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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Where to spot Florida’s wildlife

Published 12/21/2014
In late fall and winter, these gentle creatures migrate to the warmer waters of Florida springs, which remain at a constant 70-72 degrees. Hundreds make their way to Blue Springs State Park, about 45 miles north of Orlando on the St. Johns River, where so many people come to see them that the park sometimes has to turn visitors away. Manatees can be seen at Blue Springs from November to March.
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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Feds release new winter regulations to protect manatees in Three Sisters Springs

Published 12/15/2014
The number of snorkelers and boaters visiting the springs to see the manatees has nearly doubled from 67,000 permitted visitors in 2010 to more than 125,000 in 2013.

So on Monday, wildlife officials proposed new rules blocking the public from paddling canoes, kayaks and inflatable floats into two-thirds of Three Sisters Springs from December through March. The sections that would be off-limits are the eastern and western sections known as Pretty Sister and Little Sister.

The land around the spring was privately owned until four years ago. Then it was added to the Crystal River National Wildife Refuge, but access for the public has been limited to the water until this year.

Three Sisters Springs is the only confined-water body in the United States that is open to the public while wintering manatees are present, wildlife agency officials said.
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Saturday, November 15, 2014

Central Florida's Manatee Season

Published Nov 2014
Blue Springs is the largest spring in Florida's longest river, the St. Johns, which runs 310 miles from the Northeast coast. Each year hundreds of manatees can make their way to this welcoming winter home. Because of the great number of massive and mild-mannered endangered species that arrive here each year, the area has been designated a manatee refuge.
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Thursday, November 13, 2014

Floridians want to preserve and protect Florida

Published November 12, 2014
Protecting Florida’s natural resources has been a bipartisan concern since 1963, when the Legislature created the Land Acquisition Trust Fund to support the purchase of parks. Over the years, the state’s land-purchasing efforts changed in name, funding sources and approval processes. Yet, as the pressures to develop lands increased, so did the state’s efforts to protect them — through Preservation 2000 and then Florida Forever.
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Wednesday, October 08, 2014

NWFWMD Continues Data Collection Vital to Water Resource Protection

Published October 7, 2014
“Establishing an effective minimum flows and levels program is an important part of the District’s overall effort to ensure the long-term protection and sustainability of our area’s water resources,” said Executive Director Jon Steverson.

Seven of these wells are being drilled by the FGS, which will provide the District with more detailed geologic data at a reduced cost. The FGS will collect core samples at these sites, which will provide valuable geologic information to the District and help support the development of groundwater flow models.
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Saturday, September 27, 2014

Florida's Manatees: Big, Beloved And Bitterly Contested

Published Sept 26, 2014
Sixty-nine companies in Crystal River offer swim-with-the-manatee tours. Also known as sea cows, they attract 300,000 visitors to the area each year.

While the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reviews the status of manatees, there's another emerging threat for them in Crystal River: too much tourism.
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Saturday, August 09, 2014

18 Stunning Florida Springs

Published Sep 8, 2014
Alexander Springs:
Inside the Ocala National Forest, this is a first-magnitude spring, discharging 100 or more cubic feet of water per second, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (Second-magnitude springs produce 10 to 100 cubic feet per second; third-magnitude springs channel 1 to 10 cubic feet per second.)

Visitors can rent a canoe or kayak, swim, snorkel, go fishing (with a Florida freshwater license) or scuba dive (if certified). Take a hike along the Timucuan Trail, an easy to moderate loop trail with two observation decks and some boardwalks.

Blue Spring State Park:
The largest spring on the St. Johns River, This park restricts water activities from November 15 through March 15. Blue Springs is so popular year-round that rangers have to turn away visitors when the park is full.

Crystal River:
Closed from November 15 through March 21. This is the only place where people may swim but not touch this animal.

De Leon Springs State Park:
You can canoe, paddleboat, swim, kayak, picnic, snorkel, learn how to scuba dive, study Mayacan artifacts (including a 6,000-year-old canoe), or make pancakes at the park restaurant.

Ginnie Springs:
Open for camping, snorkeling, swimming, tubing, canoeing and kayaking, its claim to fame is as a dive spot.

Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park:
is both Old Florida roadside attraction and state-of-the-art wildlife rehab center, according to the Friends of Homosassa Springs Wildlife Center. Three times daily, experts present information on the West Indian manatee and how the center helps sick and injured manatees get back into the wild.

