Protest over Water Permit
It was supposed to be a celebration of the opening of a new center for researching agriculture.
But it also served as a center for protest.
A new IFAS facility received a donation by a man who wants to build an extensive cattle ranch in Marion County.
That drew the protesters, angry over the possibility of the St. John's River Water Management District approving a permit to pump millions gallons of water a day from the local waterways.
"It' stealing our water, our water for the entire aqua system," another said.
Multimillionaire and Magna car parts mogul, Frank Stronach plans on operating the Adena Springs Ranch, a 30,000 head, grass-fed cattle farm. The project is asking the St. Johns River management district for permission to pump 13 million gallons of water a day from the Floridian Aquifer.
"When we pump too much out of the ground, then we reduce the amount stored in the aquifer. It's that storage in the aquifer that feeds our springs and our lakes and all our water bodies," Bob Knight, the Director of the Florida Springs Institute said.
Stronach donated $1.5 million dollars to the University of Floirda IFAS to create a research plant science center for which a dedication ceremony was held Tuesday.
"Agriculture is very important part of Florida's economy and anybody who does their homework realizes that it's IFAS who develops the new crops," UF President Bernie Machen told TV20.
The issue has been politicized, but it was Stronach who stunned the crowd when he told them that he now has mixed feelings about the amount of water the permit is requesting and may change his cattle farm plans.
"Water is a very precious commodity," Stronach told the crowd of local community leaders. "And if necessary, we have to cut back in some of the water usage," he said.
Stronach, a Canadian resident said he does not care for the politics now involved and directly asked the crowd to help him make sure that things are done "the right way."
"Whatever we do, we should not hurt the environment," Stronach said. "It should be a plus, it should be good for the people here."
Stronach also said he would like to sit down with those concerned about the springs to come up with solutions.
Knight said he has reached out to him before, and that they have been receptive to such a meeting, but so far it hasn't happened.
A group is gathering money and preparing to fight against the permit legally if the water management district approves it.
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