My Flickr Photos of Springs

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Hidden Treasures of the Panhandle: Trip 1

Published Apr 30, 2008
It’s the perfect place for a leisurely scenic stroll. The quarter mile trail at Apalachicola’s Nature Center carries you over the Apalachicola River's flood plain.

The Nature Center is located at the far north end of Market Street in Apalachicola. It’s open Monday through Friday from 8 am to 5 pm. It is free to enter.

Once in Apalachicola, drive north on Market Street past the yellow blinking light to the end. Turn left and go through the entry gate to the first building on the left. You can call the Nature Center at (850) 653-8063.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Weeki Wachee Springs Would Still Run Like A Business

Published: April 29, 2008
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection, which runs the state park system, will be able to submit an amendment request for the 2008-09 budget to secure the money to run Weeki Wachee Springs, according to language in the state's budget conference report finalized this week.

DEP would get funding equal to the revenue that the park is expected to bring in next year, and the budget amendment must be "accompanied by a detailed business plan for operation of the attraction" and include an itemized list of revenue and the costs to operate and maintain the 60-year-old landmark, the report language states.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Ichetucknee Partnership to umbrella various groups

Published April 25, 2008
Some would say that history was made Thursday morning as local government, business and civic leaders and environmentalists joined to celebrate the official launch of The Ichetucknee Partnership (TIP).

For many in attendance, TIP is the culmination of a decade of springs protection initiatives, backed by concerned environmentalists and naturalists who have toiled for nearly a decade to raise public and political awareness about the necessity to protect the extremely rare beauty of the Ichetucknee River and springs.

...many fragmentary but successful springs protection efforts have been ongoing, but TIP hopes to bring all facets together in a combined voice so that it can talk more effective in its presentation to politicians in Tallahassee.

Grant to fund answers about St. Johns River

Published Apr 25, 2008
The St. Johns River Management District (SJRWMD) has contracted with Florida Tech scientists for a two-year, $300,000 project to obtain additional data regarding the fish larvae and eggs (ichthyoplankton) that inhabit the St. Johns River. The study is part of a comprehensive SJRWMD effort to address public concern regarding the cumulative impact of possible water withdrawals from the St. Johns River.

“We’ll get baseline data over an almost-two-year time span,” said Shenker. “Ultimately we will use this information to model what would occur if specific volumes of water were extracted and identify the boundaries of the environmental conditions we associate with significant environmental effects.” The final report is due Dec. 31, 2009.

Blue Springs Old Timers Day

Published April 25, 2008
Blue Springs Old Timers Day is set for Saturday, May 3, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., at the Blue Springs Recreation Area. (Jackson County, FL)

The Blue Springs Working Group is hosting the event. Allan Tidwell, Working Group leader, says, “The purpose is to assemble those who have known and cherished Blue Springs in order to hear their stories of the ‘old days’ at the spring. We are especially interested in stories before 1970.”

The event begins at 11 a.m. with an informal visit with friends and interviews. A fish fry and covered dish picnic begins at noon. A storytelling session kicks off at 1 p.m.

All who want to tell stories or hear them are invited. Guests are asked to bring: a covered dish, a lawn chair, old photos of Blue Springs, and stories to share or an ear to listen.

For information, call Tidwell at 526-2761, Ext. 3248.

Plans filed to restore Blue Hole to natural state at Florida Caverns

Published: April 26, 2008
Three state agencies have filed plans to fill in part of Blue Hole at Florida Caverns State Park and do away with the small beach that surrounds the popular but currently closed swimming hole.

The proposed work is an effort to restore Blue Hole and the surrounding land to its “natural configuration,” according to the “Joint Application for Works in the Waters of Florida” filed last week with the Department of Environmental Protection.

Officials seeking permission to do the work indicated the beach has sent sand into the spring and the Chipola River stream that feeds the water body.
For almost a year, Blue Hole has been closed to swimming because a long-term drought, muddy conditions and bacteria levels have made it unsafe for that activity.

If conditions improve, the area could be re-opened to swimming.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Project Ice Age Nears Completion at Wakulla Springs

Published 04-25-2008
Florida's Bureau of Archaeological Research, with funding from the National Geographic Society, is ending up a month-long project at Wakulla Springs on Saturday, May 3. Jim Dunbar (pictured with hat in hand) of Wakulla County headed the project named "Project Ice Age." Scientists hope to obtain data that shows a continuing human habitation East of the Mississippi dating to the end of the last ice age, between 10,000 and 15,000 years ago.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

House Balks At Weeki Wachee Funding

Published April 22, 2008
The state House of Representatives has balked at a funding request by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to operate and maintain Weeki Wachee Springs as a state park.

