St. Johns Riverkeeper and Sierra Club Florida recently filed a petition for an administrative hearing to challenge the permits sought by Sleepy Creek Lands (formerly Adena Springs Ranch). The two organizations are collaborating with concerned citizens, Karen Ahlers and Jeri Baldwin, who are also challenging the permits.

The legal challenges are in response to the recent announcement that the St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD) staff has already issued an Environmental Resource Permit (ERP) and is recommending approval of a Consumptive Use Permit (CUP) for Sleepy Creek Lands. This massive beef operation is located in the springshed of Salt and Silver Springs and the watershed of the Silver and Ocklawaha Rivers.

In Phase 1 of three of a 30,000 acre farm that eventually plans to withdraw 5.3 million gallons of water per day (mgd), Sleepy Creek Lands is seeking a permit to withdraw 1.46 mgd from an already over-tapped aquifer.

The SJRWMD staff has failed to account for the significant impacts to the flow of Silver and Salt Springs and the Silver and Ocklawha Rivers and the increased nutrient loading that will result from the manure of 9,500 head of cattle and the use of large quantities of fertilizer and water.

We also question the validity and accuracy of the modeling upon which the challenged permits are based. Unfortunately, the SJRWMD has not provided reasonable assurances that water resources would not be significantly affected, as required by law.

As we have previously noted, Silver Springs, a National Natural Landmark, flows from the aquifer into the Silver River, a Florida Outstanding Water, and then to the Ocklawaha, an Aquatic Preserve and the largest tributary to the St. Johns River. Despite these important designations, the flows of Silver Springs and the Silver River are in significant decline and nitrate levels exceed the State of Florida’s pollution limits. In 2012, the State mandated a 79% reduction of existing nitrate loading, in order to restore the health of these polluted waterways.

Sleepy Lands Ranch will only make the existing pollution and flow problems worse and restoration efforts much more expensive and difficult for us to ever achieve. As a result, we must take legal action to prevent further exploitation of our aquifer and the additional runoff and leaching of manure and fertilizer to our springs and rivers.

We will need your ongoing support, if we are to succeed. If you are able to help, please consider making a donation, today.

With your contribution, you will be making an important investment in the future of our springs and our river.

Donate online or send checks to:

St. Johns Riverkeeper
c/o St. Johns River Legal and Awareness Fund
2800 University Blvd. N.
Jacksonville, FL 32211

Click here to find more information about this issue, along with a copy of our legal petition.