Title: "Trouble on the Suwannee, " ENFO, a publication of the Florida Conservation Foundation. March 1979. 10p.
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00052435/00001
 Material Information
Title: "Trouble on the Suwannee, " ENFO, a publication of the Florida Conservation Foundation. March 1979. 10p.
Physical Description: Book
Spatial Coverage: North America -- United States of America -- Florida
Funding: Digitized by the Legal Technology Institute in the Levin College of Law at the University of Florida.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00052435
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: Levin College of Law, University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.

Full Text

"**Operates the Environmental Information **Organizes conferences, training
Center. institutes, workshops, and other
meetings on environmental matters.
"**Publishes 6 or more issues of ENFO
Newsletter a year, on environmental **Produces special publications and
subjects of importance to persons reports.
interested in Florida.
"**Provides assistance for students,
researchers, and sponsors.


Regular .................. $12 935 ORANGE AVE. WINTER PARK, FLORIDA 32789

Family................. $15 Yes, I want to support EIC.
Sustaining..................$25 Enclosed is my contribution of $_

Contributing ..............$50 NAME:

Supporting .............. .$100 ADDRESS:

Donor....................$300 CITY, STATE, ZIP:

Patron............$500-$1,000 All contributions are tax-deductible. Checks should be made
payable to the Florida Conservation Foundation, Inc. Those
Corporate Sponsors giving $12.00 or more will receive the ENFO Newsletter for
$100, $500, $1,000 one year.

Organization Sponsors
$25, $50, $100 Please mail a confirmation of my donation.




Lester M. Blain
FP, Eox 399
Tampa 33601 .

F.C.F. wishes to thank Robert W. Simons for use of photos on pages 4 and 7. Extra copies of this ENFO are $1.00
while they last.


The untroubled Suwannee: sandy banks, gnarled cypress, clean water, and quiet recreation.
The Suwannee River, made famous by Stephen yet, few have been funded or implemented. Private
Foster's song written in 1851, is an American phenom- development has been confined primarily to timber
enon. Despite more than 100 years of acclaim in song, harvesting, farming, cattle ranching, and phosphate
books, pictures and stories, it is the only major river mining, none of which has as yet seriously damaged
in the Southeastern coastal plain that remains rela- the river.
tively unspoiled. A 1970 study by the Bureau of Thus, the Suwannee River has enjoyed a charmed
Outdoor Recreation states, "None of the major rivers life, miraculous avoiding despoilation by marauding
of this coastal region have watersheds so sparsely f agencies or real esta
populated, scenery so unusual, and channels so nearly But the beautiful Suwannee is now in danger o
free of dredging and dams." Such a pristine condition / being ravaged. The Corps of Engineers, in combina-
is amazing when it is realized that the 265-mile-long/ tion with the Southwest Florida Water Management
river traverses two states (Georgia and Florida) and( District, is studying plans to import water from the
12 counties (4 in Georgia and 8 in Florida). \ spring-fed rivers of North Florida to water-starved
The river's unspoiled condition is not due to the cities in the Tampa Bay region and the Suwannee j
loving protection of state and federal governments, a prime candidate as a source of su I .
however. The Suwanee has been repeatedly proposed ug as aso grown into a major ^.
for inclusion in the National Wild and Scenic River threat to the river. The area to be strip mined along .
System, but final acceptance has always failed. A the river has expanded from 6,000 acres to 144,000
Florida segment of the river was proposed as an acres primarily for the purpose of exporting U.S. "
Area of Critical State Concern and this also failed. phosphate products to Russia and Poland.
Other than its headwaters in the Okefenokee National Either of these projects could seriously disrupt the
Wildlife Refuge in Georgia and a few state parks in Suwannee ecosystem, and one of the nation's im-
Florida, most of the Suwannee's 10,000-square-mile portant biological refuges would be irretrievably -x_
drainage basin is privately owned. The U.S. Army destroyed.
Corps of Engineers has cast licentious eyes on the This issue of ENFO tells the Suwannee story and N
lovely Suwannee since 1880 and a number of its described the efforts of the Suwannee River Coalition
projects have been approved by Congress. But, as to protect and preserve those unique resources.
ENFO is a publication of the Florida Conservation Foundation, researched and edited by the Environmental
Information Center, 935 Orange Avenue, Winter Park, Florida 32789.
William M. Partington, Jr., Director William R. Barada, Editor

