Friday, March 3, 2017

Dunnellon rallies for threatened Rainbow River

Nearly 150 people rallied before a hearing at Dunnellon City Hall last week to protest a state plan to weaken protections for the Rainbow River, a north-central Florida treasure. The crowd waved signs such as "Over My Dead Body," against the plan to allow an additional 5% loss of water flow from the already suffering Outstanding Florida Waterway. 

At an outdoor pavilion near the protestDr. Robert Knight, President of the Florida Springs Institute, said Rainbow River has been stretched beyond its limit by over-pumping and nitrate pollution and cannot be further tapped. He critiqued the Southwest Florida Water Management District recent scientific draft Minimum Flow and Levels (MFLs) as insufficient.

Only 98 individuals were allowed seating for a panel discussion on the draft rule at City Hall. Fifty more people had to stand at the front door, straining to hear a presentation from a Southwest Florida Water Management District staffer.



Legislation dictates that the MFL for Rainbow River be approved at July 2017, but a critical peer review by University of Florida scientist Dr. Matthew Cohen, Geologist and environmental scientist Lee Wilson, Ph.D and retired USGS groundwater specialist Dann Yobbi said the document called for more guidance and study. It said the draft showed conflicting results and recommended capping future withdrawals until water quality issues are effectively addressed.
     
The flow rate on the Rainbow River has dropped 40% since 2000 despite the state recognizing this majestic 5.7 mile stretch as an Outstanding Florida Water (OFW), an Aquatic Preserve, and a Surface Water Improvement and Management (SWIM) priority. At the federal level, Rainbow Springs is a designated National Natural Landmark. And still, we learned at this meeting that the SWFWMD staff's recommendation allows 5% of the historical flow which on average amounts to 22 million more gallons per day extracted!
No new excessive water use permits are what the science really shows to a water body which is already in harm's way. 

The Southwest Florida Water Management District Governing Board is expected to vote on the proposed Rainbow River MFL on March 28, 2017. 

Location of meeting: SWFWMD Headquarters2379 Broad Street, Brooksville, FL 34604-6899. 

These meetings are open to the public.  

The final draft of the proposed Rainbow River MFL can be found here: 
http://www.swfwmd.state.fl.us/projects/mfl/mfl_reports.php 

Comments on the Rainbow River MFL can be made here:  
Doug Leeper, Chief Environmental Scientist, Minimum Flows and Levels Project Manager, 
Resource Evaluation Section
(352) 796-7211, ext. 4272 
or email: doug.leeper@watermatters.org 
please cc: Florida Springs Council, FloridaSpringsCouncil@gmail.com

Media coverge:

http://www.chronicleonline.com/content/rainbow-center-battle-over-flow
http://www.ocala.com/photogallery/LK/20170223/PHOTOGALLERY/223009988/PH/1
http://www.gainesville.com/news/20170223/protesters-seek-to-protect-rainbow-river

Check out our photo album:
https://www.facebook.com/pg/sierraclubfl/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1334431503246302

--- Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson, Organizing Representative, Sierra Club