DEP Celebrates Groundbreaking of Ocala Wetland Groundwater Recharge Park

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DEP Celebrates Groundbreaking
of Ocala Wetland Groundwater Recharge Park 

~Project will provide water quality benefits and increase flow of Silver Springs~

Ocala Wetland Groundwater Recharge Park 2

OCALA, Fla. – The Florida Department of Environmental Protection joined the St. Johns River Water Management District, the city of Ocala and local representatives at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Ocala Wetland Groundwater Recharge Park. Funding for the project was provided in part by a $2 million Springs Restoration grant from DEP's Division of Water Restoration Assistance.

“The Ocala Wetland Groundwater Recharge Park is a great example of how partnerships between state, regional and local governments can benefit our environment and our communities,” said DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein. “Working in this spirit of collaboration has not only allowed us to break ground on this important project, but has helped us leverage more than $190 million in state funding over the last seven years into an investment of more than $360 million to protect and restore Florida’s iconic springs.”

The 33-acre Wetland Groundwater Recharge Park will receive advanced treated wastewater from two of the city's water reclamation facilities and stormwater from the Old City Yard Drainage Retention Area. This will provide up to 5 million gallons per day of recharge water that was previously extracted from the Upper Floridan Aquifer, increasing the water flow at Silver Springs. The project includes constructing new rapid infiltration basins that will replenish the aquifer faster than current natural rates, an educational center, boardwalks, trails and wildlife overlooks. 

    "The Wetland Groundwater Recharge Park allows the city of Ocala to efficiently use its water resources," said Ocala Mayor Kent Guinn. "By developing this park, the city will create a wetland ecosystem, improve water quality, boost regional groundwater supplies and provide numerous recreational opportunities for the community."

    “It’s through collaboration on projects like this that we get the biggest bang for our buck when it comes to improving water resources throughout the district,” said St. Johns River Water Management District Executive Director Dr. Ann Shortelle. “This project will put millions of gallons of clean water each day back into the aquifer, which will significantly benefit Silver Springs - one of the most iconic springs in the state.”

    "The new Ocala Groundwater Recharge Park project has been welcomed by and supported by Marion Audubon Society members since its early inception," said Marion Audubon Society President John Schaefer. "There are several wins here beginning with birds and other wildlife, maintaining Florida’s precious aquifer, and the collaboration and support from three government organizations - DEP, St. Johns River Water Management District and the city of Ocala. We specifically thank Rachel Slocumb, conservation coordinator with the city of Ocala, for informing us of this project and providing the opportunity for us to conduct preconstruction bird counts."

    This project, along with many other efforts in the region, will also further reduce nitrogen-related impacts to Silver Springs. Local projects from stakeholders, government partners and DEP are essential to reduce nutrients in the springshed and improve water quality. To further improve the water quality in the basin, the department and its partners continue to identify sources of pollution, and implement projects and strategies to address these sources and ultimately restore these important springs and rivers.