A NATIONAL HERITAGE e Q' "For the lashe (Ve million years or so, the south-
The Suwannee originates in the great Okefenokee eastern edge of the North American continent has
Swamp in southeastern Georgia and meanders 265 been a bit further southeast namely along the
miles before it empties into the Gulf of Mexico below Suwannee River basin. Thus, although the red clay
the town of Suwannee, Florida. On its way, it weaves hills along the Apalachicola support the greatest
across a broad floodplain, cuts between 40 foot high diversity of plant and animal species to be found
banks, traverses an extensive network of flowing anywhere in the S.E. coastal plain (including many
springs, sink-holes, and spring fed rivers and streams, endemics), the Suwannee is the southeastern edge of
wanders through massive swamps, and emerges into the range of many of these species. Some examples
vast salt marshes. of vertebrates and trees are: beaver, alligator,
The river drains about 10,000 square miles, a basin snapping turtle, redbellied water snake, 2-lined
that is evenly divided between Georgia and Florida, salamander, several kinds of fish, white oak, overcup
but the majority of the river's main stem lies within oak, American beech, river birch, black willow, cedar
Florida's boundaries. The Suwannee is Florida's elm, and water tupelo. The Suwannee is the only
second largest river (the Apalachicola is larger). A Gulf Coast river with a large and healthy enough
unique feature of the river is that it is relatively small sturgeon population to support a commercial fishery,
at the Georgia-Florida border with an average flow of and is the only home of the Suwannee bass.
about one billion gallons per day. But it picks up so "There are many more species of fresh water
much volume from springs and tributaries that its fish and other vertebrates in the Suwannee River than
flow is increased to 11 billion gallons per day at its in any of Florida's fresh water swamps and lakes. This
mouth, is because rivers are far more permanent and stable
The number of Florida springs feeding the than are swamps and lakes. Therefore, like the big
Suwannee is estimated as "at least 50," by one study continents, big rivers are the permanent refuges for
and "a few large ones and hundreds of small ones," freshwater species. The Suwannee is second only to
by another, including 9 first magnitude springs. The the Apalachicola among Florida rivers in both volume
springs, and the aquifers which feed them, maintain of flow and species diversity. These two great rivers
a minimum flow in the Suwannee in drought periods are both of immense importance as biological refuges.
and are recharged by the river in floods. The lime- "In this era of unprecedented biological destruc-
stone aquifer is recharged from rainfall and most of tion by an immense and out-of-control world human
the underground water is circulated through solution population, it behooves us to try to prevent the total
channels and fractures, creating labyrinthine passages destruction of the world's ecosystems. Obviously,
that comprise the most extensive network of water most of the useable land area of the world will be
filled caves and caverns in the world, stripped of all wild fauna and flora and utilized to
There are three major tributaries to the Suwannee. the hilt by man. So, it is vital that the tiny fraction of
The Withlacoochee and Alapaha rivers which origi- land that can be set aside for biological preservation
nate in Georgia. The Santa Fe River originates in and the tiny fraction of our wetlands and waterways
Florida and is supplied by springs and spring-fed that can be strongly protected from destruction be in
streams from the aquifer and drainage from swamps, areas of great and longstanding biological importance.
all of which are drived from local rainfall. The Suwannee River is such a place."
Robert W. Simons, a consulting forester who is The Suwannee River estuary has been described by
active in the Suwannee River Coalition, says: writers, fishermen, and scientists as "pure wild."
"The major continents have areas which have One reporter wrote, "You could stand in your boat
long served as refuges for species preservation and and watch the salt marshes sink into the horizon,
areas which have periodically been wiped clean, unbroken fields of saw grass in which lived a preserve's
North America has two main refuge areas the worth of wild animals." Yet, although the Suwannee
eastern mountains and piedmont extending from New is Florida's second largest river and its average flow at
York to Alabama and the western mountains and its mouth is only 5 billion gallons less than the
valleys extending from the southern Canadian border Apalachicola River, no studies have been made of the
down through the U.S. and Mexico. The extremities Suwannee estuary or its marine production. By con-
of these permanent refuge areas are particularly trast, studies show the Apalachicola River is a veri-
interesting, because they are the source for species table "seafood factory" and one of the most pro-
which repopulate the vast areas that become available ductive estuarine systems in North America. Experts
when oceans recede or glaciers retreat. Thus, the believe the Suwannee is equally productive in relation
extreme southern tip of the Appalachian refuge to its volume.
the red clay hills between Tallahassee and the The river and its tributaries have been studied since
Apalachicola River from Chattahoochee to Bristol 1880, however, both for purposes of water resource
has been the permanent refuge for most of our management and for preservation.
southeastern coastal plain species.