Ichetucknee River:
The name Ichetucknee means “beaver pond,” but this state park is home to nine springs and numerous vents. Ichetucknee River is one of Florida’s favorite tubing spots. In the summer, a tram is available to run you back to your car; after Labor Day until the Friday before Memorial Day, you’re on your own and should plan on walking back (about 5-15 minutes, depending on where you started). If you prefer to canoe or kayak, be aware that “tubers” have the right of way and come out in force on weekends. Within the park is Blue Hole Spring, the only spot where cave diving is allowed (and only from October through March).

Jackson Blue Springs:
Located inside the Blue Springs Recreational Area. Other ways to enjoy the water include swimming, snorkeling, canoeing, kayaking, and paddleboating. On land, visitors can hike to wildlife viewing spots, enjoy volleyball, picnic, and turn the kids loose on the playground.

Juniper Springs:
The Juniper Run is also a big draw for canoeists. Take a short one-mile hike to Fern Hammock Spring (no swimming), where more than two dozen sand boils percolate beneath a wooden bridge.

Manatee Springs:
Home to one of North America’s longest mapped cave systems--more than 26,000 feet--and a world-record dive in 1994 to 11,074 feet. While some springs limit diving to cave divers only, certified open-water divers and cavern divers are also welcome at Manatee Springs. Register with a c-card before 3 pm; you must check out at the office by 5pm--and as always, never dive beyond your certification limits.Non-divers are welcome to swim, hike the nature trails or elevated boardwalk, opt for a ranger-guided paddle, ride bicycles, and picnic.

Wes Skiles Peacock Springs State Park:
Renamed in memory of the pioneering cave dive, explorer, photographer, and underwater filmmaker Wes Skiles, Peacock Springs is home to two springs, six sinkholes, a spring run, and one of the nation’s largest underwater cave systems. Cave divers have mapped about 33,000 feet of these natural passageways.

Silver Springs Nature Park:
Once a segregated summer playground where Ross Allen’s alligator- and snake-wrestling shows lured tourists off the highway.

Suwannee River State Park:
Kayaking, canoeing, hiking, camping, fishing, and picnicking are popular pastimes here. Cave divers report a large cave system under the Suwanee River that links Suwanacoochee to nearby Ellaville Spring.

Troy Spring State Park:
A popular swimming hole, Troy Springs is a first-magnitude spring that features the remnants of the 19th-century steamship Madison.. Scuba and freediving are allowed; cave and cavern diving are not.

Vortex Spring:
Vortex is privately owned and caters especially to the dive community, but it has added other amenities like zip lines, paintball, and horseback riding trails. Vortex offers all kinds of campsites: primitive tent-pitching sites, log cabins, RV hookups, lodges with TV sets, dormitories, and even a house reserved just for dive groups. Vortex does not allow pets or smoking

Wakulla Spring State Park
One of the world’s largest springs at 350 feet wide, Wakulla Spring is both a National Natural Landmark and on the National Register of Historic Places. Take a glass-bottom boat tour, popular here for nearly a century, to glimpse fossilized mastodon bones and below the surface

Weeki Wachee Springs State Park:
Fed by a complex of first-, second-, and smaller-magnitude springs. Swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, canoeing, and kayaking.

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Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Springs lovers wary of Scott

Published August 5, 2014
Flow in Ginnie Springs in Alachua County has dropped by as much as 50 percent compared to historical trends due to water withdrawal from its springshed. The Ichetucknee River's flow has declined as much as 25 percent due to wells in the area, he said.
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Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Speakers address state of area’s springs, water supply at forum

Published August 5, 2014
St. Johns’ new and more accurate modeling shows that the existing groundwater withdrawal in the springs’ 800,000-acre springshed is already doing harm to the spring’s flow, Knight said.

Silver Springs’ flow has already decreased by at least a third compared to historical trends, and polluting nitrate levels have increased about 3,000 percent, Knight said. In the past few years, flow had fallen to 50 percent.

Silver Springs feeds the 4.5-mile-long Silver River, which empties into the Ocklawaha River.
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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

'Little janitor' merits attention in Florida springs' health debate, UF/IFAS research shows

Published July 28, 2014
Although the blame for algae-choked springs is often pinned on excess nitrate, the scientists say the absence of algae-eating native freshwater snails known as Elimia — which UF researcher Dina Liebowitz calls the “little janitor of the springs” — may be a key factor.

