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District's FY 20-21 budget includes nearly $2 million for MFLs

HAVANA -- With the passage of its Fiscal Year 2020-2021 budget, the Governing Board for the Northwest Florida Water Management District committed nearly $2 million for the continued development of its Minimum Flows and Minimum Water Levels program.

The District is required by Florida statute to develop MFLs for specific water bodies to determine the limit at which further withdrawals will be significantly harmful to the water resources or ecology of the area.

The District remains on schedule to complete its technical assessment for Wakulla and Sally Ward springs by the end of this year.

“The support from Governor DeSantis and the legislature is crucial to our ability to complete this work and protect Wakulla Spring,” said Kellie Ralston, a member of the District’s Governing Board who represents Leon and Wakulla counties. “Wakulla Spring is one of the largest springs in Florida and the long-term health of this unique resource and its ecology is one of this Board’s highest priorities.”

Included in the work to develop an MFL for Wakulla and Sally Ward springs is the installation or enhancement of 70 monitoring sites that track spring flows, river stage, temperature, salinity, aquifer levels, swallet inflows, water quality, and other important data.

The District’s MFL staff, overseen by Dr. Kathleen Coates and Dr. Paul Thurman, will submit its technical assessment for Wakulla and Sally Ward springs for an independent scientific peer review this fall. Following the review, the District will refine the analyses and report as appropriate.

Rule-making activities will begin by November 1, with rule-development workshop(s) expected to occur in early 2021.

Public involvement will continue throughout the fall and during rule-making activities.

“Wakulla Spring is a highly complex system and our scientists have devoted thousands of hours to better understand its hydrology and ecology,” Coates said. “We look forward to presenting the data, analyses, and proposed minimum flows for scientific peer review and to the public.”

The 2020-21 budget also allows the District to complete its technical assessment for the coastal Floridan aquifer in Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, and Walton counties and determine how to best manage saltwater intrusion concerns in that region.

The District will continue developing MFLs for the Gainer Spring Group, Sylvan Spring Group, and Williford Spring Group along Econfina Creek and Jackson Blue Spring in Jackson County.