f The most r; t and most serious threat to the
Suwannee River is the Four River Basins Project. It
I was authorized by the Flood Control Act of 1962,
T/ then expanded in 1969 at the request of the South-
"S FFF0EoE ) west Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD)
S WsAwMPp l to include "water supply and related purposes." In
F LO I u 1975 the Corps came up with a "Plan of Survey"
Which led to a 1977 "Water Resources Management
S\ Study" of the Four River Basins (the SWFWMD
S "RINGS .... rsr The purpose of this study, according to the Corps,
P 4J is, ". to determine ways in which excess surface or
ground water could be utilized, singularly or con-
junctively, to help solve regional water supply
IcHcrucMKNC-E problems."
-RIER The "regional water supply problems" are identi-
WORoRv ^ fied as the Gulf Coast cities from Tampa Bay to Port
Charlotte, many of which have been suffering from
SIHIH So critical water shortages for a number of years. These
sPWNs ,. have resulted in water fights and water wars between
competing cities and counties over dwindling supplies.
CAIetsVILLE Apparently most of the water short areas continue to
promote growth, and additional fights result when
new developments demand a share of the already
inadequate water resources of existing communities.
/ SWFWMD is charged with the responsibility of
o A j managing regional water resources, and the Four
A.7 River Basins study is an attempt to solve water
e* shortages by importing "excess" water from sparsely
populated inland areas, both within its district and
from adjacent areas. The free flowing rivers and
springs of North Florida, particularly the Suwannee
River, are prime candidates as sources of "excess"
Some federal agencies, particularly the Corps of The report states, "The Suwannee River, just north
Engineers, view the Suwannee and its tributaries as of the northern boundary of the study area, also was
essentially "wasted" water resources which should be evaluated in terms of its water importation potential."
managed and manipulated. Projects and studies to The report names 10 major rivers within the study
support this objective have been ongoing since the area, and states "The combined average flow of major
turn of the century and a brief review of some of streams is about 5,050 million gallons per day (mgd)
these projects reveals the extent and nature of the In contrast, the average flow of the Suwannee
federal threat to the Suwannee River. River is about 6,463 mgd, which is greater than
The Rivers and Harbors Act of 1880 and 1890 the combined flow of all the streams in the study
authorized the Corps to channelize 139 miles of the area."
Suwannee River for "navigation" purposes. The The study was narrowly confined to the hydrologic
project is still authorized, but has not been funded and engineering aspects of SWFWMD water manage-
or implemented. ment plans. An evaluation of the economic, land use,
The Rivers and Harbors Act of 1945 authorized a sociological, political, legal, and environmental
study of the Santa Fe River for channel "improve- impacts which are closely interrelated, was deferred
ments" from the Suwannee upstream for 20 miles. until a larger overall study is ultimately conducted.
The study was initiated in 1949, but the project is The Suwannee River Water Management District
not funded and is not scheduled. was not consulted neither were affected local
The proposed Intracoastal Waterway from St. governments, agencies, or citizens' organizations. In
Marks to Tampa Bay is also a potential threat to the fact, the chairman of the Suwannee River Coalition
Suwannee estuary and its fisheries. (which was formed after the study became public)
The U.S. Soil Conservation Service has identified states that the first time North Florida citizens heard
11 watersheds in Florida which qualify for planning of the project was in news reports. Thus the interests
under the Watershed Protection and Flood Preven- and needs of water supply areas were totally dis-
tion Act, some of which affect the Suwannee River. regarded. Only the needs of Gulf Coast cities in
None has been approved to date. SWFWMDwere considered.


