Take a look at how a Florida department plans to revitalize more than 70 freshwater springs spanning 600 acres.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is awarding more than $7.5 million in grants for water-quality enhancement projects in Citrus County in an effort to protect the health of Kings Bay and Crystal River's unique spring-fed systems.
The systems are comprised of more than 70 freshwater springs throughout a 600-acre bay.
DEP Secretary Jon Steverson says the department is happy to provide springs funding for projects that help restore and protect the waterways.
“This suite of vital projects will enhance water quality for residents, visitors and wildlife in this ecologically diverse region,” he says.
The Kings Bay and Crystal River systems are seeing an increase in the invasive algal species of Lyngbya — a cyanobacteria that can form floating mats that are up to 6 feet deep. These mats block sunlight and prevent the establishment of native, healthy submerged aquatic vegetation such as eel grass.
As Lyngbya dies off, it settles along the spring floor, clogging natural spring vents and reducing water flow, further inhibiting native plant growth and reducing invertebrate production and diversity.
Beginning in 2014, Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) scientists began a pilot project to grow eel grass in Hunter’s Cove, north of Crystal River. During the project, scientists noted improvements to the habitat, which is vital for manatees, fish, turtles and other wildlife.
“I am proud to have partnered with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection in efforts to protect and preserve Florida’s most pristine springs,” Senator Wilton Simpson says. “These projects will benefit not only the waterways, but all aspects of life in Kings Bay and Crystal River.”
Here’s a look at the grants and projects.
Crystal River is awarded a $2 million grant as part of the 2016-‘17 Florida First budget allocations for Florida springs projects. The Kings Bay restoration project aims to remove about 10,000 cubic yards of Lyngbya and associated organics within three areas of critical concern in Kings Bay.
“Grants from the DEP for projects like Kings Bay Restoration are truly appreciated in communities like ours,” says David Burnell, manager of the city of Crystal River. “These projects not only focus on better water quality and improved habitat for wildlife, but they ultimately improve the entire Southwest Florida community.”
Save Crystal River, Inc. is awarded a $1.4 million legislative appropriation grant to remove approximately 100,000 square feet of Lyngbya and associated organics from two additional areas in northeast Kings Bay. After all of the areas are cleared, they will be replanted with eel grass and monitored and maintained to ensure successful plant growth.
“Working with DEP on these important restoration projects helps us to meet our goals of maintaining and safeguarding Florida’s distinctive natural resources and quality of life for current and future generations to enjoy now and for decades to come,” says Lisa Moore, president of Save Crystal River, Inc.
DEP and SWFWMD also are investing in improvements to septic and sewer systems in the area. Several wastewater package plants, as well as residential and commercial septic tanks, are located near the first magnitude springs of Kings Bay and Crystal River. The facilities and tanks increase nutrient levels in the ground and surface waters, which affects water quality and can contribute to invasive algal blooms.
“These projects are the result of collaborative efforts between our scientists, local government partners and the DEP to reduce nutrients in the springshed and improve water quality in these important springs and rivers,” says Brian Armstrong, Executive Director of the Southwest Florida Water Management District.
“We appreciate the support of Governor Rick Scott and Senator Wilton Simpson to successfully complete these projects,” he says.
The SWFWMD is awarded two grants for a total of $4.2 million as part of the 2015-‘16 Keep Florida Working budget allocations for Florida springs projects.
A $2 million grant for the Citrus County private package wastewater plant interconnection project aims to help acquire and demolish up to nine existing wastewater package plants, and will design, permit and construct up to nine lift stations on those same sites, connecting the lift stations to Citrus County’s central wastewater collection system.
The project will reduce nutrients by an estimated 2,000 pounds per year to the Kings Bay, Crystal River and Homosassa Springs springsheds, according to the Florida DEP, and will also increase the availability of reclaimed water for potential reuse or aquifer recharge.
A $2.2 million grant for the Fort Island Trail septic interconnection project aims to help construct a municipal sanitary sewer system to connect up to 250 existing residential septic tanks to the county’s central wastewater collection system. The project will include the installation of approximately 20,500 linear feet of sewer line to connect these homes.
These DEP and SWFWMD projects will augment Citrus County’s continuing efforts to provide wastewater service to existing residential and commercial developments adjacent to Crystal River and Homosassa Springs.
Since 2007, more than $20 million in state funding has been awarded to help restore Kings Bay and Crystal River.