DEP Adopts Restoration Goals for Suwannee and Santa Fe River Basins

Sep. 4, 2014

~ Department defines scientifically derived pollutant limit and paves the way for restoration ~

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has adopted water quality restoration goals to reduce bacteria in 17 creeks, streams and sinks in the Suwannee and Santa Fe River basins. The restoration goals, known as Total Maximum Daily Loads, define the reductions necessary to bring the waterbody up to state water quality standards that protect human health and aquatic life. Fecal coliform bacteria in these waterbodies are at elevated levels, indicating the possibility of human or animal waste contamination. The scientifically derived restoration goals will act as the target for long-term restoration plans DEP will develop in cooperation with stakeholders and the public.

As an alternative to 17 separate efforts to adopt restoration goals, DEP is proposing a basin-wide goal; an accompanying report identifies the specific bacteria reductions required for each waterbody. A basin-wide TMDL is ideal for waterbodies impaired by bacteria because the water quality target and restoration techniques are typically consistent even if the scope of the impairment varies. Sources of fecal coliform bacteria include wastewater treatment facilities, agricultural runoff, stormwater runoff associated with urban development and natural sources such as wildlife.

“DEP’s goal is to improve the health of Florida’s waters as efficiently as possible,” said Tom Frick, director of the Division of Environmental Assessment and Restoration. “Cutting unnecessary process means we can move quickly to restoration.”

The Suwannee River Basin, located in southern Georgia and north-central Florida, is one of the largest and most ecologically important blackwater river systems in thesoutheastern United States. The diverse habitats in the basin support a large variety of wildlife, including several federally or state endangered and protected species. The Suwannee River has been referred to as one of the most pristine and undeveloped river systems in the United States, and has been designated an Outstanding Florida Water by DEP. Several protected natural areas are located within the basin, including three national wildlife refuges, 10 state parks or preserves, public lands and the Big Bend Seagrasses Aquatic Preserve.

The Santa Fe River originates in a headwater swamp, flows underground and re-emerges at Santa Fe River Rise. Caves and conduits are common in the basin, offering recreational opportunities for cave divers. The Santa Fe River and associated spring systems are also popular recreation areas for swimming, tubing, paddling, boating, diving and snorkeling.

More information on the basin-wide bacteria TMDL proposed for the Suwanee and Santa Fe basins can be found on the department’s website here.

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