New minimum flow protects Outstanding Florida Spring, manatees

Ponce de Leon Springs in Volusia County

Ponce de Leon Springs in Volusia County

PALATKA, Fla., Feb. 1, 2017 — Manatee protection is getting a boost today when new water resource protection rules for Ponce de Leon Springs, set by the St. Johns River Water Management District, become effective. In mid-December 2016, the district’s Governing Board approved rule amendments to adopt minimum flows for the spring in Volusia County.

“One of the district’s responsibilities is to set minimum flows and levels (MFLs) to protect water resources from significant harm due to water withdrawals,” said St. Johns River Water Management District Executive Director Dr. Ann Shortelle. “The greatest benefit of this MFL on an Outstanding Florida Spring is the protection it provides to manatees in the winter by maintaining warm-water flows – 71 to 74 degrees – from the spring to Spring Garden Run. We are pleased to see it go into effect.”

“This MFL helps maintain the warm water characteristics of (Ponce) DeLeon Springs and the portion of Spring Garden Run fed by its spring waters,” said Kent Smith, biological administrator with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation. “As a result of the MFL’s implementation, the system will continue to provide the warm water refuge historically used by manatees and will aid in the continued recovery of this endangered species.”

Ponce de Leon Springs is a second-magnitude spring that is the centerpiece of DeLeon Springs State Park, located north of the city of DeLand. It is identified as important winter refuge habitat for manatees by both the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), and is federally designated as critical habitat for manatees.

Although the pool is highly altered, with concrete sides and walkways, the spring and spring run are regionally important as recreational and ecological resources. The spring was designated by the state as both an Outstanding Florida Water and more recently as an Outstanding Florida Spring.

Establishing MFLs is an important goal in the district’s work of planning for adequate water supplies for today and for future generations while also protecting the district’s water resources. MFLs are used as a basis for setting limits on water withdrawals in the consumptive use permitting process and for reviewing proposed surface water management systems in the environmental resource permitting process. The district is setting MFLs for lakes, streams, rivers, wetlands and springs.

More information about the spring and water quality and discharge statistics can be found at www.sjrwmd.com/springs/poncedeleon.html.