Paddlers Charge Silver River, Protesting Expected Cattle Ranch

Paddlers charge the iconic Silver River, protesting Adena Springs Ranch

30 June 2013 Grassfed beef ain’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Take Adena Springs Ranch, a proposed cattle ranch being developed by billionaire Frank Stronach in Florida. The beef project is expected to span 10,000 acres and, according to their website, hold up to 15,000 cattle. Adena Springs Ranch plans to raise the cattle on a grassfed diet, calling their industrial farming practices “healthier” and “better for the environment.”

This past Saturday, individuals concerned with the proposed ranch gathered alongside the iconic Silver River, a river formed from the discharge of Silver Springs, one of the largest natural artesian wells in the world. Silver Springs historically discharged over 550 million gallons of water per day. In recent years, though, its flow has decreased significantly. According to the New York Times, the “flow rate has dropped by a third over 10 years.” If Adena Springs Ranch gets the go ahead from state officials, its farming practices will have a direct impact on the flow and water quality of Silver Springs.

A flyover by the Putnam County Environmental Council showing the Adena Springs Ranch property

A flyover by the Putnam County Environmental Council showing the Adena Springs Ranch property. Photo: PCEC

Adena Springs Ranch is currently applying for a consumptive use permit that will allow them to draw 5.3 million gallons of water per day from the Floridan Aquifer, the underground reservoir of water that provides drinking water to Florida residents, draws tourism money to the state and encourages residents and visitors to get out into the wilds of Florida and experience its natural beauty.

The permit, if approved, will allow the ranch to draw water from the area surrounding Silver Springs, impacting the entire springshed, all for the purpose of watering the grass that will feed the cattle. When asked about the impact their water withdrawals would have, Adena engineer – and Frank Stronach puppet – William Dunn said that “they do not consider current hydrological conditions when they do their calculations.”

About the only thing natural in this intensive cattle operation will be the release of cow shit and urine into the 130-acre grazing lots. Adena Springs Ranch says they will complete regular soil tests to ensure that they’re “not sending runoff downstream to neighbors or nearby waterbodies.”

The Floridan Aquifer, however, can be thought of as a giant limestone sponge forming the foundation of the state. Rainwater and runoff seeps through topsoil and permeable limestone and slowly flows through the Aquifer until it rushes out through natural springs or is drawn up for drinking or irrigation purposes. If cow manure – a nitrogen-rich fertilizer sold in garden shops everywhere – coming from Stronach’s cows somehow manages to have a neutral effect on the environment, and on the nutrient levels of the surrounding area, than the makeup of that cowshit would defy vegetable gardeners everywhere.

A paddler on the spring-fed Silver River.

A paddler on the spring-fed Silver River. Photo: Matt Keene

Find out more information about the protest and the issues surrounding Adena Springs by checking out the Water Action Team website.