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May 4, 2011

The Southwest Florida Water Management District’s Governing Board last week voted to help fund $1.9 million in projects that will help reduce groundwater withdrawals in eastern Hillsborough County by 550,000 gallons per day and 18 million gallons for frost/freeze protection.

All five projects are located on strawberry farms within the proposed Dover/Plant City Water Use Caution Area. During the 11-day January 2010 Freeze Event, the combined pumping of Dover-area farmers dropped the aquifer level 60 feet in some locations, resulting in 140 sinkholes and impacting more than 750 wells. The District developed a management strategy with incentives to reduce groundwater use over time, well construction standards and regulatory limitations on water use in the area. To implement one component of the strategy, the Board voted to create a new water use caution area in the Dover/Plant City area.

The projects are funded under the District’s Facilitating Agricultural Resource Management Systems (FARMS) Program, an agricultural cost-share reimbursement program that conserves water and protects water quality. Funding is being provided by the District’s Governing Board and the Alafia River Basin Board.

Astin Farms
Astin Farms, Inc. will be reimbursed up to $263,240 for two surface water irrigation and tailwater recovery systems at Astin’s 526-acre South Farm and 19-acre Karpee Road strawberry farms. These projects will reduce groundwater withdrawals normally used for bed preparation and crop plant establishment, as well as reduce the amount of groundwater pumped for frost/freeze protection. FARMS funding will help pay for pump stations and piping. The project’s total estimated cost is $484,307 and could reduce groundwater withdrawals by an average of 156,600 gallons per day and 9.4 million gallons for frost/freeze protection.

San-Way Farms
San-Way Farms, Inc. will be reimbursed up to $165,868 for a surface water
irrigation reservoir and tailwater recovery system at its 70-acre strawberry farm. The project will reduce groundwater withdrawals normally used for bed preparation, crop plant establishment and daily irrigation, as well as reduce the amount of groundwater pumped for frost/freeze protection. FARMS funding will help pay for a pump station, filters, an in-line chlorinator and piping. The project’s total estimated cost is $334,183 and could reduce groundwater withdrawals by an average of 96,740 gallons per day and 4.4 million gallons for frost/freeze protection.

Sewell Farms
Sewell Farms, LLC will be reimbursed up to $92,480 for 25 acres of row covers and a surface water irrigation and tailwater recovery system at its 108-acre strawberry farm. The project will reduce groundwater withdrawals normally used for bed preparation and crop plant establishment, as well as reduce the amount of groundwater pumped for frost/freeze protection. FARMS funding will help pay for a pump station, an intake screen and piping, as well as 25 acres of row covers. The project’s total estimated cost is $152,292 and could reduce groundwater withdrawals by an average of 88,400 gallons per day and 4.1 million gallons for frost/freeze protection.

Sizemore Farms
Sizemore Farms, Inc. will be reimbursed up to $395,182 for a surface water irrigation and tailwater recovery system at its 242-acre English Creek strawberry farm. The project will reduce groundwater withdrawals normally used for bed preparation, crop plant establishment and daily irrigation. FARMS funding will help pay for pumps, pump sheds, piping, a weather station, a tailwater recovery tile system, culverts and filtration systems. The project’s total estimated cost is $540,000 and could reduce groundwater withdrawals by an average of 146,190 gallons per day.

Sydney Farms
Sydney Farms, Inc. will be reimbursed up to $110,500 for a surface water irrigation and tailwater recovery system at its 111-acre Donini Farm strawberry farm. The project will reduce groundwater withdrawals normally used for bed preparation, crop plant establishment and daily irrigation, as well as reduce the amount of groundwater pumped for frost/freeze protection. FARMS funding will help pay for pump stations and piping. The project’s total estimated cost is $390,360 and could reduce groundwater withdrawals by an average of 64,450 gallons per day and 374,000 gallons for frost/freeze protection.

To qualify for FARMS funding, projects must be located in the District and include one or more of the following best management practice strategies:

  • Use an alternative water supply or technology to reduce groundwater use.
  • Improve irrigation water quality and watershed ecology by reducing reliance on poorer quality groundwater.
  • Restore or augment water resources and ecology in priority areas.

For more information and details on how to qualify for the FARMS Program, visit the District’s website at WaterMatters.org/farms/.

 
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