Dec 31, 2009

Florida DEP Releases Lower St. Johns River Tributaries Basin Management Action Plan

Program moves forward with cooperation of local, regional stakeholders

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced adoption of the Lower St. Johns River (LSJR) Tributaries Basin Management Action Plan (BMAP). The action plan, developed in partnership with city of Jacksonville, Duval County Health Department, Florida Department of Transportation and JEA (regional utility provider) identifies actions to decrease fecal coliform bacteria in 10 water bodies within the LSJR Basin. These water bodies are Newcastle Creek, Hogan Creek, Butcher Pen Creek, Miller Creek, Miramar Creek, Big Fishweir Creek, Deer Creek, Terrapin Creek, Goodbys Creek and Open Creek.

Water quality restoration targets, called total maximum daily loads (TMDLs), were adopted by DEP for the 10 water bodies. The TMDLs establish the amount of reduction of fecal coliform bacteria that is needed to restore the beneficial uses of these water bodies. The TMDLs require reductions in fecal coliform bacteria ranging from 60 to 92% in order to meet water quality standards. The BMAP lists the steps that must be taken to reduce bacteria, a schedule for their implementation and potential resources to accomplish the reductions.

“This effort demonstrates the commitment of local governments and stakeholders to the restoration of water bodies in their part of the state,” said DEP Secretary Michael W. Sole. “To the credit of local government, many projects have been implemented in advance of finalizing the restoration plan.”

The LSJR Tributaries BMAP was developed under DEP’s approach to identifying polluted waterways and building partnerships with local, regional and state interests to return the water bodies to a healthy condition. Through its science-based program, DEP determined that these LSJR tributaries did not meet Florida’s water quality standards and, therefore, established restoration targets and worked in collaboration with local stakeholders to create the BMAP. The local stakeholders identified more than 480 projects to achieve restoration in these water bodies and have committed to monitoring to ensure restoration occurs and to identify additional fecal coliform sources.

Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton cited the city’s new storm water utility as a key to restoration projects in addressing bacterial contamination.

“The storm water utility fee funds many of the projects and all of the monitoring activities that will, over time, improve the health of our tributaries and consequently the St. Johns River,” he said. “It is another component of the city’s commitment to restore the health of our waterways under the River Accord, a 10-year multi-agency initiative that charts a path of continual improvement for local agencies when it comes to water quality. We look forward to partnering with DEP and other stakeholders on the next phase of the BMAP process, when an additional 15 tributaries will be the focus.”

Proposed actions include improvements in storm water management, implementation of corrective actions for sewer system failures, removal of failing septic tanks, field investigations to better identify and mitigate pollutant sources and ongoing public education programs. The stakeholders have already implemented many of these actions and the remaining projects will be in place within the next five years.