SILVER SPRINGS – The National Park Service plans to label Florida’s iconic Silver Springs as threatened in an upcoming report because of its elevated level of contaminants and depleted water flow, officials said.
A federal monitor visited the springs earlier this year as part of the government’s National Natural Landmarks program. Silver Springs’ downgraded status will be reflected in the next program update, and it will be the first time the park service has needed to call attention to the springs’ decline, said Mike Litterst, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of the Interior.
Carolyn Davis, the landmarks program regional coordinator who visited Silver Springs in February, tells the Ocala Star-Banner that the downgraded status was no surprise.
Davis reported findings that are well known to local and state environmental regulators, water managers, geologists and engineers: water quality has decreased as nitrate levels increased over the decades, and the drop-off in water quantity is likely linked to a combination of over pumping and an extended drought.
The designation as threatened “says you’ve got something very important, so let’s see if we can turn this around,” said Davis.
“It’s a nationally significant landmark, and I’ve got my fingers crossed,” Davis said.
Parks officials release the reports about the country’s natural landmarks every two years.
Davis said that because of budget cuts, inspections have become less frequent. They are supposed to come every two or three years, but Silver Springs had not been inspected since the early 1990s, she said.
Information from: Ocala (Fla.) Star-Banner, http://www.starbanner.com/