FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 5, 2012
DEP SECRETARY JOINS STAKEHOLDERS TO CELEBRATE SANTA FE RIVER BASIN MANAGEMENT ACTION PLAN
~Program moves aggressively forward with cooperation of local, regional stakeholders~
Stakeholders gather at Santa Fe River Ranch for the signing of the Santa Fe River Basin Management Action Plan. From left to right: Carlos Suarez, Natural Resources Conservation Service; Donald J. Quincey, Jr., SRWMD Governing Board Chair and current President of the Florida Cattleman’s Association; DEP Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr.; Kevin Morgan, Florida Farm Bureau; Richard J. Budell, Director of the FDACS Office of Agricultural Water Policy; Chris Bird, ACEPD.
ALACHUA - Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. joined stakeholders today at the Santa Fe River Ranch to celebrate the adoption of the Santa Fe River Basin Management Action Plan (BMAP).
“Today marks an important beginning in our collective efforts to protect the Santa Fe River,” said Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. “With hard work from all of the stakeholders, a collaboratively developed Basin Management Action Plan now sets forth the blueprint to practical, effective protection programs. Landowners throughout the greater Suwannee and Santa Fe River basins are to be commended for embracing the implementation of best practices to better manage nutrients and irrigation.”
The action plan, developed in partnership with the Suwannee River Partnership (SRP), Alachua County, Colombia County, Union County, Bradford County, Gilchrist County, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), the Florida Department of Transportation, the Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD); and the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF-IFAS) identifies actions that are needed to decrease nutrient concentrations and increase dissolved oxygen in the Santa Fe River Basin.
The basin includes all or portions of Alachua, Bradford, Columbia, Union and Gilchrist Counties and encompasses over 1 million acres.
“One of DEP’s top priorities is getting Florida’s water right, which entails both ensuring an adequate supply and improving the quality of our water,” said DEP Secretary Vinyard. “I am proud to join the local governments, members of the agricultural community and our other partners who worked with us to create this plan today to celebrate this achievement, and I look forward to continuing this partnership as we take action to improve the water quality of this important watershed.”
A water quality restoration target, called a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), was adopted by DEP for the Santa Fe River and associated springs. The TMDL establishes the reduction of nutrient concentrations needed to restore the beneficial uses of this river and spring system. The TMDL requires a 35 percent reduction in nutrient concentrations to improve the health of the river and reduce algal growth. The action plan lists needed steps to reduce nutrient concentrations, a schedule for their implementation, and potential resources to accomplish them.
The Santa Fe River BMAP was developed under DEP’s comprehensive approach to identify polluted waterways and build partnerships with local, regional and state interests to return them to healthy condition. Through its science-based program, DEP determined that the Santa Fe River had excessive algal mat growth due to excessive nutrients and required action to meet Florida’s water quality standards. Restoration targets were established for the river, and DEP worked with local stakeholders to develop an action plan to meet these targets. The local stakeholders have committed to over $25 million in projects to achieve restoration in these water bodies, and to monitoring the water bodies to ensure restoration occurs.
This effort demonstrates the dedication of local governments, businesses and stakeholders to the restoration of water bodies in their part of the state.
Reducing the nonpoint source discharges of pollutants that end up in the Santa Fe River will help achieve water quality standards and designated uses established by DEP. The phased approach outlined in the BMAP involves implementation of actions such as agricultural and urban best management practices (BMPs), improved stormwater management and increase wastewater reuse alongside activities such as continued water quality sampling to better control and understand the sources of these pollutants. The implementation of BMAP actions will decrease the levels of nutrients that ultimately end up in the Santa Fe River.
Several projects have been implemented in advance of finalizing the restoration plan. Examples of significant project commitments include the following:
City of Lake City Utilities – The City of Lake City has funded projects to build a new wastewater treatment plant to treat their discharge, install new sewer lines in areas previously not connected to a municipal system and implement a reclaimed wastewater reuse program in conjunction with one of the areas producers. These projects total over $22.5 million.
Alachua County – Alachua County has acquired more than 4,200 acres of environmentally sensitive lands for protection at a cost of over $30 million. These lands include Mill Creek Preserve, Odom Preserve, Northeast Flatwoods Preserve, Lake Alto Preserve, Turkey Creek Hammock Preserve, Watermelon Pond Preserve, and numerous conservation easements and jointly managed properties.
Alachua County has also adopted a Riverine Corridor Protection Plan, which will implement comprehensive plan policies to conserve land and create buffers along the Santa Fe River corridor through voluntary land acquisition, conservation easements or covenants and education, and partnerships to change landowner practices. As part of the conservation easement negotiations, Alachua County Forever (ACF) insists on maintaining the current level of use along the Santa Fe River. For example, where the state's Silvicultural BMPs may allow new and more intense impacts along the river, the easements eliminate that right, maintaining the current level. Thus the county does not reference adopted BMPs as these may get less restrictive and therefore weaken the conservation easement.
Alachua County has prepared a Stormwater Master Plan in support of the development of a Stormwater Management Program for the unincorporated areas of Alachua County. The master planning process provided an opportunity to assess the state of stormwater management in the County, focusing on identifying needs to address flooding problems, water quality deficiencies, maintenance of drainage systems, and compliance with regulatory requirements. To date, $1.85 million has been spent on the Stormwater Master Plan.
The Suwannee River Partnership (SRP) and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) - SRP and FDACS have conducted on-farm demonstrations to encourage BMP implementation throughout the Suwannee and Santa Fe River Basins. SRP established the Progressive Farms demonstration program in 2004, with the help of farmers/leaders in the crop industry, to demonstrate vegetable/agronomic crop BMPs. Since 2004, 20 farmers throughout the SRWMD area have demonstrated to their farming neighbors that BMPs work for them and for the environment. This program has allowed UF–IFAS and SRP staff to demonstrate new technology to manage fertilizer and irrigation more effectively. Along with the Crop Tools cost-share program, Progressive Farms has been instrumental in the widespread adoption (186 farms representing 112,000 acres) of crop management tools such as GPS, soil moisture probes, and precision fertilizer application equipment. UF–IFAS determined that the Progressive Farms operations using these tools reduced their nitrogen application by an average of 50 pounds per acre and demonstrated the efficient use of irrigation water. To date approximately $1.85M for cost share BMP projects for agriculture.
“The Santa Fe River BMAP is the blueprint that will help guide us to achieving our goal of reducing nitrogen pollution in the Santa Fe River Basin,” said Chris Bird, Alachua County Environmental Protection Department (ACEPD) Director. “The plan’s adoption allows our water stewardship partners to move forward in working together to restore the quality of the basin’s groundwater, springs, and the Santa Fe River.“