PALATKA, Fla., Nov. 12, 2019 — The St. Johns River Water Management District Governing Board on Tuesday approved moving forward with contracts for two agricultural projects that will reduce water use by 1.41 million gallons per day and reduce nitrogen and phosphorus loading to the St. Johns River in the Tri County Agricultural Area (TCAA) of Putnam, St. Johns and Flagler counties.
“Many Florida growers share our goal of protecting the state’s natural resources for future generations but they also have the added challenge of ensuring the sustainability of their operations,” said St. Johns River Water Management District Executive Director Dr. Ann Shortelle. “The continued commitment from these growers helps to protect the environment by cutting back on water use and reducing nutrient runoff from farming operations.”
TCAA cost-share projects contribute to the improved health of the St. Johns River through on-farm and regional water management projects and practices that reduce the movement of nutrients to the river, improve water conservation and result in more efficient farm management while maintaining the long-term viability of agriculture in the TCAA.
The board authorized Dr. Shortelle to execute contracts with two selected growers to share in funds provided by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP).
The two projects will reduce water use and are anticipated to reduce total nitrogen loading to the St. Johns River by 32,642 pounds per year and total phosphorus loading by 4,671 pounds per year.
Farms selected to receive TCAA Water Management Partnership funds are:
- Marineland Aquaponics, in Putnam County, will receive $250,000 for the second phase of an aquaponics closed-circulation project.
- C.P. Wesley Smith, in St. Johns County, will receive $222,734 for conversion from traditional seepage irrigation to sub-irrigation drain tile. Earlier sub-irrigation drain tile projects have resulted in an estimated 51% decrease in water use when compared to seepage irrigation, and a 31% decrease in total nitrogen load concentrations and a 43% decrease in total phosphorus load concentrations.
Funding for the TCAA Water Management Partnership cost-share program is provided on a year-to-year basis by FDEP, FDACS and the district. A fourth partner, the Natural Resource and Conservation Service also provides cost-share opportunities to TCAA growers through federal dollars. To date, more than 130 projects have received funding from the combined efforts of the four partners.
Starting in the 2015 fiscal year, FDEP entered into a contract with the district in which the district agreed to provide project management oversight for the expenditure of FDEP funds for agricultural cost share projects within the TCAA. To date, 29 projects totaling over $4.2 million have been funded through this contract.