regional, and local government are simply inadequate to protect and restore the health of these valuable aquatic resources. We believe these two springs and rivers can be saved, and by focusing now on their restoration, effective tools and strategies can be developed to address and resolve the pollution and flow problems impacting springs and other waterways throughout the state.
Accordingly, we are requesting that you direct the Department of Economic Opportunity, with assistance from other appropriate state agencies, to assess and report to you within the next six months on the feasibility of establishing a Resource Planning and Management Committee, under Section 380.045, F.S., which could harness the power of public and private stakeholders to develop a plan to correct the problems. Another alternative is to use the model of the stakeholder task force process that led to the passage of the Wekiva River Protection Act, Section 369.301-369.309 F.S., in 1988, and the Wekiva Parkway and Protection Act 369.314-369.324 F.S., in 2004. These approaches succeeded in protecting a river while accommodating expanding urban development in the Orlando area and formulation of a plan for a needed new highway. The Executive Orders issued by Governors Martinez and Bush establishing these task forces are worthy of examination by your staff.
The State, St. Johns River and Southwest Florida Water Management Districts, and Marion County have expended considerable effort and resources in the Silver and Rainbow Springs and Rivers watersheds. Yet these efforts have failed to protect or restore these valuable resources. “Minimum flows and levels” and “total maximum daily loads” have not been established, and recommendations of DEP’s Florida Springs Task Force have not been implemented.
Silver Springs is a registered National Natural Landmark and the Silver River is a designated Outstanding Florida Water. Iconic Silver Springs is Florida’s largest and best known spring. Despite its importance, the flow of water from the spring has dropped dramatically and nitrates have increased 20-fold, clouding its water and triggering excessive algal growth. Native fish species are declining, and exotic invasive fish species are multiplying. The changes are well documented in the “Fifty-Year Retrospective Study of the Ecology of Silver Springs, Florida,” published by the St. Johns River Water Management District. For your convenience, attached is a reference list of literature and a letter.
Rainbow Springs is the state’s fourth largest and one of its most picturesque springs, and the source of Rainbow River, which flows 5.6 miles before joining the Withlacoochee River at Dunnellon. The spring is a registered National Natural Landmark and the river is a designated Outstanding Florida Water and an Aquatic Preserve. Yet, like Silver Springs and River, water flow has declined dramatically while nitrate pollution has increased significantly.
The economic impact of these springs and rivers and the recreational opportunities they provide is significant for Marion County and downstream communities in adjacent Lake and Sumter counties. More than 800,000 visitors (many from out of state) visit Silver Springs annually. These aquatic assets also enhance property values, adding wealth and increasing ad valorem revenue for local governments.
While it is unthinkable that Florida’s springs might get pumped dry or lost to pollution, there is precedent. Kissengen Spring in Polk County went dry in 1950, and White Sulphur Springs in Hamilton County has become a trickle. Given continued neglect, the damage to Silver Springs and Rainbow Springs, too, could become irreversible.
Governor, you have previously stated your support for protecting Florida’s natural resources. We are asking that you and your administration take the lead in preventing further damage to Silver Springs and Rainbow Springs by ensuring the implementation of effective restoration plans and strategies that can be replicated in other areas of the state. Time is of the essence.
We thank you for your consideration.