The Florida Department of Environmental Protection today announced adoption of two Basin Management Action Plans in southwest Florida - one for Hendry Creek and Imperial River and the other for the Caloosahatchee River. Department Secretary Herschel Vinyard joined city and county officials at the celebration to kick off implementation of these critical water quality cleanup plans.
"One of DEP's top priorities is getting Florida's water right, ensuring an adequate supply and improving water quality," said Vinyard. "The Department is focused on achieving measurable ecological progress through restoration programs all across the state. We will continue to partner with local stakeholders as we take collective, immediate action to restore the rivers, lakes and estuaries that give Florida so much of its unique character."
Hendry Creek, Imperial River and the Caloosahatchee River are critical to the economy and quality of life in southwest Florida. The plans, developed in conjunction with local stakeholders, describe the pollution reduction responsibilities of each stakeholder and include detailed lists of projects to be implemented over the next five years. They also outline monitoring plans to track changes in water quality, measure success and inform future management decisions.
"We are proud to partner with DEP and the other agencies and local governments that made these BMAPs possible," said SFWMD Executive Director Melissa L. Meeker. "The South Florida Water Management District is committed to helping improve conditions throughout this vital watershed."
The ceremony took place at the Downtown Riverfront Basin last Wednesday in Fort Myers' River District -just one week after the opening of the Detention Basin, an award-winning (Florida Institute of Consulting Engineers "Grand Award") stormwater project.
Over the first five-year phase of the Caloosahatchee River plans, stakeholders are expected to reduce approximately 148,000 pounds per year of total nitrogen, representing 40 percent of the required urban load reductions in the tidal basin. The first phase of the Hendry Creek and Imperial River plan should achieve urban load reductions of nearly 12,000 pounds of nitrogen, 66 percent of the needed urban load reductions in Hendry Creek and 45 percent of the urban load reductions required for Imperial River. Local agricultural operations will also be implementing best practices for water use and nutrient management.
To achieve these reductions, the local governments have already committed more than $18 million to invest in specific stormwater management and water control projects in Lee County, Fort Myers and Bonita Springs.
Local government investment includes: More than $500,000 from the City of Bonita Springs; More than $6 million from the City of Fort Myers; More than $12 million from Lee County. The plans were developed under the Department's comprehensive approach to identifying polluted waterways and building local and regional partnerships to restore them. They represent collaboration between area local governments and development districts, several state agencies in addition to the Department and the South Florida Water Management District.
A unique feature of the Caloosahatchee River is the large amount of fresh water delivered from Lake Okeechobee. Last week, the Department embarked on development of an additional plan to expand on the extensive work conducted under the Lake Okeechobee Protection Plan to restore the quality of the fresh water flowing into the river.
Statewide, the Department has adopted 13 basin management action plans to date, covering 95 waterbody segments. About half of those were adopted in the past 24 months. Seven more are currently in development covering 55 additional waterbody segments.
For more information about DEP's water quality protection and restoration programs visit www.dep.state/fl/us/water/watershed/bmap.htm