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District adopts 2016-17 budget focused on springs, water resource protection

PANAMA CITY - The Northwest Florida Water Management District's Governing Board on Sept. 22 adopted a $62.2 million budget for Fiscal Year 2016-17, which begins Oct. 1. The budget represents an increase of $6.5 million from Fiscal Year 2015-16.

More than half of the District's budget - $31.5 million - is directed to restoring and protecting springs throughout northwest Florida. The budget also includes funding for water supply and water development assistance to local communities, and improving the water quality in the Apalachicola River and Bay system. 

While the District funds many of its operations through the collection of ad valorem taxes and timber sales, the state also provides significant operational support and funding for projects that protect the region's water resources.

"Thanks to the support of Secretary Steverson and DEP, Governor Scott, and the Legislature, the District is able to make significant strides toward completing projects that will make the greatest positive impact on the region's natural resources," said Governing Board Chairman George Roberts.

Included in the newly adopted budget are the following highlights:

* $31.5 million for springs projects. This funding will enable the District to implement springs restoration projects for Wakulla Spring, Jackson Blue Spring, and springs associated with the Holmes and Econfina creek systems.

* $9.5 million for water supply and water resource development assistance to continue support for cooperative grant projects across northwest Florida. This funding also supports the collaborative efforts with Bay County, Gulf Power, and Panama City to expand reclaimed water use in Bay County.

* $2 million for monitoring and technical assessments to develop Minimum Flows and Levels for the St. Marks River Rise, Wakulla Spring, Sally Ward Spring, Jackson Blue Spring, the Floridan aquifer in coastal Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, and Walton counties, and the Lower Yellow and Shoal River system.

* $2 million for watershed restoration. This funding will facilitate continued efforts to protect and restore water quality and estuarine habitats in the Apalachicola River and Bay system through the implementation of cooperative stormwater retrofit projects and other best management practices. This funding will also support focused project planning to benefit watersheds across northwest Florida.