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~DEP and local governments commit to another five years of restoration projects for Orange Creek basin~

TALLAHASSEE – The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has adopted a long-term restoration plan for Orange Creek basin. The restoration plan, known as a basin management action plan or BMAP, identifies strategies and projects that will be implemented by the department in conjunction with local governments over the next five years to improve the water quality of the Orange Creek basin. The BMAP covers eight waterbodies in the Orange Creek basin, which are impaired due to either excess nutrient pollution or high levels of fecal coliform bacteria.

“During the first phase of this restoration plan we have seen improvements in the health of these waterbodies,” said Tom Frick, director of the Division of Environmental Assessment and Restoration. “The second phase of this BMAP will supplement the initial restoration strategies with the implementation of new projects developed with knowledge obtained during the past few years.”

The original restoration plan was adopted in 2008 and thanks to the efforts of local governments, St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD), Department of Health (DOH), Department of Transportation (DOT) and Gainesville Regional Utilities (GRU), substantial progress has been made. Sources of bacteria have been identified and remediated, and the amount of bacteria has declined in all impaired streams. Reductions have also been observed in chlorophyll-a, an indicator of the amount of algae in the water, which typically increases from excess nutrient pollution.

The new, second phase BMAP adds an additional 57 water quality improvement projects, including conservation land purchases and enhancements in stormwater runoff management. The new restoration plan also incorporates a new waterbody, Lochloosa Lake, which has the potential to positively impact the water quality in downstream Orange Lake.

One of the more significant projects identified in the second phase restoration plan is the approximately $2.5 million Sweetwater Branch/Paynes Prairie Sheetflow Restoration Project, a cooperative effort between local governments, the city of Gainesville Public Works, GRU, DEP, DOT, SJRWMD and others. The project will rehydrate wetlands by returning water flow to Paynes Prairie. The wetland treatment system created will remove nutrients from water in Sweetwater Branch, which discharges into Alachua Sink.

The Orange Creek Basin covers 425 square miles, mostly in Alachua County. The newly adopted BMAP strategizes restoration for Hogtown Creek, Tumblin Creek, Sweetwater Branch, Alachua Sink, Newnans Lake, Lake Wauberg, Orange Lake and Lochloosa Lake. Orange Lake and Loochloosa Lake are designated as Outstanding Florida Waters by the state of Florida, meaning these water bodies are worthy of special protection due to their natural attributes.

For more information about the Orange Creek basin restoration plans click here.