St. Johns River Water Management District News Release
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Teresa Monson:(904) 730-6258 (Office) or (904) 545-5064 (Cell)

Court rules in district's favor over legal challenge

Judge dismisses challenge over district's Silver Springs' minimum flows and levels emergency rule

PALATKA, Fla., May 24, 2017 -- Wednesday, Administrative Law Judge E. Gary Early issued a final order dismissing a challenge to the St. Johns River Water Management District's emergency rule regarding Silver Springs' minimum flows and levels. St. Johns Riverkeeper, Florida Defenders of the Environment, Silver Springs Alliance and Alice Gardiner had sought an order invalidating the rule.

"This is a win for the environment," said St. Johns River Water Management District Executive Director Dr. Ann Shortelle. "Our scientists and engineers worked diligently to develop the Silver Springs MFLs, and today's ruling supports the result of years of hard work and commitment by district staff who have dedicated their lives to benefiting our natural resources."

One of the key contentions in the case was the criteria used to set the minimum flows and levels (MFLs). Petitioners alleged that the district should have focused only on the rate of water flow, instead of also addressing the potential for significant harm to wetland ecological communities along the river. The judge disagreed and noted that "the Silver Springs and Silver River system is not a one-size-fits-all ecosystem" and that Petitioners' method of setting an MFL in this case "would ignore the ecological needs of the system for periodic fluctuations in water levels to maintain its ecological functions and values." The judge concluded: "[T]he District used the best information available, applied the results from accepted hydraulic and hydrologic models, and relied upon reasonable professional judgment in developing the Silver Springs MFLs."

A related rule challenge to proposed MFLs for Silver Springs beyond the period the emergency rule is in effect was filed by Karen Chadwick and is set for trial next week.

To see the complete final order click here.