Ichetucknee Alliance Challenges New North Florida Water Supply Plan
On March 17, 2017, the Alliance filed a petition for administrative hearing in a legal challenge to the North Florida Water Supply Plan that was adopted by the St. Johns River Water Management District and Suwannee River Water Management District on January 17, 2017.
“We are challenging this plan because it fails to provide a recovery strategy that will recover needed water flows for the Ichetucknee as required by Florida law,” explained Ichetucknee Alliance President John Jopling. “When the Minimum Flow and Level (MFL) for the Ichetucknee was set on June 10, 2015, the State of Florida acknowledged that the Ichetucknee was already below that MFL and was classified as being ‘in recovery.’ The new water supply plan was supposed to include a recovery strategy that will restore the deficit flows, but we see no evidence in the plan that recovery of flows will be provided.”
New Baseline Assessment Gives the Ichetucknee a “C-” Grade
The Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute (FSI) released its Lower Ichetucknee Baseline Assessment report in September 2016, giving a C- grade to the Ichetucknee River ecosystem from the U.S. Highway 27 bridge to the confluence with the Santa Fe River.
The Ichetucknee Alliance is concerned that this grade reflects damage to the Ichetucknee that is caused by loss of flow and increased pollution. Read the full press release about the new grade here.
Ichetucknee Alliance Officers Comment on Columbia County Poultry Factory
On October 15, 2015, two officers of the Alliance urged the Columbia County Commission to revisit the county’s zoning regulations as a result of the siting of a poultry factory in southern Columbia County near the Ichetucknee and Santa Fe rivers. Read more in our blog entry here.
Ichetucknee Alliance Submits Comments on Proposed New Water Rule
Ichetucknee Alliance Launches Water Voices Educational Speaker Series
In partnership with the High Springs New Century Woman’s Club and Our Santa Fe River, the Ichetucknee Alliance is launching Water Voices, a new educational speaker series designed for citizens and area leaders that will bring new voices into North Central Florida’s water conversations. Click here for the press release and here for more information about Water Voices.
Ichetucknee Alliance Joins Newly Formed Florida Springs Council
The Ichetucknee Alliance has joined the newly formed Florida Springs Council (FSC), an ad hoc organization composed of representatives from all Florida organizations that are concerned about springs issues and, by extension, issues that affect the Floridan aquifer that feeds the springs and supplies our drinking water. The FSC will focus its attention on legal, legislative, and education/communication strategies to improve the conditions in Florida’s springs. Read more about this new group here.
Judge Upholds New MFL Rule
Friday, February 13, 2015, was not a good day for the Ichetucknee River System; it was the day that Judge Bram Canter issued his final ruling on the MFL challenge brought by Paul Still (the challenge filed by the Ichetucknee Alliance was unsuccessful). Judge Canter upheld the new MFL rule, which the Ichetucknee Alliance believes will allow degradation of the river and springs to continue. Click here to read the judge’s ruling.
Ichetucknee Alliance Asks FDEP and SRWMD to Enforce Florida Law
Saying, “The idea of a group like ours coming as supplicants seems absurd,” Ichetucknee Alliance President John Jopling opened a meeting with representatives of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Suwannee River Water Management District to ask those state agencies, which are charged with protecting Florida’s natural resources, to begin to enforce state laws to protect the Ichetucknee River System.
Jopling and other members of the board of directors of the Ichetucknee Alliance met on February 3, 2015, with Drew Bartlett, Deputy Secretary of Water Policy and Eco Restoration at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP); Janet Llewellyn, Director of FDEP’s Office of Water Policy; and Ann Shortelle, Executive Director of the Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD). The Alliance requested the meeting to express concerns about the ongoing degradation of the Ichetucknee River System (the river, springs and the Floridan aquifer that supplies our drinking water), to make recommendations for the system’s recovery, and to press the agencies to enforce Florida law.
Ichetucknee Alliance Applauds MFL Ruling
On September 11, 2014, Administrative Law Judge Bram Canter ruled that the proposed MFL rule for the Ichetucknee was invalid based on vague language in the section of the rule that described how the MFLs were calculated. The winning argument was made by challenger Paul Still, who represented himself at the hearings in May and June, 2014. You may read the judge’s ruling here and the Alliance’s statement here.
Ichetucknee Alliance Is Granted Federal Nonprofit Status
On September 10, 2014, the Internal Revenue Service granted the Alliance federal tax-exempt status. Your gifts and donations to the Alliance are now tax deductible!
Center for Biological Diversity Files Lawsuit to Save the Ichetucknee Siltsnail and Coffee Spring
On June 17, 2014, the Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit 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.
“The siltsnail may not be the most charismatic animal, but its presence in the spring serves as an indicator of the health of the water. Its decline tells us the spring is in trouble,” said Jacki Lopez, a Florida-based staff attorney at the Center.
The Ichetucknee River is entirely spring-fed and is typically crystal-clear, attracting many recreational visitors. The springs that feed it are threatened by diminishing outputs brought on by drought and groundwater pumping, as well as nitrate pollution from atmospheric deposition and nearby pasture and croplands. These threats are all the more significant because the siltsnail is limited to just one location.
