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~Next round of projects to be identified to reduce nutrients in basin lakes~

TAVARES - The Florida Department of Environmental Protection hosted a public meeting in Tavares on Wednesday night to discuss the restoration efforts for the Upper Ocklawaha River. The meeting continues the commitment of the Department and stakeholders to improve water quality in the basin, building on a basin management action plan established in 2007.

The Upper Ocklawaha restoration plan was adopted to address nutrient problems in Lake Apopka, Palatlakaha River, Lake Griffin, Lake Yale, Lake Eustis, Lake Harris, Trout Lake, Lake Carlton, Lake Dora and Lake Beauclair. At the public meeting, participants were provided an update on the status of restoration efforts based on this plan.

“There is good news to report in this basin and there are improvements in the total phosphorus levels in many of the lakes,” said Tom Frick, Director of DEP’s Division of Environmental Assessment and Restoration. “The Department relies on the support of all of the stakeholders in the restoration process and we are grateful for the investments local governments have made to accomplish very significant nutrient reductions in these waterbodies."

The initial phase of the restoration plan called for the implementation of 155 projects including structural stormwater ponds, street sweeping and implementation of agricultural best management practices. Many of the original projects are complete and are in place working to clean the water daily, and will for years to come. Available cost estimates for projects represent a more than $195 million investment.

As a result of these efforts, total phosphorous loading reductions in Lake Apopka of 65 percent have been achieved, 70 percent in Lake Beauclair and 67 percent in Lake Dora.  At the completion of the second phase of this water quality restoration effort, the Department and stakeholders anticipate a reduction in total phosphorus of over 250,000 pounds per year. 

Other reductions in the Upper Ocklawaha restoration plan have depended on large public works restoration projects on former muck farm lands and removal of excess nutrient loading from Lake Apopka to the Harris Chain of Lakes. The restoration plan now needs a second iteration to reach the more difficult to achieve results.

Wednesday's meeting continued planning efforts for the next round of restoration projects. In the second period of implementation, stakeholders will continue and expand existing efforts. There are at least 50 potential new projects for adoption in the revised plan, including expanding best management practice activities to achieve the remainder of the nutrient load reductions necessary to meet goals for each waterbody.

Among the priority items to be included in the next phase of the restoration plan are:

•           The continuation of wetland restoration work and in-lake restoration for Lake Apopka, Lake Harris, and Lake Griffin is critical for those lakes to achieve their restoration targets and water quality targets. 

•           Develop additional in-lake water quality improvement projects for Trout Lake, Lake Carlton, Lake Harris, Lake Yale and the Palatlakaha River. 

•           Stormwater management good housekeeping practices continue and expand in scope and area.

•           Implementation of agricultural best management practices to address this source of total phosphorus loading and provide a more complete inventory of expected reductions.