Dec. 17, 2020

Construction began this week on the Lake Apopka Duda Property Water Storage Improvement Project to improve water management abilities and reduce phosphorus loading to Lake Apopka through infrastructure improvements. The project involves raising internal levee heights and constructing hydraulic improvements, such as sumps, culverts and slide gates, to separate the Duda property into four cells in which water levels can be independently managed. This work will allow additional water to be stored on the property, which will reduce pumped discharges and nutrient loads to Lake Apopka.

Dec. 8, 2020

The District’s Governing Board approved the contract for a $2.19 million project to reduce phosphorus loads to Lake Apopka through infrastructure improvements to the Duda portion of the North Shore. The project was to enhance the lake’s improving water quality as well as the District’s ability to increase water storage and improve the recovering wetlands’ habitat value. Construction began the week of Dec. 17, 2020.

Nov. 13, 2020

Central Florida’s Orange Audubon Society was named the 2020 recipient of the Bob Owens Award for Citizen Volunteer Service. The organization received the award for its conservation and public education work at Lake Apopka and Lake Apopka North Shore (LANS).

Nov. 10, 2020

The District’s Governing Board awarded a contract for the construction of the Crane Creek/M-1 Canal Flow Restoration Project, a project aimed at reducing nutrient flows to the Indian River Lagoon. This project was to provide substantial water quality benefits to the Indian River Lagoon while restoring flow and providing additional, clean water supply to the St. Johns River.

Nov. 10, 2020

District Governing Board members approved an updated plan to address central Florida’s current and long-term water supply needs. The 2020 Central Florida Water Initiative’s (CFWI) Regional Water Supply Plan is an update to the collaboratively developed 2015 plan to protect, conserve, restore and develop water supplies in the five counties at the convergence of the St. Johns, South Florida and Southwest Florida water management districts in central Florida. Regional water supply plans identify needs and recommend strategies for meeting future water demands of urban and agricultural uses, as well as the environment.

Nov. 5, 2020

The District began providing an option to visitors to the District’s widely popular Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive (LAWD) at the Lake Apopka North Shore (LANS) to donate toward the drive’s upkeep. Online credit or debit card donations assist with expenses for sanitation, security, maintenance of levees, roads and trails, and brochures, maps and other educational materials. Nearly 200,000 people visit LAWD each year and it is by far the District’s most visited attraction, resulting in excessive wear and tear.

Nov. 3, 2020

An innovative project to fight algal blooms in Lake Minneola got under way with water quality monitoring. Lake Minneola, which has been plagued with blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, was selected earlier in 2020 for a pilot remediation project to combat harmful algal blooms. Funding for the $1.7 million project came from a 2020 legislative appropriation providing grant funding through the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Office of Water Policy and Ecosystem Project’s Innovative Grant Program. The program funds innovative technology projects to test new processes for dealing with water quality challenges.

Oct. 15, 2020

Fourteen schools in eight counties received Blue School Grant funding from the District for hands-on projects to enhance student development in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) related topics and increase understanding of Florida’s water resources. In its first five years, the Blue School Grant Program funded 61 projects awarded to 49 schools throughout the District.

Oct. 13, 2020

The District’s Governing Board adopted the 2020 Minimum Flows and Levels priority list and schedule, which lays out the agency’s plan for completing and re-evaluating MFLs through 2024.

Sept.  4, 2020

The District opened a new trailhead, picnic area and expanded parking area for its Bayard Conservation Area in Clay County, expanding its recreational amenities. A local equestrian group and Eagle Scout volunteered time to assist in the updates and received a special thank you from the District for their efforts.

Aug. 10, 2020

The District opened the highly anticipated Headwaters Lake Boat Ramp at its Fellsmere Water Management Area in Indian River County. The boat ramp is the key feature of Headwaters Lake, which covers the northern half of FWMA. Boaters can reach Egan Lake to the south via a navigational channel.

July 14, 2020

The St. Johns River Water Management District’s Governing Board approved a tentative budget that reduces the millage rate for taxpayers for an 8th consecutive year while continuing to provide significant funds for programs and projects to ensure sustainable water resources, increase water conservation, enhance water supply and improve water quality in priority water bodies.

June 22, 2020

The district kicked off a pilot project in the DeBary Bayou in Volusia County involving the mechanical removal of nuisance and exotic vegetation. The project will enhance the health of the DeBary Bayou (also known as Gemini Springs Run) and associated wetlands through nutrient removal and increased water exchange between the marsh and the bayou, which flows from Gemini Springs and Mullet Lake to Lake Monroe. The Gemini Springs Alliance voiced support for the project.

June 5, 2020

A full-scale demonstration project of the district to remove phosphorus from treated wastewater began working to reduce the overabundance of nutrients that cause algal blooms in Doctors Lake in Clay County. After breaking ground in September 2019, the Doctors Lake Phosphorus Removal Pilot Project officially started June 5, 2020, removing dissolved phosphorus from treated wastewater from the Clay County Utility Authority’s Fleming Island Regional Wastewater Plant before it is reused for irrigation in the Doctors Lake watershed. The project was estimated to reduce the phosphorus concentration by 90% and to assist in furthering water quality improvements in Doctors Lake and the Lower St. Johns River Basin.

