My Flickr Photos of Springs

Monday, March 31, 2008

Legislature muddies springs protection

Published March 31, 2008
In Tallahassee, state Sen. Burt Saunders, R-Naples, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Environmental Preservation and Conservation, has unveiled a bill to launch a pilot springs protection program around Silver Springs and Rainbow Springs in Marion County.

In a phone interview Friday, Saunders said he had received "mixed signals" from Marion County about the legislation. But he said those could be ironed out.

"My concern is if we cannot pass legislation to help protect the springs in Marion County, where the county has been aggressive in protecting the springs, I'm not sure if we can have legislation to protect the springs anywhere in Florida," Saunders said.

Water ideas flow elsewhere

Published March 29, 2008
One after another, officials from counties and cities stepped to the podium Friday in a packed Seminole County Commission chamber to update the crowd on the status of various alternative water-source projects.

Marion County water resources manager Troy Kuphal, who was at the meeting Friday, said the County Commission is scheduled to discuss which alternative water project, if any, it wants to participate in during an April 23 workshop.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Rainbow River to be treated for hydrilla

Published March 28, 2008
The Southwest Florida Water Management District will treat infestations of hydrilla on the Rainbow River Monday through April 3 from upstream of K.P. Hole Park to where the Rainbow River meets the Withlacoochee River. The areas being treated will be posted with warning signs and water-use restrictions. Workers will be applying Aquathol Super K, an aquatic herbicide. River water should not be used for irrigation or for domestic use for seven days after the treatment. These restrictions do not apply to tap or well water. Hydrilla is a fast-growing exotic plant introduced into Florida waters in the 1950s. If not controlled, the plant hinders recreational activities, navigation, flood control and fish and wildlife populations. For information call 796-7211 or (800) 423-1476, ext. 4537.

Tapping St. Johns River, ocean will bring big bills

Published March 29, 2008
The drinking water Central Florida will need in a few years to meet the thirst of newcomers will cost three to seven times as much as current supplies.

That's what Central Florida's utility directors heard Friday when officials unveiled a vision of our water future that begins in little more than five years.

Getting water from the underground aquifer, where most of it comes from now, is relatively affordable. But drinking from the St. Johns River -- a controversial idea because of environmental concerns -- and the ocean left utility chiefs at the meeting shaking their heads at the staggering costs

Fertilizer idea: Stay 10 feet from water

Published 3/28/2008
On the water's edge in Jacksonville, miles and miles of grass buffer rivers, streams, lakes and drainage ponds.

No law prevents fertilizing right up to the waterline.

But a proposed city ordinance would make it illegal to fertilize within 10 feet of the water. In addition, property owners would have to plant a 6-foot-wide buffer zone with landscaping that needs little, if any, irrigation and mowing.

Fertilizer and waterways don't mix. The nitrogen that makes lawns green also spawns algae blooms that have covered vast swaths of the St. Johns River in summer.

The renovations are expected to be complete in about three months, by the time summer arrives

Published March 28, 2008
Several utilities proposing projects to remove water from the St. Johns River expressed concern March 28 about getting permits now that Seminole County's request for permitting is under review by an administrative law judge.

The concern was voiced at the St. Johns River Water Management District meeting, following the St. Johns Riverkeeper's filing for an administrative hearing. The action has removed Seminole County's request for a permit to withdraw up to 5.5 million gallons a day from the St. Johns River from the voting agenda of the district's board, which doesn't expect to receive an administrative law judge's opinion for several months.

Morrison Springs Undergoes Renovation

Published Mar 28, 2008
It's a cold-water spring popular for divers, swimmers and boaters. Walton County leaders say Morrison Springs is closed for renovations, which will make it a more convenient place where all can share the water.

With the $1.3 million project funded with grants from Florida Fish and Wildlife and the Northwest Florida Water Management District, the park will see some drastic changes. Those include boardwalks, educational pavilions, parking areas, and landings for divers.

The renovations are expected to be complete in about three months, by the time summer arrives.

Friday, March 28, 2008

‘Spectacular renaissance’

Published March 28, 2008
Downtown mural officially dedicated Thursday afternoon.

After nearly two months of turning a blank, gray stucco wall into a beautiful three-dimensional mural, artist Keith Goodson added the final touch to the project with a few simple flicks of his wrist on Thursday.

Goodson completed the mural by adding his signature to the Ichetucknee Springs-inspired mural in front of a crowd of several hundred community members and elected officials Thursday who had gathered to see the mural completed.

Water management district to be updated on projects

Published March 27, 2008
The status of projects aimed at removing water from the St. Johns River and how much more it costs to desalinate water than remove it from the surface will be discussed at a St. Johns River Water Management District meeting Friday.

The district's plan to allow up to 262 million gallons of water per day to be removed from the St. Johns and Ocklawaha rivers is being fought by the St. Johns Riverkeeper and several municipalities, including Jacksonville.

Marion gets price tags for water alternatives

Published March 26, 2008
Marion County officials will be in Sanford this week to learn the latest on how different plans to ensure the region's water supply might affect local residents.

