Live Oak —
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection today published a proposed rule establishing Minimum Flows and Levels (MFLs) for the Lower Santa Fe and Ichetucknee Rivers and their Associated Priority Springs.
Minimum Flows and Levels for Florida’s rivers and springs are designed to protect and restore river and spring flows and the natural systems they support. MFLs are a key tool in effectively managing water resources to protect the recreational, environmental and economic benefits they provide to the state. Establishing MFLs for springs is a priority of the Department.
“The Department is setting the MFL to provide protection of the flows in the Santa Fe Basin which is so important to the overall health of this ecosystem;” said Drew Bartlett, DEP Deputy Secretary for Water Policy and Ecosystem Restoration. “This MFL will ensure protection by establishing flow thresholds for permitting and consumptive use which don’t currently exist for this system. We have looked at the science and we are confident we have the information needed to set a protective MFL.
The MFL will be applied in both the Suwannee River and St. Johns River Water Management Districts. Senate Bill 244, which passed during the 2013 legislative session required adjoining water management districts to apply the MFLs adopted by the Department.
In addition, the Suwannee River Water Management District, in conjunction with the Department and the St. Johns River Water Management District, has developed recovery strategies for this system, which are required to be established when a water body is below or is projected to fall below a MFL. The MFLs developed for the Lower Santa Fe and Ichetucknee Rivers and Associated Priority Springs indicate that they are in need of recovery actions to ensure proper water flow to prevent significant harm to the ecology of the system. Some of the recovery strategies include increased water conservation, projects to enhance aquifer recharge and ensuring new water withdrawals do not impact the flows in the rivers and springs.