PROJECTS

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.

Agricultural cost-share projects

The district assists farmers in protecting water resources through its cost-share funding program and by providing technical assistance through its Ag Assistance Team. The Ag Team centralizes help in gathering water use data needed for permits, reducing duplication in the permitting process, thus saving farmers time and money. Through the Tri-County Agricultural Area Water Management Partnership, cost-share projects largely focus on implementing improved fertilizer and irrigation practices on farms to reduce fertilizer-laden farm runoff from reaching the St. Johns River and other waterways in Flagler, Putnam and St. Johns counties.

Brown Farm

(2019 funding cycle; $313,794)

Roy Brown has been managing a 250-acre generational family farm in Alachua County for more than 30 years with a focus on sustainability. Brown’s Farm operates a roadside stand off State Road 26 in Orange Heights, growing pecans and a variety of fruits and vegetables. In six projects using cost-share funding assistance from the District between 2016 and 2020, Brown has been actively converting his vegetable production from less-efficient irrigation systems such as self-propelled volume guns to center pivots with drop nozzles and low-pressure spray nozzles. He has also added soil moisture sensors and weather stations. It is estimated that he is now conserving almost 10 million gallons per year (9.85 mgy) with the new systems. In addition, he has been converting to precision fertilizer application equipment, which allows him to not only reduce the amount of fertilizer he uses, but also place the fertilizer more precisely so that the roots are better able to make use of the nutrients. These changes will result in an estimated annual offsite nutrient loading reduction of 6,325 pounds of TN and 3,173 pounds of TP. The latest cost-share project was completed in 2020.

A small bunch or tied black cables
Rows of purple cabbages planted on a farm
Repining strawberries on a farm

Estes Groves Inc.

(2019 funding cycle; $103,699)

Citrus greening disease is spread by an insect called the Asian citrus psyllid and has been wreaking havoc on the state’s citrus industry. While researchers work to find a cure, growers are learning to manage their groves by optimizing tree root health. Cody Estes with Estes Groves Inc. manages 120 acres of citrus south of State Road 60 in Vero Beach. He has partnered with the district to fine-tune his irrigation system by installing soil moisture sensors, weather stations and pump automation. With pump automation, the grower develops a general control strategy outlining the conditions under which irrigation should start and stop. The controllers receive feedback from the sensors, make decisions based on settings and start and stop the pump accordingly. Mr. Estes can check on his system from his phone even if he is miles away. District staff estimate a 19 percent reduction in water use over his already efficient micro-irrigation system.

Phone screen with Condition data on it
Large motor
Row of shrubs

Cherrylake

(2016 funding cycle; $300,000)

Cherrylake, a tree farm in Lake County, recently completed a project to change out sprinklers on 694 acres of containerized trees and shrubs. Cherrylake continually evaluates how their work affects the quality of our air, land and water and was awarded the Commissioner of Agriculture’s Environmental Leadership award in 2016. Even with improvements, they recognized that their irrigation system didn’t account for harvesting of individual trees within an irrigation zone because there was no way to shut off individual emitters. This would result in irrigation water being applied to the ground after the tree was removed. In addition, the emitters would sometimes spray outside of the container. With the assistance of the districtwide Agricultural Cost-Share Program, Cherrylake retrofit the system with a “spot spitter” stake and emitter combination assembly that provides a shutoff position. Based on a Mobile Irrigation Lab evaluation performed in January 2018, conservation is expected to be almost 25 million gallons of water per year.

Trees beign watered with micro emitters at a tree farm
Irrigation emitters being used at a tree farm

C.P. and Wesley Smith Inc. Farms

(2018 funding cycle; $210,572)

C.P. and Wesley Smith Inc. Farms in Hastings grows potatoes, broccoli and corn on approximately 1,500 acres. The farm, along with most other farms in the area, had historically been irrigated with seepage. Wesley and his sons have been converting their farm from the less-efficient seepage to more-efficient irrigation methods such as center pivot and sub-irrigation drain tile. They have seen reductions in irrigation of roughly 50 percent and increases in crop yields. They have received assistance from the Tri-County Agricultural Area Water Management Partnership as well as USDA/NRCS and are taking advantage of every opportunity to become more efficient. They have also purchased banding equipment, which dramatically reduces the amount of fertilizer being applied to the land.

