Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Approach to save Silver Springs lacks consensus

Members of a professional dive team make their first dive in the springs to clean the glass of the glass bottom boats at Silver Springs State Park in Ocala.

Associated Press (2014)

Members of a professional dive team make their first dive in the springs to clean the glass of the glass bottom boats at Silver Springs State Park in Ocala.

SILVER SPRINGS STATE PARK — The Florida Department of Environmental Protection plan that outlines how to repair the polluted Silver Springs presented the local environmental community with an interesting quandary: Was it better to continue participating in the state exercise, even though it seems ineffective, or to walk away from the table in disgust and give up its role in the formal process?

Environmentalists chose the latter and say they have no regrets.

The rift, long brewing, boiled over in November. The Silver Springs Alliance had been a local stakeholder and participant in the two-year, DEP-led process that yielded a report and cleanup recommendations. The alliance said the report ignored its recommendations and was, essentially, a sham.

The alliance asked that its name be taken off the report. In December, the Florida Springs Council, an umbrella organization for more than 30 environmental groups, upped the ante by asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to intercede, saying the state's plan falls short of what's needed to repair the popular spring and river.

The department, for its part, says that while its plan is not perfect, it's a start and will help to clean out dangerous nitrogen from the waterways.

But the state and environmentalists differ strongly on how to achieve that benchmark.

"We all want the best for Silver Springs … and the BMAP (Basin Management Action Plan) is the best way to go," said Drew Bartlett, the department's deputy secretary for water policy and ecosystem restoration.

"This is nothing but political cover," counters Robert Knight, director of the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute in Gainesville and president of the Silver Springs Alliance.

There are several such plans for Florida water bodies. BMAPs, as they are called for short, guide Florida agencies on how to repair damaged springs and rivers. The plans are referenced when grants are allotted for environmental projects.

In its December letter to the EPA, the Florida Springs Council asked the federal agency to "exercise your full authority to require the State of Florida to follow the letter of the law with regards to this BMAP."

The environmental group has yet to receive a response from EPA.

Bartlett says the BMAP is a good place to start and that changes can be phased in for the future — contrary to the pessimistic picture that environmentalists paint.

Bartlett's problem, and one that environmentalists pin part of their argument to, is that he can't say whether nitrogen would be reduced 79 percent, even if all of the BMAP's programs — present and future — get implemented.

But the depth of that dent doesn't come close to satisfying Knight. He contends that at state's current projection levels, nitrogen will be reduced only 6 percent.

The department has allowed Silver Springs to be polluted for the past 40 years, and the government mentality that allowed such degradation hasn't changed, Knight said. If the agency was serious about reducing nitrogen, it should have each pollution source reduce its contribution by 79 percent and be done with it, he said.

Knight said state scientists, such as Bartlett, mean well. But they work for a Florida government not willing to go against political pressure and mandate significant pollution reductions. Knight said rather than implement a BMAP that at least is a start, the department and its scientists should be honest and tell the public this is the best they could get — politically speaking.

Approach to save Silver Springs lacks consensus 01/31/16 [Last modified: Sunday, January 31, 2016 8:52pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Review: Mumford and Sons shower Amalie Arena with love in euphoric Tampa debut

    Blogs

    There are releases, and then there are releases. And minutes into their concert Wednesday at Amalie Arena, Mumford and Sons gave Tampa the latter.

    Mumford and Sons performed at Tampa's Amalie Arena on Sept. 20, 2017.
  2. FEMA to open disaster recovery center in Riverview

    Hurricanes

    The Federal Emergency Management Agency said it will open a disaster recovery center Thursday in Riverview for Hillsborough County residents impacted by Hurricane Irma.

  3. Life sentence for man convicted in killing of brother of Bucs' Kwon Alexander

    Bucs

    An Alabama man who shot and killed the 17-year-old brother of Bucs linebacker Kwon Alexander in 2015 was sentenced to life in prison Wednesday, the Anniston (Ala.) Star reported.

  4. Remember him? Numbers prove Ben Zobrist is one of greatest Rays of all time

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The first foray back to the Trop by the best manager the Rays have had obscured the second return visit by arguably the second-best player in franchise history.

    Figures.

    Chicago Cubs second baseman Ben Zobrist (18) grounds into a double play to end the top of the third inning of the game between the Chicago Cubs and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017.
  5. GOP's new repeal bill would likely leave millions more uninsured, analyses suggest

    Health

    WASHINGTON — The latest Republican bid to roll back the Affordable Care Act would likely leave millions of currently insured Americans without health coverage in the coming decades, and strip benefits and protections from millions more, a growing number of independent studies suggest.

    Vice President Mike Pence listens as President Donald Trump talks to reporters about the Graham-Cassidy health care bill during a meeting with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi at the Palace Hotel during the United Nations General Assembly, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017, in New York. [Evan Vucci | Associated Press]