Water-Related News

Update: Water levels remain above average at Lake Apopka North Shore

Repairs are underway at the St. Johns River Water Management District’s Lake Apopka North Shore, which experienced damage due to Hurricane Irma. As water levels subside and assessments are completed, the district will provide a weekly update on the status of repairs and recreation at the Lake Apopka North Shore.

  • Water levels in several areas of the property remain above average. On the land immediately east of Lake Level Canal Road, water levels are about three feet above the desired level.

  • Initial repairs to stop the flow of lake water through the levee breach continue to hold. Due to wet conditions, the additional work necessary to complete the temporary repair was postponed. The work is required to help stabilize the roads/levees so that they can support the necessary heavy equipment.

  • Power has been restored to all pump stations. The district continues to monitor water levels on the Ocklawaha Chain of Lakes. Once lakes Apopka, Dora and Beauclair all return to normal levels, the district will begin slowly pumping water from the Lake Apopka North Shore. No pumping occurred during the past week.

  • Planning for restoration work continues. On Oct. 10, the district’s Governing Board approved contracts for two restoration projects for Lake Apopka: a rough fish harvest from Lake Apopka and a project that supports the recovery of submersed aquatic plant species in Lake Apopka.

  • On Oct. 11, the district hosted a public meeting to present information on restoration, recreation and other activities in the area, including the Lake Apopka North Shore.

  • Understanding that the North Shore is a popular outdoor recreation destination, the Red Trail, off County Road 448A, and the McDonald Canal Boat Ramp are open.

  • To ensure public safety, and minimize potential damage to saturated roads, no other openings are planned at this point due to flooding and the continued presence of heavy equipment. The Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive and nonmotorized Lake Apopka Loop Trail remain closed. As soon as the district determines that the public can safely access an area, it will open.


  • For continuing updates on district operations and recreational announcements, visit the district’s website, www.sjrwmd.com. More information about lake levels is available at www.sjrwmd.com/data/hydrologic/#controlled.

    SJRWMD awards Blue School grants to schools for water resource education

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    PALATKA — Eleven schools are receiving grant funding from the St. Johns River Water Management District’s Blue School Grant Program for projects to enhance student development in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) related topics. More than two dozen teachers applied for funding this year and of them the top 11 projects were selected. The program offers $20,000 in financial support to teachers working to promote water resource protection through hands-on learning opportunities.

    “Thank you to these teachers and their schools for their commitment to educating Florida’s future leaders about our water resources,” said St. Johns River Water Management District Executive Director Dr. Ann Shortelle. “I commend each of these educators for supporting a legacy of water resource protection and look forward to seeing their project achievements in the months ahead.”

    Among the schools receiving 2017–18 Blue School Grant funds are:

    • Wekiva High School, Orange County, for an aquaponics project for STEM learning
    • Tuskawilla Middle School, Seminole County, for water quality field study at Lake Lotus
    • South Lake High School, Lake County, for a classroom and community awareness project

    The Blue School Grant Program, now in its second year, provides grants of up to $2,000 for a range of middle school and high school educational programs to enhance student knowledge of Florida’s water resources. Projects may include water quality improvement field studies, water conservation garden projects, classroom/community awareness and freshwater resources educational programs.

    For more details on a particular project funded through this year’s Blue School Grant Program please reach out to the media contact listed at the top of this release. For information about Blue School grants in general, visit the district’s website at www.sjrwmd.com/education/blue-school/.

    New location for Clermont boat ramp in limbo

    On Dec. 17 the Clermont boat ramp closes. What happens next is anybody’s guess.

    The Clermont boat ramp relocation was on the City Council agenda Tuesday night but no decisions were made, no votes were taken and no one on the council other than the mayor said anything during the time allotted for the boat ramp.

    The city’s consultant on the project, Richard Levy, briefed the council on boat ramp developments in the past two months. Chief among them is that the Cypress Cove Marina has been eliminated as a possible site for a new public ramp.