However, a DEP spokeswoman said Tuesday that the department still expects to honor its side of a bargain struck earlier this year with the Weeki Wachee Springs LLC to fold the attraction into the state park system on Nov. 1.

Officials never imagined that the Legislature wouldn't fund the DEP's request for some $2 million to run the park next year, said Dale Adams, a Tallahassee lobbyist for the attraction.

St. Johns River: More attention

Published 4/23/08
To the naked eye, the St. Johns River doesn't look threatened.

But then we need to remember the summer of 2005 when a massive algal bloom turned much of the river into a green, smelly mess.

The river can only take so much wastewater, even the treated kind.

In an e-mailed statement, Mayor John Peyton said, "Duval County and Northeast Florida are working hard to improve conservation by expanding the use of reclaimed water, establishing a storm water utility that will pay for much-needed drainage improvements to improve the quality of storm water, and providing enhanced citizen education about the health of the river through a report card - the first of which is due out later this month."

2 kayak trips offer different adventures

Published April 22, 2008
Juniper Creek is a place that makes you forget the plague of development that has swept away the wild places of Florida. It's a wilderness jewel I discovered by accident. Within the Ocala National Forest, the 7 1/2-mile Juniper run can be a crowded hotspot for canoeists and kayakers on the weekends.

The creek that feeds off the spring is considered a moderate run by most paddlers. But don't let the concessionaire stand deceive you, said Heather Callahan, a spokeswoman for the USDA Forest Service. Just because there are canoe rentals at the spring head doesn't mean this is going to be easy for everyone.

Unless you have some experience, it's pretty easy to capsize a canoe going down this narrow winding channel. A kayak, in this instance, is easier to maneuver and more stable. Alice Alexander, vice president of the Recreation Resource Management company that runs concessions at the park, encourages beginners to try the Alexander Springs run, a wider, slower stream, located about 18 miles from Juniper on County Road 445. It's an easier paddle with short-term rental options for canoes. If you want a peaceful ride on Juniper, she also recommends making the trip on a weekday. "Its much more relaxed," she said.

If you're looking for a more secluded adventure with less human traffic, the Oklawaha River is a beautiful waterway to find yourself alone with a variety of wildlife -- especially alligators. I lost count at about 30 gators during a February trip. With so much fauna to see, don't let these reptiles make you wary of the northern-flowing blackwater river. I saw lots of white ibis, limpkins and a red-shouldered hawk and kept a watchful eye out for rhesus monkeys.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

On this Earth Day, thank a legislator

Published April 22, 2008 (Opinion)
The Florida Forever Program has been a national model of this great work for the past 18 years. Today, as we celebrate Earth Day 2008, the Florida Legislature is considering legislation that is essential to Florida Forever — and to the future landscape of our state.

The Senate and House have given initial passage to legislation to renew and improve Florida Forever for an additional decade. Furthermore, the Legislature has agreed — at a time of serious economic and fiscal constraints for Florida — to appropriate the funding necessary for another year of the current program to buy critical lands in the coming year.

Thus, Florida Forever will continue uninterrupted next year and will be authorized through the year 2020.

Wakulla expands springs protection

Published 4/22/08
Wakulla County leaders on Monday unanimously approved new protections for Wakulla Springs that greatly expand the area where the county regulates the storage of certain chemicals, such as gasoline.

Monday's action, which environmental activists heralded as a major victory for the springs, amends a 1994 ordinance by expanding the Wakulla Springs Protection Zone fivefold, from 17 to 85 square miles. It comes after months of scientific research showing that the basin contributing to Wakulla Springs is much larger than previously thought and extends into Leon County and beyond into Georgia, said Chad Hanson, president of the Wakulla Watershed Coalition.

Hanson said much of the new zone was undeveloped except for one gas station

Six-day kids’ summer camp planned at Wekiwa Springs

Published 4/21/2008
The Florida Federation of Garden Clubs sponsors a six-day camp in June and July in Wekiwa Springs State Park near Apopka.

It is open to boys and girls who have completed fourth through sixth grades. For information, call 259-9162.

Ginnie Springs

Published 4/21/2008
UF students can find true paradise just 40 minutes outside of Gainesville.

Ginnie Springs Outdoors Campground & Dive Resort, located on 7300 N.E. Ginnie Springs Road, is made up of seven freshwater springs that run through an area of 200 acres of woodland, according to the resort's official Web site.

