August 28, 2007

Relief is on the way for the lower Hillsborough River thanks to a series of actions taken by the Southwest Florida Water Management District Governing Board Tuesday.

The Board approved new minimum flows for the lower portion of the river, a Recovery Strategy to restore flows to the river, and a funding agreement with Tampa on a series of minimum flow-related projects.

A minimum flow or level (MFL) is the limit at which further water withdrawals will cause significant harm to the water resources and related environment. The new minimum flows are 24 cubic feet per second (cfs) during April-June and 20 cfs the remainder of the year. An independent, scientific peer review panel reviewed and supported the new flows, which are at least twice the current minimum flow of 10 cfs. The proposed minimum flows must be met by 2017.

The lower river has not been meeting the proposed minimum flows about 55 percent of the time, meaning additional flows are needed. As required by state law whenever water bodies are not meeting their minimum flows, the Governing Board also adopted a Recovery Strategy.

The Recovery Strategy identifies five potential projects to ensure that the minimum flows on the lower Hillsborough River are met:

  • Move water from Sulphur Springs to the base of the dam on the river. This is expected to provide on average 15 cfs.
  • Move water from Blue Sink to the river. This could provide up to 3 cfs.
  • Install a transmission pipeline for Tampa Bay Water’s existing transfers of water from the Tampa Bypass Canal to the river for the city of Tampa. This could save up to 3 cfs that would be used to help meet the minimum flow.
  • Pump water from the Morris Bridge Sink to the canal, then to the river. This may provide up to 6 cfs.
  • Move water from the Tampa Bypass Canal to the river. This project could provide up to 11 cfs for minimum flow purposes.

All projects are subject to permitting and feasibility.

The District and Tampa have negotiated a $44.5 million funding agreement for projects to help meet minimum flows. Specifically, the District will pay 50 percent of the Sulphur Springs, Blue Sink and transmission pipeline projects, subject to permitting and feasibility. The agreement allows for other projects to be identified for potential funding if necessary to meet minimum flow requirements.

The District will pay 100 percent of the Tampa Bypass Canal Diversion Project and the Morris Bridge Sink Project.

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