The Ichetucknee siltsnail is one of 10 species across the country that the Center is prioritizing for Endangered Species Act protection this fiscal year. Under a settlement agreement with the Service that expedites protection decisions for 757 species, the Center can push forward 10 decisions per year. The other priority species for 2014 include the Alexander Archipelago wolf from Alaska, the San Bernardino flying squirrel, the black-backed woodpecker from California and South Dakota, Kirtland’s snake from the Midwest, and four freshwater species from the southeastern United States, including two fish, a mussel and a crayfish. The species are facing extinction for many reasons, chief among them habitat loss from logging and development, global climate change, pollution, groundwater decline and water overuse.
Under the landmark settlement, 118 species have already gained Endangered Species Act protection, and another 24 have been proposed for protection.
The Center’s press release can be found here:
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 775,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
Ichetucknee Alliance Supports SRWMD’s Proposed Ichetucknee Springs – Columbia County Water Conservation Initiative
In May 2014, the Alliance was asked by the Water Conservation Specialist at the Suwannee River Water Management District to write a letter in support of a proposed new water conservation project that will target businesses in the Lake City area, in the Ichetucknee Springshed. We offered enthusiastic support for this project, which is described in the letter you may read here.
The project will compete for funding with other proposed projects throughout the state. Keep your fingers crossed!
Ichetucknee Alliance Joins Water Organizations Statewide in Support of Chesapeake Bay Cleanup Plans
What does Florida have to do with water cleanup plans in the Chesapeake Bay? More than you would think.
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi in February 2014 joined with representatives of 20 other states throughout the country to support a brief filed by the American Farm Bureau Federation that challenged cleanup plans for the Chesapeake Bay—plans which had been developed and approved by the states surrounding the Bay.
In late May, the Alliance’s was one of approximately 50 signatures on a letter that asked Bondi to withdraw Florida from that challenge. The letter was developed and signed by groups that are part of the Floridians’ Clean Water Declaration Campaign.
Ichetucknee Alliance Supports Floridians’ Clean Water Declaration Campaign
By email vote immediately prior to the December 2013 meeting, members of the Ichetucknee Alliance Board of Directors decided to support the Floridians’ Clean Water Declaration Campaign, a statewide effort to gather signatures of businesses, individuals, elected officials and agency personnel in support of an effort to clean up Florida’s waters.
We encourage you to take a few minutes of your time to read the background information and the text of the Declaration here and, if you agree, to sign the document on line. You may also follow the campaign’s progress on the Facebook page.
There will be simultaneous events throughout Florida on January 22, 2014, to gather momentum for this campaign. On February 18, 2014, campaign supporters will rally in Tallhassee to let our elected officials know that the people of Florida want clean, unpolluted waterways.
Remember that the more signatures the Declaration gathers, the stronger will be the voices for clean water in Florida!
The Ichetucknee River and its associated springs cannot speak; those of us who care about them must speak for these natural wonders. Please read the new post that offers information about the minimum flows and levels (MFLs) process, the Alliance’s position on MFLs, and how you may participate in this process if you choose to do so.
Pipeline Route Changed
Good news! The proposed Florida Power & Light natural gas pipeline has been routed away from the Ichetucknee River. The Ichetucknee Alliance will continue to monitor this situation and will post announcements about it if needed.
Ichetucknee Alliance Endorses Florida Water & Land Legacy Campaign
At its meeting on July 20, the Alliance endorsed the Florida Water & Land Legacy campaign that is aiming to place the Florida Water & Land Conservation Amendment on the 2014 ballot. This constitutional amendment would provide dedicated funding for the purchase of sensitive environmental lands throughout Florida and is being supported by a wide spectrum of organizations throughout Florida.
To find out more, including how you can help to ensure this amendment makes it onto next year’s election ballot, see:
Minimum Flows and Levels Are Now Being Decided for the Ichetucknee River System
The Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD) is currently taking public comments about minimum flows and levels (MFLs) that will determine target water quantities for the Ichetucknee River and the lower Santa Fe River.
While MFLs are officially described as being a way to guarantee the health of our rivers, some people disagree with that description and argue that an ecosystem needs more than a “minimum” flow to maintain health.
Information about the MFL process is available on the SRWMD’s website at:
The district’s process for setting the MFLs is currently undergoing peer review by the Water Institute at the University of Florida.
The Ichetucknee Alliance has called for an MFL of 350 cubic feet per second (cfs) for the Ichetucknee River, which is the river’s historic average flow. You may read the Alliance’s letter to the SRWMD here:
If you care about the health of the Ichetucknee, we encourage you to educate yourselves and get involved with the MFL process. Please see “Public invited to comment on MFLs draft report” in the right-hand column on the district’s home page:
New Springs Watch Program
On May 29, 2013, members of the Alliance’s board of directors and others learned how to use instruments for the new Springs Watch program that will monitor water quality on the lower portion of the Ichetucknee River. See Current Projects for more information and photos!
Seed money for the Ichetucknee Alliance Springswatch project was provided by a grant from the Wildlife Foundation of Florida through their Tag Grant program; see: