SJRWMD approves partnerships with 4 North Florida water supply utilities

Project will replenish Keystone Heights lakes, Floridan aquifer

For Clay Today
Posted 7/14/21

KEYSTONE HEIGHTS – The St. Johns River Water Management District’s Governing Board approved partnership agreements with four North Florida water supply utilities on Tuesday, July 13, to …

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SJRWMD approves partnerships with 4 North Florida water supply utilities

Project will replenish Keystone Heights lakes, Floridan aquifer

Posted

KEYSTONE HEIGHTS – The St. Johns River Water Management District’s Governing Board approved partnership agreements with four North Florida water supply utilities on Tuesday, July 13, to participate in the Black Creek Water Resource Development Project, a major project identified through a multi-year water supply planning process to replenish the aquifer, maximize water supplies and protect lakes, wetlands and other natural systems.

“This is an exciting moment, as we are on the brink of building a major water resource development project with far-reaching benefits for north Florida, a vital strategy to assist our lakes,” said St. Johns River Water Management District Executive Director Dr. Ann Shortelle. “Today’s Board action to approve participation agreements with our utility partners helps to ensure that we are all working together for the common good.”

“This is a great example of innovation and partnerships working together to get the science right, work out participation agreements that make the most sense to all and move a vital project another step closer to completion,” said Governing Board Chairman Gen. Douglas Burnett. “We are meeting future water needs and protecting our natural resources, and both of those goals require all of us to be active contributors and collaborators.”

“In 2017, we stood on the banks of Lake Geneva and pledged to save the lakes of Keystone Heights. Promise made, promise kept,” said Governing Board Vice Chairman Rob Bradley. “This generational project will replenish the aquifer and raise lake levels. All three funding partners – the Florida Legislature, the St. Johns River Water Management District and our regional utilities-are indispensable and deserve our thanks and appreciation. Thank you to the talented scientists at the District for making it work. And a special thank you to the tireless Save Our Lakes volunteers. You have fought for years for this cause and it’s now paying off.”

Lakes Brooklyn and Geneva in Keystone Heights are sandhill lakes within the upper Etonia Creek chain of lakes and are among the most-studied lakes within the District. A reevaluation of the lakes’ minimum flows and levels indicated that MFLs are not being met, requiring a recovery strategy that has identified a suite of projects and measures to develop additional water supplies and other actions to achieve timely recovery to the recently revised MFLs.

The Black Creek Water Resource Development Project is key to providing regional aquifer recharge benefits and for larger consumptive use permitholders to offset their users’ impacts.

The Board today approved participation agreements with Clay County Utility Authority, Gainesville Regional Utilities, JEA and St. Johns County Utilities, which addresses their proportional share of current impacts to area water levels and fully offsets their impacts from future pumping through 2045.

“We look forward to SJRWMD placing the Black Creek Project out to bid in the coming months,” said Clay Electric's Celeste Goldberg. “While this project will take between one to two years to construct, we look forward to the increased lake levels and aquifer recharge benefits the SJRWMD has designed this project to provide the people in Northeast Florida.”

The Brooklyn-Geneva recovery strategy includes water conservation, water supply and water resource development projects, which were developed through close coordination with stakeholders during the development of the North Florida Regional Water Supply Plan, adopted in 2017.

MFLs are one tool used for setting limits on groundwater and surface water withdrawals. Establishing MFLs is an important component of the District’s work of planning for adequate water supplies for today and for future generations while also protecting water resources within the District. To learn more about MFLs, visit the District’s StreamLines blog at www.sjrwmd.com/streamlines/finding-a-balance-in-floridas-waters.

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