Florida Adopts Two River Basin Action Plans

TALLAHASSEE, Florida, May 18, 2008 (ENS) – The Florida Department of Environmental Protection Thursday announced adoption of two river basin management action plans about 100 miles apart – both of which will require better stormwater management measures.

The Long Branch Basin Management Action Plan, developed in partnership with Orange County and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, identifies actions that are needed to decrease bacteria and nutrients in Long Branch.

Long Branch is a tributary of the Econlockhatchee River in unincorporated Orange County, between Bithlo and Wedgefield, about halfway between Orlando and the coast of central Florida.

Implementation of the plan will benefit water quality in the Long Branch mainstem and tributaries.

“The Long Branch Basin Management Action Plan represents an exceptionally strong collaboration among local, regional, and state agencies, elected officials, citizens, and private interests,” said DEP Deputy Secretary Mimi Drew.

Actions called for include improvements in stormwater management, implementation of agricultural best management practices, field investigations to better identify pollutant sources and ongoing public education programs.

The Orange County Environmental Protection Division has already completed a number of these actions. Additional work as set forth in the Basin Management Action Plan will be conducted over the next few years.

Also on Thursday, the DEP announced the adoption of the Orange Creek Basin Management Action Plan, which will govern waterways in the north central part of the state, about 100 miles to the north of the Long Branch waters.

Flkorida’s Ocklawaha River (Photo
courtesty Florida DEP)

The Orange Creek Basin plan was developed in partnership with the city of Gainesville, Marion and Alachua counties, the St. Johns River Water Management District, the Alachua County Health Department, the University of Florida, Gainesville Regional Utilities, private silviculture interests and other local and state stakeholders.

Orange Creek is a tributary of the Ocklawaha River.

Implementation of the plan is intended to benefit surface waters in Alachua and Marion Counties, including Orange Lake, Lochloosa Lake, Newnans Lake, Tumblin Creek, Sweetwater Branch, Hogtown Creek, Lake Wauberg, Paynes Prairie/Alachua Sink, and the Ocklawaha River.

High levels of phosphorus in these waterbodies have caused an imbalance in the native plant, fish and wildlife communities.

DEP Deputy Secretary Drew said, “Together we have committed to a concrete set of actions to reduce pollution in the streams, rivers, and lakes throughout the basin.”

Through a science-based program, the DEP determined that seven of the waterbodies in the Orange Creek Basin did not meet Florida’s water quality standards and needed action plans.

High levels of nutrients in the lakes caused an imbalance in the native plant, fish and wildlife communities. High levels of fecal coliform bacteria in the creeks were in violation of state water quality standards.

Actions called for in the Orange Creek Basin Management Action Plan include better identification and remediation of sources of fecal coliform in creeks and nutrient discharges to lakes and Alachua Sink. Continued improvement in stormwater treatment and control programs, better stormwater controls for active agricultural and commercial forest lands, and more stringent local ordinances to control pollution are also part of the plan.

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