The Poor Old Ocklawaha, by Whitey Markle

The Florida Constitution says, ” It shall be the policy of the state to conserve and protect its natural resources and scenic beauty. Adequate provision shall be made by law for the abatement of air and water pollution and of excessive and unnecessary noise and for the conservation and protection of natural resources.” (Art. II, Sec. 7)

For a quick visual look at a couple of environmental water-related problems in North Florida, click on the following links.

  1. Whitey Markle Flyover Photos of Orange Lake
  2. Putnam County Environmental Council (Karen Chadwick) Flyover Photos of Adena Springs Ranch

It is probably not an understatement to say that water is the number one environmental issue for the Suwannee St Johns Group (SSJ) of the Sierra Club.  Even before the Florida Chapter of the Sierra Club was formed, the Cross Florida Barge Canal and Rodman Dam were contentious issues.  For a complete account of this continuing battle that has been going on for the past century, read the book “Ditch of Dreams:  The Cross Florida Barge Canal and the Struggle for Florida’s Future (Florida History and Culture),” by Steven Noll and David Tegeder.  (For an extensive on-line histories of the project , consult Ditch of Dreams and The Bob Graham Center’s webpage.  Working as a team Noll and Tegeder gave an excellent program at the January 2012 SSJ general meeting.  The purported goal of this project was to shorten the shipping routes from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean to save money and reduce the vulnerability of American vessels in a time of war.  Pushed by FDR in the 1930’s as a make work project, it was stopped in 1938 by a Michigan Republican, Senator Arthur H. Vandenberg.  The reasons given were that it was an unnecessary boondoggle.  Even at that time concerns were raised that salt water intrusion would become a serious problem for local water supplies.  Lyndon Baines Johnson resurrected a modified version of the project in the early 1960’s.  In February 1964 LBJ traveledd to Palatka to set off a dynamite charge to get things underway.  When Noll and Tegeder showed videos of this event in their SSJ presentation, Whitey Markle remarked that he and every other kid living in the area had been let out of school to enjoy the excitement.  Marjorie Harris Carr formed the Florida Defenders of the Environment (FDE) in 1969 to put an end to this nonsense.  While President Richard M. Nixon stopped the project in 1971, the battle continues because Rodman Dam still blocks the flow of the Ocklawaha River into the St Johns River (and thus the Atlantic Ocean).  With the Ocklawaha blocked many species of fish (e.g. mullet) no longer visit the Ocklawaha and Silver Rivers.  In addition to FDE many other environmental organizations have been formed to restore the Ocklawaha including the St Johns Riverkeeper and the Putnam County Environmental Council.  For an excellent discussion of the Ocklawaha taken during the drawdown of Rodman Dam in March 2012, check out Karen Ahlers excellent video Rodman Dam Drawdown.  In his July 2012 op-ed piece, “Free the Ocklawaha,” Whitey Markle provides an excellent summary of the economic, environmental, and legal reasons why Rodman Dam should be removed.  In short, the Cross Florida Barge Canal issue lingers.

Journalist Cynthia Barnett has written two books on water issues.  The first, Mirage, recounts the history of water in Florida and the United States over the past 200 years.  In the second, Blue Revolution, Ms Barnett puts forth a new water ethic, where water is not taken as free, but as something to be valued.  Ms Barnett gave an outstanding presentation at SSJ’s September 2012 general meeting.

In 2001 the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) undertook a detailed and exhaustive study of every spring in the state.  Both a qualitative and quantitative evaluation of the springs were provided.  In addition to general information (such as a map indicating the location of the spring, the dimensions, and the presence of exotic plants), the study also provided measurements of nitrogen, phosphates, ammonia, ecoli, and turbidity.  A summary of their results can be found in their document, “Springs of Florida” or Springs of Florida-pdf Version.

Unfortunately, the combination of the 1998-2012 drought and over pumping by residential, commercial, and agricultural users has led to a degradation of many if not most of the once pristine springs of North Central Florida.  Water that was once clear, has now become clouded with algae and choked with exotic weeds (e.g. hydrilla).  Dr. Bob Knight, PhD, Director of the H. T. Odum Florida Springs Institute, has been instrumental in the effort to save the springs.  While he has been actively involved in preserving all the springs, he has been particularly focused on the threat that the Adena Springs Ranch poses for Silver River.  To gain a quick insight into the massive size of the project, consider that the dimensions of the Adena property are 4 miles by 8 miles encompassing 30,000 acres.  Many of these properties were purchased by Sleepy Creek Lands LLC.  Recently, this outfit purchased $11,346,600.00 worth of property.  You can check these purchases by going to the Putnam County website and entering Instrument Number 201254753044.