One of them is the Coquina Coast plant already under discussion for possible construction in Flagler County. The other possible desalination plant, also on the Atlantic coast, would serve utilities the water management district once included in talks to pump the Ocklawaha River, St. Johns spokesman Hank Largin said.

Neither of them is cheap. The Coquina plant has a price tag of $1.28 billion, including a pipeline. Marion's share is estimated at $542 million, should the county go for that plan. The desalination plant for the Ocklawaha utilities has a total price tag of nearly $1.8 billion, with a $309 million share for Marion.

The plan to pump the Ocklawaha has a total $811 million price tag and Marion's contribution is projected at $158 million. The Marion County Commission has told the water management district it objects to any plan to pump the Ocklawaha before the district establishes minimum flows and levels for the river. Commissioners believe that pumping water from the Ocklawaha is not a long-term solution and could do environmental harm to the river.

Florida State Parks Participate in Paddle Florida

Published 03-27-2008
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Florida Park Service this week joined the Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD) to host the inaugural Paddle Florida river expedition along the Suwannee River Wilderness Trail. The paddlefest, which began March 20 at the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park, finishes today at Manatee Springs State Park in Chiefland, Florida.

“Paddle Florida is an innovative new event that the Florida Park Service is pleased to join,” said Florida Park Service Director Mike Bullock. “The seven day event highlights the Suwannee River Wilderness Trail and the wealth of nature-based recreational opportunities Florida has to offer.”

Bottled water plant permit shouldn't be revoked, water district now says

Published 3/27/08
Officials at the Suwannee River Water Management District are recommending that a water use permit for Blue Springs not be revoked after all.

The change comes after the Suwannee River Water Management District held mediation with Blue Springs Properties.

The water district had started the process on Aug. 14, 2007 to revoke the permit due to two years of inactivity.

The Governing Board will vote to accept the mediation terms at the next water district meeting to be held April 8 at 9 a.m.

Study group meets on Rainbow Springs protection

Published March 27, 2008
Dave DeWitt, with the Southwest Florida Water Management District, pointed to a graph showing that nutrient levels in the spring and at sampling points on the Rainbow River have nearly doubled since 1994. DeWitt said the district's research concluded the primary source of pollution is synthetic fertilizer, which can percolate into the ground or be carried into the river by a stormwater system. A lesser source of pollution, but still a source of concern, is septic tanks, DeWitt said.

This was the first meeting of the new Rainbow Springs Basin Working Group, which the Florida Department of Environmental Protection organized and funded to gather scientific research on pollution and share strategies to fight it with the community.

Bersok said FDEP and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission have funded several working groups around Florida to monitor activities in the basins, feeding springs that may pollute the waters. Locally, the Silver Springs Basin Working Group helped bring the "monster pipe," which dumped untreated stormwater into a creek feeding Silver River, to the attention of Ocala and Marion County officials.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

25 Florida utilities will explore water options

Published March 26, 2008
As elected officials and environmentalists across Northeast Florida stew over simmering plans to pull water from the St. Johns River, such projects will be the subject of a meeting in Sanford on Friday.

Some 25 Central Florida utilities are exploring a variety of alternatives to using groundwater to provide drinking water to the growing region, mostly because of dire warnings about dwindling groundwater supplies from the St. Johns River Water Management District.

The meeting will take place from 9 a.m. to 3:30 at the Seminole County Commission Chambers, 1101 E. First. St., Room 1028.

District to treat hydrilla on the Rainbow River

Published March 26, 2008 (Press Release)
The Southwest Florida Water Management District will be treating infestations of hydrilla on the Rainbow River in Marion County March 31 through April 3. The section of the river to be treated is from upstream of KP Hole Park to where the Rainbow River meets the Withlacoochee River.

Treatment involves the application of the aquatic herbicide Aquathol Super K. Treatment areas will be posted with warning signs displaying treatment dates and applicable water use restrictions. River water should not be used for irrigation or domestic purposes for seven days following treatment. These water use restrictions do not to apply to tap or well water.

Monday, March 24, 2008

New group to help waters of Blue Spring in Orange City

Published March 23, 2008
"People want to do the right thing, but they might not know what that is," said Carol Lippincott, the coordinator. "I see this as a solvable problem, so I'm hopeful of what we can do."

That message ended the first meeting of the new Blue Spring Working Group, a committee that will meet quarterly to talk about the spring. About 40 people attended the session at Blue Spring State Park last week.

All those questions offered fodder for future meetings of the group. The next meeting is scheduled for June 18 in DeLand, at the Volusia County administrative building.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Paddlers tackle the Suwannee

Published 3/22/08
More than 150 paddlers participated in the inaugural Paddle Florida event. The event covers 123 miles of the river, with stops along the way for lunch and overnight camping.

Participants stayed Thursday night at Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park before hitting the water Friday morning. They shivered through temperatures that dipped to around 40 degrees and were greeted by a river blanketed in mist as it was warmed by the rising sun.

