KEYSTONE HEIGHTS – The Black Creek Water Resource Development Project is expected to dramatically change Keystone Heights in the coming years and local leaders now have an updated timeline of the …
KEYSTONE HEIGHTS – The Black Creek Water Resource Development Project is expected to dramatically change Keystone Heights in the coming years and local leaders now have an updated timeline of the process.
The project spearheaded by the St. Johns River Water Management District would divert about 10 million gallons of water from Black Creek to Lake Brooklyn. It is estimated to cost $60-80 million and $1.2 million a year for upkeep, though more than $40 million has been secured through state appropriations. The district has also added $5 million to the funds.
Save Our Lakes Organization President Vivian Katz-James told the Clay County Board of County Commissioners last week the district expected permits for the project by the end of the year or January. She said the district should start to approve contracts in the spring of 2022 with shovels hitting the ground by the summer. Construction could take 18 months.
“Within the next year, we’re going to have shovels in the ground and Black Creek is going to be moving,” Katz-James said. “Water will start flowing and Brooklyn will start reacting very quickly.”
The county and the City of Keystone Heights have set aside money for lake projects, about $250,000 combined.
“That is a drop in the bucket, but what it says to the water district is, you got skin in the game,” Katz-James said.
The next step is cleaning out Alligator Creek, which is where the water will be diverted to before reaching Lake Brooklyn, to improve the flow from Black Creek.
Keystone Heights Mayor Karen Lake said residents are eager for the project and it’s easy for people to start asking, “Are we there yet?” She said it’s hard to overstate what the impact on raising water levels will do for ecotourism, property values and improving quality of life.
“I really feel we’re getting there,” Lake said. “I think it’s going to do a tremendous amount for the Keystone community.”
Calling the project ambitious and collaborative, Lake said many residents remember water skiing through the city’s many lakes.
“Those are memories and experiences I hope future residents will experience,” Lake added.
The county, city and the district will have future meetings about the potential for cost-share projects. County Commissioner Betsy Condon said Keystone can mimic Indian Lagoon’s One Lagoon project, which outlined controlled growth following the restoration of the lagoon.
“You have to reinvent yourself or they will reinvent you,” Condon said. “We’d like to have community input on where Keystone Heights goes.”
The project will feel closer to reality when shovels hit the ground, Condon said, and cleanup is the next important step. Condon recalled Keystone Heights as a destination spot from Jacksonville and Gainesville residents because of its lakes. That day may come again, she said.
“I think it will completely change Keystone,” Condon said.
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