Keep Florida Flowing

This article is excerpted from Wave Makers News, our quarterly update on all things water in the Gulf of Mexico, check out the full newsletter here.Citizens at October 30th meeting on flows in the Chassahowitzka and Homosassa River systems.Florida’s Nature Coast is one of the last frontiers of beautiful, old Florida, and our free-flowing waters are central to its continued survival. Millions of gallons of water flow through the limestone layers beneath our feet, supporting human needs for drinking water and recreation. Its wetlands, rivers, and coastal ecosystems nurture juvenile fish, manatees, osprey, eagles, turtles, and many other species that call the Gulf of Mexico home. The Nature Coast is not only an ecological treasure; it’s the front line in the fight to protect the Gulf Coast of Florida.Over the next two years, regional and state agencies may decide to reduce water levels in springs, rivers and streams. Lower water levels will have a major impact on the future of the Nature Coast and Florida’s environment. The Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) and Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) will play a leading role in the statewide effort to “codify” legislative initiatives that will reduce environmental protections and expedite development at the expense of the natural resources of the Nature Coast.To fight this threat Gulf Restoration Network is organizing the Springs Coast Task Force, a ground force of concerned citizens and organizations to speak out at meetings and public events throughout the region and put pressure on policymakers to protect and restore Florida’s waters. Working in coalition with the Nature Coast Coalition and Sierra Club, as well as other organizations and citizens’ groups, we’ll be fighting to ensure that Florida’s free-flowing waters are protected.In particular, the Springs Coast Task Force will be advocating that minimum flows and levels (MFLs) in our rivers and streams are not set below current levels, and for the implementation of prevention and restoration strategies for key springsheds and river systems.On October 30th, the SWFWMD Governing Board met to hear recommendations to set MFLs for the Chassahowitzka and Homosassa River systems in Citrus County. The proposal would have allowed flow reductions of up to 9% in the Chassahowitzka and up to 3% in the Homosassa, based on a 2005 baseline. This calculation fails to accurately account for the major degradation from drought, overpumping, and nitrogen and phosphorus pollution that took place prior to 2005.Facing public calls to save these river systems, the District Governing Board limited the degradation of these waterways to 3% of the 2005 baseline, and voted to create a Water Use Caution Area (WUCA) for Citrus and Hernando counties. WUCAs impose restrictions on water users and permit applicants to prevent or remedy water and other related impacts. This was only a partial victory, but we will continue to push SWFWMD and FDEP to maintain and restore the flows needed to sustain the Nature Coast. For more information or to join the Florida Flow campaign, please contact me at or 727-415-8805. Florida’s Nature Coast is simply too important to Florida – and to the entire Gulf of Mexico – to let this threat go unanswered.Cathy Harrelson is GRN’s Florida Organizer.

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