Men working with pipe in a trench
Close up photograph of a broccoli plant

Black Creek Water Resource Development project

Updated on 4-2-2021

The primary goal of the Black Creek Water Resource Development Project is to increase recharge to the Upper Floridan aquifer in northeast Florida using excess flow from Black Creek, in Clay County.

The project is among several identified in the North Florida Regional Water Supply Plan (NFRWSP) to help meet future water supply demands while protecting natural resources. This project, which will be built in southwest Clay County between Penney Farms and Camp Blanding, focuses on providing recharge to the Upper Floridan aquifer in the Keystone Heights region and Lower Santa Fe basin.

The project will divert up to 10 million gallons per day from the South Fork of Black Creek during wet weather high flow periods. Diversions will only be made when there is sufficient flow available to ensure the protection of natural resources within the creek. The water will be pumped through a transmission system before eventually discharging into Alligator Creek.  Alligator Creek flows into Lake Brooklyn, which will increase recharge to the Upper Floridan aquifer through the lake bottom.

The project is also expected to contribute to regional minimum flows and levels (MFLs) recovery and may help improve water levels in lakes and the Alligator Creek system, including drought-stressed lakes Brooklyn and Geneva. Restoration of the lakes is a secondary benefit of the project.

The funding for this project was provided in the St. Johns River and Keystone Heights Lake Region Projects legislative appropriations over three years beginning in 2017. The total appropriation was more than $48 million. Of that total, nearly $43.4 million was allocated to the Black Creek Water Resource Development Project. The appropriation was championed by Sen. Rob Bradley of Fleming Island (who currently serves as the District’s Governing Board Vice Chairman), Rep. Bobby Payne of Palatka, and Rep. Travis Cummings from Orange Park. The District is also contributing $5 million toward the project.

March 26, 2021, Black Creek project event

Dr. Shortelle speaking under am overhang

Demo: Removing tannins from Black Creek’s water, March 26, 2021

Dr. Shortelle talking about water samples
Map of the black creek project area
Black Creek Water Resource Development kickoff event in March 2017
Dr. Shortelle at the Black Creek Water Resource Development kickoff event in 2017

Kickoff event, March 2017

Frequently asked questions

We are committed to keeping the public informed as the project progresses.  To be added to the project information distribution list, please email contactus@sjrwmd.com with the subject line Black Creek.

How will the project impact salinity concentrations in Black Creek?

  • Potential salinity changes would be the equivalent of 1/16th of a teaspoon in a gallon of water.
  • These small changes in salinity would result in unnoticeable shifts in wetland communities both in Black Creek and the St. Johns River.
  • The point at which saltwater meets freshwater potentially could move by up to 250 feet as a result of this project, which is equivalent to less than the length of a football field.

Will the project reduce the flow of water in Black Creek?

  • Not significantly. In fact, at low flows, or approximately 25 percent of the time, there will be no withdrawals from Black Creek in order to be protective of the natural systems in the Creek.
  • When flow levels are average or above average, no more than 10 million gallons a day will be diverted for aquifer recharge. That’s no more than 4% of the total flow in Black Creek.
  • The maximum pumping of 10 million gallons a day will have little to no impact on the environment, according to a preliminary environmental assessment.

What is the project’s effect on Black Creek’s water quality?

  • This project will have little to no impact on water quality.
  • Water quality in Black Creek is generally good and this project will not change that.

What studies have been conducted to guide the project and reassure the public?

  • The District conducted a preliminary assessment that shows that the proposed quantity of surface water may be safely diverted from Black Creek with little to no environmental effects. You can find the Black Creek Water Resource Development Assessment report above.
  • A detailed alternative treatment analysis to reduce color in the Black Creek water to match the water in Lake Brooklyn was conducted. This analysis looked at potential treatment alternatives using several technologies, including coagulation, oxidation, adsorption, ion exchange, membranes, and biological processes. Over 30 treatment alternatives were evaluated based on their ability to treat for color as well as other concerns such as general capital costs, residuals management, storage of chemicals, and footprint and accessibility required for construction and operation. The analysis concluded a passive treatment system met the color reduction levels required, is the most cost effective, will blend in well with the natural environment at Camp Blanding and will minimize any accessibility concerns on base.
  • Additional evaluations will occur as permitting, design and engineering move forward.

Has pumping already begun at Black Creek?