The water in the springs is discharged daily and remains at a temperature of 72 degrees throughout the year. The resort offers aquatic activities like scuba diving, canoeing and kayaking, according to the Web site.

Volunteer wins governor's award

Published April 21, 2008
Jim Clark, who has cleared as many as 25 dump-truck loads of vines from the entrance to Rainbow Springs State Park and coordinates a team of patrol boat captains, has been named a Point of Light outstanding volunteer by Gov. Charlie Crist.

"Jim's efforts help make Florida's parks accessible to everyone," Crist stated in a press release issued last week. "By sharing his enthusiasm for Florida's natural beauty, he promotes environmental awareness among all Rainbow Springs State Park visitors."

Rainbow Springs, the state's fourth-largest spring, was developed into a popular, privately-owned attraction during the 1930s. After a number of years it closed down and lay dormant until the early 1990s, when volunteers began to clean it up and get it opened again, this time under state ownership.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Expanding protection zone around Wakulla Springs

Published 4/20/2008 (Opinion)
Originally passed as part of the Water Quality Ordinance in 1994, the current protection zone was based on the best available science and information from the early 1990s. Essentially, the zone encompasses a mile swath around the known cave systems of that time and totals about 17 square miles.

After numerous studies and various research, including tracer dye studies by Hazlett-Kincaid Inc. and dives by the Wakulla Karst Plain Project, the area that is now known to contribute to Wakulla Springs (i.e., Wakulla Springs Basin) is much more extensive than currently protected by the ordinance. In fact, we now know that much of the basin extends north through Leon County and into southern Georgia.

Expanding this protection area is merely a reflection of the latest science and is an effort to incorporate the best available information into county policy and law. If approved, the protection zone would expand to about 85 square miles, half of which would be in areas already publicly owned.

$138 mistake led to release of 22 billion gallons from Lake Lanier

Published 4/20/2008
More than a year before Georgia's historic drought demanded the Atlanta area's attention, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers accidentally released about 22 billion gallons of water downstream from Lake Lanier in 2006, while trying to save taxpayers $138.

That's the cost of a simple metal pulley the Corps decided not to replace when workers thought they fixed a gauge that measures the water level at Lanier, the Atlanta area's main source of drinking water.

Because of a miscommunication over whether that part was replaced with a different-size pulley, the Corps calibrated the gauge incorrectly, according to a Corps investigative report obtained under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act. As a result, the gauge indicated the lake level was higher than it actually was, causing the Corps to release too much water downstream over a 52-day period ending in June 2006.

Orlando-area students join fray to conserve St. Johns River water

Published 4/20/2008
Central Florida high-school students are entering a contest to create the most compelling public-service messages to conserve the beleaguered river.

According to the Riverkeeper Web site, each resident along the St. Johns waterway uses as much as 150 gallons of water daily, about 50 gallons more per day than the national per-person average. The organization wants lawmakers to look at other means before tapping the St. Johns River to solve the water crisis.

Workshop will dive into St. Johns River topics

Published April 20, 2008
The St. Johns River will take center stage at a four-day workshop sponsored by the St. Johns River Alliance.

The St. Johns River Classroom will kick off at Blue Spring State Park on Tuesday and feature a variety of speakers, including an experienced fishing captain, an author and an ecologist from Stetson University

The cost of the workshop, including lodging, food and socials, is $295 per person for two people sharing a cabin. Six cabins are available.

For more information, conact Herb Hiller at 386-467-8223 or view the schedule at the alliance's Web site, http://stjohnsriveralliance.com

Our position: If legislators don't act now, region's springs could be ruined

Published 4/20/08 (Editorial)
Don't be fooled by the seeming clarity of the waters at Wekiwa Springs -- as pictured above -- or Rock Springs or Silver Springs. Or springs further out, such as at Weeki Wachee, home to generations of mermaids. Studies increasingly show that nutrients chiefly from fertilizers and septic tanks entering those and other springs are choking eel grass and spawning algae blooms. In 10 to 20 years, many of the springs Floridians consider irreplaceable, that support sportsmen and threatened species alike, could resemble your neighborhood blue-green, algae-filled retention pond.

But the importance of getting lawmakers to set up the task force that can make recommendations on how the state can address threats to the springs can't be overstated. Uniform state standards on the amount or kind of fertilizers landowners should use, for instance, don't exist. Without them, the fertilizers continue invading the springs by feeding them in storm runoff or through the aquifer.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Plan to tap St. Johns River alarms eco-activists; water district downplays fears

Published April 17, 2008
A national environmental group today named the St. Johns River one of the 10 most-endangered rivers in America because of Central Florida's growing thirst for drinking water.

