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See for yourself what’s happening to Florida springs — now

Thu, Aug 2, 2012

Advocacy, Pollution

Two Florida photographers, John Moran and Alan Youngblood, say they have seen the harm being done to Florida’s springs — and it is real.

The rest of us can’t wait any longer to see for ourselves and decide whether to speak out.

Moran, a former Gainesville Sun photographer, spoke on June 23 at a workshop at Silver River State Park.

From the bow of a kayak brown algae can be seen covering aquatic grass in the Ichetucknee River in 2010.

He recalled how his tears of joy at seeing Ichetucknee Springs have been replaced by tears of anger and confusion. Algae has begun choking out the eel grass in the once clear flowing river.

“I don’t claim to be an expert, but I do make a living as an artist who sees, deeply,” he said. “And from where I stand what I see is that the mightiest river in Florida is now the river of denial that runs through Tallahassee.”

More recently, Youngblood, the Ocala Star Banner photo editor, had to remove his eyeshades to see the problem at his local Silver Springs.

He was married in 1991 on a big rock at the bottom of the spring while family members watched above from a glass bottom boat.

The newspaper had published many photographs over the years of the beautiful springs, many taken by Youngblood. But he said those old photos needed to be updated to match the words he was hearing.

On a trip last week down into the water, he found slick green slime and eel grass encrusted in a brown algae.

“As a journalist, I’m a born skeptic. I take nothing at face value,” Younblood wrote on July 29. “I believe nothing people tell me without facts and a couple more sources to back it up.”

At the Silver River workshop, “I was hoping I could dismiss the speakers as environmental extremists, the people at the tables as do-gooders with too much time on their hands. Personally, I didn’t want them to be right about the peril the Silver River is in.

“They aren’t extremists. They are right.”

This problem didn’t arise overnight. And the refusal to believe that it is real — especially by a fellow journalist — is troubling.

For more than a decade scientists have been warning about the threat to Florida’s springs from nitrogen in groundwater from a variety of sources.

Gov. Jeb Bush in 1999 paddled down the Ichetucknee River with state biologist Jim Stevenson and launched DEP’s springs initiative the next year.

Environmentalists have debated farm owners and sewage treatment plant operators about whether enough was being done. Others have said that we’re all to blame and we all must take responsibility.

Participants at a springs rally outside the Capitol in February 2010 hold a sign reading, "Protection, not procrastination."

In February 2010, Florida Department of Environmental Protection division director Jerry Brooks stood before a Senate committee and warned that Florida’s springs are in trouble. Moran and others spoke at a springs rally outside the state Capitol, urging the Legislature to save our springs.

Later that year the Legislature passed SB 550, dubbed a springs protection bill that was supported by environmental groups and builders alike.

Last year, the Legislature removed a statewide septic tanks inspection requirement in SB 550 at the behest of tea party activists.

Our springs can’t wait until every elected official, every newspaper editor or every Florida resident is personally affected and takes action.

Read the news, get whatever information you feel is necessary. Once you take a stand, follow up on what is happening. Or don’t take a stand — it’s up to you.

But just don’t wait to be personally convinced that the harm is real.

Our springs don’t have the time.

(Story and photos copyrighted by Bruce Ritchie and Floridaenvironments.com. Do not copy, forward or reproduce without permission, which can be obtained from bruceBritchie@gmail.com .)

One Response to “See for yourself what’s happening to Florida springs — now”

  1. Really interesting take to look at this through the eyes of these two photographers, Bruce, and to understand the blinders journalists can wear, even someone who got married on that rock.