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Suwannee, Florida Weather Forecast
Cloudy, 63 F|
Sat - Cloudy. High: 67 Low: 57
Sun - AM Clouds/PM Sun. High: 69 Low: 59
Mon - Sunny. High: 72 Low: 63
Tue - Mostly Sunny. High: 71 Low: 65
Wed - Partly Cloudy. High: 72 Low: 64
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| Research raises red flags on lower Santa Fe River|
In May 2012, area residents surveyed the High Springs boat ramp at Santa Fe River, only to find much of the river was gone. The river rebounded weeks later, but the Suwannee River Water Management District remains concerned about its outlook.
ALACHUA – Ann Shortelle, executive director of the Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD), presented to the Alachua City Commission new scientific findings on Monday.
The presentation was based on the minimum flows and levels of the lower Santa Fe River and its priority spring as well as the Ichetucknee River and its priority springs.
Minimum flows and levels are the amount of water withdrawn without causing significant harm to the water sources, Shortelle said.
The SRWMD looks at environmental values to measure the flow, levels and any significant harm for each of the water bodies. For the Ichetucknee River and springs, it looks at recreation. For the lower Santa Fe River and springs, it looks at fish and wildlife habitats and passage of fish, said Steve Minnis, director of governmental affairs and communications for SRWMD.
Red flags rose in the lower Santa Fe River and springs when there was too much ground water withdrawn.
Ground water crosses through boundaries, so withdrawals in one district can and may affect the water body in another district, Minnis said.
This begins the recovery process.
Due to significant harm that was caused, the SRWMD has asked the North Florida Regional Water Supply Partnership Stakeholders Advisory Committee for input and has peer review meetings.
The Ichetucknee River and springs are under a prevention period. If nothing is resolved, then those water bodies will be in recovery as well.
The next committee meeting is Aug. 19 at 1 p.m. in the Wilson S. Rivers Library and Media Center, Building 200, Room 102 at Florida Gateway College in Lake City.
The committee meets once a month.
It is the primary place where they work on recovery and prevention, Shortelle said.
The upcoming peer review meeting dates are in the process of being set. People who wish to participate can sign up with “Notify Me” on the website for updates.
“Recovery strategies for lower Santa Fe River and priority springs will also benefit the prevention strategies for the Ichetucknee River and priority springs,” Minnis said.
The water management district will set the minimum flow and levels on the springs. They already have done so for the rivers.
SRWMD has asked the University of Florida Water Institute to review its science.
Shortelle described three main tools used in the plan.
The first is water conservation. It is the least cost alternative to recover or prevent significant harm to the river and springs.
Use less water.
“Every drop counts,” Shortelle said.
The second is regulatory tools. Strategies have not yet been developed. That will be part of the process from the public input meetings.
The same goes for the third—projects. The water management district and committees will be evaluating different projects. They are looking at traditional ways of getting more water into the system.
“It’s all of our jobs,” Shortelle said.
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alachuatoday.comAugust 08 2013
- Source: http://www.alachuatoday.com/news-featured/latest/3144-research-raises-red-flags-on-lower-santa-fe-river
| World-famous adventurer still remembered three years after death|
Wes Skiles is remembered by many for his pioneering work in underwater photography and filmmaking as well as environmenetal concerns.
HIGH SPRINGS – Underwater caves and passages were his second home.
Born in 1958, Florida native Wesley C. Skiles, better known as Wes, would be described by his friends and family as an explorer, an educator and a skilled storyteller whose passion was cave diving and learning about Florida's waterways. Sunday marks the third anniversary of his death while cave diving, but the legacy of the former High Springs resident is maintained by the people who knew him.
Wes was well known for his cave diving adventures and exploring Florida’s springs.
“It was like his church,' said his wife, Terri Skiles.
Terri met Wes around 1980, when she was working a part-time job at a store and sold him a camera. They were married in 1981, and had two children, Nathan, 26, and Tessa, 20.
Wes was a pioneer in his photography techniques, said friend and water conservationist, Mark Long,
'He was the first photographer to get really good pictures in underwater caves,' he said.