The American Rivers organization acknowledged that its "endangered" label is based partly on science and partly on an attempt to gauge political, social and economic pressures that could impact a waterway.

The group has put out an annual list since 1986 and during that time has labeled nearly 250 of the nation's rivers and waterways as endangered. Among them were the Florida Everglades and the Peace and Caloosahatchee rivers.

Lake owners, Florida doubt corps’ Lanier plan

Published April 17, 2008
The proposal by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for an interim operating agreement on the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river system was met with lukewarm enthusiasm by the president of the Lake Lanier Association.

At issue once again are protected species in Apalachicola Bay. The corps is proposing discharge levels of less than 5,000 cubic feet per second from the Jim Woodruff Lock and Dam at the beginning of the Apalachicola River.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Too much Lanier water was released, Corps says

Published 04/16/08
District planning and environmental division chief Curtis M. Flakes said the corps learned two lessons during the ongoing, record-breaking drought:

First, the corps needs a drought contingency plan for operating its Chattahoochee dams;

Secondly, more water should be held in the reservoirs when they are low.

"The prolonged exceptional drought conditions experienced in the [Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint] basin throughout the spring and summer of 2007 resulted in impacts to the basin and composite storage within the basin that were unanticipated by the previous [operations plan] analysis," Flakes said in the letter.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

State of the springs

Published April 14, 2008
Florida lawmakers are considering assembling a short-term task force to assess the conditions of Florida’s springs.

The bill, with twin versions in the House and Senate, has not reached the floor of either legislative chamber. If eventually approved, the Florida Springs Stewardship Task Force will access existing data on the state’s 33 largest springs and identify ways to curb the nutrient runoff.

“It’s a very short-term task force,” Bersok said, explaining the team’s work probably would begin before the end of summer and end by January 2009.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

City To Get Tough On Overwatering Lawns

Published 4/15/2008
"There's so many people who water indiscriminately and have these systems that turn on whenever and you see watering during heavy rains, it's time to start monitoring, we have serious water problems in the state," said Conrad.

And he isn't the only one who wants to see some action.

It has been encouraged for years but now if passed, a new city ordinance will enforce twice-a-week watering.

Odd numbered addresses would only be allowed to water on Wednesday and Saturday, even numbered addresses would be given the green light only on Thursday and Sunday

Deep water challenges

Published April 13, 2008
For more than a decade, concerned citizens have banded together in an attempt to get legislation passed that would help protect Florida’s springs and rivers before the life within them disappears — and along with it, much of our quality drinking water.

Each attempt at a legislative solution has been thwarted by lobbyists for two powerful groups, developers and agricultural interests.

“Everybody really likes the idea of springs protection, but when you start picking on the worst polluters, that’s when the fear factor comes in, and the bill usually dies,” said Annette Long, president of Save Our Suwannee. “Every bill that I have followed has failed to make it out of committee.”

The protection of Florida’s springs should continue to garner support from its residents as long as there are groups willing to show up at meetings and ask the tough questions.

“Instead of studying the springs some more — we know what the problems are for at least five or six of those 33 springs from previous studies — let’s stop the bleeding and save Florida’s springs,” Long said.

Operations plan for Woodruff under review

Published 04/14/2008
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Mobile District has reinitiated consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) on modifications to the Interim Operations Plan (IOP) at Jim Woodruff Dam to include a drought contingency plan and additional opportunities to conserve storage as we enter and exit drought conditions while still providing support for listed species and their critical habitat in the Apalachicola River.

"The current Exceptional Drought Operation Plan expires on June 1, 2008," said E. Patrick Robbins, public affairs officer, Mobile District. "Based upon review of the current species information, basin stakeholder input, lessons learned from 2006-07, and continuing discussions between the Corps and USFWS, the Corps has requested reinitiation of formal consultation under the Endangered Species Act on proposed modifications to the IOP at Jim Woodruff Dam. Consultation discussions between the Corps and FWS over the coming weeks may identify additional modifications that provide for further avoidance and minimization measures."

The Corps proposal and supporting documents are available on the Mobile District Web site at http://www.sam.usace.army.mil


Monday, April 14, 2008

National Geographic funds team to look for artifacts at Wakulla Springs

Published April 14, 2008
A team of archaeologists is hoping to unearth clues at Wakulla Springs that might prove people lived in the area earlier than initially believed.