May 27, 2020

The district’s Office of Communications was honored by the Jacksonville Chapter of the Florida Public Relations Association (FPRA) with a Grand All Image Award for its 2019 “Fall Back” outdoor water conservation campaign, as well as an award for excellence in public service communications. The district kicked off its year-long Water Less campaign in October 2019. The first segment focused on the “Fall Back” message, building awareness about reducing outdoor watering in the fall to protect Florida’s water supply. The message reached 4.8 million people and more than doubled the number of visitors to the district’s water conservation information webpages.

May 11, 2020

District Financial Services Office Director Mary-Lou Pickles was awarded the 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award by the Florida Government Finance Officers Association (FGFOA). The FGFOA annually honors a finance officer who has made a lasting and worthwhile contribution to the people of Florida through their dedication in the performance of their duties on a local level and who has served the FGFOA in its efforts to enhance the profession. At the time, Pickles had worked for the district for 20 years and was promoted to director of the Office of Financial Services in 2017, overseeing the district’s procurement, accounting and budget operations and ensures compliance with district, state and federal rules and regulations and accounting principles.

Headshot of Mary-Lou Pickles

April 27, 2020

The district launched a series of free educational webinars to explore the agency’s work to manage and protect water resources while engaging everyone to do their part.

April 14, 2020

Following Gov. Ron DeSantis’ directions to reduce public gatherings and practice social distancing to reduce the spread of COVID-19, the district’s Governing Board held its regular monthly meeting through teleconference. The format offered transparency while promoting social distancing to impede spread of the virus. During the meeting, board members approved the ranking of the district’s cost-share programs for fiscal year 2020-2021, contingent on passage of the FY 2020-2021 budget.

March 2, 2020

With the change of the seasons, the district’s year-long #WaterLess campaign shifted to focus on springtime watering needs and a timely reminder for residents and businesses to give their sprinkler system a checkup. The Water Less campaign focuses on water-conserving strategies to help curb outdoor water waste while allowing for beautiful, vibrant landscapes. The reminder for spring is “Did you set it and forget it?” asking everyone to ensure sprinkler systems are operating correctly and no more than needed.

Feb. 13, 2020

The district’s Governing Board approved an interlocal agreement with Brevard County for a project that will capture thousands of pounds of nutrients annually before they can reach the Indian River Lagoon and will restore clean water to the St. Johns River. Located in West Melbourne, Melbourne Village and portions of unincorporated Brevard County, the Crane Creek/M-1 project will reduce the loading of nitrogen, phosphorus and sediments to the lagoon by restoring billions of gallons of cleansed freshwater each year to the St. Johns River. Major project components include an operable weir located near the natural coastal ridge, a stormwater pump station and a stormwater treatment area to ensure that nutrients and sediments are removed prior to the water’s return to the St. Johns River. The Brevard County Save Our Indian River Lagoon Program contributed more than $2 million and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection provided nearly $2.5 million, with the district funding the remainder of this beneficial project which will cost an estimated $10.5 million. The district is managing design and construction of the project as well as operating and maintaining the system.

Jan. 30, 2020

The district and North Florida Land Trust (NFLT) partnered on the conservation of 578 acres with three miles of riverfront on the north shore of Black Creek, with the property located across from the district’s Black Creek Ravines Conservation Area in Clay County and within NFLT’s Black Creek Preservation Priority Area. Under the agreement approved unanimously by the district’s Governing Board at its Jan. 13 meeting, the district will have a perpetual conservation easement on the property, at a cost of $150,000. NFLT will own and manage the property, allowing for public access including hiking, camping and other passive recreational activities.

Jan. 24, 2020

The district hosted a preview visit to Lake Apopka highlighting a project to use innovative technology to remove phosphorus and continue improving the lake’s water quality. The technology was successfully tested in 2017 on the Lake Apopka North Shore. Following a competitive bid process, this new project is the next step toward securing further water quality benefits for Lake Apopka. This project uses a new, non-traditional treatment technology that focuses on removing phosphorus directly from the water. Reducing phosphorus will improve water quality by reducing algal abundance. Downstream water bodies, including lakes Beauclair and Dora, will also benefit. As a pay-for-performance project, the district will only pay for phosphorus removed.

Jan 13, 2020

The district’s Governing Board approved an agreement with Clay County Utility Authority (CCUA) to convert up to 79 septic tanks to central sewer on properties adjacent to Doctors Lake. The project, spearheaded by Sen. Rob Bradley and Rep. Travis Cummings through a 2018 legislative appropriation, is estimated to reduce total nitrogen loading to Doctors Lake by approximately 1,500 pounds per year. Doctors Lake experienced algal blooms for 33 of the last 35 years due largely to excessive nutrients entering the watershed and this partnership. The $1.5 million project includes septic tank abandonment, providing sewer infrastructure to the area and connecting participating residences to the CCUA wastewater collection system for greatly improved treatment and beneficial reuse.

Jan 2, 2020

Construction began on the highly anticipated boat ramp and recreational facility at Headwaters Lake at the north end of the district’s Fellsmere Water Management Area in Indian River County. The project includes an improved parking area, restrooms and a floating dock along with the boat ramp.