The stops are at the state parks and river camps that make up the wilderness trail. The wilderness trail isn't a trail in the traditional sense, but rather a way for paddlers to travel down the river and be assured they have places to sleep, eat and use the bathroom.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Park Offers Salt Springs Tour

Published: March 21, 2008
Saturday was Springs Awareness day at the Werner-Boyce Salt Springs State Park.

Setting up displays and passing out information will be park staff and representatives from the Southwest Florida Water Management District, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Pasco County School District, Pasco County Recycling and the Salt Springs Alliance.

The park protects four miles of coastline and is home to a 320-foot-deep salt spring and to wildlife including gray foxes, gopher tortoises, West Indian manatees, raptors and migratory songbirds. Most of its 600 dry acres haven't been developed.

The history of the salt springs can be traced back to the early 1800s when the Seminole Indians occupied the land. The trails they created were later converted to military roads used to travel between forts and to establish new settlements.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Withlacoochee water board wants a permanent office, staff for agency

Published March 20, 2008
Board members unanimously approved creating a permanent office and staff for the Withlacoochee Regional Water Supply Authority using money from the Southwest Florida Water Management District and local governments that are part of the agency.

Al Grubman, president of the environmental group TOOFAR, objected to a suggestion that water from the Withlacoochee River be diverted during flood periods into reservoirs to hold for inevitable dry times.

The river, he explained, rises and falls on a regular basis and feeds the extensive Citrus County Tsala Apopka lake chain. Steering it to holding areas would damage the natural water systems.

Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park - Easter Egg Hunt

Date: Saturday, March 22, 2008. 8:30 a.m.
Description: The Friends will be holding an Easter Egg Hunt for area children. Activities include an Easter Egg hunt for plastic Easter Eggs, which can then be redeemed for goodies, trinkets and savings bonds. Parents can have their children’s photos taken with the Easter Bunny (costumed character).
More Info (PDF)

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Wakulla Wildlife Festival - April 3-5, 2008

Some highlights of this festival include:
Wakulla River Guided Canoe/Kayak Tour with TNT Canoe Rentals Explore the middle section of the Wakulla River with Certified Green Guide and paddle expert Robert Baker. Observe alligators, Suwannee cooters, wading birds and waterfowl, migrating spring warblers and more. Price includes kayak or canoe and gear, transportation, and guide. Bring drinking water and sun/ bug protection. Meet at T-n-T Hideaway, 6527Coastal Hwy . Call 850/925-6412 for directions. $35 Pre-registration required.

Shepherd Spring & Cathedral of Palms Botanical Hike with renowned FSU botanist Dr. Loran Anderson - Hidden deep in the hardwood forest of the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge lays a jewel among freshwater springs. Along the Florida Trail leading to Shepherd Spring, journey through a surreal land of old-growth cabbage palms-- truly nature’s cathedral! Meet at the Inn at Wildwood. Call 850/926-4455 for directions. $10 Pre-registration required

Sounds of the Night - Wakulla River Boat Tour - a UNIQUE opportunity to join FPS Biologist Dana Bryan as you voyage the Wakulla River on a rare night cruise. Give ear to the night's symphony which may include frogs, toads, cicadas, owls, and perhaps even a gator bellow. Shine for bright red gator eyes! Bring bug repellent and a strong flashlight. Meet at Wakulla Springs State Park, waterfront building at the boat docks. $10 Pre-registration required.

“Liquid Gems” —The Sinks of the Wakulla Explore the unique geological wonderland of northern Wakulla county. Follow Cal Jamison, DEP’s Springs Ambassador, on an unforgettable journey to explore the beautiful sinks that are so special to this area. The tour will begin at the River Sink Parking lot and take you across the Wakulla Springs recharge area. Visit what few eyes have ever seen and discover
how these “windows” on the aquifer impact our lives. Meet in the parking lot of the River Sinks Tract just south of the Leon/Wakulla County line at the SE
corner of US Highway 319 and CJ Spears Road (go through open gate 100 feet on dirt road to gravel parking lot). $10 Pre-registration required
Source (PDF)

Ful Moon Canoe Tour

Published 3/20/2008
Guided tour of the Suwannee River, 8 p.m. Saturday, Manatee Springs State Park, Chiefland, 11650 NW 115th St. (493-6072)

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Endangered Sturgeon Returning to Suwannee River

Published March 17, 2008
Gulf sturgeon are beginning their annual migration back into the Suwannee River, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, FWC, is reminding boaters to slow down and be aware these giant fish are jumping.

Nine people were injured in accidental collisions with jumping sturgeon during 2007. A fatal incident occurred after a sturgeon jumped in front of a boat. The boat operator swerved abruptly to avoid a collision, causing two people to be ejected into the water, with one of the men drowning.

Kayak paddling to be part of Jax Parks ... Get Out There!