    “It’s not something that would be feasible,” Levy said.

    Located on Lake Minnehaha, but south of Clermont city limits, the marina is currently for sale. Cypress Cove was suggested by council as a possible location on Aug. 8, the last time the issue was on the agenda. Continued public discussion on the matter was delayed until the city, county and the Lake County Water Authority could sit down for a three-way talk on the matter. LCWA board member Peggy Cox, speaking at the most recent LCWA meeting, pointed out that the size of the parcel (5 acres) was too small to be developed as a public ramp.

    LCWA Executive Director Mike Perry said that the LCWA favors relocating the ramp to what is known locally as the Bell Ceramics site, located just east of Clermont’s Waterfront Park. He pledged LCWA’s help in locating a new boat ramp site but said of his board of directors that “they don’t want me to make your problem my problem. We would like to be part of that solution.”

    The current boat ramp is being demolished to make way for the final stage of the Victory Pointe stormwater treatment system, and for Triathlon Beach. The purpose of the stormwater system is to improve the quality of water going into the lake, as well as to make it easier to develop the remaining undeveloped parcels downtown. The purpose of Triathlon Beach is to move the bulk of the athletic activity westward from Waterfront Park, and closer to downtown. The city’s new master plan, published about two years ago, had the boat ramp relocated to the Bell Ceramics site, but the consultant, as well as some council members, have discouraged that site on the basis of traffic concerns.

    What will Florida (and its water supply) look like in 2070?

    The Florida of 2070 is at a crossroads today.

    That’s the conclusion of two reports released late last year by 1000 Friends of Florida, the University of Florida’s GeoPlan Center and the state’s Department of Agriculture. With the state’s population expected to swell to 33.7 million by 2070, almost 15 million more than identified in the 2010 Census, researchers teamed up to look at growth trends and sprawl.

    One report, Florida 2070, says if development continues on its current path, more than a third of the state will be paved over by 2070. That means millions of acres of agricultural and natural lands will be lost, to say nothing of the jobs, natural resources and quality-of-life indicators tied to them.

    Another report, Water 2070, says almost 15 million new Floridians will overburden an already fragile water supply, with water use projected to more than double by 2070.

    Robert Knight: Springs spending spree doesn’t fix problem

    In August, Gov. Rick Scott lauded his list of 40 springs restoration projects for 2017-18. The Legislature earmarked $50 million in Legacy Florida funding for these efforts. Combined with almost $16 million contributed from the budgets of the water management districts and a promised $29 million from local governments, this year’s total of $94 million could really have a beneficial impact on our “land of a thousand springs.” The bad news is that although state and local governments have already funded $300 million for springs restoration since 2013, the ecological health of Florida’s springs is continuing to decline.

    In the finest tradition of throwing money at a problem, Florida’s government is on a spending spree to provide the appearance of environmental concern. The selection of 112 “springs restoration projects” over the past four years has been conducted without transparency and with minimal prioritization based on costs versus benefits.

    The Florida Springs Institute has repeatedly requested, without success, an opportunity to assist the Department of Environmental Protection in assessing and ranking springs restoration projects. Governors Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist’s administrations relied on the Florida Springs Task Force, a group of 28 governmental and non-governmental experts, to prioritize and allocate about $2.5 million for springs research and protection each year for 10 years. One would expect our current fiscally concerned governor to be even more careful with allocating and spending far more public money.

    Important notice about Lake County Preserves

    Hidden Waters Preserve in Eustis, Crooked River Preserve in Clermont, Flati Island Preserve in Leesburg on US 27, Bourlay Historic Nature Park and Sabal Bluff in Leesburg are now OPEN TO THE PUBLIC, along with Hickory Point Park in Tavares.

    Sawgrass Island Preserve in Umatilla is STILL CLOSED AT THIS TIME for the safety of the public, and to allow staff to assess damage after Hurricane Irma, and to clear any fallen trees and branches that might be a hazard.

