Restoration Roadmap for Wekiva River System
The Department and local stakeholders have now developed a draft Basin Management Action Plan to accomplish these reductions so that the river and spring systems will meet water quality standards and support healthy biological communities. The plan assigns responsibilities to stakeholders, the projects to be developed during the first five-year period and a monitoring plan to track improvements in water quality.
“The Department’s objective is to substantially improve water quality by clearly understanding the pollution problems and implementing restoration plans like this one all across the state,” said DEP Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. “We partner with local stakeholders to act collectively to restore the rivers, lakes, springs and estuaries that make Florida unique. This draft BMAP is crucial to restoring the Wekiva River system.”
The required reductions are 47 to 81 percent for nitrate and 23 to 78 percent for phosphorus, depending on the waterbody or waterbody segment. To meet the Little Wekiva Canal target for total nitrogen, a 45 percent reduction is needed.
Actions to reduce nutrients in the draft restoration plan include stormwater treatment projects, agricultural best management practices, projects to convey wastewater for reuse instead of direct discharge and to repair leaking sewer lines, upgrade lift stations and extend sewer lines to areas on septic tanks. In fact, 14 projects have been completed that expand wastewater collection systems and take septic tanks off line in Altamonte Springs, Orlando, Apopka and Mt. Dora. An additional septic tank removal project is almost completed at Wekiwa Springs State Park. These actions are among the more than 70 stormwater treatment and erosion control projects already underway or completed.
The Department has committed $1.5 million to a new cost-share project in Altamonte Springs that will reduce the amount of nutrients entering the Little Wekiva and Wekiva rivers. The project will benefit Wekiwa Springs and provide alternative water supply to the City of Apopka by treating and reusing wastewater along with stormwater runoff from Interstate 4.
On Tuesday, the St. Johns River Water Management District’s Governing Board approved the cost-share agreement by authorizing $3.5 million for the project. The Florida Department of Transportation has committed $4.5 million and the City of Altamonte Springs is committing $3 million.
“The City of Altamonte Springs has long been a regional leader in environmental economics,” said Altamonte Springs Mayor Pat Bates. “Thanks to the great leadership of FDOT Secretary Ananth Prasad, DEP Secretary Herschel Vinyard, the SJRWMD Board, and their teams, and State Senator David Simmons, innovative projects like this are celebrated. We are so pleased that business-sensitive leadership on environmental programs have found great champions.”
“I had an opportunity to meet with staff and other local stakeholders earlier this week and learn a lot more about the basin and the benefits of this project,” said Secretary Vinyard. “Achieving the necessary nutrient reductions will take time and commitment. This project is evidence of that commitment and will result in tangible environmental benefits.”
The draft Wekiva River System restoration plan was created by Department staff and the Wekiva Basin Working Group, who have met regularly to develop a plan to restore area water quality and who will see it carried out. The group includes representatives from the Florida Departments of Environmental Protection, Transportation and Agriculture and Consumer Services, the St. John’s River Water Management District, the Friends of Wekiva, 14 local governments and local health departments.
The group will convene again March 1 to discuss comments on the draft plan. Another draft will be released and, after a 30-day public comment period, the final plan will be presented to Secretary Vinyard for approval.
For more information about DEP’s water quality protection and restoration programs visit https://www.dep.state.fl.us/water/watersheds/bmap.htm.