Update on Adena Springs Ranch Battle

Adena Springs Ranch slaughter house. Photo courtesy of Putnam County Environmental Council.

Adena Springs Ranch slaughter house. Photo courtesy of Putnam County Environmental Council.

by Karen Ahlers

Close scrutiny by citizen activists is making a big difference in the Adena Springs Ranch consumptive use permit application process. Citizens, backed by a team of attorneys and professional scientists, are pleased that the St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD) has issued a third Request for Additional Information (RAI) to better understand potential impacts to Silver Springs and the Ocklawaha River from Adena’s proposed 5.3 million gallon per day (MGD) average withdrawal.

“The real impacts to Silver Springs will come at the worst possible time during dry periods when irrigation is most needed,” said Water Action Team (WAT) hydrogeologist Dr. Todd Kincaid. “What we should be focused on is the maximum daily withdrawal, based on Adena consultant reports, of 24.8 MGD.” Kincaid notes that on Table #1 in Adena’s CUP application dated April 15, 2013 that 49.3 MGD is needed for the project. This raises concern that Adena will request a modification to increase the  permitted amount to make the project economically feasible.

The Adena application has been reduced from an original request for 13.26 to 5.3 MGD.

The SJRWMD’s issuance of three RAIs is significant in these days of streamlined permitting for agricultural permits and is indicative of WAT’s positive impact. Adena is now preparing an application for an Environmental Resource Permit (ERP) to address contamination from surface water runoff that flows through the Oklawaha Aquatic Preserve to the Ocklawaha River, an officially designated Outstanding Florida Water. SJRWMD staff have assured WAT attorney John R. Thomas that no CUP will be issued until the Environmental Resource Permit is processed.

WAT’s simultaneous participation in SJRWMD’s development of Minimum Flows and Levels (MFL) for Silver Springs and DEP’s development of a Basin Management Action Plan (BMAP) ties in closely with their review of the Adena project. MFLs are set to prevent significant harm from occurring to natural systems from over consumption and BMAPs are to address high levels of nutrients at the springs. WAT believes Adena’s impacts to water quality at Silver Springs must be considered in the BMAP.

Documents submitted by Adena estimate a reduction in flow at Silver Springs in the range of 1.6 MGD to 3.1 MGD. WAT experts note that this range exceeds the amount of water SJRWMD has identified as available in the latest MFL draft, scheduled for adoption later this year. Adena has not done a full accounting of where the requested 5.3 MGD will come from.

WAT works throughout the permitting process with an eye toward defending their position in court if necessary. A more rigorous review of the Adena permit than many thought possible is being done by SJRWMD. WAT believes the original permit for 13.2 MGD would have been granted in April 2012 if their professional, independent review had not come to bear.

Adena has until Sept. 16, 2013, to respond to the third RAI letter or to request an extension to the response time frame. When the application is considered complete, District staff will determine if the requested allocation of water meets District permitting criteria.

Prior to the permit application being received, District staff met with the applicant to discuss their plans. The applicant originally discussed applying for a permit to withdraw 27 MGD, but that amount was reduced to 13.267 MGD after meeting with District staff. The application currently under review is for 5.3 MGD for agricultural and livestock uses. The responses that the District received to its RAIs on Dec. 14, 2012, and April 18, 2013, are available in the “RAIs” section of the permit application web page here https://permitting.sjrwmd.com.

Tax deductible donations to the Water Protection Fund at Southern Legal Counsel, Inc., a non-profit public interest law firm, are used to support WAT’s science and legal teams. Contributions can be made at www.southernlegal.org or mailed to SLC/WPF, 1229 NW 13th Avenue, Gainesville, FL 32601.For more information contact Karen Ahlers at ahlers.karen@gmail.com or call 352-546-3560. Visit www.wateractionteam.org.

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