As the Florida Defenders of ,.e Environment
points out, "Regardless of whether the pipeline be- -"...
comes a reality, that it has gone this far is a sobering
indication that the fate of the Suwannee River is not
entirely in the hands of the people in the basin, or
of local and state governments." The FDE also states,
"Such Corps studies are frightening because they are
done independently of any local or state restraint on
development of water resources."
Even though the study was confined entirely to
hydrologic and engineering aspects, the report is
replete with inconsistencies, contradictions, and un-
supported assumptions. Unfortunately, however, the
calculations and statements, as published in an
official report of a federal agency, are available to be
quoted as "facts" and will further confuse and
complicate Florida's already complex water manage- Lower Suwannee River an area of salt marsh,
ment problems. As a result, we can expect to hear cabbage palms, and cypress, proposed to become a
these "facts" repeated over and over again, ad infini- National Wildlife Refuge.
tum and ad nauseum.

A few examples of the report's inconsistencies,
contradictions, and assumptions will serve to illus-
trate why its usefulness as a basis for a workable Flows as low as 3.2 mgd have been recorded in the
water m program is hig tim able. Suwannee at White Springs and most Florida rivers
e anticipated water demands for 198 035 experience long periods of no flow, or almost no
are based on SWFWMD's estimated population flow, including the Suwannee. This is mentioned in
sections of southern Gulf coast cities and at standard the study which states, ". .. in some dry years, no
rates of water use per capital. No consideration was excess flow, or negligible excess flow, occurred for
given to the possibility of water conservation periods of up to nine months." In long dry periods,
measures such as recycling and reuse of wastewater, excess flow will be available in only one or two
nor to the possibility of programs or events which months of the year.
eight curb additional growth. Not mentioned in the report is that virtually all
admits that the amou water Florida river water is somewhat saline upstream from
needed to maintain a ea y environment is un- the river mouth and that a significant reduction in
"known, and that hydrologists cannot estimate the flow causes salt water to move farther upstream and
percentage of evapotranspiration and surface runoff into adjacent coastal aquifers. If the salinity of these
needed to maintain the existing biota. Yet the report waters is increased drastically the result could be
proceeds to calculate exact figures for minimum and disastrous to marine nursery grounds and seafood
excess flow of rivers and springs based on averages production.

are ". .. believed to represent the minimum dis- "excess" flows described as available for diversion to
charge needed to maintain the health of the biota in Gulf Coast cities are based on monthly averages and
the estuaries." these calculations are published as scientific fact.
The flow rate definitions officially adopted for Thus the seeds of future water wars on a massive
purposes of the study are: scale are planted.
"Average Monthly Flow" is the average of the The study states, "An evaluation was made of the
monthly mean flow rates from 1955 through 1974 possible diversion of the excess flow from the
(20 years). Suwannee, Waccasassa, Crystal, Pithlachascotee, and
The "Average Monthly Minimum Flow" is the Ancmote rivers, and from major springs along the
average of the five lowest monthly mean flow rates northern coastal part of the study area." It also
over the same period, states, "The excess flow of the Suwannee River
The "Average Monthly Excess Flow" is the differ- greatly exceeds that of the other four rivers. Its
ence between the average monthly flow and the highest excess flow (more than 6,500 mgd) occurs in
average monthly minimum flow and is said to be the April, and the lowest flow (more than 1,700 mgd)
estimated flow potentially available for "man's occurs in November. Obviously a diversion of the
beneficial use." Suwannee could easily satisfy all of the projected
It is important also to note that "average monthly 350 mgd increase in municipal water demands in the
flows" used in the study can be extremely misleading. coastal areas by 2035."