Published 3/19/08
About 50 men and women are expected to launch into the St. Johns River at the boat ramp at the end of County Dock Road at 7:30 a.m. and paddle their kayaks 5.5 miles to Mandarin Park as part of the city's third annual JaxParks ... Get Out There! event at Walter Jones Park at 11964 Mandarin Road.

Organizers say the race should take about two hours. Then at 11 a.m., the park's River Celebration kicks off with music, re-enactors, live music from the Ashley Gang Band, First Coast Chorus and Palm Valley String Band, and the Storytelling Sims re-enactment group. The St. Johns Riverkeeper will speak about the waterway during river taxi trips that launch all day.

For a full list of all of the city's Get Out There! events on Friday to Sunday, March 28-30, log on to www.coj.net and click on "Parks" in the "Find it by..." window.

Gilchrist County Commission Meeting

Monday APRIL 21 and Tuesday APRIL 22 @ 6 PM
location: Trenton High School Auditorium, 1013 North Main Street

Gilchrist County Commission Meeting dealing with only one agenda item...Blue Springs Properties request for a special exception permit to build a bottling facility on County Road 340.... will be begin at 6 pm on Monday April 21. It will go until @ 10 pm. At that time if the meeting is not finished they will reconvene on Tuesday April 22 at 6 pm. The location is the Trenton High School Auditorium which seats 500. They are expecting a record turn out and are using one facility to accommodate all the people in a single venue. The last Planning and Zoning meeting was held in 3 rooms with audio and visual feed into the 2 secondary rooms.

The lawyer for Gilchrist County Commission, John McPherson, circulated a memorandum on how the Commissioners need to deal with the press, citizens and applicant. What I understand of this important document is that the citizens need to keep all their concerns to the elected officials on paper or e-mail as proof of direct contact. Please refrain from having direct verbal conversation with the commissioners about this subject until the quasi-judicial decision on April 21-22. That night you are entitled (2 minutes) to express your concerns. It is important that we honor this request so that Blue Springs Properties does not have grounds for legal recourse.

Girl Dies During Withlacoochee River Excursion

Published March 17, 2008
The body of 14-year-old Lakeland girl who slipped off an inflatable raft was recovered Sunday by Sumter and Pasco county sheriff's divers at the Withlacoochee State Forest.

Around 8 p.m. Saturday, Echo McCombs had been with friends when she went into the water near the boat ramp at the River Junction Recreational Area, said Capt. Gary Brannen with the Sumter County Sheriff's Office.

Protecting river is not radical

Published 3/18/08 (Letter to Editor)
The letter about the St. Johns Riverkeepers published March 10, evidences a narrow and incomplete knowledge of the issues raised by the St. Johns Water Management District's plan to siphon water from the St. Johns River.

The district has ignored alternatives such as better regulation of water consumption, and better reuse of water for irrigation and other non potable uses, which account for more than half of our present usage.

The district estimates it will cost $4 billion to treat the river water, which will buy only 10 years of relief, after which we will have to begin desalinization of ocean water at three times that cost.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Group forms to help fight the pollution seeping into Blue Spring

Published March 17, 2008
Knowing that the surrounding cities hold the key to the spring's health, state wildlife officials have started a new working group to tackle the pollution that has increased as the region has grown.

Blue Spring is fed by rainwater, which can wash fertilizer off lawns or pick up tainted liquid from septic tanks. Wastewater-treatment plants also feed nitrates into the system because the treated sewage effluent, when it is sprayed on fields or used as reuse water, still contains the nitrates that are inherent in all waste, Stephenson said.

"The best thing the working group can do is give an opportunity to provide the message of stewardship of the spring and build more of a communal awareness for springs protection," Smith said.

State Invites Community Input For Blue Spring Conservation

Published March 17, 2008
A state consultant will work with members of the community who want to form a group to protect groundwater in and around the spring from pollution, and to conserve water.

The meeting took place Monday in the meeting room at Blue Spring State Park, located on West French Avenue in Orange City. It was opened to any concerned citizen who lives in the Blue Spring basin.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Visit DeLeon Springs for some special treats

Published March 16, 2008
When Juan Ponce de Leon came to Florida searching for a fountain of youth, local legend and folklore claims he was enchanted by the beautiful spring just north of DeLand.

Named after the Spanish explorer, DeLeon Springs State Park is open from 8 a.m. to sundown 365 days a year. It boasts a rich history. Although it won't give you eternal youth, its constant 72-degree spring water is refreshing any time of year.

The spring was first occupied by occasional hunter-gatherers, according to archaeologists and scholars, but roughly 6,000 years ago, humans became more permanent residents. In the 1700s, these native Floridians were replaced by Seminoles who were members of the Creek and other tribes who moved into Florida from the north.

Flagler testing waters of desalination

Published March 16, 2008
Volusia and Flagler residents could be drinking water from the ocean by 2017 to help stretch the region's supply of fresh water.

Citing a potential shortage as soon as 2010, Palm Coast officials are anxious to move forward with a plan. A desalination plant was among the top items in a list of concerns presented at a February town hall meeting with Palm Coast Vice Mayor Alan Peterson.