  • No, the project is in permitting phase. Final design changes, if any, will be made when the permitting phase is complete.

Are there concerns that EZ Base could contaminate the project site or Black Creek itself?

  • No, the area where EZ Base concerns exist near Camp Blanding are not geographically near the Black Creek Project application site or recharge areas.
  • For additional information about EZ Base, please reach out to the Department of Environmental Protection’s Northeast District Ombudsman, Russell Simpson, at 904-256-1653.

How is this project beneficial and to whom?

  • The project is among several identified in the 2017 NFRWSP to help meet future water supply demands across the region while protecting natural resources.
  • The project will recharge the Upper Floridan aquifer in northeast Florida, helping to sustain or recover established MFLs in the region while also benefitting water users.
  • While the project may help improve water levels in lakes in Keystone Heights and throughout the Alligator Creek system, including drought-stressed lakes Brooklyn and Geneva, its purpose is to recharge the Upper Floridan aquifer and is expected to benefit MFLs in the region.

When did the public learn about this project?

  • This project has been discussed broadly with the public since May 2013.
  • The Black Creek project is part of the 2017 NFRWSP, which was developed through a highly collaborative process among the Suwannee River and St. Johns River water management districts and FDEP, local governments, public supply utilities, environmental advocates and other stakeholders.
  • Over four years, the NFRWSP planning process included 36 Stakeholder Advisory Committee meetings, more than 50 other stakeholder meetings and two public workshops to engage stakeholders to understand their individual perspectives as related to water resource issues in north Florida.
  • The District will continue to hold public meetings as the project progresses to keep the public informed.

How are you keeping the public informed about the Black Creek project?

  • We have a webpage dedicated to the Black Creek Project at sjrwmd.com/facts/black-creek/ where we keep updated, timely information on the project as well as project history.
  • We’ll continue to share project progress and updates through our District Facebook and Twitter pages, @sjrwmd.
  • To get regular email updates on the project, join our interested parties list by emailing contactus@sjrwmd.com with the subject line Black Creek.

Achieved milestones

  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers request for additional information (RAI) on permit and application submitted. Application submitted June 21, 2018. Most recent RAI response submitted December 2020.
  • Florida Department of Transportation permit issued on October 2018.
  • Ongoing NPDES permit pre-application meetings with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) in anticipation of submitting an application January 2021.
  • 90% project design deliverable completed in December 2018.
  • Aquifer modeling results indicate substantial benefit to the Upper Floridan aquifer and the Keystone lakes. Regional aquifer recharge estimated to be 4.5 million gallons per day on average and lake levels to be increased by 10 feet or more depending on local rainfall and flows within Black Creek.
  • The following reports are complete: topographic survey, geotechnical report, archeological study and endangered species report.
  • Land and easements for the project acquired.
  • Evaluation of treatment alternatives completed December 2020.
  • Pilot study of passive treatment system initiated January 2021.

Project schedule

July 2017

  • District Governing Board approved the design contractor ranking, authorization of final contract execution and associated budget transfers

FY 2018

  • Design and engineering
  • Land acquisition

FY 2019

  • Permitting

FY 2020

  • Evaluation of treatment alternatives
  • Permitting

FY 2021

  • Pilot study for source water (Black Creek) treatability
  • Finalize permitting
  • Design completion
  • Begin construction

Lake Jesup water quality, flow restoration project

Lake Jesup is a hydrologically complex system with a large, urbanized watershed and is the largest lake in Seminole County. The lake is shallow with a relatively low flushing rate that drains a 150-square-mile watershed, including portions of Oviedo, Sanford, Winter Park, Casselberry, Maitland, Longwood, Altamonte Springs, Lake Mary, Eatonville, Winter Springs and Orlando in Seminole and Orange counties.

Local stakeholder interest in restoring the lake began in 1993 with the Friends of Lake Jesup. In 2002, the District’s Governing Board designated Lake Jesup as a priority basin for restoration of water quality and fish and wildlife habitats. In 2008, in conjunction with the Lake Jesup Interagency Management Strategy, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection adopted a total maximum daily load for total phosphorus followed by the Lake Jesup Basin Management Action Plan (BMAP). As a result, progress is being made to reduce nutrient sources and concentrations to improve the lake’s water quality and clarity.