On June 23, 2012 the Florida Conservation Coalition held a massive rally at Silver River State Park.   Bob Graham and John Moran gave speeches that roused the 1700 people in attendance.  For newspaper articles on the Adena Ranch Project, check out the articles

  1. The Land of Stronach-Ocala Star Banner Article-February 4, 2012
  2. Water War Pits Silver Spring Against Cattle–Orlando Sentinel, June 19, 2012
  3. NYT Article on the Silver River–Jun 22, 2012
  4. Silver River Rally on June 23, 2012
  5. Op-Ed by Dr Robert Knight–July 28, 2012
  6. A North Florida Water War-Dr Robert Knight letter to the Cedar Key News-July 2012
  7. Op-Ed in Ocala Star Banner, by Dr. Robert Knight August 19, 2012
  8. Adena Springs First Public Hearing, August 16, 2012
  9. Ocala Star Banner Editorial, August 22, 2012
  10. Adena Springs to Slash Request by 60%, Gainesville Sun, August 22, 2012
  11. What is missing in Adena Springs’ science?–oped by Karen Chadwick, Ocala Star Banner, September 23, 2012
  12. Eyes on Adena over water request controversy, October 9, 2012
  13. Of Pollution and Pumping–Brad Rogers, Ocala Star Banner, October 20, 2012 
  14. Taking Ownership, an editorial by Brad Rogers-November 24, 2012
  15. A Plan to Save the Silver Springs–Editorial in the Ocala Star Banner, November 28, 2012
  16. Beneath Our Feet, Editorial in the Ocala Star Banner, December 23, 2012
  17. Restoring Silver Springs:  Its a Regional Challenge, op-ed by Bob Knight, December 30, 2012

For a compendium of FDEP documents on Totally maximum daily loads, check the website FDEP TMDL Documents.  For BMAP documents check the website FDEP BMAP Documents.  For TMDLs associated specifically with Silver Springs, check out FDEP Nutrient TMDL for Silver Springs-July 6,2012.  For a workshop on Total Maximum Daily Limits, check the website Silvers Springs TMDL Workshop, July 31, 2012.

For articles on the general issue of grass fed beef, check out the articles

  1. The Myth of Sustainable Meat
  2. Grass-Fed Beef Won’t Save the Planet
  3. “Where’s the Beef?”, August 3, 2012

For articles on the general issue of permitting, check out the articles

  1. 2011 Florida Statutes conditions for a granting a water permit
  2. St Johns River Water Management Permit Update-April 4, 2012
  3. Extension on Permit Application, November 26, 2012



Boulware Springs is located at the head of the Hawthorne Trail near the north rim of Paynes Prairie.  This once pristine spring was a key reason the University of Florida moved to Gainesville in 1906.  It doesn’t take a PhD in hydrology to recognize that it is a mess.  Algae and slime dominate the concrete enclosure that contains the water.  At the moment Gainesville Regional Utilities (GRU) is in charge of maintaining its water quality.  At the link you will find the following embarrassing statement.

GRU restored these springs, which once supplied the city’s drinking water.  The park is designated as an American Water Landmark and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


The Levy County Property Appraisers website indicates lands owned by Sleepy Creek (Mailing Address C/O MAGNA ENTERTAINMENT CORP ONTARIO L4G 048).  The records indicate 17,752.9 acres are owned by Sleepy Creek which is just one of several corporations associated with Stronach.


According to property records in Putnam County, he has purchased most of the land  surrounding Star Lake near Hawthorne.

  1. DEP Wetlands Connection with Lobbyist-Tampa Times, August 6, 2012
  2. Hundreds turn out to argue limits on Chassahowitzka and Homosassa rivers
  3. Compromise on minimum flows
  4. FDEP Sets restoration Goals and Funding for Kings Bay and Silver Springs
  5. Florida Administrative Register and Code
  6. Florida’s Vanishing Springs–Tampa Bay Times

For a collection of photos and commentary taken from the boat dock at Heagy Burry Park on the West side of Orange Lake during the Spring, Summer, and Fall of  2012, check out the site Orange Lake-Heagy Burry Park2012.  For a commentary on North Central Florida’s disappearing waters, check out the website Florida’s Disappearing Waters-Matt Dube-June 2012.


  1. Florida DEP Final Order 2002
  2. Valuing Florida’s Clean Waters, by Elizabeth A. Stanton and Matthew Taylor, Stockholm Environment Institute – U.S. Center–November 13, 2012
  3. EPA Ruling on Florida’s Water-November 30, 2012
  4. EPA Adopts Tough Water Standards for Florida–November 30, 2012
  5. Floridan Aquifer Recharge Option Eyed, Lake City Reporter, December 25, 2012
  6. Districts eye ways to pump water back into aquifer, Gainesville Sun, December 24, 2012
  7. Marion County Wins Enviro Award, Ocala Star Banner, December 28, 2012
  8. Ignoring the real water problem, Ocala Star Banner, December 31, 2012
  9. Editorial: Beneath our feet, Ocala Star Banner, December 26, 2012
  10. NPR Interview with Bob Knight

INTERNATIONAL WATER ISSUES For those who would like to be well-informed on national and international aspects of water issues, check out the following articles.


1.  North America

2.  South America

3.  Mideast Water Issues

4.  Asia

5.  Africa