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Judge Rejects Challenge To Silver Springs Standards

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

An administrative law judge Wednesday sided with the St. Johns River Water Management District in a dispute about minimum water flows and levels for Silver Springs in Marion County.

Judge E. Gary Early issued a 56-page order rejecting a challenge to an emergency rule that the district approved in April to set minimum flows and levels until a more-permanent rule takes effect.

St. Johns Riverkeeper, the Florida Defenders of the Environment, the Silver Springs Alliance and Marion County resident Alice Gardner challenged the emergency rule on a number of grounds, including the district's decision to use water-level data from 1946 to 2014 in setting the standards.

The challengers argued that the district should have used data since 2000, which they said would more accurately reflect current conditions. But Early rejected those and other arguments.

“The positions of both parties as to the appropriate period of record have merit,” Early wrote. “However, the issue in this proceeding is not whether one position is more meritorious than the other. Rather, this proceeding is largely predicated on whether the decision of the district was arbitrary or capricious. The preponderance of the evidence establishes that the period of record selected by the district was supported by facts and logic. It was not one selected irrationally, without thought or reason.”

The district is required by July 1 to establish minimum flows and levels to help protect “Outstanding Florida Springs,” such as Silver Springs, Early wrote.