The project began last week and will continue through May 5. It's funded by National Geographic , and a short segment is slated to be featured in the show, "Wild Chronicles," said Jim Dunbar, senior archaeologist for the Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research.

A core group of about 15 volunteers and professionals has been working on the project. They're hoping to determine the age of artifacts from the Paleoindian period, which lasted from 13,000 B.C. to 7,900 B.C. The artifacts include arrowheads, sharpened stones and tools.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Legislature looks at protecting springs with task force

Published April 12, 2008
Bills moving through both chambers of the Legislature would create a task force to study some of Florida's largest springs. It would recommend changes to the way nearby land is used and preserve them.

The Florida Springs Stewardship Task Force would study existing data on major threats to the state's 33 largest springs and develop ways to address those threats. It also would look for ways to fund its recommendations. The task force would make a report to the Legislature by January.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Florida’s Flows of Clear, Cool Water

Published: April 11, 2008
Visit the natural freshwater springs of northern Florida, and you may find it impossible to resist plunging in, or at least riding along the surface in a kayak or tube. Typically surrounded by trees and lush vegetation, the springs are often an eerily beautiful blue or green. Some are so clear that kayakers photographed on them appear as if they were floating on air. The purity of the water at Ginnie Spring has attracted the Coca-Cola Company, which has a permit to extract up to 600,000 gallons a day from a deeply placed well there and bottles some of it as Dasani water. And with water temperatures a cool 68 to 72 degrees, these alluring springs are unlikely spots for a nervous Northerner’s meeting up with an alligator, or so their aficionados insist.

At Rum Island Springs, a cabin can be rented for the weekend beside a turquoise pool of water twice the size of a large Jacuzzi. Poe Springs, in a 200-acre Alachua County park, has concrete steps leading into clear blue water. Blue Spring, Naked Spring, Johnson Spring and Kiefer Spring are all accessible from the privately owned Blue Springs swimming area in High Springs. More springs are preserved in more than a dozen state parks, including Troy, Manatee, Ponce de Leon and Wakulla Springs.

Proposed water bottling plant near High Springs on hold

Published 4/11/2008
The decision on whether to allow a proposed water bottling plant near High Springs on the Santa Fe River is on hold indefinitely.

Due to an illness of a commissioner on the Gilchrist County Commission, the decision is now on hold until a 5-member Commission can be present.

That Commission recommended that the County Commission deny the plant, citing safety and incompatibility as reasons for why the special exception needed by the plant should not be awarded.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Conservation: Taking it seriously

Published 4/10/2008
It is a little embarrassing that only now is the city of Jacksonville taking steps, small as they may be, to codify and enforce the modest water restrictions set forth by the St. Johns River Water Management District.

Even as Northeast Florida leaders are carping - justifiably - about plans to siphon water from the river to slake the thirst of Orlando's poorly planned sprawl, the residents and businesses of Jacksonville waste millions of gallons on lawns, often in violation of public policy.

Guidelines for watering are provided by the water management district, but it has no enforcement authority. It is left up to cities to do that. Sadly, enforcement has received little attention in Jacksonville, except in times of drought.

St. Johns River: A thirst for caring

Published 4/10/2008 (Letter to the Editor)
In Marjorie's Wake, a film produced by Orlando-based Equinox Documentaries that will air on PBS this month -- and in which I have a role -- is an effort to stir people to stewardship and show them the importance of the river's fragile ecosystems and its lasting impact on the state's literature, music and art. The film retraces a 1933 trip on the St. Johns taken by Pulitzer-Prize-winning author Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and her friend Dessie Smith. The two women traveled in a wooden boat from the marshy expanse of river in east Orange County north about 100 miles and then up the Ocklawaha River. Rawlings immortalized the experience in a chapter in her acclaimed book, Cross Creek, named for the small North Florida hamlet where she lived. It is a love poem to the river and a tale of rediscovering one's self by getting closer to the heart of nature.

Osceola County joins fight over St. Johns River water

Published April 10, 2008
Osceola County has joined the water war over the St. Johns River.

A Tallahassee judge this week approved requests by Osceola and its Tohopekaliga Water Authority to enter the fray over pumping water out of the St. Johns.

Osceola County barely borders the 310-mile river, but officials at the county and the Toho utility think a victory by the northeast Florida coalition could jeopardize a separate and much more ambitious proposal by Osceola, Orange, Orlando and others to cooperate in using river water.

Friends of Wakulla Springs 5K Run

Published 4/10/2008
May 17, 8:30 a.m. in the park sanctuary. First 200 registrants will receive a T-shirt. Fees: Pre-Registration (by May 16), $12; Day of race $15. To register, call (850) 926-0700.