The St. Johns River Water Management District completed a feasibility study in 2014 evaluating the use of a wetland treatment system to treat pumped water inflow from Lake Jesup. The proposed project, which was expected to take about three to four years to complete (contingent on funding), will pump water from Lake Jesup into a treatment system made up of ponds and wetlands to remove phosphorus and nitrogen from the lake. This will also improve light penetration into the water column and encourage the growth of underwater plants. The proposed project was identified in the District’s long-range project plan and will be located on 1,169 acres of land that the District purchased in 1990 (the Little Cameron Ranch parcel).

In March 2018, the District’s Governing Board approved an additional feasibility evaluation to include a new component of the proposed project to restore the flow between the St. Johns River and the eastern portion of Lake Jesup. Hydrologic modifications to the confluence between the river and lake date back to the steamboat era of the late 1800s. In 2010, the Florida Department of Transportation completed a new 3,470-foot-long span bridge over the confluence and, in the process, removed the State Road 46 earthen causeway. This construction created an opportunity to restore the water flow that the causeway was blocking. The evaluation concluded that construction of a channel under the eastern span of the State Road 46 bridge, known as Channel C, would restore flow between the river and the lake. The proposed project will also focus on improving water clarity/quality and providing habitat enhancements by introducing additional water flow from the river.

In March 2020, the District’s Governing Board approved a contract with Johnson, Mirmiran and Thompson, Inc. for the design and permitting of the Lake Jesup Nutrient Reduction and Flow Enhancement Project. The design and permitting will encompass both the wetland treatment system located on the Little Cameron Ranch property and Channel C flow restoration.  Completion of the design and permitting is anticipated by fall of 2021.

Map of Lake Jesup with stars marking features locations
Palm trees silhouetted by a sunrise

Project costs

  • Total construction: $20–25 million (est. at 30% design level)
  • Engineering: $1.1 million
  • Operation and maintenance: $250,000–$400,000/year

Benefits

  • Estimated total phosphorus reduction: 2,800 lbs./yr.
  • Estimated total nitrogen reduction: 23,800 lbs./yr.
  • Estimated increase in area suitable for submerged aquatic vegetation: 200–500 acres

Project schedule

  • FY 2019–2020: Initiate design and permitting
  • FY 2020–2021: Ongoing design and permitting
  • FY 2021–2022:  Complete design and permitting
  • FY 2021–2022: Bidding and begin construction (contingent on funding)

Cost-share projects

The district’s ongoing cost-sharing program works with local governments, utilities, the agricultural community and other stakeholders to share in construction costs for projects that support one of the district’s core missions. By partnering with local governments and water suppliers, we are stretching taxpayer dollars further for construction projects that are producing real results in water resource protection.

Since the 2013–2014 fiscal year, the district has awarded more than $165 million in cost-share funding toward projects with total construction costs of $477,373,735. Through these projects, estimated benefits include 152 mgd of alternative water supply developed, 10 mgd of water conserved, 1,782,435 lbs/yr total nitrogen reduction; 437,695 lbs/yr reduction in total phosphorus, and 5,144 acres protected from flooding.

We are proud to partner with the communities throughout the district and the 272 projects that have been completed since Oct. 1, 2016.

Daytona Beach Bennett Swamp Rehydration and Conservation

(from the 2018 funding cycle; in progress; water quality project in Volusia County; $1.76 million district cost-share)

The water quality improvement project will include installation of 19,000 linear feet of pipes, dispersal units, and more than 50 flow-regulating valves and meters to disperse treated reclaimed water from the city’s westside regional wastewater treatment plant into 1,100 acres of the Bennett Swamp (a forested wetland) at an average annual rate of 6 million gallons per day (mgd). The project is expected to result in a removal of 54,000 lbs of total nitrogen and 18,000 lbs/yr total phosphorus from the Halifax River.

Construction equipment out in a forest
Construction crew working out in a forest

Bunnell Reclaimed Water Main Extension to State Road 100

(from the 2017 funding cycle, REDI grant, in progress; water supply project in Flagler County; $495,000 district cost-share)

The project consists of extending the city’s reclaimed water main by 1.5 miles along Grand Reserve Boulevard to State Road100 and Commerce Parkway and enable connection to current potable water irrigation systems. The project also includes upgrading the pumps at the wastewater treatment plant to provide reclaimed water at a higher pressure to end users for direct irrigation use. This is part of a goal toward zero discharge into Haw Creek from the wastewater treatment plant to reduce total maximum daily loads (TMDLs). The project will provide access to reclaimed water to the eastern part of the city.

