The St. Johns River Water Management District implements a wide variety of projects — many with partners — aimed at protecting water supplies, improving water quality and restoring natural systems, as well as providing flood protection in an 18-county jurisdiction in northeast and east-central Florida.
The projects described on this page — undertaken to fulfill its core missions — are broken into district-led restoration and construction projects, springs protection projects, and districtwide and agricultural cost-share projects.
Lake Apopka is the headwaters of the Ocklawaha Chain of Lakes. The district and partners have worked since the 1980s to improve the lake’s water quality and habitat, achieving significant water quality and habitat improvements.
For example, in 1994 there was no submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) in the lake. A 2019 survey finds SAV around most of the lake’s perimeter and district staff have observed much of the SAV flowering. Flowering is important for two reasons: first it is an indicator of plant vigor, and second the seeds produced provide for further expansion of these important plants. The return and continuing expansion of SAV indicates water quality and clarity are improving. In May 2018, Field and Stream Magazine recognized the area, highlighting impressive catches of bass and a resurgence of fishing tournaments in the area.
Harvesting of gizzard shad has been an important factor in the water quality improvements, with more than one million pounds of shad removed annually. Since 1993, the shad removal equates to 226,000 pounds of phosphorus removed. Operation of the Lake Apopka Marsh Flow-way since 2003 has resulted in 40 percent of the lake’s water volume having been filtered annually, to remove suspended solids, algae and associated nutrients. In early 2018, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) concurred with the district’s site-wide biological assessment of pesticide concentrations on the North Shore, thus enabling the district to begin implementing a broader management of water, vegetation, etc. — clearance that came three years sooner than expected. The broader management flexibility will provide additional benefits to Lake Apopka.
Examples of current district projects:
- The district is partnering with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission on a $5.7 million project to capture lake sediments in a natural settling area (called a sump) so that it can be periodically pumped to an area on the North Shore designed to hold the removed sediments.
- The district is pumping suspended muck from near-shore areas of Lake Apopka where sunlight is adequate for submerged plants to grow once again. Muck impedes light penetration and reduces plant growth. This is a $2.7 million partnership project with FWC and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
- The district is adding improvements to the flow-way designed to optimize its ability to filter suspended sediments from Lake Apopka’s water. The district is partnering with DEP on the $1.6 million project.
- Utilizing funding from the 2014 Florida Water and Land Conservation Initiative, the district has accelerated wetland restoration efforts on portions of the North Shore.
- The district has pilot tested several innovative processes since 2012, with varying levels of success with those private entities contracted to demonstrate the new methods for removing phosphorus from the lake.
- The district is working to improve underwater planting techniques and plant tens of thousands of aquatic plants throughout the lake. Thisis a $726,000 collaborative project with the University of Florida.
- The district is installing floating leaved plants like water lily and lotus in up to 35 acres of the lake in a $200,000 project.
Black Creek Water Resource Development Project
This project in southwestern Clay County is one of several projects identified in the North Florida Regional Water Supply Plan (approved in January 2017) to help meet future water supply demands while protecting natural resources. To be built between Penney Farms and Camp Blanding, the project focuses on providing recharge to the Upper Floridan aquifer in the Keystone Heights region and Lower Santa Fe basin. It is also expected to contribute to minimum flows and levels recovery in the Lower Santa Fe Basin and may help improve water levels in lakes in the Alligator Creek system, including lakes Brooklyn and Geneva. The project will capture flow in the Black Creek South Fork during periods of high water and flood events, pumping water through a transmission system toward the Keystone Heights area and discharged to an Upper Floridan aquifer recharge area.
Through July 2018, the district has accomplished the following project milestones: topographic survey, geotechnical report, endangered species report, archeological study, land acquisition, pipeline hydraulic modeling, withdrawal impacts (hydraulic and water quality) and 60 percent of the design work. Ongoing work for late 2018 and early 2019 includes beginning the permitting projects, entering the procurement process for a construction contractor and beginning construction in late 2019.
Springs protection projects
Since 2014, nearly 80 projects protecting spring water flow and water quality have been funded through district cost-share programs. The district has contributed more than $35 million toward springs protection projects, resulting in more than 62 million gallons of alternative water supplied and 4 million gallons of water a day (mgd) conserved. These projects also have reduced total nitrogen and total phosphorus.
Volusia Blue Springs — Deltona Water Management Site
(2017 funding cycle; $1.9 million district cost-share)
This project furthers construction and water management features at a city-owned water management site by the West Volusia Water Suppliers cooperative. This phase includes construction of a 4 million gallon per day (mgd) system to treat stormwater and future surface water from Lake Monroe. The treated water will be used to augment reclaimed water supplies. Project benefits include helping to meet the requirements for the recovery strategy set by the district in 2006 for the Volusia Blue Springs minimum flows and levels. Total project construction is estimated at $7.5 million, with contributions of $1.9 million each from the district and Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
Since 2014, 121 projects protecting spring water flow and water quality have been funded through district cost-share programs. The district has contributed more than $48 million toward vital springs projection projects, resulting in more than 93 million gallons of alternative water supplied and 6 million gallons of water a day (mgd) conserved. These projects also have reduced total nitrogen to priority spring systems by 1,061,181 lbs./year and total phosphorus by 169,443 lbs./year.