Under the leadership of Governor Rick Scott, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection announced a suite of 40 projects that will receive $50 million from the Fighting for Florida’s Future budget to improve water quality, reduce nutrient loading, recharge water supply and protect habitat in Florida’s iconic spring systems. This includes a state investment of more than $16 million to protect springs in Northeast Florida, including Ichetucknee, White, Blue Sink, Madison Blue, Hornsby, Poe and Santa Fe springsheds. Combined with match funding from Florida’s water management districts and local partners, the investment in springs projects statewide will total more than $94 million during the 2017-18 fiscal year.
“Thanks to the continued commitment of Governor Scott and the Florida Legislature in securing a dedicated funding source for springs restoration and protection, we can continue to focus on completing strategic acquisitions and projects that will produce real benefits for our spring systems,” said DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein. “I look forward to continuing to work with the Governor and Legislature, the water management districts and partners in the environmental, agricultural and local communities to conserve and protect Florida’s iconic springs.”
“As the district with the highest concentration of freshwater springs in Florida, the health and preservation of our springs and other water resources is the district’s top priority,” said Hugh Thomas, executive director for the Suwannee River Water Management District. “We are grateful for a Governor who shares this priority. This funding makes it possible for us to carry forth our mission to protect north Florida’s water through several highly impactful projects.”
The project development process is a collaborative effort among the department, water management districts, community leaders and local stakeholders. Projects are selected based on pollutant reduction, water conservation, cost effectiveness and available matching dollars.
The following highlighted projects are three of the eight selected projects for the Northeast Florida region, benefiting Ichetucknee, White and Blue Sink springs.
I-75/SR 47 Cannon Creek Sink Public Wastewater Improvement Project (Phase 1): A total of $3.4 million in collaborative funding will be used to eliminate septic tanks from 30 businesses and five residences in the area. Future phases, if completed, will eliminate up to 900 septic tanks and reduce up to 64,600 pounds of nutrient loading per year within the Santa Fe basin management action plan (BMAP) area.
White, Blue Sink
I-75/CR-136 Wastewater Improvement, Septic Elimination: A total of $3.3 million in collaborative funding will be used to construct a new wastewater treatment plant with wetland treatment/aquifer recharge for effluent disposal, eliminating 32 existing commercial septic tanks. It is estimated that this project will result in a nutrient reduction benefit of 39,785 pounds of total nitrogen per year, and 109 pounds of total phosphorus per year.
Precision Agriculture: A total of $2.5 million in collaborative funding will be used to provide cost-share funds to agricultural producers within DEP BMAP areas. The cost share program will help producers implement precision agricultural management technology to allow for increased efficiency and conservation of nutrients, impacting many springsheds across the district, with priority given to Florida Outstanding Springs areas. It is estimated that this project will result in a nutrient reduction benefit of 7.5 million pounds of total nitrogen per year.
A complete list of the springs protection projects funded by the Fighting for Florida’s Future budget can be found at www.depnewsroom.wordpress.com/. These projects will be considered by the water management district Governing Boards as part of their upcoming budget hearings. More information is also available on springs projects funded during the FY 16-17 year and FY 15-16 year.