PALATKA, Fla., June 14, 2022 — The St. Johns River Water Management District is launching a project to mechanically harvest and remove mats of floating vegetation —and their associated nutrients — from waters within the Orange Creek Restoration Area.
The Orange Creek Restoration Area is 3,500 acres of shallow marsh that the District has been working to restore for decades. While the property now includes areas of restored wetlands, timberlands, pastures and wet prairies, that was not always the case. Beginning in the 1920s the marshes were ditched and drained for agricultural use, which altered the hydrology in area and lead to excessive organic sediment accumulation (muck) and the introduction of invasive exotic plant species.
Since 1998 the District has been working to restore the area, including removing levees, filling ditches and reflooding the marsh. Today, restoration work on the site concentrates on nuisance and exotic plant management and water quality improvements, including the removal of excessive nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus through projects like mechanically harvesting.
“Last year, we were able to successfully remove nearly 500,000 pounds of nitrogen and 7,000 pounds of phosphorus through mechanical harvesting in the area,” said St. Johns River Water Management District Executive Director Mike Register. “I am grateful that our partners and Governing Board continue to support critical projects like these that help protect our waterways and restore our natural systems.”
The $269,758 project will focus on the removal of approximately 33 acres of exotic and invasive vegetation and will enhance the health of Orange Creek by improving water quality and habitat conditions, along with providing easier access to the area for other restoration activities.
Beginning in July, the District will close the boat ramp to the public for the duration of the project. Additionally, the white blazed trail will be rerouted around the project area to ensure the safety of our visitors.
Recreational closures of District lands are shared online and on social media. For recreational announcements and property closures on District lands, visit www.sjrwmd.com recreation.
To learn more about the District’s restoration efforts in the Orange Creek Basin, visit www.sjrwmd.com/waterways/orange-creek.