Hardworking Governing Board gets up close look at projects, properties

Dec. 10, 2020

District Executives on a boat tour

District Executive Director Dr. Ann Shortelle led a tour of the District’s Upper St. Johns River Basin Project on Dec. 4 (left). Joining her were, from left, Dr. Erich Marzolf (director of the District’s Division of Water and Land Resources), Rep. Tyler Sirois and Governing Board member Cole Oliver. At right, board members joined her for a tour of the District’s Bayard Conservation Area on Dec. 7.

I had the great pleasure during the past week to spend important time with members of our St. Johns District Governing Board as they got a first-hand look at some of our water quality and water supply projects in action. If a picture speaks a thousand words, then getting out on these sites in person counts as a full encyclopedia of knowledge.

First, Governing Board member Cole Oliver and I were joined by State Rep. Tyler Sirois for a tour of the District’s Upper St. Johns River Basin Project, a sprawling 170,000-acre flood control and marsh restoration project in Indian River and Brevard counties. District scientists and I shared the 40-year history of the project and described its many benefits, including improved water quality, a reduction in freshwater discharges to the Indian River Lagoon, additional potential water supply, and the restoration or enhancement of wetland habitat. Both Mr. Oliver and Rep. Sirois are leaders in the areas of water resource protection, and both share our dedication to getting the best return possible for the investment of state dollars.

A few days later, a contingent of our Governing Board members along with members of the Clay County Utility Authority (CCUA) Board of Directors visited the Doctors Lake Phosphorus Removal Pilot Project, a full-scale demonstration project funded through a 2018 legislative appropriation, spearheaded by Rep. Travis Cummings and then-Sen.— and now District Governing Board Member — Rob Bradley. This one-year pilot project removes phosphorus from treated wastewater and reduces the overabundance of nutrients that cause algal blooms in Doctors Lake in Clay County. This innovative project officially started in early June, removing dissolved phosphorus from treated wastewater from CCUA’s Fleming Island Regional Wastewater Plant before it is reused for irrigation in the Doctors Lake watershed.

From there, it was on to the Bayard Conservation Area on State Road 16 in Clay County. This District-owned property opened its new trailhead, picnic area and expanded parking area in early September. Bayard Conservation Area consists of more than 10,000 acres located along the western bank of the St. Johns River. The property features diverse natural systems that provide habitat for gopher tortoise, bald eagle, little blue heron, deer, woodland birds and other species. Our Governing Board members know that Bayard, like our other conservation properties, is essential to protecting and preserving water resources, providing far-reaching benefits to the public and the environment.

These dedicated appointees serve on the District’s Governing Board in a volunteer capacity. The valuable time spent visiting these important District projects and properties was their own. They are all engaged professional and civic leaders who share the District’s passion for water resource protection and understand the need to plan for adequate water supply for our region’s future. I am grateful for their time, public service and leadership.

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