Pumps and purple pipes out in a field

Oakland Stormwater/Drainage Improvements

(from the 2017 funding cycle; completed; flood protection project in Orange County; $184,803 district cost-share)

The town of Oakland identified the project as a necessary component to protecting water quality by redirecting and treating stormwater before it enters Lake Apopka or the Upper Floridan aquifer. A secondary benefit includes reducing local flood potential by better directing stormwater into available swales and retention ponds. The project included construction of drainage swales and retention ponds with nutrient-absorbing liners that reduce nitrogen and phosphorus loading in stormwater from flowing into Lake Apopka, and helps prevent flooding. The project also required the installation of piping to help convey water to the swales and ponds. These improvements will benefit the Ocklawaha River.

A tractor clearing land next to a stormwater retention basin
Workers in a trench in a neighborhood

Ocala Pine Oaks Wetland Recharge Project

(from the 2018 funding cycle; groundbreaking held in June 2018; natural systems protection project in Marion County; $4 million district cost-share; the Florida Department of Environmental Protection is also a funding partner.)

This project is one of the measures toward the Silver Springs minimum flows and levels (MFLs) Prevention Strategy. The project involves the construction of a 33-acre groundwater recharge wetland that will receive advanced treated wastewater from two of the city of Ocala’s water reclamation facilities and stormwater from the Old City Yard Drainage Retention Area. The project will provide 3 to 5 million gallons per day (mgd) of recharge to the Upper Floridan aquifer, which is of significant benefit to Silver Springs, and will also provide water quality improvements treatment of the water through the wetland. Estimated nutrient load reductions are 59,000 lbs/yr total nitrogen and 30,000 lbs/yr total phosphorous.

Dr. Ann Shortelle and other local officials shoveling dirt at the Ocala wetland groundwater recharge park groundbreaking ceremony

Crane Creek / M-1 Canal flow restoration project

Updated on 1-7-2021

The M-1 Canal is a 100-year old, man-made flood control feature in Brevard County that cuts through the historic drainage divide between the St. Johns River and the Indian River Lagoon.

The M-1 Canal diverts stormwater flow from 5,300 acres of drainage area in Melbourne, West Melbourne, Melbourne Village and portions of unincorporated Brevard County and sends the water east to the Indian River Lagoon via Crane Creek. Elevated levels of nutrients within runoff from this currently diverted watershed degrade water quality in the Indian River Lagoon and provide fuel for algal blooms.

The Crane Creek / M-1 Canal Project — identified in the 2017 Indian River Lagoon Stormwater Capture and Treatment Feasibility Analysis and led by the St. Johns River Water Management District — will substantially reduce nutrients flowing, or “loading,” to the Indian River Lagoon. Construction of the project will result in re-routing water in the M-1 Canal westward for treatment in a constructed stormwater treatment area prior to discharging to the St. Johns River Basin.

Project components include an operable weir east of Evans Road (behind the Melbourne Square Mall), a pump station, pipeline and stormwater treatment area west of Interstate 95. The operable weir – which allows capture of runoff for the pump station – is engineered to have no impact on the existing flood control capability of the M-1 Canal. To accomplish this, the canal and weir will be designed in a way to allow stormwater to flow unimpeded during major storm events.

This project will help reduce nutrient flows into both the Indian River Lagoon and the St. Johns River while also providing a potential water supply benefit by restoring 7 million gallons of freshwater flow per day to the St. Johns River.

Nutrient reductions to the Indian River Lagoon are estimated to be:

  • Total nitrogen 24,000 lb./yr.
  • Total phosphorus 3,100 lb./yr.
Dock at Crane Creek
Map of M-1 Canal

Project schedule

July 2017

  • Engineering design start

FY 2018

  • Hydraulic and hydrologic modeling
  • Engineering design
  • Land acquisition

FY 2019

  • Completion of land acquisition
  • Engineering design
  • Permitting

FY 2020 – 2022

  • Permitting
  • Final design
  • Construction

Project milestones

  • Hydraulic and hydrologic modeling is competed.
  • Design is completed.
  • Contractor has been selected.

