Updated, Tuesday 10:03 a.m.: Adena Springs Ranch’s third Request for the Additional Information Letter (RAI) has been extended to Dec. 11.
Hank Largen, spokesperson for the St. John’s River Water Management District, said his staff still needs more information to decide whether to approve the consumptive use permit. The district wants Adena Springs to conduct tests to explore what changes withdrawing water would have on the environment.
He said the ranch is currently requesting for 5.3 million gallons of water a day, less than their previous request of 13 million gallons of water a day.
Original story: The Adena Springs Ranch in Marion County faced a deadline Monday in its efforts to obtain a consumptive use permit from the St. John’s River Water Management District.
The ranch’s owners must respond to its third Request for Additional Information Letter (RAI) from the St. John’s River Water Management District. District spokesman Hank Largen said he expects Adena Springs to respond because Adena staff have been in communication with his staff.
“Our staff is working with them, we’re in contact with them. They’re asking questions on what information we need so they’re either going to supply the requested information or they’re going to request an extension on the time frame,” Largen said.
It has been nearly two years since Adena Springs Ranch requested a consumptive use permit for an allocation of more than 13 million gallons of water per day for its cattle grazing operation. In that time, there have been many conflicting opinions from Marion County residents on the permit request.
The water management district has received nearly 6,000 pieces of correspondence from both sides in regard to the permit.
Bob Knight, director of the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute, Bob Knight, opposes the permit.
“I do not think it’s a wise thing for Marion County to support because it basically competes with Marion County’s ability to get water in the future, or development, and it makes Silver Springs even sicker than it is already,” said Knight.
According to Knight, Adena Ranch threatens Silver Springs in two ways: water flow reduction and an increase in nitrates caused by Adena clearing trees on their land.
While some are concerned about the negative environmental effects of the Adena Springs proposal, others like state Rep. Dennis Baxley (R-District 23) think there is a happy medium that can be reached.
“I think there’s a healthy balance of discussion about protecting our resources, our natural resources and being good managers of that,” Baxley said. “And at the same time understanding here’s a man that has invested in 25,000 acres and wants to do something, I would rather have grazing cattle than another huge subdivision.”
Meanwhile, Knight said he’s worried Adena Springs may get a permit because the district is feeling pressured.
“I think they’re between a rock and a hard place on this, and it’s going to be politically very difficult not to issue a permit. So, I’m not optimistic that a permit won’t be issued. I hope it will be a very small quantity of water and I would really like to see it offset by groundwater reductions elsewhere,” he said.
If the Adena Springs staff provides all the information requested, Largen said his staff will begin the process of finalizing the application and making a decision. But Adena Springs still has the option of asking for an extension to its RAI letter. The last extension gave the company 120 days.
Adena staff did not respond to WUFT’s multiple requests for comment.
Full Interviews with Dennis Baxley and Bob Knight
WUFT’s Donna Green-Townsend talked with both Republican State Representative Dennis Baxley from Ocala and the Director of the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute, Bob Knight about both sides of the controversial cattle operation.
Representative Baxley says he believes Frank Stronach is a good environmental steward. He also says a cattle ranch would be a better use of the property than another large retirement community like “Top of the World.”
Knight said he doesn’t feel Adena Springs Ranch needs the water when it could be utilizing other conservation measures by storing rainfall and other techniques. He said the aquifer has not recovered from over pumping that has already occurred from a wide variety of industries, including agricultural use. He’s worried the St. John’s River Water Management District will feel pressured to give a consumptive use permit to the Adena Springs Ranch because Stronach has spent a lot of money in the community.