With the future of the area's drinking water at stake, officials are proceeding as quickly and responsibly as they can, he said.

Over the past few years, local governments have studied using fresh and brackish (partially fresh, partially saltwater) water supplies on the western side of Flagler County.

Mural magic

Published March 16, 2008
Pensacola artist captures the essence of the Ichetucknee Springs and River in his mural

The 86-by-23 feet mural that decorates the north wall of Gulf Coast Financial Services is nearly complete.

The premise of the three-dimensional, colorful mural — being created by Pensacola artist Keith Goodson — is to draw the viewer into the cool waters and lush landscape of the Ichetucknee Springs and River, where a school of red-breasted sun fish, a turtle and a catfish frolic among the happy people tubing down the meandering river.

Wanted: People to protect Blue Spring

Published March 16, 2008

A quick primer on where the water in Blue Spring comes from and just what has happened to that water over the years will be presented during a Monday meeting to form a new spring working group.

State officials hope the group can help promote the need to protect the spring by conserving water and preventing pollution from getting into the groundwater in the region around the spring.

"The group is primarily a forum for exchanging information and ideas and for catalyzing people to go out and do good things," Lippincott said.

Commission To Consider Resolution For Land Program

Published: March 16, 2008
The Highlands County commissioners will consider passing a resolution Tuesday calling on the governor and the state Legislature to create a successor program to Florida Forever and provide funding to continue buying lands for conservation and outdoor recreation.

Since 2000, Florida Forever, a program of the Legislature, has helped acquire more than 600,000 acres for conservation and public use. The agency has been allocating $300 million per year to purchase environmentally sensitive lands in partnerships with local governments, state agencies, water management districts and non-profit organizations.

Mermaids survive in Florida as Weeki Wachee becomes a state park

Published March 16, 2008
A million visitors annually came to see the young women in mermaid costumes during the 1960s. That was before Disney World opened in 1971 near Orlando, 80 miles (130 kilometers) east. Once Walt Disney Co. ushered in the era of elaborate shows and high-speed roller coasters, crowds dwindled for smaller attractions such as Weeki Wachee, Cypress Gardens' water-skiers and Silver Springs' glass-bottomed boats.

The state agreed to absorb Weeki Wachee into its 160-park system after years of fragile finances for the mermaid home, whose attendance has shrunk to 300,000. Profit in 2007, the first in years, was $60,000, said Robyn Anderson, mayor of the town of Weeki Wachee.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Kayak-Canoe Group Sets Organizational Meeting

Published: March 15, 2008
Some 50 people have expressed interest in forming a group, Salt Springs Paddlers, to take monthly outings in canoes and kayaks around Werner-Boyce Salt Springs State Park.

An organizational meeting is planned for Saturday, March 29, according to Douglas T. Cassidy. He serves as vice president of Salt Springs Alliance, the volunteer group at the state park helping to launch the Paddlers spinoff.

A Coastal Cleanup on April 19 might be a natural way to launch the water tours, Cassidy speculated.

An additional kayak launch is part of the construction project now under way to build a new entrance to the state park along U.S. 19 north of Ridge Road, Cassidy said.

The profits on water are huge, but the raw material is free

Published March 15, 2008
Nestle came into Florida and managed to pull off quite the coup.

The company got a permit to take water belonging to Floridians — hundreds of millions of gallons a year from a spring in a state park — at no cost to Nestle.

The state granted Nestle permission to draw so much water against the strong recommendation of the local water management district staff. Because drought conditions were stressing the Madison Blue Spring, the staff said the amount of water drawn on the permit should be cut by more than two-thirds.

"The current drought has reduced the flow of Madison Blue Springs to record lows," Jon Dinges, director of resource management, wrote to the water management district's governing board. "The drought has become severe since the permit was issued, thus requiring a reduction of the (average daily withdrawal) to ensure resource protection."

The water in a bottle can spring from just about anywhere

Published March 15, 2008
In small print on its bottles, Nestle discloses where the water comes from — sometimes. Gallon containers of Deer Park Natural Spring Water sold in the Tampa Bay area, for instance, do not identify the source. A spokesman said this week that the company will change its labels to identify the sources on all their bottles.

Zephyrhills water might come from the spring in Pasco, but it also can come from Madison or Washington counties in North Florida. Ozarka once bubbled up from a spring in Arkansas; now it's drawn from Texas. Arrowhead is no longer just from the spring in the San Bernardino Mountains, it's drawn from 13 different sources, including a Canadian spring.

"The quality of that water is determined by the land uses at that particular spring basin," Stevenson said. "If there is a city near that spring, the pollutants from that city will affect that water. If the entire spring is in a natural forest, there are virtually no pollutants."

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Kayaking season blooms as waters rise

Published March 14, 2008
The Slave Canal, she said, connects the Wacissa River to the Aucilla River and guides paddlers around the swampy area called Hell's half-acre where the Wacissa goes underground.

