DEP Kicks Off Suwannee River Restoration Project (USA)
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is holding the first stakeholder meeting to begin hammering out the Suwannee River Basin Management Action Plan.
The plan will plot the course for restoring the Suwannee River and the unique spring systems that feed it, with activities throughout a watershed covering more than one million acres in Suwannee, Gilchrist, Levy, Dixie, Lafayette, and Madison counties.
Together with the recently adopted action plan for the nearby Santa Fe River Basin, the Suwannee basin management action plan will guide projects and activities to restore watersheds encompassing more than two million acres in the North Florida heartland.
The water quality restoration goals – or “total maximum daily load” – adopted for the Suwannee Basin require a 35 percent reduction in nitrogen concentrations. Reducing nutrients will cut down on the growth of algae and reinvigorate the river and springs. The plan now underway will lay out targeted actions to reduce nutrients, an implementation schedule and the resources necessary to succeed.
“The Department has a sense of urgency to find the best solutions for each affected waterbody,” said DEP Secretary Herschel Vinyard. “The Department is focused on measurable progress in restoration. We want results. The Suwannee River initiative is a great example of what can be accomplished through state, local and private partnerships.”
Reducing nutrient discharges to the Suwannee River will improve water quality and habitat and sustain the fishing and recreation for which the area is justly famous. The plan will set forth a phased approach to implementing agricultural and urban best management practices, better stormwater infrastructure and management, and reusing treated wastewater for irrigation and other beneficial purposes rather than discharging it into the watershed. It also will call for ongoing water quality sampling that will allow stakeholders to continuously improve our understanding of pollutant sources and impacts, adjust strategies as needed and measure success.
The Suwannee River Partnership and its coalition of some 60 governments, businesses, and industries already have invested time, money, and good faith reducing nutrient levels in the Suwannee and its springs, paving the way for the plan. For example, the Department, in cooperation with the Suwannee River Water Management District, has underwritten nearly $1 million for a fertilization/irrigation retrofit project, with more funding anticipated for other identified needs. In addition, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services teamed with the United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service to collectively invest more than $20 million over the last seven years on a variety of best management practices for agricultural grower and producer water quality and water savings.
“Today marks an important beginning in our collective efforts to protect and restore the waters of the Suwannee Basin,” said Ann Shortelle, Suwannee River Water Management District Executive Director. “We look forward to working with our stakeholders throughout the basin to improve water quality in the Suwannee River and springs.”
“The Suwannee River Basin Management Action Plan represents the culmination of many years of coordinated effort to partner with all the regions’ stakeholders to develop and implement programs to restore and protect the springs, the main channel of the river and its estuary,” said Rich Budell, director of Office of Agricultural Water Policy. “The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is committed to continuing that partnership with the SRWMD, DEP, the local agricultural community and many others as we embark on the next phase of assuring that the unique natural resources of this area are protected for generations to come.”
When this restoration plan is finalized, the Department will have adopted a total of 12 basin management action plans, covering 100 waterbody segments. Nine additional restoration plans currently are in development covering 59 additional waterbody segments.
Press Release, November 2, 2012