Wes' lighting techniques in particular brought vibrancy to his photographs of submerged caverns, Long said. 'The cave pictures of old were kind of dull. He brought them to life.'
He got into photography to show the world the size and clarity of what he saw regularly, Terri said.
'People didn't believe them when he told them how big these underground cave systems were,' she said. 'He loved to show what he had learned by picture taking or filmmaking,'
Wes also used his photos as proof that there were issues with the water.
'He was one of the first people to recognize problems with the springs. To prove what he was talking about, he started taking pictures,' Terri said. Wes started taking water samples and talking to state officials about pollution in the 1980s. He used his skills as a diver to advance aquatic research.
By the end of his life, Wes Skiles had received awards and accolades for his photography. National Geographic featured him several times, in addition to naming him 'Explorer of the Year' in 2011, the year after his death. Wes participated in a National Geographic expedition to Antarctica, where he was the first human to set foot on Iceberg B-15, the largest recorded iceberg in the world.
In 2004, the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences awarded him the Regional Emmy award for his work directing the documentary “Water's Journey,” which tracked the path of water through Florida's aquifer, rivers and springs.
By the age of 16, Wes had drawn maps of the Florida aquifer, the network of underground waterways running beneath the state.
'I have those maps to this day,' said Terri Skiles.
With only a high school diploma, he taught himself everything he could about the watershed systems in North Florida.
'He was always learning,' Terri said. “He loved to share what he knew from experience.”
Wes was passionate about the environment, but he wouldn't call himself an environmentalist, she said. 'He would call himself a conservationist.'
Ross Ambrose, from High Springs, worked with Wes on the 'Water's Journey' documentary as a producer.
'I think he was one of Florida's most passionate advocates for protecting and understanding our springs,' he said. 'Wes' education efforts were very encompassing.'
Wes' friend, Mark Long, was involved with the documentary as well, acting as a model in front of the camera.
'It was a way to make people care about their water, how valuable it is, and how to protect it,' Long said. 'He had incredible knowledge on what's going underground with our water. By the end of his life, he was lecturing people with Ph.D.s on this stuff.'
Wes recognized how everyone contributes to a problem without making them feel guilty, Ambrose said. 'Very few people aren't part of the problem, you can't look at things in black and white and good and bad,' he said. Ambrose remembered several people talking to Wes about concrete plants polluting the Suwannee River.
'He looked back at the people and said 'didn't you just build a house?''
Wes encouraged people to find solutions, rather than to focus on the blame, he said.
Through his cave diving experience, Wes noticed pollution, algae blooms and problems with water levels. He started giving presentations at schools in the late 1980s, and by the accounts of people who knew him, he could talk to children, professors and government officials alike.
'He was a great communicator; he could talk to anybody,' said Long.
'He was a crusader,' said friend Jim Woods, owner of the Santa Fe Canoe Outpost in High Springs. 'Early on, he saw the problems that we are now experiencing.'
Although he had an impact in raising awareness for aquatic issues, his friends and family also remember him for his personality.
'He always wanted to be a kid,' Terri said.
'He could have a business meeting planned, but if the surfing conditions were good in Jacksonville, he would go surfing,' Ambrose said. 'He very much believed in taking advantage of opportunities. You could have a business meeting anytime. You couldn't always go surfing.'
'I've never once seen the guy in a bad mood,' Woods said. 'He always had a smile on his face.'
Wes Skiles died June 21, 2010, while diving off the coast of Boynton Beach. His friends found his body at the bottom of a reef.
Despite being a scientist, adventurer, photographer and environmental advocate, his wife considers his family to be his biggest achievement. The couple went diving together many times over the course of their marriage that lasted nearly 30 years.
'He just gave me the best life I could have,' she said.
'He made it an adventure for me.'