Among the study’s strongest findings, outlined in a paper posted online this month by the journal Freshwater Biology, was a strong negative correlation between snails and algae, Liebowitz said: Where they found more snails, in general, there was less algae.
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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Water district launches Springs Dashboard

Published July 21, 2014
The Suwannee River Water Management District (District) has launched a springs dashboard that provides an at-a-glance view of water quality and flow, and contributing factors affecting the first magnitude springs and associated rivers. Manatee Springs is the District’s first dashboard to launch.

http://www.mysuwanneeriver.org/dashboards/manatee/index.html Source

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Federal officials may take manatees down a notch on endangered species list

Posted 7/1/2014
Federal officials announced Tuesday that they have agreed to consider removing Florida manatees from their list of endangered species. Instead, they said, the iconic mammals — which have been on the list since it was created in 1967 — may belong in the less protective "threatened" category, even though the number of manatees killed last year set a new record.

Manatee mortality
Total manatee deaths in the past five years:
2009: 429
2010: 766
2011: 453
2012: 392
2013: 829
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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Lawsuit Filed to Save Rare Florida Snail and Coffee Spring

Published June 17, 2014
The Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit today against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over the agency’s failure to protect the rare Ichetucknee siltsnail under the Endangered Species Act. The siltsnail lives only in 10 square yards of submerged mosses and cypress roots at Coffee Spring, along the west bank of the Ichetucknee River. It is threatened by upstream pollution and water withdrawal.
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Saturday, May 24, 2014

All-natural lazy river at Blue Spring State Park

Published May 23, 2014
"Anytime people are out in nature and they can experience something like this that is crystal clear water and they can feel safe and see all the different animal life, I think they are going to have an appreciation. It's going to help create that conservation moment that we need more of," said scuba instructor Chad Truxall.
Blue Spring is open to bathers through mid-November. Soon after, stairways are removed as manatees return to stay warm as Florida's chilly season begins.
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Friday, May 23, 2014

Florida’s springs offer a pleasant escape

Published May 22, 2014
Tips for Enjoying Florida's Springs
Give yourself plenty of time to visit — at least a full day. You can’t be rushed on nature trails or tubing down a river. Nearby motels and camping are quite affordable in Florida’s less populated areas. Bring bug spray.

Call ahead of time to make sure you can swim the springs. A couple of weeks without a heavy storm will usually restore churned-up freshwater from brown back to sparkling turquoise.
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The Hidden Beauty in Florida's Swamps and Springs (PHOTOS)

Published May 22, 2014
In more ways than one, Glaser has learned to work with the conditions that she finds at the swamps and springs. Sporting long pants and boots, she wades out into the water where alligators and other swamp-dwelling creatures lurk. When she photographed spawning garfish, the temperature outside was in the 40s — quite a difference from the constant 72-degree spring water.
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Friday, May 09, 2014

Studying Rainbow Springs

Published May 8, 2014
An estimated 21 percent of the nitrogen that annually makes its way into the groundwater and bubbles up from Rainbow Springs can be attributed to area septic tanks, according to a Florida Department of Environmental Protection study.

Rainbow Springs is a first-magnitude springs system located in southwest Marion County, 4 miles north of Dunnellon and 20 miles southwest of Ocala. Although flow varies, it produces about 450 million gallons per day of water. The river flows south for about 5.7 miles until it joins the Withlacoochee River
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Monday, April 28, 2014

Volunteers scrub away Wekiwa Springs algae scum

Published April 27, 2014
With brooms, rakes, nets and bare hands, nearly 50 volunteers on Sunday scrubbed a scum of green algae off the floor of Wekiwa Springs, hoping to bring back its white sand and blue water.
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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Jackson Blue Spring, Merritt’s Mill Pond restoration plan discussed

Published April 23, 2014
ackson Blue — a first-magnitude Jackson County spring located within the Apalachicola River Basin — and Merritt’s Mill Pond suffer from nutrient pollution. According to DEP, preliminary information indicates nitrate contribution to Jackson Blue Spring and Merritt’s Mill Pond is derived primarily from inorganic fertilizer use and, to a lesser degree, from septic systems and animal waste being washed off by stormwater and seeping into the underlying karst geology.