Some of the other area rivers are back too. The Sopchoppy, Aucilla, the Withlacoochee, Chipola and Upper Ochlockonee rivers have been low.

Portions of the Ochlockonee, Aucilla and Sopchoppy are higher than usual and can be challenging now, Ackerman said. The Chipola and Withlacoochee both are good now, though a bit fast.

GRU says drinking water is safe

Published 3/14/2008
Gainesville Regional Utilities officials say they're confident the local drinking water supply is free of pharmaceuticals, even though they're not testing for the chemicals.

An Associated Press investigation found low levels of medications such as antibiotics, anti-convulsants and mood stabilizers in the drinking water supplies of at least 41 million Americans. Researchers including several based in Gainesville have found the chemicals can harm reproduction and cause other changes in wildlife, suggesting a threat to human health.

U.S. Geological Survey hydrologist Brian Katz found low levels of an antihistamine, an antidepressant/anticonvulsant drug and the bug repellent DEET in one of the Ichetucknee Springs near Fort White. His research suggested Lake City's wastewater spray field was contaminating groundwater that traveled south to the springs.

Advisory board says no to second water plant

Published 3/13/08
The Gilchrist County Planning Commission voted unanimously Monday to recommend denial of a proposed water bottling plant on the Santa Fe River.

The recommendation for denial came after more than five hours of public input on Monday, March 10 by an estimated 200 residents who showed up to speak against the plant. The public meeting ended close to midnight.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Water wars are here — Riverkeeper, Jacksonville, St. Johns County move to block Seminole County plant

Published 3-13-2008
Water wars have arrived in Central Florida, and the opening salvos have already been fired. The fight is over use of the St. Johns River as an alternative source of water.

The battle is of a legal nature — with the St. Johns Riverkeeper, the City of Jacksonville and St. Johns County filing legal challenges Seminole County's plan to draw water from the river at the Yankee Lake plant.

The three agencies are working to prevent the St. Johns River Water Management District from approving the plant.

Recent rains lead to postponement of stringent water restrictions

Published 3/13/2008
Recent rains may have replenished historically-low groundwater levels in the area so much so that officials at the water district are postponing the mandatory water restrictions so they can evaluate the groundwater conditions.

Rains from the end of February and the beginning of March have helped to bring groundwater levels up, said officials at the Suwannee River Water Management District

The restrictions, set to take place April 7, will be postponed until May 14.

Cave diver dies while deep into Ginnie Springs

Published 3/13/08
A certified cave diver from Switzerland was found dead inside the Ginnie Springs cave system Monday, March 10.

Mark Fyvie started his dive in Ginnie Springs around noon Monday at the underwater entrance known as "Devil's Eye." He was diving alone, according to the Gilchrist County Sheriff's Office.

Fyvie was using a rebreathing system that allows a diver to stay underwater for a longer period of time.

But by 9 p.m. Monday, Fyvie had not returned, and another cave diver, Corey Mearns, went looking for him. Fyvie was found approximately 3,800 feet into the cave system.

Swiss man dies while cave-diving

Published 3/14/2008
A man visiting the United States from Switzerland died Monday while cave-diving in Gilchrist County.

Continue to 2nd paragraph The body of Mark Fyvie, 35, was found about 3,800 feet into a cave system at Ginnie Springs, the Gilchrist County Sheriff's Office reported. Fyvie had been alone when he started his dive at about noon Monday into the cave system at an opening called the Devil's Eye.

The cave system at Ginnie Springs has long been a popular area for divers. Called the Devil's Spring system, it houses three separate springs that produce about 80 million gallons of water daily, according to a Web site about Ginnie Springs.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Study sought for water needs

Published March 12, 2008
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would conduct a water management study for the Southeast under a bill introduced Tuesday in hopes of quelling the water war between Alabama, Georgia and Florida.

"Water transcends state borders and political boundaries," said Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., at a House subcommittee hearing on water issues. "We need to stop trying to find winners and losers and do what is right — and what is necessary — to work together."

Lewis' bill would direct the Corps and other agencies to conduct a study of the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint basin, Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa River basin and Savannah River basin in hopes of finding a reasonable and scientific solution to water usage during the drought.

Suwannee River rises, overflows banks

Published 3/12/08
In less than a month, the Suwannee River has risen several feet in some places and much higher in others.

One of the springs near Troy Springs State Park is completely under water, including the half-mile creek that runs from it to the Suwannee River.

The recent rains make it seem that we are out of the drought that has plagued the area for a year or more.

That’s not quite the case. The rain is having some effect, however.

“Early indications are seeing an increase in ground water levels,” according to Megan Wetherington of the Suwannee River Water Management District.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Chiefland wants water bottling plant

Published 3/11/2008
Chiefland leaders heard March 10 about a proposed water-bottling plant that wants to tap 300,000 gallons of city water daily.

About 100,000 gallons of sewer service will be required daily to process the drinking water, Building and Zoning Administrator Bill Hammond Jr. said. Ninety-nine percent of that, he added, will go back to the aquifer.

