In the most divisive controversy in years over aquifer waters, Florida authorities have reversed their previous opposition to an irrigation permit sought for a cattle operation near the ailing Silver Springs.
The irrigation permit was scheduled for a final vote of approval Tuesday, but a coalition of environmental groups filed legal action Monday, meaning the matter will go to a state hearing judge for further action.
“They are allowing politics to drive the science,” said Lisa Rinaman, who heads St. Johns Riverkeeper, one of the groups staunchly opposed to increased pumping from the Floridan Aquifer by Sleepy Creek Lands ranch in Marion County.
In 2014, the St. Johns River Water Management District said an irrigation permit sought by Sleepy Creek to pump 1.1 million gallons a day from the aquifer would harm “the ecology of Silver Springs and the Silver River.”
Near Ocala, the springs is one Florida’s original tourist attractions and is now a state park.
But recently revamped analysis, according to the district, shows that Sleepy Creek can temporarily boost pumping by 1.2 million gallons a day, which would be in addition to other water rights the ranch holds.
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