Project partners

  • Brevard County ($2.03 million funding contribution)
  • Florida Department of Environmental Protection ($2.45 million funding contribution)
  • Johns River Water Management District (approx. $5.9 million)

Contact:

cranecreekproject@sjrwmd.com

FAQs

When is the project slated to begin and when will it be completed?
The construction phase of this project is scheduled to begin in March 2020. The anticipated completion date is December 2022.

Reversing some of the flow in M-1 Canal and sending stormwater west to the St. Johns River will help the Indian River Lagoon, but how will the stormwater be cleaned before it reaches the St. Johns River?
Water from the M-1 Canal will be pumped under Interstate 95 and Heritage Parkway to a stormwater treatment area (STA) and created wetland. The STA provides treatment for the water which then flows through the created wetland for additional treatment.

Will construction impact local traffic, especially in nearby neighborhoods?
Construction of this project will have no impact on local traffic.

Will the installation of the weir at the M-1 Canal contribute to flooding in nearby neighborhoods already prone to flooding during storm events?
This project will have no adverse impact on the existing stormwater system. Flood protection is a priority and has been carefully analyzed and modeled. The system is designed so that the proposed weir will be lowered (open position) in the event of a major oncoming rainfall event (such as a hurricane or tropical storm). Redundant automatic sensors in the canal will also lower the weirs if the water in the canal reaches certain elevations. The system is continually monitored by operations staff to ensure it is functioning properly. Additional analysis has been performed to ensure that even if the weir is left in the up position, flood protections will remain unchanged. This is possible because the M-1 Canal will be widened over the weir to maintain current flow capacity.

Where in the St. Johns River is the outfall located and does the additional water benefit the river?
The outfall is located west of the Heritage Parkway approximately one-half mile north of U.S.192. The outfall consists of an STA and a treatment wetland.  The treated water then streams into the St. Johns River Marsh via overland flow. The additional water will benefit the St. Johns River by restoring historic baseflow from the watershed that was diverted from the St. Johns River to the Indian River Lagoon.

Who do I call or email if I have additional questions or concerns?
If you have questions about this project you can email cranecreekproject@sjrwmd.com or call Marc Van Heden at 321-676-6604.

Doctors Lake restoration projects

Updated on 1-6-2021

Located in Clay County adjacent to the west bank of the St. Johns River, the Doctors Lake Basin covers approximately 23 square miles. The basin’s former agricultural and forested lands now support medium and high-density residential areas and commercial properties.

Doctors Lake has experienced water quality issues due to nutrient loading from stormwater runoff and other non-point sources such as septic tank effluent. Because of its narrow connection with the St. Johns River, the 3,400-acre lake has poor circulation and nutrients tend to concentrate in the lake.

Contributing nutrient-loading factors include:

  • Basin population of 35,000 (2000 Census)
  • 12,000-plus housing units
  • 847 units on septic tanks

During the 2018 legislative session, then-Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, Senate Budget Chairman, and Rep Travis Cummings, R-Orange Park, secured specific funding during the budget process for the St. Johns River to implement water resources projects that will help improve water quality in the St. Johns River, its tributaries and the Keystone Heights Lake Region, as well as improving public access and recreation projects within the St. Johns River Water Management District.

With then-Gov. Rick Scott’s support and approval of the budget, the St. Johns River Water Management District, Clay County and Clay County Utility Authority (CCUA) partnered to identify potential projects in the area.

Potential projects moving forward are:

  • The Doctors Lake Enhanced Effluent Treatment Project is an innovative technology currently removing phosphorus from wastewater effluent. The project is treating an estimated 2 million gallons per day on an annual average basis. This project will remove up to an estimated 6,500 pounds per year of total phosphorus.
  • Septic-to-sewer projects extending the CCUA infrastructure to serve lakeside neighborhoods currently on septic systems. Approximately 80 homes converted to central sewer would reduce total nitrogen entering Doctors Lake by about 1,500 pounds per year.
Map of the Doctors Lake restoration projects
St. Johns River Water Management District logo
Clay County Utility Authority logo
Clay County seal

Video project comments from the Aug. 15, 2018, announcement:

Dr. Ann Shortelle speaking at a Doctors Lake event
Dr. Ann Shortelle spoke at an event Aug. 15, 2018, hosted by Sen. Rob Bradley (right) to announce legislative funding for water quality projects to benefit Doctors Lake. The funding was championed by Sen. Bradley and Rep. Travis Cummings (left) in the FY 2018 legislative session.