Jackson Blue Spring contributes approximately 69 percent of the total flow to Merritt’s Mill Pond. Both water bodies are economically valuable to the state and local communities, with public land near Jackson Blue Spring including the popular 195-acre Blue Springs Recreational Area.
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Voters could pump cash into restoration of springs

Published April 23, 2014
Gardiner and other lawmakers have been pushing for strong regulations in light of the deteriorating health and flows of once-pristine springs such as Wekiwa and Rock Springs in Orange County and Silver Springs in Marion County.

The Water and Land Conservation amendment would devote to conservation 33 percent of the revenues collected from documentary-stamp taxes on real-estate transactions — a tax that generated $1.7 billion this year. If it passes, state economists estimate it would raise $648 million next year and nearly $19 billion during the next two decades.
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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Senate scales back major springs bill

Published 4/22/2014
The original bill required that local governments, the DEP and water-management districts to identify the worst-leaking septic tanks and require their replacement — with the state footing the entire cost. The Legislature three years ago passed a septic-tank-inspection law and later repealed it after property owners and interest groups balked.

James pointed out that 60 percent of Florida's most important springs were located within economically-threatened counties.
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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Florida's Freshwater Springs Attract Vacationers

Published April 15, 2014
The water level here is a third lower than what it was. And there's another problem - runoff and nutrients from fertilizer has promoted the growth of algae, turning clear springs increasingly murky. Spring swimmer Erin Carr says she saw a big change after being away from the area for just six years.
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Florida Lawmakers Proposing a Salve for Ailing Springs

Published 4/15/2015
Today, Manatee Springs is one of the most polluted springs in the state.

Mark Long lives near Manatee Springs and has watched as pollution has taken its toll. Credit Edward Linsmier for The New York Times After years of discussion and inaction, four influential Republican State Senate committee chairmen and one Democratic chairman have signed off on an ambitious bill that would lay the groundwork for a long-term, comprehensive approach to restoring the state’s 38 most important and threatened springs. But the proposal, which has a price tag of $380 million for next year, requires concessions from agriculture, home builders, septic tank owners, property rights advocates and other powerful interests. And the measure poses a difficult test of whether divided Republican legislators have the will to address the problems in a comprehensive way.

At Manatee Springs, swimmers are warned of the possibility of rashes. In Ginnie Springs, a popular recreation area on private land, the owner is battling the state to do more to clean up the increasingly sullied water. Up north in Wakulla Springs, glass-bottom boats, once a favorite attraction, seldom run because the water is so murky.

The decay is not new. A Florida Springs Task Force report in 2000 detailed the declining health and its causes. But the situation has grown “much worse,” said the report’s author, Jim Stevenson, who until 2003 was chief biologist for the Florida State Park System under the state Department of Environmental Protection

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Monday, April 14, 2014

Florida briefs: Warm Minerals Springs reopens to public

Published April 13, 2014
Warm Mineral Springs reopened to the public after closing last summer after the concessions contractor's lease expired.

Sarasota County and the city of North Port agreed to open the springs for bathing and swimming.
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Friday, April 11, 2014

Warm Mineral Springs reopens and has unexpected guest

Published April 10, 2014
Warm Mineral Springs re-opened this week, a few days ahead of schedule... and then closed on the first day after an 18-inch alligator decided to go for a swim.
What hasn't changed? The largest warm mineral spring in the world remains at 87 degrees.
Source

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Study to look at impact of nitrates on Florida's springs

Published March 25, 2014
Two University of Florida institutes and the St. Johns River Water Management District are about to begin a three-year $3 million study of the impact of nitrates on Florida's springs, with a focus on Marion County's Silver Springs.

The study will zero in on the effects of nitrates on two springs and their runs — Silver Springs in Ocala as the primary subject and Wekiva Springs in Apopka secondarily.

Graham added that a model for the flow of nitrates through conduits in the aquifer also will be developed. That could help with reducing nitrates from their source, she added.

Source

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Restoration plan for manatee haven Blue Spring is a first for Florida

Published March 21, 2014 Orlando Sentinel
The number of manatees seeking refuge there is expected to increase in the coming years, so work to replenish water surging from the Floridan Aquifer at Blue Spring is needed to keep more of the spring's stream warm along its picturesque run of 1,000 feet to the St. Johns River.