_. ...... -t



--s 0* -I"Z ,, ,



2f OROUGH 2r


--. --- --,.- --


'0 T 0





is I \ m S
0 1 { o FLOW SCALE

o> s lM 4,0 3,000
co m < 'A, '-
z 0 s3,000 -* 2,000-10 FLOA IN CFS OR MGD

N 0 F-

_______ o "<"I- o


The report goes on to say that i / ough the com- Professor Gar;'\G. Parker, former Chief Hydrolo-
bined peak excess flow from the other four rivers gist for SWFWMu and the U.S.G.S., who is now a
could satisfy demands for short periods, the excess consulting hydrologist and is one of the most re-
flow at other times of the year is so low that con- spected authorities on Florida's hydrology, has
struction of costly facilities is unjustified. repeatedly warned against aquifer depletion. Parker
The average annual excess flow from the major wrote that, "Except for relatively short periods of
springs is estimated at from 23 to 194 mgd, not time, we dare not draw the regional water level down
enough to satisfy demand and the water is too salty below sea level If we were to manage our ground-
for direct use in domestic water supplies. "Weeki- water withdrawals so poorly as to deplete the top
wachee Springs appears to have the best chemical storage (the part above sea level), the bottom storage
quality," according to the Corps, but it suggests that (the part below sea level) will slowly shrink in direct
spring flow be tapped by installing wells inland rather proportion (1:40 ratio) to top-storage depletion
than taking water directly from the springs. (This (1:40 ratio one foot of fresh water head will de-
could also help mitigate public outrage against press sea water 40 feet) and as a consequence salt
des e Oc FloJrida tourist attractions by water would move inland from the Gulf and upward
construction of water coTt Iol facilities.) from below. Once this happens it would be prac-
The Corps also strongly recommends that long- tically impossible to get the salt water pushed back
term drawdowns of the Floridan Aquifer be adopted out."
as a routine practice in order to increase w Parker also points out that the big coastal springs
are already somewhat saline and that taking more
The study points out that the volume of fresh than a few mgd from their flow would only further
water in the Foridan Aquifer is about 200 times invite salt water intrusion.
larger than the total average demand and claims that, These problems are not addressed in the Four
"Based on a comparison of these figures, it might be Rivers Basins study which repeats that its conclusions
assumed that long-term depletion of storage (mining) are based solely on hydrologic considerations and
of ground water, which is widely practiced in western that issues such as environmental, social, and political
states and elsewhere in the world, would be desir- aspects were not investigated. However, it concludes
able and practical." that "There are sufficient groundwater and surface
Although overpumping has caused a drop in the water resources available in the study area to meet
aquifer water levels of more than 60 feet over several the projected total municipal water demands of the
hundred square miles in the phosphate producing problem area in 2035."
area of the Upper Peace River Basin, the Corps' study Four water supply alternatives are listed as: (1)
states "these declines do not appear to have depleted importation of water; (2) continued development of
water availability nor to have caused any significant groundwater resources; (3) development of surface
environmental impacts at the land surface." It does water resources; and (4) conjunctive use (storing
not say how this conclusion was reached, however, excess surface water underground for later recovery).
since environmental impacts were not included in the It also repeats that the Suwannee River has almost
study. as much excess water available as the ". combined
Many highly respected Florida authorities do not total average annual excess flow within the entire
agree with the Corps regarding aquifer depletion, and study area," and goes on to say, "The unit cost of
diverting water from the big springs and rivers. The importing excess surface water from the Suwannee
Suwannee River Coalition takes the position that there River compares favorably with the cost of developing
is no such thing as "excess" flow because natural surface water resources within the study area."
systems and estuaries are adapted to, and make full An interesting closing comment of the report is,
use of, fluctuating river flows. This view is supported "The successful implementation of the solutions
by a detailed study of the Apalachicola River which ultimately depends on economic, environmental, and
found that, "millions of years of evolutionary pro- sociopolitical constraints in other words, the
cesses have caused fish, wildlife, vegetation and problems are not purely of a scientific or engineering
marine life to adjust to, and become dependent upon, nature, but are essentially people and money
these pulsating fluctuations of water in the Apalachi- problems."
cola floodplain." Thus, the sparsely populated communities of
Florida's Suwannee River Basin and other North
SUWANNEE RIVER COALITION Florida regions may find themselves involved in a
MEMBERS INCLUDE: "water war" with densely populated South Florida
Florida Audubon Society, Florida Chapter of the communities unless a federal program is adopted
Sierra Club, Florida Conservation Foundation, Inc., to save the Suwannee.
Florida Defenders of the Environment, Florida A similar situation exists regarding phosphate
Federation of Garden Clubs, Inc., Florida Wildlife mining in the Suwannee River Basin.
Federation, Georgia Conservancy, League of Women
Voters of Florida, The Wilderness Society, and
local organizations.

Occidental Chemical Company phosphate plant and
settling ponds north of White Springs. Lands mined by OXY.

