Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Up A Lazy River - A look at one of our most precious resources

Got a chance yesterday to take a boat ride on the Silver River, the outflow of the famous Silver Springs in Florida.  Silver Springs was declared a world-class natural wonder by naturalist William Bartram, and became best known to most Americans as the place where all of the early Tarzan movies were filmed and of course, Lloyd Bridges' Sea Hunt television show.  It was a first magnitude spring, one of the largest on the North American Continent and certainly one of the largest on earth.  I say "was" because it is no longer.

Over the years, as Florida has swelled to an unsustainable population of 20 million people, the amount of water sucked out of the Floridan Aquifer has diminished the flow of all of our beautiful springs to about half of their historic flow rates.  The saddest thing about it is, that a little over half of all of the water used in Florida goes to irrigating farms, golf courses and suburban lawns.  The tons of pesticides and fertilizers used in those endeavors has now seeped into the aquifer and is showing up as choking algae in our springs and drinking water.

However, the springs (and our aquifer) are not beyond saving.  I, along with thousands of other like-minded Floridians, am currently in the fight to deny a consumptive use permit that would allow a daily withdrawal of 13 million gallons for a proposed 20,000 head cattle ranch, feed lot and slaughterhouse to be located within the watershed of Silver Springs.  To add salt to the wound, the cattle ranch is foreign-owned by a fat cat billionaire Canadian.  If allowed, this will certainly be the death knell of one the most precious natural resources in America.

Anyway, it's been many a year since I was on the Silver River so I jumped at the chance of joining my old friend Pat and her uncle Al for a look see.  As you can see, there is every reason on earth to fight this battle to the end.

We arrived on the river just after a rain and the mist still hung across the water.  The promised blue sky never arrived and the day was misty with occasional light rain adding mystery to an already haunting environment.
 
The river is smooth as glass only disturbed by the swift current of the now slightly cloudy, but still beautifully clear water.

Soaking up heat from an overcast sun.  The springs flow at a constant temperature of 70 degrees F which seems warm until you spend a little time in it.  In the winter the spring-fed rivers become a haven to the manatees who seek the warmth.

The heart and soul of Florida.  While the sunny beaches are the hot attraction, it's the swamps and marshes that pump life into the system.

Captain Al at the helm.  Behind him is the Silver Springs attraction and the famous glass-bottomed tour boats.  When I was a child, this spring was an aquarium filled with thousands of fish ranging from 50lb catfish to 15lb mullet, and bass and bream of every conceivable size and scope, and even the occasional manatee.  Today, thanks to a dam on the river built for the now defunct cross-Florida barge canal - another great Republican boondoggle - the migrating fish cannot swim upstream to the springs and the fish population has diminished by 90%.




We cannot allow the money-grubbers to steal our inheritance and destroy the beauty that feeds our bodies and souls.  To arms, to arms my friends!  Or, at least... to pen and keyboard!  Tell them we're mad as hell and we're not gonna take it anymore.

25 comments:

  1. I dream of visiting a place like this which is still beautiful even in its diminished capacity. I wish you the best in your fight to preserve this jewel.

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    1. I imagine there are lots of places like this in your area. I have often dreamed of taking a trip into the jungles of S.E. Asia.

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  2. A beautiful place that deserves to be protected. Wars over oil are passe. It will be fresh water we fight over now. Water wasted on lawns and golf courses should not be allowed.

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    1. Go to the St. Johns Riverkeeper site and sign the petition. http://www.stjohnsriverkeeper.org/

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  3. Beautiful pictures. Reminds me of a boat ride I took through the Louisiana bayous, near Houma, LA a long time ago. This is definitely something worth fighting for. That water belongs in the river, not on golf courses and people's lawns.

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  4. My sister-in-law goes canoeing on the Silver River quite frequently.

    I just recently heard about the fight against permitting the cattle ranch. Whom do you contact to voice your opposition?

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    1. Go here Peeper and there's a link to support Florida's waters http://www.stjohnsriverkeeper.org/

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  5. My knowledge of geography is really horrible, so I am embarrassed to say that I am not positive that I know where the Silver Springs and Silver River are specifically, but I have been in and around all of the canals around Leesburg, Mt. Dora, and Tavares (where my in-laws live) and was AMAZED at the beauty. I have some really great pictures from that area, but they were taken using real film, so they are not available on the computer!

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  6. It's in Ocala. You should visit sometime. And also Homasassa Springs just a little south of Crystal River. Beautiful.

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    1. It's like pissing in the wind but I'm working on it!

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    2. So is voting, but I do it anyway.

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  8. We cannot allow the money-grubbers to steal our inheritance and destroy the beauty that feeds our bodies and souls.

    In many ways the only thing more discouraging than rabid capitalists out to turn everything into a profit making scheme is the apathy shown by far too many people in this country.

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  9. Keep on fighting the good fight, Mr. C! Beautiful pics and sentiments. In my county it was recently considered an environmental "victory" that a huge tract of mountain land was sold to a developer who will turn it into a multi-use recreational ara (bring on the ATVs!) rather than to a clear-cutting lumber concern. As you might imagine, my celebratiion was less than enthusiastic.

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  10. You can fight and should,long and loud and use every means at your disposal but look to the one who has the final say and follow the money to their pocket. that information is your last and only real bullet, embarrass them to not allow the diminishing resource to be used for cattle, golf courses, Walt Disney whatever. Poeple and animals need habitat too not just money to make a profit.

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  11. gorgeous gorgeous; powerful and enduring and yet so fragile. i totally support your sentiments. and yet, conservation and stewardship of the land are more challenged than ever. as you say, one fights with all the weapons at one's disposal.

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  12. If we loose the beauty of this great garden we inherited then we have lost it all.

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  13. How infuriating when natural treasures like this are sacrificed in the short-sighted pursuit of monetary gain. You go get 'em, Mr. C, and make 'em do what's right.

    And thank you for you kind comment regarding my mother-in-law. I truly appreciate it.

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  14. Gorgeous, gorgeous photography (and that's how I make my living, so I know of what I speak, sir!)

    This looks similar to the Ishatucknee (sp?) I snorkled down just after high school a couple of times in the early '70's. Absolutely pristing water from a blue hole spring, full of huge turtles and leg-sized gar.

    I'm always amazed when people can look at something like this and casually write it off as the "progress of man", in the words of John Prine.

    I'll be back, love your site so far!!!

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    1. Thanks Squatlo, after seeing your beautiful photos I do consider that a real compliment. I've been a photographer for many years (USAF photographer) only haven't been paid for it for many a year. Yes, it's exactly like the Ichetucknee only much larger. It's one of those places where you can drop the camera and it goes off and you've got a shot.

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    2. Somehow I managed to spell "pristine" as "pristing"... glad you didn't write me off after that one.

      Jeez... I really should write comments BEFORE I start in on the adult beverages...

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    3. Since I write these things after several adult beverages I see no reason for commentators to be any different.

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  15. Magic pictures!!! Good luck with your battle!

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  16. Thanks Marja and thanks for stopping by.

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