Leaders Discuss New Policies to Protect Wakulla Springs

Published Apr 10, 2008
Local leaders are working against the clock to come up with stricter rules to help protect Wakulla Springs. They have to submit their new policies to the state by this summer. On Thursday they tried to hash it all out.

Commissioners and city planners came up with some ideas for new policies, things like creating a Springs Protection Zone. It would make rules a lot tighter for those who want to develop in the area and possibly for those who already live here.

City and county planners have a July deadline with the state to submit those policies. They didn't vote on anything on Thursday, but they did agree that they're at least on the right track. They hope to also introduce the ideas to Gadsden and Jefferson County leaders as well.

Lawmakers struggle to save springs

Published April 10, 2008
As studies continue to show the decline of Florida's natural springs, state lawmakers again this year appear to be reluctant to take any dramatic steps to help the state's unique resource.

A 1999 study recommended a series of steps the state could take to protect and restore the springs. It even recommended a funding source, a 25-cent increase in automobile tag fees.

Most of those recommendations have never been acted on, although the state does spend about $2.1 million a year on springs protection.

But lawmakers appear stymied in any effort to expand that program.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Manatee cruising Ichetucknee

Published April 9, 2008
Sam Cole, a biologist with the Ichetucknee Springs State Park, reported Tuesday to the Springs Basin Working Group that the park has several manatee visiting the park.

“As soon as the water came, up the manatees were in the park,” Cole said. “They swim up from the Santa Fe River and come up the Ichetucknee from the mouth where it goes into the Santa Fe.”

In addition to the visiting manatees, a study to determine the condition of several area springs is about to get under way.

“We’re going to conduct a large-scale springs survey, 12 different springs over an

18-month time period, starting July 2008 through December 2009,” said Sky Notestein of Wetland Solutions Inc. “Our key goal is to look at the ecosystem performance of each of these springs and try and relate it to water chemistry factors, recreation factors and other environmental factors to determine what’s influencing the overall health of these spring systems.”

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Funding Florida's massive conservation program

Published April 8, 2008
Florida's $3 billion land acquisition program is the envy of conservation groups around the world. Over the past 10 years, Florida has bought and preserved more land than have the three most-populous states — California, Texas and New York — combined.

But cheers for the Florida Forever program have been mixed with sharp criticism this spring in Tallahassee, where the Legislature is debating whether to continue funding it for another decade.

The Legislature is weighing how much it can afford to spend on acquiring land at a time when school, health care and other vital services are facing major cuts.
Google Cache

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Sinkhole slows traffic on Crawfordville Highway

Published April 7, 2008
A sinkhole has been discovered at Crawfordville Highway and Wade Road, near Oak Ridge Road, and motorists are asked to avoid the area.

Lt. Ken Ellis of the Florida Highway Patrol said the opening is 3-feet deep and 25-feet wide collapsed under the asphalt.

Little Salt Spring draws attention

Published 4/7/2008
Steve Koski, site manager at Little Salt Spring, recently talked to Noon Kiwanians about discoveries made at the important archeological site.

"Little Salt Spring used to be tomato and cattle fields," Koski told the group. "It's North Port's best-kept secret. It's very similar to Warm Mineral Springs, but it was never turned into a spa. Warm Mineral Springs was demucked and sanded."

The Spring, which sits on a 111-acre site, just off of Price Boulevard near Heron Creek Middle School, was first recognized as an underwater archaeological site in the late 1950's, making it the first 'wet site' discovered in Florida. The city of North Port donated the site to the University of Miami in 1982. The University runs the site and is in charge of archeological investigations there, although Koski of Warm Mineral Springs said several others, including the University of West Florida in Pensacola, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Washington have conducted research there.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Environmental Conference for Youth Moves to Wakulla Springs

Published April 6, 2008
An annual statewide environmental conference for high school students called SEEK (Save the Earth’s Environment through Knowledge) is moving to Wakulla Springs State Park. Two groups of 36 students from across Florida will converge on the park in July.

The 4 day conference sessions for students entering grades 10‐12 focus on today’s critical environmental issues: climate change and energy conservation, water pollution and conservation, and loss of wildlife habitat. Conference activities include field trips, interesting talks, hands‐on workshops, and information on careers in environmental science and conservation. Students will swim, hike, and canoe, too.

Old Timers Day brings reminiscence of Ichetucknee

Published April 6, 2008
Several students from Fort White High School volunteered their time to interview and record, in writing, the reminisces of men and women who grew up swimming and playing in Ichetucknee Springs before it became a state park in 1970.

The occasion was the 12th annual Old Timers Day, held Saturday at Ichetucknee Springs State Park south entrance.

“Basically, I write down people’s memories they have of Ichetucknee Springs,” said David Richardson, 17, a Fort White High School student. “The idea is that this is a day for people who’ve been in the community for a while to come and see the changes to the park.”

Folks Came Out to Celebrate the Great Outdoors at the Wakulla Wildlife Festival

Published 04-06-2008
A large crowd came out this past Saturday, April 5, to celebrate nature at the annual Wakulla Wildlife Festival, held at Wakulla Springs State Park, Florida. Festival visitors were able to learn about a number of topics concerning the environment here in Wakulla County, including butterflies, black bears, native snakes, bird life, plant life, and alligators! There were living history exhibits that included a blacksmith demonstration, a spinning exhibition, the art of basket making, and even an old-time moonshine still!

The festival actually began on Thursday, April 3, with premium guided tours on both Thursday and Friday to some of the natural wonders here in Wakulla County, including bird watching at Bald Point State Park, a coastal boat excursion on Apalachee Bay, a hike to Shepherd Springs and the Cathedral of Palms, a songbird tour, a Sounds of the Night excursion, an Endangered Species Experience tour, and much more.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

3 Orlando-area lakes new battleground in water-source struggle

Published 4/5/2008
Opening a new front in Florida's water wars, Orange County and St. Cloud are fighting with state officials over proposals to draw water from a trio of lakes in the ecologically sensitive Kissimmee River basin.

The lakes that the two Central Florida governments are seeking to tap into help make up the headwaters for Florida's Everglades. Some environmentalists fear that siphoning from them might hinder billions of dollars in public-restoration projects in the massive South Florida swampland.

Collisions with Suwannee sturgeons can prove lethal

Published April 5, 2008
Last year, Touchton was one of nine people injured on the Suwannee River in the freakiest of freak accidents. She collided with a leaping sturgeon -- a prehistoric fish wrapped in bony scales -- while zipping along on a water scooter.

As the sturgeons begin their annual run up the Suwannee, state officials are girding for another year punctuated by bizarre -- sometimes violent -- encounters between modern-day humans and Cretaceous-era fish.

During the past two years, one person has been killed and 18 others injured when they struck or tried to avoid a collision with the jumping, armor-plated creatures that can weigh up to 200 pounds.

Article includes related links showing an image of where Sturgeon Collisions have occured in 2006 and 2007.

Run for Wakulla Springs will be Saturday, May 17

Published 04-05-2008
The Friends of Wakulla Springs are hosting the 2nd Annual "Run for Wakulla Springs" at Wakulla Springs State Park in Wakulla County on Saturday, May 17, 2008. Wakulla Springs is located 22 miles south of Tallahassee. All proceeds will benefit the preservation of Wakulla Springs State Park.

The run will include a 1 Mile Fun Run at 8:30 a.m., and a 5K run at 9:00 a.m.

Considering Sinkholes

The county's next installment in its Water Awareness series offered a chance to study up on the phenomenon so often seen in Hernando County. They also explained how residents have at least a little bit of power to prevent them from occurring.
Published: April 3, 2008
The seminar, titled "Understanding Sinkholes and Why They Occur," took place from 10 a.m. to noon on April 4th at the Hernando County Utilities Department, 21030 Cortez Blvd. in Brooksville.

Sinkholes are more likely to open up after a prolonged drought, when the aquifer level has dropped, followed by heavy rains. The heavy upper layer of clay and soil that sits atop limestone pockets is buoyed by the aquifer. During droughts, the water level drops and the upper layer loses that support.

When the rains return, the soil and clay sucks up the moisture and gets heavy, just like a sponge, and sometimes collapses. To a large extent, that process is just part of Mother Nature's whim, Means said. But we can control our geological destiny by taking conservation measures that will reduce the impact on the aquifer, he said.

More Info:
Citizen’s for W.A.T.E.R.

Water, water everywhere, but none to use — how will Central Florida deal with water crisis?

Published 4-02-2008
Central Florida, with its myriad lakes and rivers, atop the Floridan aquifer, might seem to have water to spare.

But water-management experts say it is a mirage. Resources are overused and drying up. Local governments are scrambling to find enough water for residents and businesses over the next 20 years.

Whatever happens, Central Florida residents can count on one thing: The cost of water will rise dramatically, as we turn from groundwater drawn from the aquifer, and toward plants that draw and treat water from rivers or the ocean.

The Water Management District says we will need 200 million gallons of water a day from alternative sources by 2025. Some areas will need it by 2013, a mere five years from today.

Lake may scale back growth plans because of water worries

Published April 2, 2008
Many cities that run public water utilities will be forced to pay hundreds of millions to tap into alternative water supplies from lakes and rivers. But if left unchecked, the Floridan Aquifer still could be heavily affected by owners of private, self-supply wells.

A draft report from the St. Johns River Water Management District shows how groundwater withdrawals exclusively from new self-supply wells across east Central Florida could inflict a devastating toll, dropping aquifer levels by up to 2 feet and possibly damaging more than 4,000 acres of wetlands in Lake County by 2030.

St. Johns officials want to meet with Lake's governments in the next few weeks. They will go before the Lake County Water Alliance at 5:30 p.m. April 9 in Leesburg.

Students' mural captures St. Johns' size and power

Published 4/2/08
The attendees experienced a visual narrative, "River Dance: The St. Johns River as Art," and a discussion addressing the historical relevance of the St. Johns River as depicted by master painters.

The event was held to showcase the current 30-foot mixed-media mural displayed on the third floor of the Main Library. More than 150 students from the Douglas Anderson School of the Arts created the mural over several months.

The mural's exhibition at the Main Library concluded March 22.

The mural will be exhibited at different venues around the community. For venue locations, call the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens at 356-6857.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Waterways OKs hydrology study, Southbank marina

Published 04/04/2008
After failing to get approval from the City Council Finance Committee a couple of weeks ago, Council member Bill Bishop’s hydrology study bill was unanimously approved by the Jacksonville Waterways Commission Thursday.

The bill sets aside $100,000 for a study that will look at the long term ramifications of Central Florida draining hundreds of millions of gallons of water from the St. Johns River.

March 17, the Finance Committee voted 3-1 in favor of the bill. However, Committee member Denise Lee’s dissenting vote was enough to keep the bill in Finance. Lee objected primarily to language that would have allowed Jacksonville University “among others” to conduct the study. That stipulation, said Lee at the time, seemed to circumvent the City’s procurement process — something she pointed out the City has been criticized for during the past year.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Anheuser-Busch grant will help Volusia County clean up St. Johns River

Published 4-03-2008
Volusia County has landed a grant to help clean up the St. Johns River, which forms Volusia County's western and southern boundary for 59 miles.

Anheuser-Busch has awarded a Keep America Beautiful grant of $4,000 to support the volunteer effort to remove trash and litter from the river. The money will also help pay for a campaign to dissuade people from throwing bottles, cans, plastic, paper and other debris into the scenic waterway.

Also mentioned in this article:
The 12th annual St. Johns River Cleanup is slated for Saturday morning, June 7.

Tom Carey hopes at least 500 volunteers will take part in the 12th annual St. Johns River Cleanup.

For more information, contact Carey at (386) 736-5927, or go to http://www.volusia.org/cleanup

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

‘Springs ambassador’ on hold

Published: March 31, 2008
Jackson County commissioners are leery of applying for a $25,000 Department of Environmental Protection grant to hire a springs ambassador, voting last Tuesday to table a decision for more research into what the job should entail, and just how much the “free money” might wind up costing them.

Commissioners say that while such an employee might be beneficial, they want to be sure of what the county’s full obligation might be once the employee got on board.

County Commission to take up water conservation ordinance

Published March 31, 2008
The saga of Marion County's water conservation for landscape irrigation ordinance continues.

The proposal to regulate lawn watering based on address, the time of day and the day of the week goes back to the County Commission for a scheduled vote on Tuesday.

Commissioners have delayed a vote multiple times during the last few months. Last time, they sent the proposed law to the advisory board on the springs protection ordinance to recommend changes for the watering regulations as well.

Governor, Cabinet Celebrate April as Water Conservation Month

Published March 25, 2008
Governor Charlie Crist and the Florida Cabinet today recognized April as Water Conservation Month. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), together with the Florida Section of the American Water Works Association, endorsed the proclamation, reaffirming the state’s commitment to increasing water use efficiency.

“Recognizing April as Water Conservation Month helps promote the importance of water conservation, encouraging Floridians to become environmental stewards at home and in their communities,” said DEP Secretary Michael W. Sole. “By using water efficiently, we reduce the unnecessary waste of a precious resource, we extend supplies of water for our growing population, and we protect the state’s natural resources.”