FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 4, 2014
DEP HOSTS RAINBOW SPRINGS RESTORATION PLAN DEVELOPMENT MEETING
~DEP staff and stakeholders review potential and ongoing projects to improve water quality~
DUNNELLON – The Florida Department of Environmental Protection today engaged local governments, scientists, environmentalists, agricultural operators and other stakeholders in the fifth of a series of meetings to continue development of a restoration plan to address nutrients in the Rainbow Springs Group and Rainbow River.
Rainbow Springs is Florida's fourth largest spring, source of the Rainbow River and site of one of Florida’s most popular state parks.
The Rainbow Springs system, like far too many others in Florida, suffers from nitrate pollution. Nitrate concentrations now often exceed about 20 times the historical level and are well above Florida’s water quality criterion. The water quality criterion is the basis for DEP’s restoration target for the Rainbow Springs Group, adopted in May of last year.
“Rainbow Springs is a prime example of Florida’s remarkable natural beauty at risk,” said Tom Frick, Director of DEP's Division of Environmental Assessment and Restoration. “The problem—excess nitrates—is known. Solving the problem requires well-planned, aggressively executed local and state investments and actions.”
The Rainbow Springs Group springshed—the area contributing water to the spring system—covers some 686 square miles in Marion, Alachua and Levy counties. Within the springshed is a landscape of rolling sand hills with pine forest, agricultural fields and a growing number of residential properties. Nitrates from fertilizer use and animal and human waste, including septic tanks, are washed off by stormwater and seep into the underlying karst geology. Karst geology, characteristic of Florida, involves open passages that readily transport groundwater and any contaminants into the springs.
This meeting focused on sources of nutrients in the area and nutrient reduction projects both underway and planned. There are various contributors of the excess nutrients that are reaching the groundwater. Department representatives explained the process through which they can estimate the amount of excess nutrients contributed by each source. The process through which new projects are submitted and included into the Rainbow Springs restoration plan was also discussed and updated by stakeholders.
In the past three years, twice as much funding has been dedicated exclusively to springs protection as in any other three-year period in Florida history. Governor Rick Scott recently dedicated $55 million to restoring and protecting Florida’s springs in the 2014-2015 “It’s Your Money Tax Cut Budget.”
For more information about DEP’s water quality restoration program, see http://www.dep.state.fl.us/water/watersheds/bmap.htm. For information on Rainbow Springs State Park, see http://www.floridastateparks.org/rainbowsprings.