The City Commission plans to discuss the matter more on March 24. The issue was not on the agenda for the March 17 meeting, except under the general heading of "correspondence."

Monday, March 10, 2008

Are more dams on the Flint the answer?

Posted March 9, 2008
The Flint River is an oddity in Georgia. The river begins as a spring or groundwater seep underneath the runways of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. The flow is channeled off the airport by large drainage pipes.

From there it meanders 350 miles in a basin that is only 212 miles in length. It has 220 miles of unimpeded flow, making it one of only 40 rivers in the U.S. with open flows of 200 miles or more.

Near Bainbridge, the Flint empties into Lake Seminole, where it joins the Chattahoochee. At the Florida line, the water flows over Jim Woodruff Dam to form the Apalachicola River.

Local sprayfield may help keep drugs from Wakulla Springs

Published March 10, 2008
Tallahassee's spray field is harming the health of Wakulla Springs, but it also prevents pharmaceutical products in wastewater from getting into the region's water supply, scientists say.

The study also found pharmaceuticals only at very low levels in the wastewater, said Brian Katz, research hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Tallahassee. The pharmaceuticals were being trapped in soil and taken up by bacteria and plants before they seep into the groundwater.

Suwannee trips have eco-appeal

Published March 9, 2008
The Suwannee River Wilderness Trail provides paddlers with stops along the river about every 10 miles between White Springs and the Gulf of Mexico.

The wilderness trail isn't a trail in the traditional sense. It's a way for paddlers to travel down the Suwannee and be assured they have places to sleep, cook and take a shower or use bathroom facilities along the waterway.

Paddle Florida is an eight-day trip covering 123 miles of the Suwannee River. More than 150 participants already have signed on for the event, which provides stops with food and music at the parks lining the river.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Gilchrist County recommends approval of bottled water plant

Published Mar 8, 2008
The Gilchrist County planning staff will recommend approval for a proposed water bottling plant that could pump up to 660,000 gallons of water a day from a spring near Rum Island.

The Gilchrist County Planning and Zoning Board will meet at 7 p.m. Monday, March 10 to vote on the water bottling facility. (Downtown Trenton in the County Government building, 210 S.E. First Street)

The planning staff recommendation report states that the Gilchrist Planning Planning Commission should approve the needed special permit for the water bottling facility because the plant will be an economic boost to the area while minimally affecting the environment and neighboring properties.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

FWC - News from 2008 Legislative Session

Published March 7, 2008
HB 31 and SB 2078 create the Florida Springs Stewardship Task Force to inventory and collect data on all first magnitude springs in Florida, examine land uses in the surrounding areas and determine best management practices (BMPs) for those land uses, identify funding sources to assist implementation of BMPs and water pollutants, propose a public education and outreach program, and report findings to the Legislature; the Task Force is scheduled for sunset, January 2009.

SB 2394 creates the "Florida Springs Protection Act" and provides legislative findings and intent with respect to the need to protect and restore springs and groundwater. HB 31 is referred to House Committee on Conservation and State Lands; Environment and Natural Resources Council.

SB 2078 has been referred to Environmental Preservation and Conservation, Community Affairs, and General Government Appropriations. SB 2394 has not been referred.

Waterways hears update on water withdrawal challenges

Published 03/07/2008
What many may not know is how Seminole County through its Yankee Lake water treatment facility plans to use the water.

“The 5.5 million gallons (planned for withdrawal each day) is not for drinking water,” Riverkeeper Neil Armingeon told the Jacksonville Waterways Commission Thursday. “That water is to irrigate lawns. This is not about drinking water. It’s about taking water from the St. Johns River to water lawns.”

Armingeon and others concerned with the long-range effects of massive withdrawals by Central Florida insist the permit that was recommended to be issued to Seminole County by the St. Johns River Water Management District is the first of many. While none of the permits may be for huge amounts of water on a daily basis, it’s the cumulative effects that cause worry among many in Northeast Florida.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

New lodging facilities at Lafayette Blue Springs

Published March 05, 2008
Widely known for its pristine blue springs, natural beauty, and easy access to and from the Suwannee River, Lafayette Blue Springs State Park officially opened five new cabins to the public on Saturday, March 1.

“The Florida Department of Environmental Protection today welcomed five new cabins at Lafayette Blue Springs State Park to the Florida state park system which also received the Florida Green Lodging Program designation,” said Kemper, who attended the event.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Water awareness talks continue Friday

Published March 5, 2008
Hernando County Utilities and Citizens for WATER will present the next session of the 2008 Hernando County Water Awareness Series from 10 a.m. to noon Friday at the Utilities Department, 21030 Cortez Blvd.

The topic will be A New Perspective and Protection for Florida's Springs. The speakers will be Dave DeWitt, a professional geologist with Southwest Florida Water Management District, and Brett Hemphill with Karst Underwater Research, a cave diving group in the Tampa Bay area that has recently been mapping and exploring the Weeki Wachee spring system.

