Gov. Rick Scott pledged Wednesday afternoon to invest about $37 million toward 10 springs improvement projects across the state.
The announcement at Wekiwa Springs State Park in Apopka comes on the heels of a commitment of more than $130 million to restore estuaries in South Florida.
Funding for the projects was gathered from a $10 million investment from the “Florida Families First” budget, about $1 million from the Department of Environmental Protection, and various investments from local partners.
Springs receiving funding for projects include Silver Springs, Wekiwa, Rock, Ichetucknee, Rainbow, Chassahowitzka, Homosassa, Weeki Wachee, Jackson Blue, Williford, as well as springs along the Santa Fe and Suwannee Rivers and Kings Bay.
Scott said protecting the springs are important to not only animal and plant life, but they also add to Florida’s ever-expanding tourism industry. He said the state must do its part to protect these “natural treasures.”
A prime example of the beneficial implications of the restoration projects can be found in the plans for the Springs Coast. The water quality improvement and water quantity project in the area will receive $375,000 in state funding for the estimated $875,000 total price tag of the project. It will potentially reduce groundwater withdrawal quantities and/or nutrient loading to the Upper Floridan Aquifer system.
The Springs Coast projects are a cost-share initiative, collaborating with local farmers to implement the best agricultural management practices within the region. Agricultural operations in this region include citrus groves, row crops, blueberries, grains, field and container nurseries, and animal operations (cow/calf, equine, poultry).
The eclectic range of agricultural activities in the region also presents mass-opportunity for a variety of technologies that can be used to reduce groundwater use, such as weather stations, soil moisture sensors, automatic timers and pumps, tailwater recovery ponds, and irrigation retrofits using more efficient low-volume systems.
In addition to water quality and quantity efforts, Florida’s water management districts want to establish minimum flows and levels for the springs–designed to protect and restore spring flows and the natural systems they support.
The districts have set minimum flows and levels for 22 springs to date, expecting to set them for 49 more springs over the next two years–more than doubling the cumulative efforts of the last decade.
Herschel T. Vinyard Jr., secretary of the DEP, said in a press release, “These projects will illustrate what can be accomplished when the state invests wisely to support, and supplement department and water management district restoration programs.”
Much more needs to be done,” he said, “but these projects can pave the way to restoring some of our most iconic springs.”