PHOSPHATE MINING THREATS be greatly expanded. Thus, the regulations (and
At present the only phosphate being mined in the enforcement) for controlling OXY's strip mining
Suwannee River Basin is the Occidental Chemical activities and chemical processing plants in the
Company's (OXY) operation in Hamilton and Suwannee Basin will set precedents for future large-
Columbia counties. This project has been active since scale operations in similar sensitive areas.
1965 and by 1974 had strip mined only about 6,000 A preview of these regulations and their effective-
acres of their permitted 32,000 acres. ness in protecting North Florida's vital natural re-
In December of 1973, however, OXY applied for sources is now unfolding.
permission to expand its strip mining activities from In 1974, in response to concerns about the impact
32,000 acres to approximately 144,000 acres, an of OXY's expansion on the Suwannee River, Florida's
increase of 450%, and to more than double the out- Division of State Planning conducted an evaluation of
put of its chemical plant from 2.7 million tons per the proposal to determine if the area should be de-
year to about 6 million tons/year. The need for the dared an Area of Critical State Concern (ACSC).
expansion, as stated in a draft environmental impact This is recognized by the ACSC study which states,
statement prepared by EPA, is ". to meet the "The Upper Suwannee area abounds in springs, a few
trade agreement with the U.S.S.R. .. ." large ones and hundreds of small ones. These springs
According to Helen Hood, president of the and the aquifers which feed them maintain a mini-
Suwannee River Coalition, OXY spokesmen claim mum flow in the Suwannee during drought periods
that 60% of their overall production is tryphosphoric and are recharged by the river in floods. The springs
acid for the Russian contract and will require con- and aquifers receive their major recharge from rainfall
struction of a second chemical processing plant. through the sinkholes and limestone formations in
Another contract with Poland calls for 1 million tons the area and through percolation into the soils." A
of phosphate rock per year. Both contracts are barter major difference between South Florida and North
agreements in exchange for Russian and Polish pro- Florida is that the Floridan Aquifer is much closer to
ducts that OXY claims will benefit the U.S. OXY has the land surface in the northern part of the state,
the right to sell these in world markets to the highest with numerous springs and sinkholes providing direct
bidder, however, and there is no assurance that U.S. surface connections to the labyrinthine water filled
citizens or industry will benefit from the deal. As a caves and caverns formed by aquifer solution
result, Russia and Poland may get the Suwannee channels.
phosphate, OXY owners and investors will get dollars The ACSC study also states, "Land clearing and
from the sales, and Florida citizens will be left with dragline operations are a major threat to water
144,000 acres of Suwannee Basin that has been strip quality during periods of prolonged rainfall or high
mined. water. Large areas of cleared land, overburden piles
Also, the U.S. Bureau of Mines has identified a and exposed subsurface soils when inundated would
tremendous band of phosphate deposits in Florida allow thousands of tons of soils, clays, dissolved
which is estimated as sufficient to continue mining metals, phosphate, and other pollutants to be carried
at present rates for another 100 years. One of these downstream."
deposits runs right across the Suwannee Basin and The study points out, "No program currently
into the Osceola National Forest. When phosphate available will provide protection against these
deposits in the "Bone Valley" of Southwest Florida problems, except after the fact, when damage has
are depleted, activity in North Florida will no doubt already been done."

