Southeast Volusia Audubon Society, P.O. Box 46, New Smyrna Beach, FL 32170;

November 2016 Special Report

Florida's Springs are in trouble.

The Springs Eternal Project with Lesley Gamble, John Moran and Rick Kilby

It is estimated that there are more than 700 springs in Florida, the largest concentration of freshwater springs on Earth. Florida has more first magnitude springs of any state or country in the world.  But some springs have already stopped flowing and some springs have been downgraded from first magnitude to lower magnitudes based on their water flows.

 Florida nature photographer John Moran, authored a photo book in 2004 entitled: “Journal of light : the visual diary of a Florida Nature Photographer”.  It was the culmination of 20 years of photographing Florida’s springs.  This astounding and inspirational book depicts the beauty and serenity of the springs and the many thousands of people enjoying them.

Maureen and I have canoed and kayaked several of Florida’s springs and have not found them in the same condition as we saw in the book.  Our chats with park staffs were dismaying.  They talked about significantly reduced flows, silt, algal blooms, and also salt water intrusion. Salt water intrusion is not just a problem for coastal areas with the sea trying to compete with fresh water. It turns out that the Floridan aquifer sits on top of an ancient sea and forms like a fresh water lens to keep the salt water from rising. But when the lens is thin or gone, the inevitable happens.

John Moran is one of the principals of the Springs Eternal Project along with Lesley Gamble and Rick Kilby.  Their works are featured in an outreach exhibit of the project at the Gateway Center for the Arts in DeBary.  It continues until November 8th.  Maureen and I and some friends went there and were blown away.

The exhibit was small but shocking.  They depicted the springs as they were 10-20 years ago to what they are now. One display panel showed Fanning Springs in 1989 as a crystal clear spring and now the water is turbid.  There is even a sign cautioning swimmers not to touch the aquatic vegetation since some people have developed rashes and other skin irritation possibly from contact with them. Another photo on the panel shows the muck on the surface of the water with visitors near the edge of it.  On it is a quote from the DEP Secretary Herschel Vineyard in 2012: “Floridians and the DEP are on the right track to getting the water right.”

Fanning Springs

Even Silver Springs is in trouble.  A box on the panel decried the years of neglect that led to the situation and another box had some fixes, but they are draconian.  It is unlikely that there is the political will to to take thee actions to fix the springs.  According to the Florida Springs Institute: “Silver Springs was historically the largest spring in Florida with respect to flow volume until about 1985 when the flow began a continuous decline. Silver Springs no longer produces the highest volume of flow and is now designated as one of the most endangered large springs in the state.”

The panel on Ichetucknee Springs shows two hands holding a mass of muck and a quote from former Governor Ruben Askew in 1971: “Ecological destruction in Florida is nothing less than economic suicide.”  In a counterpoint, Governor Scott in 2011 is quoted: “Florida continues to lead the nation in developing innovative programs to ensure the health of our state’s waterways.  

According to an article in the Tampa Bay Times of Nov 23, 2012, Staff writer Craig Whitman said that:  ”Florida officials began worrying about the dismaying trends in the early 1990s. Jim Stevenson, a state Department of Environmental Protection biologist as well as a cave diver, wondered why clear-as-glass Wakulla Springs near Tallahassee — famous for its glass-bottom boat tours — sometimes filled with murky water.

Five months after being sworn in as governor in 1999, Bush took a canoe trip down the spring-fed Ichetucknee River with newly appointed DEP director David Struhs. Their guide: Stevenson.

Then Governor Jeb Bush and and his DEP Secretary Struhs launched the Florida Springs Initiative and put Stevenson in charge. Starting in 2000, Bush allocated $2.5 million a year for springs protection — the first time Florida had spent money on springs protection.”

The most notable outcome was the purchase of sensitive lands around some of the springsheds.

In 2011, Governor Scott cut off all funding for the groups working on plans to restore some of the  springs and disbanded them.  

Also in 2011, Governor Scott found out how much Floridians love their state parks when he proposed putting designer golf courses in some of them.  Maybe it is time he takes a canoe ride and we start a bandwagon effect to convince him how much Floridians love their springs.  

I urge you to  check out the following links and let’s talk about this at the December meeting.


Click here to download a PDF version of the displays in the DeBary exhibit.

Click here to learn more about the Springs Eternal Project

Click here to see the entire Tampa Bay Times article referenced above.

P.S. We first learned about John Moran’s work in March 2015 when our speaker was Heather Culp,  Associate Director of the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute.  Heather’s presentation was entitled Florida’s Springs and the Sustainability of the Floridan Aquifer.  She discussed the ecology of our Florida springs, flow reductions and nitrogen pollution. She also talked about  their economic and recreational importance and how they have been allowed to deteriorate.  She then closed with ideas for the restoration of our springs and protection of the aquifer.

In her slide presentation, she had photos by John Moran that depicted the springs in Florida as being habitats and places for recreation. That is when I found out about his book.