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District awarded $15.3 million for springs projects

HAVANA  -  The Northwest Florida Water Management District received more than $15.3 million for springs-related projects from Governor Rick Scott's 2016-17 Florida First Budget. The money, which comes through the Department of Environmental Protection, will be used to fund eight springs restoration projects in Bay, Jackson, Leon, Wakulla, and Washington counties.

"Governor Scott, DEP Secretary Jon Steverson and the Florida Legislature have once again shown their commitment to restoring and protecting the springs in northwest Florida," said George Roberts, Chair of the District's Governing Board. "The District looks forward to working with DEP, local governments, and other stakeholders to continue our work on springs protection."

The $15.3 million from DEP is expected to leverage more than $3.7 million in matching funds, bringing the total funding for springs restoration projects to $19.1 million for 2016-17.

Projects were selected based on pollutant reduction, water conservation, resource protection, cost effectiveness, and available matching dollars. The eight selected projects will benefit Cypress, Econfina Blue, Gainer, Jackson Blue and Wakulla springs.

"We are grateful for the continued vision and leadership shown by Governor Scott, Secretary Steverson and the Florida Legislature," said Brett Cyphers, executive director of the Northwest Florida Water Management District. "Funding for these projects will allow the District to sustain and expand efforts to protect our unique and priceless springs, while also keeping with our mission to ensure the health and well-being of the residents and water resources of northwest Florida."

The springs projects include:

Wakulla Springs - Woodville Sewer System Project Phase 1: Awarded $1.5 million from DEP with an additional $1.5 million in matching funds to design and permit a central sewer system in southern Leon County. The system will serve approximately 1,500 homes which are currently on septic tanks. Upon completion of a future phase of this project, the estimated nutrient load reduction is 29,000 pounds of nitrogen per year.

Wakulla Springs - Septic-to-Sewer: Awarded $637,000 from DEP with a $1.9 million local match for a septic-to-sewer project that will connect up to 130 homes currently on septic tanks to the existing central sewer system within the city of Tallahassee and the priority groundwater contribution area for Wakulla Springs. The estimated nutrient load reduction is 2,500 pounds of nitrogen per year.

Wakulla Springs - Advanced Septic Systems Pilot Project: Awarded $1.5 million from DEP for the design and installation of advanced septic systems in two neighborhoods in Leon and Wakulla counties. The estimated nutrient load reduction is 1,500 pounds of nitrogen per year.

Jackson Blue Spring - Agricultural Best Management Practices: Awarded $1 million from DEP with a $333,333 local producer match to continue an agricultural best management practices cost share program in the Jackson Blue Spring basin. The funding will assist approximately 32 producers with retrofits to improve water quality and quantity, helping to protect the first magnitude spring. The project is estimated to reduce nitrogen application by more than 10 percent.

Jackson Blue Spring – Septic-to-Sewer Project: Awarded $3.4 million to design, permit and construct a central sewer service to the Jackson Blue Springs Recreational Area and approximately 82 homes along Blue Springs Road. The project includes removing the public park septic tank at Jackson Blue Spring as well as homes adjacent to the spring-fed Merritts Mill Pond.    

Gainer Springs - Group Land Acquisition: Awarded $6 million from DEP for the acquisition of up to 942 acres and spring bank restoration at the first magnitude springs complex along Econfina Creek in northern Bay County through fee simple and conservation easement. The project will help protect natural systems and reduce erosion to Gainer Springs Group.   

Cypress Spring - Protection and Restoration: Awarded $1.1 million for fee and/or less-than-fee acquisition of up to 308 acres surrounding this second magnitude spring along Holmes Creek in Washington County. The project also includes limited restoration and public-access improvements.

Econfina Blue Spring – Protection and Restoration: Awarded $200,000 from DEP for public-access improvements and shoreline restoration and protection at Blue Spring Camp, a major camping and recreation site located in Washington County along Econfina Creek.

Including the eight District projects, a total of 35 projects statewide have been selected to receive more than $56.6 million in state funding from Governor Scott's 2016-17 Legacy Florida Bill and are expected to leverage another $33.1 million in matching funds. This brings the total state and local investment in springs projects to $278.8 million in the past four years.