    Lake O hits highest level since 2005, raising concerns its dike could fail

    Rainfall from Hurricane Irma has pushed the water level in Lake Okeechobee to its highest point since 2005. Now, with more wet weather in the forecast, nearby residents fear a collapse of the 80-year-old dike around the lake.

    As a result, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is dumping large volumes of lake water out into coastal estuaries — exactly as it did last year, when those releases caused a massive toxic algae bloom that closed Atlantic coast beaches over the Fourth of July weekend.

    Meanwhile, Corps officials have stepped up inspections of the dike to three to four times a week to make sure its continuing leaks don't grow to the point of endangering people living near it.

    "We recognize that as the water level continues to rise, there is an increased risk of failure," Corps spokesman John Campbell said.

    The dike around the lake is classified as one of the most vulnerable in the nation. The earthen embankment on the south end of the lake is older, and thus more in danger of being breached, he said.

    That puts the communities south of the lake — Pahokee, Belle Glade, South Bay and Clewiston among them — at the greater risk for both property damage and loss of life.

    Is development draining Florida’s aquifer system beyond repair?

    "Water flow is the lifeblood of the springs, so when you reduce their flow, they start getting sick." —Robert Knight, Florida Springs Institute

    The economic benefits of development and the preservation of natural resources are continually being weighed against each other. In a state like Florida, this conversation is often a protracted — even heated — one because so much of the state’s tourism industry is reliant on keeping its beaches, parks and springs as pristine as possible. The boon delivered by tourism also justifies questions about how new construction and expanding agricultural operations could put a dent in one of the state’s biggest revenue streams.

    More than 112 million tourists visited Florida last year, a 5.9% increase from 2015, Florida Today reported. Those visitors spent $109 billion and generated 1.4 million jobs.

    And some visitors are staying.

    Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced last month that the state had seen the number of private businesses increase by 16.5% since December 2010. While many of the net 75,449 businesses added since then are homegrown, the figure also includes those coming from out of state to set up shop. The growth in the number of businesses in the state is one contributor to its strong population growth currently.

    That’s good news and bad news for the state. The good news is that all those new people will need places to live, shop, work, learn, relax and seek medical care, which means a boost for the state's construction industry and its workers. Local and state agencies also get to collect more property, sales and other taxes as a result.

    The bad news is that the strain on the state’s aquifer system — the subterranean limestone reservoirs that provide most of the water that Floridians use to drink, bathe and water their lawns — is starting to become evident.

    Year-round water restrictions now in effect

    All 16 counties throughout the Southwest Florida Water Management District’s boundaries are now on year-round water conservation measures, with lawn watering limited to twice-per-week unless your city or county has a different schedule or stricter hours. Local governments maintaining once-per-week watering by local ordinance include Hernando, Pasco and Sarasota counties.

    Under the District’s year-round measures, even addresses may water on Thursday and/or Sunday before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m. and odd addresses may water on Wednesday and/or Saturday before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m.

    Additional details regarding the watering of new lawns and plants, reclaimed water and other water uses can be found at WaterMatters.org/Restrictions. To learn more about how you can conserve water, please visit WaterMatters.org/Conservation.

    Photos sought for Adopt-a-Lake calendar

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    TAVARES — Now in its ninth year of production, the Lake County Adopt-a-Lake Program is again seeking beautiful original photographs of Lake County waterways for its classic Adopt-a-Lake calendar. The top 14 photographs, as chosen by a panel of volunteers, will be featured in the 2018 publication.

    Once the semi-finalists are selected, online voting will be opened to the public. The top-scoring photograph will receive a prime spot on the calendar’s cover.

    All photos submitted must be of a Lake County named body of water, and must be shot in landscape (horizontal) mode. Entries are limited to five photos per person and should include the name of the photographer and the body of water pictured. A photo release form will be required.

    To submit a photo, e-mail ccatasus@lakecountyfl.gov, bring a CD to the Water Resource Management Laboratory at 12923 County Landfill Road, Tavares, or mail a CD to Adopt-a-Lake Program, Attn: Cathie Catasus, P.O. Box 7800, Tavares, FL 32778.

