DEP announces spring improvement projects

September 4, 2013

Williford spring along Econfina Creek in Youngstown. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors
Williford spring along Econfina Creek in Youngstown. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Williford on Econfina Creek in Youngstown and Jackson Blue on Merritt’s Mill pond in Marianna only two Northwest Florida projects

Governor Rick Scott announced Sept. 4, 2013 ten water quality and water quantity springs improvement projects. Funding for the spring projects was leveraged from a $10 million investment from the Florida Families First Budget, more than $1 million from Department of Environmental Protection funding, and investments from local partners, for a total of nearly $37 million for springs projects. The Governor made the announcement at Wekiwa Springs State Park, where he was joined by water management officials, and state and local leaders. The announcement comes on the heels of last weeks’ commitment of more than $130 million to restore estuaries in South Florida.

Governor Scott said, “Today, we’re announcing important steps we’re taking to protect and restore springs throughout the Sunshine State. Florida’s springs are important to animal and plant life, and help support Florida’s booming tourism industry. This $10 million investment from the Florida Families First Budget will enable state and local partners to protect the quality and quantity of water that flows from our springs. Our commitment to Florida families means doing our part in supporting these natural treasures.”

“These projects will illustrate what can be accomplished when the state invests wisely to support and supplement department and water management district restoration programs,” said DEP Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. “Much more needs to be done, but these projects can pave the way to restoring some of our most iconic springs.”

Springs that will receive funding for projects include Silver, Wekiwa, Rock, Ichetucknee, Rainbow, Chassahowitzka, Homosassa, Weeki Wachee, Jackson Blue, Williford, and springs along the Santa Fe and Suwannee Rivers and Kings Bay.

“The Northwest Florida Water Management District is grateful to Governor Scott, the Florida Legislature and Secretary Vinyard for recognizing that the protection of Florida’s springs is vital to ensuring a clean and sustainable supply of water for our natural systems and our residents,” said Jon Steverson, Executive Director of the Northwest Florida Water Management District. “We look forward to an ongoing partnership as we continue to improve water quality and protect water resources across Northwest Florida.”

“The project dollars demonstrate the state’s commitment to achieving meaningful springs protection,” said St. Johns River Water Management District Executive Director Hans G. Tanzler III. “We appreciate the work of Governor Scott and the Legislature to allocate the funds. We also appreciate the opportunity to partner with DEP and local governments to move these projects forward and begin to improve the health of our springs and their ecosystems.

“We are appreciative to Governor Scott and the Legislature for their leadership appropriating springs funding which has successfully leveraged local funds resulting in profound and lasting water quantity and quality protection for our springs,” said Suwannee River Water Management District Governing Board Chair Donald Quincey, Jr. “We are also grateful to our local partners for their funding participation that helped to bring funding to improve our springs.”

Jackson Blue Spring – Marianna
More than $750,000 in state funding will be leveraged for a more than $1.2 million project to improve water quality and reduce water use demands in and around Jackson Blue Spring. The project will enhance irrigation systems to reduce water use by an estimated 7.5 million gallons per day.  In addition, improve fertilizer application technologies resulting in an estimated reduction of 11,800 lbs/year of nitrogen fertilizer application for the average farm will lead to a reduction of nutrients entering the groundwater.

Williford Spring – Youngstown
This nearly $1.4 million restoration and water quality project will receive more than $377,000 in state funding.  This project will focus on sediment removal, erosion control, spring bank and riparian restoration of Williford Spring. The Northwest Florida Water Management District will improve water quality and clarity in the spring by removing 200 cubic yards of sediment from the spring pool, restoring native vegetation along the springbank that helps capture run-off and sediment, and constructing areas to capture and treat stormwater to improve water quality before it enters the spring. This will result in a 50-60 percent reduction of sediment and other stormwater pollutants from entering the spring. This restoration project will also help protect the spring for future generations and at the same time improve public access to the spring.

Silver Springs – Ocala
Nearly $2 million of state funding will be leveraged to fund a $12 million water quality improvement project that will result in an estimated reduction of 663,000 pounds of nitrogen pollution per year (the equivalent of about 442,000 bags of common fertilizer) going into Silver Springs. These reductions will be achieved by upgrading the City of Ocala Wastewater Facility #2, located near Silver Springs, to advanced treatment, significantly improving the quality of the effluent discharge of the facility.

