DEP Hosts Meeting to Advance Restoration for Orange Creek Basin

Aug. 4, 2015


GAINESVILLE, Fla. – On August 6, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection is hosting a meeting to discuss restoration plans for the Orange Creek Basin, which will include presenting water-quality trends in the basin and providing updates on the plan’s implementation.

The Orange Creek Basin restoration plan covers Newnans Lake, Orange Lake, Lake Wauberg, Hogtown Creek, Sweetwater Branch, Tumblin Creek and Alachua Sink. The lakes contain an excess of nutrients and high levels of bacteria have been an issue in Hogtown Creek, Sweetwater Branch and Tumblin Creek. To restore water quality, the department adopted basin management action plans, or BMAPs to address both nutrient pollution and the bacteria. After BMAP adoption, the department hosts periodic public meetings to review progress and refine plans going forward.

“The department has been working closely with local stakeholders to implement a restoration plan that will improve the water quality of Orange Creek Basin,” said Tom Frick, director of the Division of Environmental Assessment and Restoration. “These meetings provide an opportunity to review progress and adapt these long-term plans to new information.”

Since the BMAP was adopted, several nutrient-reduction projects have been implemented, including the city of Gainesville’s Paynes Prairie Sheetflow Project. The 125-acre wetland, which receives flow from Sweetwater Branch, allows plants to naturally remove nutrients before the water reaches the natural sheetflow distribution channel, improving the flow and quality of water received by almost 1,300 acres of adjacent wetlands within Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park. Additionally, eliminating the direct discharge of Sweetwater Branch into Alachua Sink removes a pollutant source to the Floridan Aquifer. The project is an innovative approach to achieving restoration goals while providing new recreational opportunities for Gainesville. In addition to the water-quality benefits, a network of walking trails, boardwalks and elevated berms throughout the park allow visitors to appreciate the wetland in a park-like setting.

In response to high levels of bacteria, the Alachua County Environmental Protection Department collaborated with DEP to collect and evaluate samples using a method called microbial source tracking to identify the bacteria’s origin through DNA analysis. Knowing whether the bacteria is human or wildlife in origin allows the two agencies to identify potential sources and develop targeted pollution-reduction strategies. Alachua County, Gainesville Regional Utilities and the Department of Health in Alachua County along with other stakeholders continue to work with DEP to implement projects to correct bacterial sources in urban streams.

Meeting details are available here.

For more information on the Orange Creek restoration plan, please click here.

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