    The deadline to submit entries is Friday, Oct. 27.

    The Adopt-a-Lake calendar will be available at the Water Resource Management Laboratory for a suggested donation of $5, with proceeds benefiting the Adopt-a-Lake Program.

    The Lake County Adopt-a-Lake Program encourages local civic organizations, individuals and fraternal and business groups to adopt a segment of a lake’s shoreline. The program is comprised of three separate components: Water-quality monitoring, public education and pollution prevention. Volunteers can select which aspects of the program best fit their level of interest.

    For more information about Lake County’s Adopt-a-Lake Program, the calendar, or to become a volunteer, contact Cathie Catasus at 352-253-1659 or ccatasus@lakecountyfl.gov.

    Clermont backing away from putting boat ramp at preserve

    The city of Clermont won’t make a decision about where to relocate the new city boat ramp until October, but it appears that officials are backing away from the idea of putting it at Lake Hiawatha Preserve because of strong public objections.

    The city has to relocate the boat ramp because part of the site is to be used for the Victory Pointe regional stormwater system and park, now under construction. The rest of the site is scheduled to be taken for the construction of Triathlon Beach, being built with the idea of bringing athletic events closer to downtown.

    The last time the boat ramp was on the Clermont City Council agenda was Aug. 8. The audience at that meeting made it clear that they considered the proposed site at Lake Hiawatha Preserve to be a bad idea. Councilman Keith Mullins was the only one to say he would like to keep the Lake Hiawatha option “on the counter.”

    “We don’t want to be bad neighbors,” City Manager Darren Gray said in a recent phone interview.

    The relocation vote was re-scheduled for Tuesday to allow time for the city manager, the county manager and the Lake County Water Authority executive director to sit down and discuss options, including the option of replacing the Clermont ramp with one that is not physically in Clermont. That meeting was scheduled. Then Hurricane Irma came, so the meeting was rescheduled, finally taking place last Thursday.

    Following that three-way discussion, the city sent out a notice that the council discussion was being delayed until Oct. 10 and that “the Clermont City Council has determined not to proceed with the Lake Hiawatha site for the boat ramp location.”

    Picture perfect: Photos sought for Adopt-a-Lake calendar

    Now in its ninth year of production, the Lake County Adopt-a-Lake Program is again seeking beautiful original photographs of Lake County waterways for its classic Adopt-a-Lake calendar. The top 14 photographs, as chosen by a panel of volunteers, will be featured in the 2018 publication.

    Once the semi-finalists are selected, online voting will be opened to the public. The top-scoring photograph will receive a prime spot on the calendar’s cover.

    All photos submitted must be of a Lake County named body of water, and must be shot in landscape (horizontal) mode. Entries are limited to five photos per person and should include the name of the photographer and the body of water pictured. A photo release form will be required.

    To submit a photo, e-mail ccatasus@lakecountyfl.gov, bring a CD to the Water Resource Management Laboratory at 12923 County Landfill Road, Tavares, or mail a CD to Adopt-a-Lake Program, Attn: Cathie Catasus, P.O. Box 7800, Tavares, FL 32778.

    The deadline to submit entries is Friday, Oct. 27.

    The Adopt-a-Lake calendar will be available at the Water Resource Management Laboratory for a suggested donation of $5, with proceeds benefiting the Adopt-a-Lake Program.

    The Lake County Adopt-a-Lake Program encourages local civic organizations, individuals and fraternal and business groups to adopt a segment of a lake’s shoreline. The program is comprised of three separate components: Water-quality monitoring, public education and pollution prevention. Volunteers can select which aspects of the program best fit their level of interest.

    For more information about Lake County’s Adopt-a-Lake Program, the calendar, or to become a volunteer, contact Cathie Catasus at 352-253-1659 or ccatasus@lakecountyfl.gov.