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Alachuatoday.comJuly 24 2013
- Source: http://www.alachuatoday.com/news-featured/latest/3128-world-famous-adventurer-still-remembered-three-years-after-death
| 74th Cattlemen’s Banquet |
L-R: Judy Riviere, Marion C. “Bud” Riviere, Grace Larson, Woody Larson, Don James, Gib Coerper, Carol Yoho and Congressman Ted Yoho.
ALACHUA – It was another fun filled evening of laughter, good food and music at the 74th Annual Alachua Lions Club Cattlemen’s Banquet on March 28.
The locally renowned banquet is held each year at the Alachua Woman’s Club. Opening the banquet and welcoming guests was Alachua Lions Club President Don James, who then handed off the evening’s agenda to Master of Ceremonies Bud Riviere an Alachua native.
Before presenting the Cattleman’s award, longtime Alachua resident Ralph Cellon used his time at the podium to give a good ribbing to the dozens of politicians in attendance, bringing the room filled with hundreds of people to roaring and constant laughter. As a lifelong resident of Alachua and former City of Alachua mayor and Alachua County commissioner, among numerous other posts, Cellon offered rousing commentary on a seemingly endless line of people. Nevertheless, each person took Cellon’s classic deadpan comedic style in stride.
Even Woody Larson, the 2013 Cattleman of the Year award recipient, was not spared from Cellon’s barbs. Larson resides in Okochobee, Fla. and is the current president of the Florida Cattlemen’s Association.
Keynote Speaker U.S. Congressman Ted Yoho also shared a few humorous stories with the audience as he detailed his experiences since being recently elected to the United States House of Representatives. A longtime resident of Gainesville, Yoho is a large animal veterinarian and now as a congressman represents the 3rd Congressional District, which includes portions of Alachua, Union, Gilchrist, Bradford, Marion, Clay, Suwannee, Dixie, Lafayette, Columbia, Levy, Madison and Hamilton counties.
Providing musical entertainment during dinner was Zack Emerson, Patrick Oberlin and Jessie Curtis, who played an array of musical pieces in jazz style. Also providing entertainment was Gussie Lee.
In keeping with tradition, the Santa Fe High School Chapter of FFA was on hand to serve up the choice aged controlled steaks, baked potatoes and dessert.
The Cattlemen’s Banquet is the Alachua Lions Club’s largest fundraiser of the year, and all profits from the banquet support charitable sight, hearing, youth and community service activities.
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alachuatoday.comApril 11 2013
- Source: http://www.alachuatoday.com/news-featured/latest/2974-74th-cattlemen-s-banquet
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| Business of the springs: Impacts of eco-tourism|
MARK LONG/Photo special to Alachua County Today
Families gather at Ginnie Springs near High Springs for some relaxation in the water. Researchers looked at the economic impact of several public and private springs to measure how much money they bring into the area.
ALACHUA COUNTY – Every summer for seven years, she would drive her daughters from Clearwater to High Springs.
It was the 90s, and Camp Kulaqua in High Springs was a beautiful place for Barbara Ferguson and her kids to spend their summer.
She recalls that there used to be docks all the way around, rope swings, and a huge inner tube fit for two people in the spring. There was even a diving board.
“The kids used to jump off the diving board and onto the tube, catapulting the other person off the other side,” she said.
The camp was surrounded by the Hornsby Springs, one of the gorgeous local flowing springs.
“I was the parent in the springs,” she said.
In the last 10 years, Ferguson said that one day the spring just stopped flowing. Camp Kulaqua is now a camp without a spring.
“It broke my heart,” said Ferguson, who is a board member of the environmental group Save Our Suwannee.
The springs were one of the reasons Ferguson left her home in Clearwater to move to Gainesville.
“I fell in love with the springs. We would go camping. It was beautiful.”
Now, Ferguson only has one word to describe Hornsby Springs.
One word, repeated three times.
“Gone, gone, gone.”
Over the last 50 years, the increase of water permits given by legislatures to industries and farmers has resulted in the ground levels to drop at least 40 feet, which continues to reduce the flow of water into the springs, Ferguson said. We cannot continue on the course we are on, unless we don’t want to have any springs, she added.
