The combination of a standing room only crowd and a phonebook-size stack of signatures and comments from 11,827 supporters from a petition on Change.org seemed to move Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) Board of Governors to compromise with the tens of thousands of "We the People" united in opposition to the reduction in flow to the world famous Homosassa and Chassahowitzka Springs, home to West Indian Manatees.
Though at least two members of the Governing Board seemed in agreement with the public and signers of the petitition on Change.org and wanted to stop virtually all future loss of flow to these springs, other members of the Board seemed unwilling to move off the SWFWMD staff recommended 9% reduction in flow. Without a consensus by Governing Board Members, they arrived at a "compromise" of 3% reduction of flow.
We remain convinced that no further flow reduction should be allowed, and will likely be petitioning the United States Environmental Protection Agency to strictly enforce the antidegradation policies of the Clean Water Act as it applies to our rivers and SWFWMD's actions.
Thank you again for your support, we look forward to working with you on this and other campaigns on Change.org to ensure that our local, state, and federal government adhere to the will of “We The People”, and the laws set forth to protect our collective wealth - our native natural habitats and wildlife, the water, and ecosystems that support us all.
Please help Save Homosassa and Chassahowitzka Springs for Florida's Manatees and for future generations.
Tell SWFWMD's Governing Board and the Governor of Florida: NO reduction in flow to the Homosassa and Chassahowitzka Rivers!
Home to Federal and State Listed Endangered Species including the West Indian Manatee, the spring-fed Chassahowitzka and Homosassa Rivers are now at risk of further degradation and loss of essential fresh water habitat if the Southwest Water Management District’s ("SWFWMD") Governing Board approves reductions in flow proposed in the Minimum Flows and Levels on October 30, 2012.
Endangered West Indian Manatees rely on the Homosassa and Chassahowitzka Springs for life-saving thermal refuge and essential fresh water habitat. Generations of Manatees return to Chassahowitzka and Homosassa Springs annually to take refuge in the life saving warm spring waters. Florida's Gulf waters get too cold for Manatees during winter months, and manatees unable to find thermal refuge in coastal springs like Chassahowitzka and Homosassa would certainly perish.
On October 30, 2012 the Governing Board of the South West Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) will decide to approve or deny SWFWMD's staff's recommendations of a life-threatening 9% (nine percent) reduction in flow to the Chassahowitzka, and 3% (three percent) reduction in flow to the Homosassa resulting in a staff-estimated 15% (fifteen percent) loss of habitat in each of these fragile spring-fed fresh water coastal ecosystems.
SWFWMD staff continues to encourage the Governing Board to accept these devastating reductions, even though both of these spring-fed coastal rivers are legally designated as "Florida Outstanding Waterways," are home to Federally Endangered Species, including the West Indian Manatee, have already suffered significant degradation in recent years, and should be statutorily protected from further degradation and loss of spring flow.
It is now completely up to the Public, WE THE PEOPLE, to save these Springs, and beg SWFWMD's Governing Board and the Governor and Legislature of Florida to deny any further reductions in flow to Chassahowitzka and Homosassa's Rivers.
Degradation of habitat has already occurred on both of these spring-fed rivers since the time of their designation as Outstanding Florida Waters, and NO further degradation should be allowed to occur.
Any reduction in fresh water flow to the springs could allow further encroachment by the salty water of the Gulf of Mexico, or, in the worse case scenario, could stop sufficient flow of fresh water to the springs entirely, making them too brackish to support any of the fresh water species presently living there, and too cold to provide live-saving thermal refuge to endangered Manatees during winter months.
In addition to loss or significant reduction in essential habitat to Florida's Manatees, peer review of the proposed Minimum Flows and Levels have warned that the proposed reductions of fresh water flow and increased salinity could lead to "extirpation" of saline intolerant species. Numerous rare and imperiled species of plants and animals from Old Growth Cypress and terrestrial orchids to Southeastern Fresh Water Mussels, Chassahowitzka Black Bears, Whooping Cranes, Wood Storks, and Manatees (and many, many more) rely on the spring runs and fresh water habitats of the greater Chassahowitzka-Homosassa spring-fed Riverine Swamp Sanctuary and associated fresh water forested wetlands for their continued survival.
The Chassahowitzka and Homosassa spring-fed fresh water ecosystems are too precious to "degrade" any further, or risk "extirpating" forever by increased salt water intrusion.
Please sign our petition asking SWFWMD's Governing Board and the Governor of Florida to deny any further reduction in flow to the spring-fed Homosassa and Chassahowitzka Rivers. These rare springs and sacred cenotes, and the fresh water habitats they infuse are National Treasures, arguably World Heritage Sites that should be preserved and protected for future generations (of humans and wildlife).