Low flows and levels recently documented on Silver River, credit: Karen Chadwick
May 9, 2017
Contact: Lisa Rinaman, St. Johns Riverkeeper email@example.com
ST. JOHNS RIVERKEEPER CHALLENGES SILVER SPRINGS MINIMUM FLOW RULE
Palatka, FL – St. Johns Riverkeeper, Florida Defenders of the Environment, Silver Springs Alliance, and Alice Gardner are seeking to invalidate the emergency Minimum Flow rule for Silver Springs that was approved by the St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD or District) Governing Board on April 11, 2017. An administrative hearing is scheduled for May 11 and 12 at the SJRWMD Headquarters in Palatka.
The petition was prompted by the SJRWMD’s attempt to change the criteria for compliance in the middle of an ongoing administrative challenge of the Consumptive Use Permit (CUP) request from Sleepy Creek Lands. This massive cattle operation located adjacent to Silver Springs is seeking an 84% increase in its groundwater allocation, and the new Minimum Flow rule is being used to justify issuance of the permit and undermine the legal arguments of the petitioners.
The petitioners are challenging the new criteria that was established by the Minimum Flow Rule that allows the SJRWMD to now determine compliance by assessing water elevations instead of flow rates. By using minimum average water elevations, flows in Silver River could drop by as much as 34% below the average minimum flow set by the SJRWMD and still remain in compliance. This decline is equivalent to nearly 141 million gallons per day (mgd), or more than all of the freshwater used by Orlando and the rest of Orange County on a daily basis. Since the District’s minimum flow has only been met once in the past 16 years, this would allow the SRJWMD to meet the rule requirements and continue to approve more Consumptive Use Permits (CUPs) for groundwater pumping despite additional harm that would occur to Silver Springs.
“The flow data clearly indicates that Silver Springs and Silver River have been in serious decline for decades,” explains Lisa Rinaman, the St. Johns Riverkeeper. “By changing the rules, the District can conveniently hand out more permits, like the one for Sleepy Creek Lands, and shirk its responsibility for protecting these magical waterways.”