TALLAHASSEE – Today, Administrative Law Judge Bram Cantor issued a ruling upholding the validity of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s proposed rules setting limits to protect and restore water flows in the Lower Santa Fe River, Ichetucknee River and associated priority springs.
This action sets critical Minimum Flows and Levels (MFLs) establishing expectations for water flows that support indigenous wildlife and recreational opportunities in the two rivers and the largest 16 springs which feed them. These MFLs determine the amount of water that can be removed from the natural system without causing significant harm to the resources and ecology and establish limits for both the Suwannee and St. Johns River Water Management Districts of how much water is available for water-use permitting.
“We are extremely pleased with the ruling, and look forward to continuing to work with the Suwannee River and St. Johns River Water Management Districts and our local partners to implement strategies for restoration and protection of these criticalnorth Florida resources,” said Deputy Secretary for Ecosystem Restoration Drew Bartlett. “The MFLs will set protective levels for the health of the Lower Santa Fe River, Ichetucknee River and associated priority springs.”
“This is a historic ruling,” said Don Quincey, Suwannee River Water Management District Chair. “This is the first time in the state’s history that cross-boundary MFLs are being established which is a pivotal step forward to achieve recovery for these water bodies.”
These MFLs complement the nutrient-reduction goals recently established by the department, which form the foundation to restore the quality of the springs’ water currently impaired by excess nitrates. These provide the basis for restoration projects that will help reduce nutrient levels in the springs so that undesirable algal blooms and algal mats will no longer harm the springs systems.
Together, these two key regulatory milestones pave the way to restoration of the Santa Fe and Ichetucknee Rivers and associated springs.