Lake Apopka

Updated on 1-26-2021

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 improvements.

For example, in 1994 there was no submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) in the lake. A 2019 survey found 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 good plant health, 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.

Lake Apopka’s water quality restoration has been based on a multipronged approach of diet and exercise. “Diet” has focused on reducing the amount of phosphorus entering the lake. The largest “diet” improvement occurred following the Legislature’s 1996 direction to the district to buy out the farms on the lake’s north shore. This area, formerly a floodplain marsh, was diked, drained and put into agricultural production in the 1940s. Phosphorus from these farms fueled the continuous algal bloom which shaded the lake’s vegetation and caused the bass fishery to collapse.

Key to reducing phosphorus loading from the North Shore was restoring the area’s wetlands to reduce the volume of water pumped to the lake. Now all discharges can be treated to inactivate phosphorus and in 2003 the passage of the Lake Apopka Stormwater Rule enhanced the lake’s diet to the entire watershed.

“Exercise” is removal of phosphorus already in the lake, which has included harvest of rough fish (largely gizzard shad) from the lake and operating the marsh flow-way to continuously filter algae,  suspended solids and associated nutrients. The combined effect of the diet and exercise has been a dramatic improvement in water quality. Since the late 1980s, phosphorus concentrations have declined 64% and water clarity increased 55%. The recovery of clearer water and return of sunlight to the lake’s bottom has caused the regrowth of submerged aquatic vegetation, missing for 50 years, and the return of the critical bass habitat. In 2016, recognizing the improving water quality and habitat conditions, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission stocked nearly 1,000,000 fingerling bass in the lake.

Woman standing waist-deep in Lake Apopka
A District scientist measures the growth of aquatic vegetation at Lake Apopka

New district projects:

  • The District initiated a pay-for-performance project with Phosphorus Free Water Solutions that uses an innovative technology to remove phosphorus from the lake’s water. The project is in partnership with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. The project was updated in January 2021 to $6.75 million, with the majority coming from state funding.
  • The District partnered with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission on a $5.7 million project to improve water quality by capturing lake sediments in a natural settling area (called a sump), dredged into the lake’s bottom to be periodically pumped to an area on the North Shore designed to hold the removed sediments. The sump was constructed just outside the entrance to the Apopka-Beauclair Canal in hopes of trapping sediments that might otherwise move toward Lake Beauclair.
  • The District is conducting maintenance to the marsh flow-way designed to optimize its ability to filter suspended sediments and associated nutrients from Lake Apopka’s water. The District is partnering with Florida Department of Environmental Protection on the $2.7 million project.
  • The District is implementing a series of infrastructure improvements on the Lake Apopka North Shore that will allow more water storage, increase water management flexibility and reduce nutrient inputs to Lake Apopka. The District is partnering with Florida Department of Environmental Protection on these projects that include:
    • North Shore infrastructure improvements — Raising internal levee heights and construction of internal pumps. The project totals $2.4 million.
    • North Shore Interconnect — Constructing an internal pump to connect two major portions of the North Shore. The project estimate is $1.5 million.
    • Duda Water Storage Improvements — Raising internal levee heights and construction of hydraulic improvements to separate Duda into four cells that can be independently managed. The project estimate is $2.5 million.
  • 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 is working to accelerate the recovery of aquatic plants in Lake Apopka with a $1.2 million restoration effort that includes:
    • A collaboration with the University of Florida to improve underwater planting techniques and plant tens of thousands of aquatic plants throughout the lake.
    • Planting submerged aquatic plants like eelgrass and pondweed. This project is in partnership with Florida Department of Environmental Protection and will plant up to 150,000 plants in Lake Apopka.
    • Planting floating leaved plants like water lily and lotus to provide submerged habitat in up to 35 acres of the lake. This project is in partnership with Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Ongoing projects

  • North Shore Water and Phosphorus Management
    • 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 Lake Apopka North Shore, thus enabling the District to begin implementing a broader management of water levels and wetland vegetation. The broader management flexibility will provide additional benefits to Lake Apopka by allowing more water to be stored on the North Shore.
  • 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 231,000 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.

Lake Minneola Innovative Algal Bloom Treatment Project

Following recommendations from the state’s Blue-Green Algae Task Force with support from Gov. Ron DeSantis, the Florida Legislature appropriated fiscal year 2020 grant funding for innovative technology projects to test new processes for dealing with water quality challenges.

