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February 21, 2007

Three Marion County projects were awarded Community Education Grants from the Southwest Florida Water Management District. The grants, which are up to $5,000 each, will help fund projects that provide communities the opportunity to learn about water resources.

This year the District awarded 49 grants Districtwide for a total of $171,444. This is the 10th year Community Education Grants have been available.

The overall goal of the Community Education Grant Program is to actively engage adults in water-related issues pertaining to conservation, protection and preservation. Funded by the District’s Basin Boards, the program is intended to motivate communities to get involved in water protection through various activities and educational formats.

These projects are funded by the District’s Withlacoochee River Basin Board, which includes portions of Pasco, Sumter, Hernando, Citrus, Marion, and Levy counties.

Paul and Sandra Marraffino will receive $4,289 for the creation, publication and dissemination of a “Riverfront Homeowner Water Protection Handbook” to homeowners on the Rainbow River. The handbook will inform landowners on the principles and methods of managing the land-water interface with sound ecological practices to ensure the quality of the water in Floridas rivers is maintained. This handbook will be useful for all scenic rivers in central Florida, but specific examples will be made for the Rainbow River corridor. A workshop will also be held to present the information in the handbook, which will be distributed to approximately 250 people. This project is being coordinated with the support of Rainbow River Conservation, Inc.

Florida Defenders of the Environment, Inc. will receive $1,979 to create a “State of the River Report” for the Withlacoochee River watershed. The report will encompass water quality and land-use information to help policymakers, local citizens and stakeholder groups make better informed decisions about how to protect the watershed. Presentations about the report will be given to high school students and civic groups. In addition, stakeholders will be invited to a conference or workshop presentation about the report. The project may reach 2,000 people.

The Marion County Citizens Coalition, Inc. will receive $3,000 for a series of five workshops that focus on transferring development rights (TDR) for watershed protection. Landowners, developers and citizens will be educated about the TDR program and Farmland Preservation Area in northwest Marion County. The workshops will support existing efforts of the Marion County Planning Department. The goal is to inform people about how they can protect the watershed through private land conservation by demonstrating the economic, environmental and community value of TDR. The seminars will potentially reach 500 landowners, developers and citizens.

The Southwest Florida Water Management District’s 2008 Community Education Grant Program will begin its application process in June of this year if funding is approved by the Basin Boards. To be added to the mailing list to receive the 2008 application, call the District’s Communications Department at 1-800-423-1476 or 352-796-7211, ext. 4757.

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