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Water bodies, watersheds and storm water

Northern Coastal Basins

The Northern Coastal Basins stretches along the northern Atlantic coast of Florida. The basin extends approximately 125 miles from the St. Marys River and Amelia Island in Nassau County, south through the coastal watersheds of Duval, St. Johns, Flagler and Volusia counties to Ponce de Leon Inlet, near the city of New Smyrna Beach.

The St. Johns River Water Management District established the basin program in 1995 in response to concerns about the impacts of population growth and development on water quality in the coastal basin. The basin covers all the watersheds that drain toward the Atlantic coast between the Spruce Creek watershed near Ponce Inlet in Volusia County and the Guana River watershed in northern St. Johns County.

Location of Northern Coastal Basin

Negative impacts on water resources in the basin range from stormwater runoff to leaking septic systems to wakes from recreational boaters. Through workshops sponsored by the district, local, regional, state and federal agencies have come together to address issues such as flooding, water quality (particularly in shellfish harvesting areas) and protection of coastal saltmarsh resources. The need to address water quality was underscored by several coastal algal blooms in the 1990s. Because of those algal blooms, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) listed several water bodies in the basin as not meeting their water quality designations. Such blooms no longer frequently occur.


The district coordinates with local governments and regional, state and federal agencies in the watershed to monitor and assess estuary health, respond to current issues, and address future management needs. Interagency work groups are guiding efforts to develop and monitor resource baselines and to coordinate resources and funding for development and implementation of regional watershed management initiatives. Among this work, the district developed a watershed-based Surface Water Improvement and Management (SWIM) Plan to enhance, restore and manage the water quality and wetland resources within the basin’s estuaries.

A white ibis.

A white ibis.

A white ibis.

A white ibis.

Components of the SWIM Plan resulted from a series of workshops and public forums, and partnerships with management agencies, local governments and stakeholders to identify watershed issues. This information was used to develop an initial NCB Reconnaissance Report (Bonnie Holub and Associates 1998) as a resource guide in development of the basin SWIM Plan.

The district’s Governing Board adopted the SWIM plan in 2003 — its most recent guiding document — and the Northern Coastal Basin was designated as an official SWIM program. The basin program continues to update its work plans, as needed, to implement the SWIM Plan initiatives:

  • Water quality — The district and its partners have established a water quality monitoring network in the basin and, where necessary, design and implement additional efforts to plan, track and evaluate cooperative watershed management initiatives.
  • Watershed master planning — Includes tracking and evaluating stormwater management. Using hydrologic and screening models, stormwater treatment needs and priority areas have been identified, stormwater retrofit initiative projects can be tracked and stormwater treatment proposals can be evaluated and refined.
  • Stormwater retrofit and master plan implementation — Includes facilitating the development, refinement and implementation of a prioritized stormwater retrofit program, focusing on areas built prior to stormwater regulations adopted in 1983. The district also encourages and provides technical support for the development of local government stormwater utilities, land acquisition programs, watershed initiatives, and helps evaluate federal and state funding sources.
  • Students enjoy a canoe outing on a creek at the Pellicer Creek Conservation Area.

    Students enjoy a canoe outing on a creek at the Pellicer Creek Conservation Area.

  • Compliance and rule enforcement — The district works with its partners and community leaders to collect and evaluate compliance information from existing permitted stormwater treatment systems. Results may be used to increase the effectiveness of compliance measures and to assist refinement of treatment and management techniques. Work includes establishment and achievement of pollutant load reduction goals and total maximum daily loads.
  • Resource assessment, protection and restoration — Initiative involves the collection, mapping and evaluation of resource and habitat data sets used to develop and implement resource restoration, enhancement and management activities in the region. Active restoration and management plans have been developed and are being implemented for disturbed estuary habitats, including historical salt marshes filled by dredge spoils to create the Intracoastal Waterway, spoil piles associated with dragline ditches created by extensive mosquito control activities and restoration of impoundment dike walls back to historical salt marsh.

Styles Creek near Princess Place Preserve within the Pellicer Creek Conservation Area.


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St. Johns River Water Management District
4049 Reid Street, Palatka, FL 32177
(800) 725-5922