For reservations or information, call Alys Brockway at 540-4368, ext. 35121.

Santa Fe River floods its banks

Published March 5, 2008
The sudden and rapid influx of water coming down the Suwannee River from Georgia has backed up the Santa Fe River, forcing the smaller river to flood its banks.

Tuesday morning several people who owned property, homes and vehicles along the river were moving their items to higher ground as the flood waters of the Santa Fe continued to creep upward

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Portion of Santa Fe River approaches flood stage

Published March 4, 2008
Even as Columbia County faces severe drought restrictions for the first time in its history, the Santa Fe River is forecast to reach flood stage (19 feet) at Three Rivers Estates around noon Friday, according to Suwannee River Water Management District officials.

“The dramatic rise of the Suwannee is causing the Santa Fe to back up and there may be some potential for flooding in that area of Hollingsworth Bluff, which is near the Gilchrist/Columbia County border on State Road 47,” said Harvey Campbell, public information officer for Columbia County emergency management. “If rain continues to fall in southern Georgia, it will continue to push the river water levels up.”

Chances recede for water deal between Georgia, Florida and Alabama

Published 3/4/2008
The weekend announcement that the talks between Georgia, Florida and Alabama over an 18-year impasse on water issues have broken down gives little indication as to what is next in the battle between the states.

The negotiators for the three states and the federal government, as well as representatives of Georgia Power Co. and Alabama Power Co., signed confidentiality agreements keeping them from divulging information from the talks.

However, a source has told The Times that the primary issue continues to be storage capacity in Lake Lanier and the amount of water sent downstream from Lanier.

Riverkeeper moves to block Seminole's water plan

Published March 4, 2008
The St. Johns Riverkeeper says it plans to take legal action to block Seminole County's plan to withdraw up to 5.5 million gallons per day from the St. John's River.

The private non-profit watchdog organization for the river says it plans to file suit against the St. Johns River Management District to block the agency from permitting requests to remove water from the St. Johns and Ocklawaha rivers. The group also says it will seek an administrative hearing on Seminole's proposed water plans.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Celebrate Wakulla County's Natural Beauty and Heritage at Wakulla Wildlife Festival

Published 3/3/2008
Normal park admission fees allow access to all of the Festivals FREE activities. The $4.00 per vehicle Wakulla Springs State Park admission fee on Saturday, April 5th includes access to Art on the Terrace, free presentations and exhibits, children's activities, living history demonstrations, live bluegrass music and the spectacular Birds of Prey and Reptile Shows presented by Georgia Southern University.

Additional fees apply to Premium Guided Tours. Space is limited for these popular activities. Pre-registration is required by March 28, 2008. Please download and print the Wildlife Festival Registration Form, make your selection(s), and call (850) 926-0700 to make reservations. Premium guided tour prices DO NOT INCLUDE the cost of admission to State Parks and the St. Mark's National Wildlife Refuge.

Environmental Conference for High School Students to be Held

Published 03-03-2008
The Iris Garden Club wants to send several high school students from Wakulla to a statewide environmental conference called SEEK (Save the Earth’s Environment through Knowledge). The annual summer conference is attended by teens from across Florida who are interested in nature and environmental issues. This year’s conference will be held at Wakulla Springs State Park in July.

Wakulla students currently attending 9th, 10th, or 11th grade are invited to apply for a conference scholarship (a $300 value). Each scholarship will cover the cost of the conference fee, meals, & lodging for the 4-day conference.

Kelly Park - Rock Springs (Orange County, FL)

Rock Springs is located inside Kelly Park
400 East Kelly Park Road
Apopka, FL 32712

Kelly Park is located in Northwest Orange County. From 441 (Orange Blossom Trail) in Apopka travel North on Park Avenue (Rock Springs Road) 6 miles to Kelly Park Road. Turn Right on Kelly Park Road, curve to the left and entrance is on the right.

Pictures taken 3/2/2008

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Sunday, March 02, 2008

At one time, Panacea really was a 'panacea'

Published 3/1/2008
Panacea wasn't named Panacea without good reason. In the late 1890s, the community was looking for a name in order to establish a post office. W.C. Tulley, a local resident, reasoned that, since the community was fortunate enough to have bubbling spring water that could cure all that ails ya', the word "panacea," meaning cure-all, was the perfect choice.

During the early 1900s, people came from throughout the country and even a few places in Europe to experience the healing powers of Panacea's mineral springs. Some of the spring-fed pools were labeled with the ailments they could ease, such as Arthritis Springs and Liver Springs. And that's why you came. To soak in the soothing waters of a community that is officially recognized as a "cure-all."

Remnants of the springs remain in Panacea, but gone are the boardwalks, covered pavilions and historic hotels. The springs no longer flow like they used to, and the mineral springs area today is hardly noticeable to passersby, except for a sign at a park-like place across from the Wakulla Welcome Center on U.S. Highway 98. The property is privately owned, and an effort is being made to re-establish the site as a cultural heritage attraction.