The District’s Governing Board recently voted to begin the process of adding three first-magnitude spring systems — Weeki Wachee River, Chassahowitzka River and Homosassa River — to the Surface Water Improvement Management (SWIM) Program priority list.
The existing SWIM Program priority list includes two first-magnitude spring systems – Rainbow River and Crystal River/Kings Bay. Today’s action initiates bringing all five onto the SWIM Program priority list.
In 1987, the Florida Legislature created the SWIM Act to protect, restore and maintain Florida’s highly threatened surface water bodies. Under this act, the state’s five water management districts identify a list of priority water bodies within their authority and implement plans to improve them.
Improving northern coastal spring systems is a District priority and adding these springs on the District’s SWIM list will allow staff to better prioritize projects, programs and funding to improve water resources. These spring groups are important for their ecological value and economic impact.
First-magnitude spring groups discharge 64.6 million gallons of water per day or more. Together, all five of the District’s first-magnitude spring groups discharge more than one billion gallons of water per day.
With Board approval, staff will now coordinate with several state agencies and stakeholders to request comments on the priority list changes. Board members will review comments before making their final decisions on the water bodies. District staff anticipates requesting the Governing Board’s final approval within six months. Following final approval, staff will develop SWIM plans for the newly added water bodies.
SWIM projects focus on reducing the pollution in stormwater runoff by reducing excess nutrients and other pollutants, which affect water quality. The District and its partners have implemented projects which have provided water quality treatment of more than 145,000 acres of watershed. SWIM projects also restore degraded or destroyed natural systems, enhance existing habitats and promote the preservation of natural habitats. Since 1987, the SWIM Program has restored more than 10,923 acres of freshwater, estuarine and upland habitat.