The District has developed a management plan
to address the January 2010 Dover/Plant City
freeze event.

From January 3–13, 2010, for the first time in recorded history, temperatures in eastern Hillsborough County dropped below 34 degrees for 11 consecutive days. As a result, area farmers pumped large quantities of groundwater to protect their crops. This combined pumping dropped the aquifer level 60 feet and caused more than 750 temporarily dry wells for neighboring homeowners. Although pumping groundwater for freeze protection is a best management practice for strawberry, citrus and other industries and was authorized by their water use permits, farmers were responsible for fixing hundreds of dry wells.

To address concerns related to this event, the District held two public workshops and a series of technical work sessions to receive feedback from key stakeholders. The information gathered at these meetings helped staff develop recommendations to prevent a similar situation from happening in the future.

The proposed rules were presented for discussion and approval at the Governing Board meeting on December 14, 2010. View the Dover/Plant City Draft Rule and the associated Statement of Estimated Regulatory Costs . The Governing Board also approved emergency rules to have the well complaint investigation responsibility portion of the rules in effect for 90 days effective December 15, 2010. View the Emergency Rule 40DER10-1.

Recommendations in the management plan include:

  • Expanding special well construction standards for the Dover area
    • The District’s Governing Board approved rule making to expand the Dover Special Well Construction Area to reduce the likelihood that homeowners will experience well failures during prolonged freeze events. The rule was adopted on August 17, 2010. Well construction standards in this area require wells to be dug deeper than typical residential wells. All new wells constructed within the area will now be required to meet additional casing depth standards. Please view the District’s news release that further explains this change.
  • Enhancing communication for freeze events
    • District communication before, during and after freeze events will include reminder letters to permit holders at the beginning of the cold season. Media alerts to all local media and an automated phone call to residents advising them to turn off their well pumps will also occur when aquifer levels are expected to drop below a level that will impact wells. In addition, the District’s web site will continue to contain the most up-to-date information during freeze events, and permit holders will receive timely communication from the District when mitigation is required.
  • Creating a water use caution area in the Dover/Plant City area
    • The District will create a water use caution area and set a minimum aquifer level in the Dover/Plant City area. A water use caution area is designated where water resources are or will become critical in the next 20 years. The District will also develop regulatory strategies in the new water use caution area that will limit groundwater pumpage.
  • Creating a new process for allocating dry well complaints
    • The District designed a new process for determining which permit holder is responsible for dry well complaints during freeze events. This process results in a more equitable approach to assign each permittee a relative responsibility based on the volume of groundwater they are permitted to use for crop protection and their proximity to the complainant’s well. Please view the May Governing Board presentation video to learn about the new allocation process.
  • Expanding the FARMS Program and increasing incentives for alternative frost/freeze protection methods
    • The District will increase its share of costs for projects that reduce groundwater pumping for frost/freeze protection in the Dover/Plant City area. The increase is part of the District’s Facilitating Agricultural Resource Management Systems, or FARMS, Program. FARMS is a cost-share program to reduce groundwater use through water conservation best management practices in agricultural operations. For additional information, please read the District’s news release explaining this change.
  • Expanding the data collection network for freeze events
    • The District will expand its data collection network for freeze events by drilling additional monitoring wells. In addition, the District will expand its Automated Meter Reading Program by providing funding for equipment and installation to monitor all permitted wells with frost-freeze quantities in the Dover/Plant City area. This will provide accurate real-time meter readings and freeze temperatures. For more information, please read the Draft Work Plan.
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