Several grants were awarded for innovative projects across Florida, including a pilot project to control, eliminate and possibly prevent algal blooms from forming in Lake Minneola, in Lake County.

Lake Minneola, which has been plagued with cyanobacteria, or potentially harmful blue-green algae, is a prime candidate for a pilot remediation project to combat harmful algal blooms.

The St. Johns River Water Management District has entered into a grant agreement with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) to provide the support for contracting with BlueGreen U.S. Water Technologies, Inc. (BGWT) to test its technology’s ability to control and manage algal concentrations in Lake Minneola.

Using a combination of collected field data, water samples and a hydrogen peroxide-based product, the BGWT pilot project will work to identify algal-prone areas in Lake Minneola and then deploy its technology in strategic locations to reduce current or forming algal blooms.

The pilot project is expected to be in operation for at least six months with initial deployment planned for November 2020.

To report algal blooms on Lake Minneola, please contact BGWT at: minneola@bgtechs.com.

Status
Modica and Associates began a two-week monitoring period on Lake Minneola on Nov. 2.  They collected water samples and readings at least three days a week, from Nov. 2 through Nov. 16, 2020.  During this time, no algaecide was deployed in Lake Minneola.

Lake Minneola Innovative Algal Bloom Treatment Project project overview

FAQs

Who is BlueGreen Water Technologies?

Treatment events

Nov. 6, 2020 Dec. 16, 2020 Dec. 31, 2020 Jan. 21, 2021
Jan. 23, 2021 Jan. 27, 2021 Feb. 10, 2021 Feb. 26, 2021
March 13, 2021 March 23, 2021 April 6, 2021 April 7, 2021

Meeting information

The St. Johns River Water Management District hosted a virtual public meeting on July 29 at 6 p.m. to provide information about an innovative technology to reduce or eliminate harmful algal blooms in Lake Minneola. The meeting was held virtually due to guidelines from Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to limit the size of public gatherings to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Lake Minneola

Springs protection projects

Since 2014, 126 projects protecting spring water flow and water quality have been funded through district cost-share programs.  The district has contributed more than $48.7 million toward vital springs projection projects, resulting in more than 90 million gallons of alternative water supplied and 6.2 million gallons of water a day (mgd) conserved.  These projects also have reduced total nitrogen to priority spring systems by 1.1 million lbs./year and total phosphorus by 170,000 lbs./year.

Blue Springs — Volusia County Wastewater Infrastructure for Blue Spring

(2019 funding cycle; $1.4 million district cost-share)

Volusia County is using cost-share funds to decommission its Del North wastewater treatment plant, construct a master lift station and three miles of piping, and connect to the Volusia County Southwest Regional Water Reclamation Facility for advanced wastewater treatment. The project will benefit Blue Springs, as both sites are within the Volusia Blue Springs Priority Focus Area and the pending Basin Management Action Plan area for Volusia Blue Springs. Annual estimated water quality benefits are 6,390 pounds of nitrogen and 2,065 pounds of phosphorus reductions.

Silver Springs — Marion County Silver Springs Shores Regional Capacity Improvements

(2019 funding cycle; $1.5 million district cost-share)

This project is to improve the Silver Springs Shores Wastewater Treatment Facility by enhancing the nutrient removal capabilities to meet advanced wastewater treatment standards and to expand the capacity by 0.5 million gallons per day for future package plant and septic-to-sewer connections. Estimated water quality benefit is 3,050 pounds a year of nitrogen removal and a secondary benefit of .01 million gallons a day of alternative water made available within the Silver Springs Priority Focus Area and the pending Basin Management Action Plan area.

Wekiwa-Rock Springs — Altamonte Springs Regional Water Reclamation Facility Advanced Wastewater

(2018 funding cycle; $1.5 million district cost-share)

Altamonte Springs is improving the treatment process at its regional wastewater reclamation facility from secondary to advanced wastewater treatment standards. The plant is located in the Wekiwa-Rock Springs Priority Focus Area, and the process improvements benefit the Wekiwa-Rock Springs Basin, Lake Jesup and Lake Apopka. Estimated annual water quality benefits are 10,274 pounds of nitrogen and 54,794 pounds of phosphorus.

Construction equipment at work site

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.

Collage of Deltona water management project construction photographs