FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 25, 2013
OUR SANTA FE RIVER PRESIDENT JOINS REPRESENTATIVES FROM DEP AND SUWANNEE RIVER WATER MANAGEMENT DISTRICT FOR RIVER TOUR
~Opportunity for exchange of ideas, update on river status and restoration efforts~
FORT WHITE – Yesterday representatives from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and Suwannee River Water Management District joined Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson, President of Our Santa Fe River, for a first-hand account of current river conditions and to share ideas about restoring the river.
The Department shares the concerns of local residents regarding nutrient impacts, such as algae blooms to this important watershed and remains committed to working with local governments and stakeholders to implement long- and short-term strategies to reduce nutrients in the Santa Fe River basin. Engagement and input from local stakeholders are critical to the success of these efforts.
The Department has adopted a 35 percent water quality improvement target, called a total maximum daily load, for the Santa Fe River and associated springs to improve the health of the river and reduce algae. The Department subsequently adopted the Santa Fe River Basin Management Action Plan in March 2012. The plan identifies the specific actions needed to decrease nutrient concentrations in the Santa Fe River Basin, which includes all or portions of Alachua, Bradford, Columbia, Gilchrist and Union counties and encompasses more than one million acres.
“I am proud of the groundwork laid by this cooperative effort, but remain aware that the Santa Fe River continues to experience severe algal blooms,” said Drew Bartlett, Director of DEP’s Division of Environmental Assessment and Restoration. “Stakeholders like Our Santa Fe provide essential local insight and yesterday I learned from their observations in person.”
"The health of the Santa Fe River is critical to our community," said Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson. "The River is not healthy now and we are engaging everyone to address this important issue. We appreciate that the Directors of the water quality and quantity programs of the State joined us today. That has never happened before."
As an initial step, local stakeholders have committed to over $25 million in projects to restore these waterbodies and to monitor improving water quality. The Department and District has also committed more than $900,000 to address nutrient and water supply issues in the Santa Fe River Basin. The Suwannee River Water Management District will use the money to help area farmers improve their irrigation and fertilization practices, keeping more than 1 million pounds of nitrogen from entering the river and spring system and save 670 million gallons per year of water use.
"Reductions in nutrient loading and restoration of flows are both necessary to achieve the health of the Santa Fe," said Suwannee River Water Management District Executive Director Ann Shortelle. "Meaningful efforts such as retro-fitting center pivot irrigation systems are underway and will speed up implementation of the Santa Fe BMAP but we must remain vigilant and in tune with local stakeholder feedback that will ensure we are achieving our goal."
For information regarding the Santa Fe River Basin Management Action Plan, visit http://www.dep.state.fl.us/water/watersheds/docs/bmap/sfr-nutrient-bmap-final.pdf.