Another approximated $1.5 million in state funding will be directed to Phase II of a more than $8 million water quality improvement and water quantity project that will relocate a wastewater discharge from the Marion County Utilities Silver Springs Shores facility, which is located near Silver Springs, and redirect it for beneficial reuse at area golf courses, further away from the spring. The relocation of the discharge will eliminate a nutrient source near the head of the spring, and result in an estimated reduction of more than 40,000 pounds of nitrogen entering the aquifer per year. It will also result in reduced water consumption at area golf courses and improve the flow of Silver Springs.

Ichetucknee Springs – Lake City
Nearly $4 million in state funding will be invested to leverage $4.6 million water quality improvement project that will improve the treatment of wastewater currently routed to a sprayfield (south of Lake City) being used for disposal and treatment by the City of Lake City’s wastewater treatment facility. This will result in beneficial recharge to the aquifer with higher quality water. It is estimated that this project will achieve a nitrogen reduction of 85 percent, or an estimated reduction of 77,000 pounds of nitrogen per year from going into the aquifer feeding the Ichetucknee Springs System.

Wekiwa Springs Group – Orlando Region
Approximately $700,000 in state funding will be leveraged for a more than $3.5 million project to benefit Wekiwa Springs to construct a reclaimed water transmission main to expand the City of Apopka’s reclaimed water service into a high recharge area for Wekiwa and Rock Spring, which feeds the Wekiva River. Utilizing this reclaimed water reduces and eliminates discharges to the Wekiva River system which resulting in an estimated reduction of 66,400 pounds of nitrogen pollution per year to the Wekiva River while also providing spring flow benefits through aquifer recharge.

Kings Bay- Crystal River
Another investment of nearly $500,000 will be leveraged for a nearly $1 million living shoreline project to benefit Kings Bay in Hunters Cove. This project will establish emergent vegetation and restore submerged grasses providing for a 15 percent reduction of nitrogen and 42 percent of phosphorus pollution. In addition, a Three Sisters shoreline stabilization project will also be constructed to prevent further sedimentation from the shoreline and surrounding areas into the springs.

An additional $500,000 in state funding will be leverages for a $2 million project that will connect several plants, and upgrade waste water infrastructure, to tie into the municipal waste water system that will result in an estimated load reduction of 6,272 pounds of nitrogen per year. This project will generate approximately 90,000 gallons per day of reclaimed water that will be used by an area golf course, reducing their consumptive use and groundwater withdrawals.

Rainbow, Kings Bay, Homosassa, Chassahowitzka, Weeki Wachee Springs Group – The Springs Coast
This estimated $875,000 water quality improvement and water quantity project will receive $375,000 in state funding. This project is a cost-share initiative to work with area farmers to implement agricultural best management practices (BMPs) within the Springs Coast region that will reduce groundwater withdrawal quantities and/or nutrient loading to the Upper Floridan Aquifer system, ultimately benefiting the springs systems. Agricultural operations in the Springs Coast region include citrus groves, row crops, blueberries, grains, field and container nurseries, and animal operations (cow/calf, equine, poultry). This wide range of agricultural activities presents the opportunity for a variety of technologies that can be used to reduce groundwater use, such as weather stations, soil moisture sensors, automatic timers and pumps, tailwater recovery ponds, and irrigation retrofits using more efficient low-volume systems.

Suwannee River Springs – Dixie County
More than $1.5 million in state funding will be invested to leverage $2 million for a water quantity improvement project that will restore natural flows of water enabling an estimated 3 billion gallons per year of surface water storage to be recharged into the aquifer improving spring flows along the middle Suwannee River basin. The aquifer recharge benefits of this project will improve flow and water quantity in many springs and supplement other efforts to ensure future minimum flows and levels (MFLs) set for the Middle Suwannee River and associated springs will be sustained.

Additional Spring Investments
Along with investing in projects, the Department set the very first basin management action plan, or restoration plan, for springs in the Santa Fe River watershed in 2012 and has provided $1.4 million to improve the nutrient controls for agricultural practices in the area in addition to the $5.5 million for springs projects within the Suwannee River Water Management District in the Florida Families First budget.

Under Governor Scott’s oversight, Florida’s water management districts are also making progress in establishing minimum flows and levels for Florida’s springs. These are designed to protect and restore spring flows and the natural systems they support. The districts have set minimum flows and levels for 22 springs to date and expect to set them for 49 more springs over the next two years, which will more than double the cumulative efforts of the last decade.

For a map of the projects, click HERE.