Sleepy Creek Lands (formerly known as Adena Springs Ranch) and its the Canadian billionaire owner, Frank Stronach, continue to seek consumptive use permits (CUPs) from the St. Johns River Water Management District for a massive 3-phase cattle operation located in the springshed to Silver Springs.
Despite widespread public opposition, Sleepy Creek Lands received approval in 2015 for 1.46 million gallons of water a day (MGD) for Phase I of the project. Now, the applicant is seeking an 84% increase. They want an annual average of 2.68 MGD of water and daily maximum of 9.57 MGD.
In response, St. Johns Riverkeeper, Florida Defenders of the Environment, Silver Springs Alliance, and Ocala resident Alice Gardiner jointly filed a petition on Monday, January 9 for a formal administrative hearing to contest the issuance of the Sleepy Creek Ranch CUP. Click here to read the press release and learn more about this legal action. The adminstrative hearing took place April 10 – 12 at the SJRWMD headquarters (4049 Reid St, Palatka, FL 32177).
SILVER SPRINGS: A NATURAL LANDMARK IN CRISIS
- Average flows at Silver Springs over the past decade are already reduced more than 35% compared to historic levels.
- • The SJRWMD previously determined that groundwater pumping has been over-allocated in this area. Models predicted that existing permit uses combined with the Sleepy Creek Lands allocation would reduce the flow of Silver Springs by approximately 80 cfs or 50 million gallons of water a day.
- Silver Springs currently suffers from nitrate-nitrogen concentrations more than 25 times higher than historic levels.
- The state developed a pollution reduction goal (TMDL) that calls for a 79% reduction of nutrients going into Silver Springs and the Silver River from existing sources.
SLEEPY CREEK LANDS: PERMITS THREATEN FUTURE OF IMPERILED WATERS
- The requested groundwater withdrawals of 978 million gallons per year will further reduce the flow of Marion County’s springs, according to the SJRWMD Technical Staff Report (TSR).
- The 9,500 head of cattle planned for Phase I would produce an estimated 158 million gallons of manure and 11 million gallons of urine per year. The irrigated grass would require about 700,000 pounds of nitrogen from fertilizer annually.
- Nutrient-rich waste created from the cattle manure and fertilizers is likely to reach nearby surface waters and the groundwater that ultimately discharges from Silver Springs. This would only exacerbate existing nutrient pollution problems in Silver Springs and the Silver River.
- While this CUP for an additional 1.22 MGD will be for a shorter duration (2017-2023), it is the camel’s nose under the tent and elevates the applicant’s rights to water as an existing user. This will make it easier for Sleepy Creek to renew groundwater withdrawal permits in the future and opens the door to potential surface water withdrawals from the Ocklawaha River.
WATER MANAGEMENT DISTRICT: POLITICS AT PLAY?
- The Technical Staff Report (TSR) for the permit originally recommended a Substantive Denial due to a projected reduction in the flow of Silver Springs by approximately 80 cubic feet per second, adverse impacts to riparian floodplains and the in-stream channel, potential for land collapse, and reduction in aquatic fauna and habitat.
- On December 12, 2016, the District staff revised the TSR and now recommends issuing the permit.
Check out more coverage, St. Johns staff urges approval of Sleepy Creek water request, Gainesville Sun, December 29, 2016.