The ACSC evaluation of the eftf from strip min- says, "indicate ,'et a number of the problems do
ing was apparently confined to the Suwannee flood- originate with thIe'Occidental Operation."
plain. The possibility of river contamination from The Suwannee River Coalition believes the OXY
strip mining outside the floodplain is not addressed. discharges to Swift Creek are a major threat to the
The ACSC designation was deemed unnecessary Suwannee. The chairwoman, Mrs. Helen Hood,
because OXY agreed not to mine about 10,000 acres points out that any quantity of pollutants can legally
of Suwannee floodplain. OXY also agreed that the be discharged as long as they are sufficiently diluted
lower end of major tributaries, and land within 500 and that the extent of the dilution is determined
feet of a third magnitude or larger spring, or major after it reaches the Suwannee not in Swift Creek.
sinkhole, will not be disturbed. The E.I.S. found the dilution factor is in ". the
The Environmental Impact Statement states that neighborhood of 50."
monitoring of existing facilities indicate that only OXY reportedly claims its discharges have no
local pollution of surficial aquifers will occur, since effect on Swift Creek. Mrs. Hood counters that the
the Floridan Aquifer is protected by the Hawthorne effect is plainly visible. She says, "No normal creek
confining layers. However, this does not address the in North Florida is colored bright green, and Swift
consequences of excavating into an aquifer-connected Creek was the first time I saw it."
sinkhole or solution channel. Also it seems to contra- It is also reported that OXY claims its discharges
dict the ACSC statement that, "The springs and meet state and federal standards. However, these
aquifers receive their major recharge from rainfall standards were challenged at a public hearing as not
through the sinkholes and limestone formations in sufficient to protect the resource. A precipitation
the area and from percolation into the soils." plume is visible where the creek enters the Suwannee,
The impact of strip mining on Suwannee tribu- but the major concern is for persistent contaminants
taries presents a serious threat to the river. Only the such as fluorides.
lower end of major tributaries are excluded in the Fluorides in sufficient concentrations can damage
OXY agreement. Others outside the Suwannee vegetation, cause harm to grazing animals, and to
floodplain are still subject to diversion or impound- people. Concentrations in excess of 3 milligrams per
ment which, as the ACSC points out, could per- liter cause the teeth of children to become mottled
manently change the course of such streams and or discolored. The E.I.S. states, "Fluoride levels in
reduce the flow to the river. The tributaries outside grass range from 25 to 46 ppm," but says, 'There is
the floodplain will be subject to pollution by storm no evidence of general fluoride damage to vegetation
runoff from strip mined areas which include vast fluorosiss) except on pond edges, and the evidence of
areas of perched wetlands, such as extensive cypress mottling of cattle teeth has been judged not sig-
swamps, located above the floodplain. nificant."
One major tributary, the Santa Fe River, adds OXY voluntarily monitored the Suwannee River
considerable volume to the Suwannee and has good for fluorides downstream to its mouth, but claims
water quality. The Santa Fe lies within the phosphate they were unable to find any in the places they
belt. tested.
The Suwannee is also threatened with contamina- Mrs. Hood charges that this only shows we don't
tion from OXY's two major chemical complexes. know where the fluorides are going; she claims
The one now in use discharges into Swift Creek, a fluorides may be in the estuary and accumulating in
Suwannee tributary that drains an area of 41.9 miles, shellfish or other marine life, and says we may be
and the second to be built due to expanded produc- building up a problem with fluorides as we did with
tion for export will also discharge into Swift Creek. DDT. She points out that only 6,000 acres have been
The total groundwater withdrawals for use in the mined so far, and asks, "What happens when 144,000
plants will increase from 31.82 mgd to 35.58 mgd acres are mined?"
and cause a reduction in the piezometric surface of The ACSC report praised OXY for its spirit of
the Florida Aquifer about 3.5 feet at 10,000 feet cooperation and the "high degree of environmental
(almost two miles) from the plant. awareness in their existing Hamilton County opera-
Water used by OXY is classified as "process" and tion." It also stated, "The firm provides a fine
"nonprocess." Both are polluted, but the more example to the extractive industry."
highly contaminated process water is usually recycled When a new OXY manager took over in the spring
and only nonprocess water is routinely discharged to of 1978, however, he discovered that the firm had
Swift Creek. The Impact Statement states that been violating air pollution standards for 2 years and
process water will be discharged only in the event of had deliberately falsified records to cover the viola-
a 24 hour, 25 year storm. tions.
The 1970 Bureau of Outdoor Recreation study Thus both phosphate mining and the Corps of
found Swift Creek severely polluted, but said it was Engineers' projects present major threats, not only
being cleaned up. However, the 1974 ACSC study to the Suwannee River, but to a large region of North
found that Swift Creek water was still polluted by Florida's sensitive environment which can only be
such chemicals as fluorides, sulfates, aluminum, protected by action at the federal level of govern-
phosphates, arsenic, zinc, and strontium which, it ment.

