As a physician, I am responsible for the care I render to my patients. As a citizen, I am responsible for the care of the state I live in.
The Editorial in the Orlando Sentinel today moved me to get off my butt, so-to-speak, and take some action. Apparently, our St. Johns Water Management District, all of whose members were appointed by Governor Scott, have concluded that Silver Springs is fine and dandy and that we can draw another billion gallons per day of it to provide a billionaire cattleman with free water for his ranch. Unless Floridians express their disapproval of this continual degradation of the natural resources that belong to all of us, it will not stop. The hypocrisy of claiming to support tourism in our state, while simultaneously destroying the very things that make Florida unique, is monumental. Below is the letter I am sending to all of my elected representatives. I would urge everyone who cares about our state to write or call your congressmen and senators and let them know we are holding them accountable.
I am writing to you to plead, beg, implore that you act now to save Florida’s springs. I do not have to list here the record of inaction, apathy, and gross mismanagement of one of our most precious natural resources- our coral reeds are another but I will save that for another time- the record on that is dismally clear as documented in the media.
An editorial in the Orlando Sentinel this morning was truly the tipping point. I find myself almost apoplectic with anger and frustration at what is happening to our springs. I have personally seen this over almost a lifetime in Florida, which I consider my home state even though I was not born here. I could not imagine living anywhere else.
When I was in high school, I drove with a friend from Miami to the Ocala National Forest in 1970. We had heard of a place called Alexander Springs which purportedly had crystal clear, drinkable water and sat in the middle of the forest. We took a small boat with us to explore this. What we found was magical. We put in at the boil, where the spring starts, and traveled several miles downstream. The spring was pristine with a sandy bottom, eel grass, myriads of fish, turtles, birds, and more. The shoreline looked like Florida must have a hundred plus years ago. We were enchanted. Today, Alexander Spring’s eel grass is coated with a thick layer of dark green/grey algae and much of it is dead. The water level is lower. If you dive the boil area, you will encounter countless large placos, a prehistoric looking algae eater that is an invasive species and has taken over this area. I you, like me, had the perspective of seeing what has happened to this spring over these 47 years, I believe that you, too, would cry over what we have done.
That the same situation pertains to Silver Springs and other springs in Florida is no surprise. The surprise would be if that were not the case. We cannot continue to draw water from our springs as though they were some infinite resource; they are not. The Sentinel editorial this morning said that the St. Johns River Water Management District, all of whom are appointees of Governor Rick Scott, voted to allow further reduction in the flow of Silver Springs. This will pave the way for approval of the request by Frank Stronach to pump as much as a billion gallons per day out of Silver Springs to water the pastures of his cattle ranch, at no cost to him. Mr. Stronach is a billionaire who could certainly afford to pay for irrigation of his own land as many others do. Regardless of whether he pays or not, the question is, can Silver Springs tolerate such a massive additional draw of water without accelerating its documented, progressive deterioration? I do not see where there has been any real, objective science injected into this conversation.
I ask you to reflect on what kind of a state we are going to leave to our children, their children, and generations beyond. Will it continue to be a place of enchantment and wonder with natural resources found nowhere else on earth or just another overdeveloped, overbuilt, overpaved mélange of housing developments, theme parks, hotels, strip malls, and parking lots? Where will our tourism industry be when Florida’s springs are gone for good, its beaches fouled to the point where they are a health hazard, and its coral reefs dead and bleached? Governor claims to support tourism while his actions are accelerating the destruction of what makes our state such a draw to visitors. The hypocrisy of this boggles the mind.
So, as a Floridian who loves this state, I ask you to please, please take a stand on this issue for the future of Florida. At the very least, make sure that decisions regarding our resources are made by people who see the long term and bring objective, reproducible science to their decisions rather short term partisan or financial biases. I have no doubt that you will find widespread support for any position that protects the Florida we know and love for future generations of both citizens and visitors.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. I really do not need a canned, pre-pared response to this letter. I took a good deal of time to write this and a form letter response would have little meaning. Just do your job of protecting our state from those who would seek, whether on purpose or through ignorance, to destroy what makes it unique and worth living in.
If we do not stand up and make our opinions known, we deserve whatever crappy state we end up with and we will owe future generations of Floridians an apology.