State funds $24M in area springs projects

Goethe State Forest
A sign at the edge of Goethe State Forest. (Shutterstock)

Eleven projects in North Central Florida are set to receive a total of $24 million for recovery and protection of Florida’s springs, including three projects in Alachua County.

“The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and four Florida water management districts have identified a broad suite of projects that include land acquisition, septic to sewer conversion, and water quality improvement efforts intended to increase aquifer recharge, improve spring flow, and protect springs and their spring runs,” said a press release from the office of Gov. Ron DeSantis.

The local funding includes $800,000 for Alachua County to acquire a rock mine to benefit Hornsby Spring springshed, which is on the north side of High Springs.

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“The 316.97-acre property lies just over two miles east of the Hornsby Spring spring pool,” the press release said. “Approximately 142 acres of open water lakes have been created by the mining operation which began in the 1950s.”

According to the release, the lakes have depths of between 30 and 50 feet and intersect the Floridan Aquifer.

“Acquisition of this property will eliminate ongoing impacts from mining and prevent the potential impacts from development,” the press release said.

The Alachua County Environmental Protection Department will receive $250,000, while the Alachua Conservation Trust (ACT) will receive $173,288.

“This is such good news,” said ACT’s Erica Hernandez, who wrote the grant application.

Hernandez said the state grant will be paired with a federal grant to fund a conservation easement on a Levy County property that borders Goethe State Forest and impacts the Rainbow River.

“Our partner, the landowner, is an under-resourced producer,” Hernandez said. “She’ll be able to use the funding to help her manage her farm, do restoration and take care of her cows. What she gives up is her development rights. She can’t intensify the land. It will remain rural.”

Other grants include $6.1 million for a Lake City recharge wetland expansion and $6 million to the Suwannee River Management District for springs protection.

“As a great place to live and do business, Florida continues to see tremendous growth,” Hugh Thomas, executive director for the Suwannee River Water Management District, said in a statement. “With that growth comes the need to identify innovative ways to allow for growth while also protecting our natural resources. Funding for projects like these is beneficial to ensuring the preservation of our local springs for generations to come.”

Fanning Springs will receive $2 million for a wastewater system expansion, while Alliance Grazing Group in Trenton will receive $2.5 million to convert Piedmont Dairy from grazing to freestall barns. Alliance Grazing Group did not immediately return a call for comment on the project.

The state also funded four Marion County projects totaling nearly $6 million. Click here to see the full list of 30 projects.

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