THE NEED FOR FEDERAL PROT .TION There is still jpe for the Suwannee, however.
Because the Suwannee River traverses two states A relatively new federal concept is the "national
(Georgia and Florida) and 12 counties (4 in Georgia reserve" which appears to offer the type of protec-
and 8 in Florida) and because its natural resources tion needed by the Suwannee River. This concept
are presently involved with such diverse federal allows for declaration of a national interest in a
agencies as the Corps of Engineers, Fish and Wildlife particular resource but recognizes the primary
Service, Environmental Protection Agency, Depart- responsibility of affected local governments in assur-
ment of Interior (mining), Department of Agri- ing the area's protection and management. It relies
culture, Department of Transportation, and probably on a local-state-federal partnership with the private
the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administra- sector to develop a workable plan for the protection
tion (marine life) it is obvious that no single local of the ecological, scenic, historic, and cultural re-
or state government or existing federal agency can sources of the area. Implementation of the plan
protect and preserve the Suwannee River as a vital would lie with the local and state governments,
national heritage. What is needed is Congressional supported by technical assistance and partial land
legislation that specifically declares a national interest acquisition grants from the federal government.
in the Suwannee and assures the protection of the The new concept became a reality with the es-
river. tablishment by the 95th Congress of a New Jersey
This need was recognized in the 1960's, and several Pinelands National Reserve. A Suwannee River
studies were made recommending federal protection National Reserve study has been endorsed by the
of the river. Governor's Special Committee, the Suwannee River
After the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act became law Coalition, and by the governors of both Florida and
in 1968, a 1970 study was authorized which Georgia. A proposal for Congressional legislation to
recommended the Suwannee as "a worthy addition establish the study area was sent to Florida's senators
to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System" and the local Congressman by former Governor
The plan proposed by this study would have con- Askew, and this action was verbally endorsed by
verted the Suwannee into a continuous federal recrea- Governor Graham at a meeting of conservationists.
tion area. It advocated federal acquisition of The major objective of the proposed bill is to
thousands of acres and the development of a series of create a planning entity with responsibility for
recreational facilities on the river, all of which would developing a comprehensive plan to preserve the
have been administered by the National Park Service natural and cultural attributes of the river. All the
and designed to promote tourism, but would have local governments, the two state governments and the
done little to protect the Suwannee basin ecosystems, Department of the Interior would appoint representa-
or even protect the river itself. tives to the planning entity. Development of the
Local residents, outraged by what they considered plan would be funded by a grant from the federal
an attempted federal take-over of "their" river, pro- government.
tested to congressional representatives and fortu- Of particular importance is Objective #4, of former
nately the Suwannee was withdrawn as a Wild and Governor Askew's proposal, for federal legislation
Scenic River candidate. which provides ". special controls for the review
A second, scaled-down Wild and Scenic Rivers plan and approval of all federal programs affecting the
was proposed for the Suwannee by the federal Suwannee River National Reserve Area pending final
government in 1973. This time, however, no federal designation as a national reserve." This objective
funds were offered for land acquisition and it was alone, if passed by Congress, would provide local
turned down by both Georgia and Florida as more interests with some protection against raids on the
than they could afford. In 1977 the Suwannee River Suwanee's water resources.
Coalition was formed, consisting of a number of state The challenge ahead is to get the Suwannee River
and local environmental organizations, for the pur- National Reserve legislation introduced, and passed,
pose of obtaining protection for the river. Florida's by Congress. This will require the overwhelming
Governor Askew formed a special committee repre- support of Florida's citizens and organizations. It
senting all interests in the Suwannee River to develop would be foolhardy to believe the Suwannee can
a unified state position to present to the Department continue to lead a charmed life, or that local and
of the Interior. state governments alone can provide the ecosystem
In March, 1978 the Suwannee River Coalition protection needed. Two states and a multitude of
recommended that Congressman Don Fuqua request counties cannot put together a coordinated pro-
a review of the Wild and Scenic River study of the gram. A coordinated program under the umbrella
Suwannee with the purpose of obtaining more of the federal government through the national
interplay of local, state, and federal governments, reserve concept has a great deal of appeal and de-
However, the ten year study period for consideration serves support.
of the Suwannee in the program expired without
action taken on this proposal.


University of Florida Home Page
© 2004 - 2010 University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries.
All rights reserved.

Acceptable Use, Copyright, and Disclaimer Statement
Last updated October 10, 2010 - - mvs