Bob Knight, director of the Florida Springs Institute in Gainesville, said the Blue Spring rescue proposal came about because of unique circumstances driven largely by the popularity of manatees and their clear need for spring water.
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Thursday, March 20, 2014

New Bill Could Protect Springs - But Not All Of Them

Published March 19th, 2014
Only those waterways designated as "first magnitude springs" will be included for protection in the bill and labeled as "outstanding Florida springs. Source

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

It's Florida Manatee Time: How to See the Gentle Giants

Posted 01/09/2014, updated 3/11/2014
For almost thirty years, The Orange City / Blue Springs Manatee Festival has been raising funds to preserve the manatee population. The festival is a really fun fair, with food, music, booths and comfy busses are provided to shuttle folks to manatee viewing experiences.
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Saturday, March 08, 2014

Lawmakers Join Forces For Protection Of Florida Springs

Published 3/7/2014
“They’re acting as if this renewable resource is something you can simply mine and when it’s gone, it’s gone,” said Guest, head of the Florida office of Earthjustice. “It’s been there for thousands of years, and only recently have we had this attitude that you just take it and the future generations just don’t get anything anymore.”
...an environment without regulations “licenses big corporations, big agricultural enterprises, to contaminate waters and not take personal responsibility for what they do.”
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Friday, March 07, 2014

Endangered Waters: Silver Springs Dwindles (Editorial)

Published March 6, 2014
The Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute, whose namesake began studying Silver Springs, just outside Ocala, in the 1950s, announced its latest measurements last week. They were significant-and-sad: Silver Springs is "no longer the world's biggest first-magnitude spring."

Knight said his measurements of Silver Springs' flow show that Rainbow Springs is now the largest first-magnitude spring in the world. Nonetheless, Rainbow Springs — west of Ocala — also is declining in flow.

Now, Rainbow Springs has 65 million gallons per day per day more than Silver Springs. That's about 20 percent greater flow than Silver Springs.

Combined, the flows of the two major springs have declined from 1.01 billion gallons per day in the 1950s to about 650 million gallons per day now. That's about 33 percent less flow combined — and 45 percent less flow over the decades for Silver Springs.
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Saturday, February 15, 2014

Published February 14, 2014
Silver Glen Springs Run isn’t much of a waterway. It connects Glen Springs, a first-magnitude spring, to Lake George, the largest lake on the St. Johns River. For comparison, Silver Springs and Alexander Springs are listed in Florida’s 27 first-magnitude springs. There are a total of 78 such springs in the U.S., and Florida has more than any other state.

The first recorded descriptions of the springs were made by William Bartram in 1774. Bartram was America’s first native-born naturalist/artist. He was also the first author to describe nature through personal experience as well as scientific observation.

Silver Glen Springs is located in the Silver Glen Springs Recreational Area of the Ocala National Forest, about 11 miles south of the town of Salt Springs. If you’re traveling north on State Road 19, the park’s entrance is about six miles from the intersection with State Road 40.
Source

Friday, February 14, 2014

Documentary to look at Florida's springs

Published February 13, 2014
Equinox producer Bob Giguere said the five- to six-minute trailer will be used to generate interest in the project and raise money to fund a full-length documentary for the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS.)

Silver Springs is difficult to map because its underground vents are fragile and can collapse, trapping divers, he said.
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Thursday, February 13, 2014

Senators Propose Bill To Protect Florida Springs

Published February 12th, 2014
The Florida Springs and Aquifer Protection Act will create funding and a definitive guide for local governments on how to manage fresh water and discharge wastewater. The act aims to restore water in springs, many of which have been affected by high nutrient concentrations and low water levels.

The legislation mandates that 36.9 percent of the revenue, more than $370 million for 2015, from the Documentary Stamp Tax, goes to the Ecosystem Management and Restoration Trust Fund, according to a summary by the Florida Conservation Coalition.
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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

'Earth needs new laws,' 300 told at Silver Springs forum

Published January 28, 2014
Silver Springs was the largest first-magnitude spring in Florida. Its flow has recently been surpassed by Rainbow Springs.

During the past few decades, Silver Springs' flow has fallen by more than a third and polluting nitrate levels have risen manyfold.

Source

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Special designation at Silver Springs

Published January 6, 2014
The district's name is the Silver Springs Head Springs Site Complex. It includes the land around Silver Springs and the north and south banks of the river, extending southeast away from the main springs for approximately two miles downstream, and then north of State Road 40.
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