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Northwest Florida could get $21 million for springs protection

By BRUCE RITCHIE
FLORIDAENVIRONMENTS.COM

MIDWAY — The Northwest Florida Water Management District is in line to receive more than $10 million in springs protection funding from the state budget and could get as much as $21.5 million, the district’s governing board was told Thursday.

Wakulla Springs State Park. Photo by Bruce Ritchie.

Wakulla Springs State Park. Photo by Bruce Ritchie.

The eight possible springs projects include $6.4 million for 1,077 acres next to Wakulla Springs State Park and $4.7 million for 1,743 acres next to Blue Spring in Jackson County. The district did not identify the specific properties that could be purchased.

The Northwest Florida Water Management District board on Thursday approved a tentative fiscal year 2015-16 budget of $59.5 million, which would be $5.9 million more than this year’s budget. Public hearings will be held in September on the proposed budget.

The board also adopted the “rollback” property tax rate of 3.7 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. The rollback rate adjusts for increases in property values to produce the same revenue as the previous year.

Last year’s budget was $53.6 million. The district was set to consider a $37.9 million budget for fiscal year 2015-16 but the board added $21.5 million for the possible springs projects as requested by staff.

The Legislature in June appropriated $45 million for springs protection in the 2014-15 state budget, said Brett Cyphers, the district’s executive director.

The $11.2 million for land acquisitions near Wakulla and Blue springs is uncertain and depends on the district negotiating deals on the land, Cyphers said. The tentative budget, he said, could be reduced before the public hearings if deals are not reached.

The remaining $10.3 million for six projects is more certain, Cyphers said.

Two of the projects would protect Blue Spring in Jackson County and three in Leon and Wakulla counties would protect Wakulla Springs.

Four of the six projects would involve extending sewer lines or connecting homes on septic tanks to sewer sysems. The fifth project would implement an agricultural cost-sharing program in Jackson County to reduce water use and nitrogen pollution.

The sixth would purchase three acres in Bay County to protect 300 feet along Econfina Creek.

The Sept. 10 public hearing will be held at 5:05 p.m. at the district headquarters near Midway. The Sept. 24 hearing will be held at 5:05 p.m. (Central Time) at a location in Panama City to be announced.

(Story and photo copyrighted by Bruce Ritchie and Floridaenvironments.com. Do not copy or redistribute without permission, which can be obtained from bruceBritchie@gmail.com.)

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