“Subsidies need to be used more wisely, to plant the right crops in the right places,” she said.
Ferguson said the water policy has always been in favor of developmental agriculture, which has been bad for the springs.
But, now, “it’s been bad on steroids,” she said. “The water is barely flowing, it is wimping along. There is not enough water, so there is little ground pressure underground to push through to the springs,” she said.
If the region loses its springs, the property values of homes will go down, because many people move here to be close to them
“The problem with most of our springs is over-withdrawal from the aquifers that feed them, lack of rainfall and increasing pollution from fertilizers and wastewater treatment plants,” said Annette Long, president of Save Our Suwannee.
That is why Ferguson got involved with Save Our Suwannee, a non-profit organization aiming to help raise awareness to the public and protect the water quality and quantity in the Suwannee Basin. The basin is made up of the springs that feed the Suwannee River and the Santa Fe River in North Central Florida. Recently, the board, made up of nine members, has been in contact with two economists from the University of Florida, Allen W. Hodges and Tatiana Borisova, to create a presentation to raise awareness of the economic benefits of the springs. Because the economy has been such a pressing issue in the legislature, they want to make a presentation that will appeal to the legislators based on the economic value that the springs bring to the region.
The research that Borisova and Hodges are undertaking will not be finalized until May. This impact study will be finished in June. For now, they are going through the process to help achieve the goal of Save Our Suwannee.
“The focus of the project is to estimate the economic interest in the area,” said Borisova, an assistant professor and extension specialist specializing in water economics and policy in the Food and Resource Economics Department at the University of Florida.
She and Hodges, along with a team of researchers, are developing a presentation on the project, which focuses on the economic contribution of eight public springs as well as some private springs.
The project consists of an input and output model to help display the contribution of the springs in the region. Existing information about the visitors’ region, the new money that it is bringing into the region from the outside, the number of jobs brought into the region and the goods and products used in recreation from the springs are factors the two are analyzing, Borisova said.
“There is a concern for this treasure we have here, and for decision makers, we need to have numbers for the economy to measure the contribution of the springs to the region, and we already see that there is a connection, and the region would likely suffer without it,” Borisova said.
Borisova said that she and Hodges have interviewed businesses around the cities and the local chamber of commerce to verify their estimates. Using the data collected from that and existing studies, Borisova hopes that they will come out with a regional gross domestic product (GPD) that will help their case when presenting to legislatures.
“The regional GPD will establish a relationship to tourism and an established value from the springs recreation,” Borisova said. She hopes this will then measure the total value of the springs.
Ferguson has many memories of the springs, which she said is important for action. “You need long-term memories to have long-range visions, and the legislators have short-term visions,” she said. That is why she wants the numbers to help convince them to adjust their ways to conserve water, instead of continuing to use up all the water from the springs.
“The outside money coming in is critical to our point, because people do come from all over to see the springs,” said Annette Long, president of Save Our Suwannee.
She said the presentation created by the research from Hodges and Borisova will be presented to local officials, business leaders and the public.
“We want to bring this info straight to them instead of them coming to us,” Long said.
Long said that the organization wants to show the legislature that, even though their goal is to create jobs and help the economy, the springs brings in money just by being there. They also flow fresh water into Cedar Key, which is essential for the oysters and the clams that are there for business.
“We are trying to make the point that the springs are essential to our way of life as well as to small businesses in the rural North Florida region,” Long said.
Save Our Suwannee is not blaming agriculture and industry, Ferguson said. She explained that the need for the springs is equally as important as the need for agriculture and industry.
“We need both,” she said. However, she said that there needs to be adjustments for a low-environmental impact in the development for the agriculture. “If my bank account is going low, I’ll turn off the cable,” Ferguson said. She wants legislatures to make adjustments so that we don’t run out of water and the springs can still flourish.
“We need to join arms and solve this together,” she said.
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Happening March 13 2014
- Source: http://www.alachuatoday.com/news-featured/latest/3446-business-of-the-springs-impacts-of-eco-tourism
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