District Board adopts five-year strategic plan, votes to fund water quality monitoring and rough fish harvests

Image of the September Governing board

PALATKA, Fla., Sept. 9, 2020 — The St. Johns River Water Management District’s Governing Board on Tuesday approved its 2021–2025 Strategic Plan, a five-year outlook for the agency in its work to protect water supplies, water quality and ecosystems, as well as protecting people, property and infrastructure from flooding.

“With the support of Gov. DeSantis, the Department of Environmental Protection and the Legislature, we continue to effectively allocate resources and funding in our four core mission areas: water supply, water quality, natural systems and flood protection,” said St. Johns River Water Management District Executive Director Dr. Ann Shortelle. “Through effective planning and efficient use of tax dollars, the District will support an unprecedented number of projects without raising taxes.”

Image of the September Governing boardThe plan emphasizes partnerships with local governments, the agricultural community and business leadership to advance the use of alternative water supplies and water conservation technology, promote innovative programs to protect water quality and natural systems, and help support flood protection resiliency initiatives within the District.

District plans and reports can be found online at www.sjrwmd.com/documents/plans.

Other highlights from today’s meeting include:

  • Approval of the joint funding agreement with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) for long-term hydrologic data collection vital to the responsibilities of each agency. For more than 40 years, the District and USGS have collaborated on data collection, analysis, and sharing hydrologic and water quality data that both agencies use to protect Florida’s water resources.

The District operates and maintains more than 2,000 monitoring stations throughout the District and processes data from approximately 350 additional sites collected by county and municipal agencies through mutual agreement or in collaboration with the USGS. More than 8 million measurements are collected, verified, processed and stored each year.

The agreement approved by the board provides $901,000 toward long-term hydrologic data collection continuous water level and discharge sites in the St. Johns River and its tributaries. While the data are used by scientists and engineers in the District’s decision making, it is also publicly available on the USGS website at waterwatch.usgs.gov. To view water data on the district’s website, visit www.sjrwmd.com/data/hydrologic.

  • Approval of a contract for phosphorus removal through rough fish harvesting from lakes in the Ocklawaha and St. Johns River basins. The District’s longtime program removes rough fish, primarily gizzard shad, in lakes where their feeding recycles phosphorus from the sediments to the water column, where it can supply algal growth. The rough fish harvesting process cheaply removes phosphorus, helping improve water quality and restore the overall health of waterbodies.

Since the early 1990s, the District has successfully conducted rough fish harvests from lakes Apopka, Denham, Dora and Griffin in central Florida, Lake George in the St. Johns River, and Newnans Lake east of Gainesville.

Harvests are operated as a public-private partnership, where revenues generated by the sale of the fish help offset the harvest’s costs.

  • Approval of the District’s annual $500,000 contribution to support the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program (IRL NEP). The District provides the IRL Council with the annual contribution as well as passing along revenues from sales of the IRL specialty license.

The District also supports the goals of the IRL NEP Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan (CCMP) through cost-share grants to local governments and communities; district-led projects such as muck-removal dredging in tributaries of the IRL and nutrient-load reduction projects; and technical support such as hydrologic, water quality and biological monitoring,  and participation in drafting the updated CCMP.

The Board also held the first of two tentative Fiscal Year 2020-2021 budget hearings. The second hearing and final adoption are scheduled for 5:05 p.m., Sept. 22.