Water-Related News

September 18 – Cherry Lake/Villa City Update

Predicted rainfall for the 7 days continues to be between 0.01 to 0.10 inches. If this occurs, flows from Big and Little Creek should decline quickly.

Staff is closing the Cherry Lake and Villa City to lower discharges this morning. The estimated flow will be approximately 100 cfs.

We will continue to monitor the forecast and adjust based on expected conditions.

Florida Gov. DeSantis rolls out environmental proposals

Gov. Ron DeSantis wants lawmakers to double fines for sewage spills into waterways and to lock an environmental-funding pledge into state budgets for at least the next three years.

The proposals are the first of a series the governor said he will make ahead of the 2020 legislative session, which starts in January. Lawmakers returned to Tallahassee on Monday to start holding committee meetings to prepare for the session.

Doubling fines for sewage spills would eliminate what DeSantis described as a “slap me on the wrist” approach to penalties for local governments. Civil penalties are now up to $10,000 a day, DeSantis said during an appearance last week at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida Nature Center in Naples.

“What we end up seeing happening is, you have some of these municipalities, it’s cheaper for them to pay a fine and spew all this sewage into the waterways, because it’s the cost of doing business,” DeSantis said. “They’d rather do that than invest in the infrastructure they need to make sure the waterways surrounding them are safe and clean.”

DeSantis noted, for example, spills that have occurred into Tampa Bay.

Riverkeeper: 'Alarming' findings in annual St. Johns River report

Environmentalists, including the St. Johns Riverkeeper, are calling the latest report on the St. Johns River alarming.

The report shows an increase in phosphorus, metals and more loss of wetlands.

The Riverkeeper says an increase in phosphorus could fuel blue-green algae breakouts. When the river’s health is in decline, it could have impacts for everyone, including some fishermen like Michael Harvilicz.

Harvilicz, who caught a fish on Monday, says not all of the fish he’s caught look as good.

“It’s sad because it’s an almost cancer-like condition, they’re very gross and wouldn’t think of taking these fish and eating them,” Harvilicz said.

The Vietnam veteran also says he caught a flesh-eating bacteria from the water.

“This is what you have to do if you’re throwing a net in,” Harvilicz says as he puts on rubber gloves. He wishes he could help keep the river healthy. 

Water levels update - September 6th

With Hurricane Dorian now in the rear-view mirror we can breathe a collective sigh of relief. As we approach the statistical peak of the hurricane season, June and July were particularly wet and August recorded 8.59 inches of rain, 1.31 inches above the historic average of 7.28 inches. Lake County is at 105% of the year to date rainfall.

As of today, Lake Minnehaha, the reference lake for the Clermont Chain, is at 97.19 ft. MSL, 0.31 ft. (slightly less than 4 inches) below the upper end of the regulatory range, but 0.09 ft. (slightly more than 1 inch) above the target elevation of 97.10 ft. MSL. The regulatory range is from 96.0 ft. to 97.50 ft. The lake is about 0.13 ft. (about 1.5 inches) lower than it was at this same time last year. The combined flow from Big and Little Creeks into Lake Louisa is currently 273 cfs (cubic ft. per second) or 122,577 gpm (gallons per minute). As a comparison, in October 2017 after Hurricane Irma, the combined flow from Big and Little Creeks was 659 cfs or 289,960 gpm. The Cherry Lake Dam was opened on August 23rd in advance of approaching Hurricane Dorian. Currently there is 207 cfs passing through the Cherry Lake dam, 66 cfs less than the flow coming in from Big and Little Creeks.

For the Harris Chain of Lakes, all the lakes are near the regulatory levels. Lake Apopka is currently at 66.14 ft. which is 0.30 ft. (about 3.6 inches) above the regulatory level of 65.84 ft. 100% of the flow from Lake Apopka is through NuRF and as of this morning, flow is at 150 cfs or 67,350 gpm (gallons per minute). The middle lakes (Beauclair, Carlton, Dora, Eustis and Harris) currently average 62.10 ft., which is 0.21 ft. (about 2.5 inches) above the regulatory level of 61.91 ft. Flow from the middle lakes through the Burrell lock and dam is at 962 cfs or 431,938 gpm (gallons per minute). For Lake Griffin, the lake is currently at 57.96 ft. which is 0.05 ft. (about 5/8 of an inch) below the regulatory level of 57.91 ft. F

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive has reopened

Popular birding, photography destination was closed for Hurricane Dorian

MAITLAND — The St. Johns River Water Management District is reopening the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive for regular operating hours Sept. 6.

Following an inspection, staff found no significant damage from Hurricane Dorian to the popular weekend birding destination.

Housed within the district’s 20,000-acre Lake Apopka North Shore restoration area, the wildlife drive opened in May 2015. Its success is attributed to not only housing a diverse bird population but also providing unprecedented access to the unique area.

The Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive is open year-round between sunrise and sunset on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and federal holidays, including Christmas Day. There is no cost to visit the wildlife drive.

Trail guides, maps and more information about recreational opportunities on lands owned and managed by the district are available at www.sjrwmd.com/lands/recreation.

Gizzard shad harvest reduces nutrient pollution in Lake George

PALATKA – The St. Johns River Water Management District’s Lake George gizzard shad harvest removed approximately 5,176 lbs. of phosphorus and 13,192 lbs. of nitrogen from the largest lake in the St. Johns River system, located in Marion, Lake, Volusia and Putnam counties.

“Gizzard shad removal is a cost-effective tool to remove nutrients from Lake George,” said St. Johns River Water Management District Executive Director Dr. Ann Shortelle. “We appreciate our Governing Board’s commitment to funding turnkey projects such as this to improve the health of the St. Johns River system, and we thank Gov. DeSantis for making water quality protection one of his highest environmental priorities.”

In response to the governor’s executive order and emerging algal blooms in the lower St. Johns River, district staff identified shad harvesting as a rapid and effective way to reduce phosphorus in the lake, part of the St. Johns River system. Staff identified unspent funds and the agency’s governing board approved the Lake George harvest at its May meeting.

The gizzard shad harvest took place from June 4 to July 16 and removed 628,173 pounds of the rough fish from Lake George, which directly removed thousands of pounds of nutrient pollution from the lake. Removing large numbers of shad from a waterbody removes the nutrients contained in the fishes’ bodies.

Water quality data from Lake George suggest the reduction in phosphorus recycling caused by shad removal is roughly seven times the direct phosphorus removal benefit. District shad harvests on Lake George between 2013 and 2018 removed more than 5 million pounds of fish containing a total of 22,312 pounds of phosphorus.

Gizzard shad feed on algae on the bottom of the lake, stirring up sediments and clouding the water. Shad excrete nutrients back into the water, recycling nutrients from the bottom that can feed more algae

Court rules Obama EPA violated law on WOTUS

More than nine months after the last hearing in the case, and nearly nine months to the day of the briefing deadline for that hearing, U.S. District Judge Lisa Godbey Wood handed a victory to the state of Georgia and nine other states that sued the federal government over the Obama administration’s 2015 Waters of the United States Rule.

Wood stated that the rule, which was intended to provide better protection of the nation’s water, violated the Clean Water Act and the Administrative Procedure Act, and she remanded it back to the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers for further work.

She wrote that while the agencies have authority to interpret the phrase “waters of the United States,” that authority isn’t limitless, and therefore their decisions in doing so do not fall under what’s called Chevron deference, a matter of case law in which — for lack of a better phrase — the tie goes to the agency.