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State of the River – March 2022

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State of the River Report

Update on Little Wekiva River and Legislative Study Report

FOWR continues to advocate for remediation of the portion of the Little Wekiva River

downstream from State Road 434 that has been severely damaged by massive sediment

accumulations in the last few years. Here are the latest updates:

Seminole County’s proposed a remediation project is in the permitting process with

Saint Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD). This project will include

removal of invasive plants, removal of deposited sediments that have filled in portions

of the river channel, recontouring of historic meanders, and replanting with beneficial

native plant species. The proposed remediation area is approximately 4000 feet in

length and 20 acres total. The project is expected to begin during February or March,

2022.

On December 31, 2021, SJRWMD issued its final report of the Little Wekiva River study

that was requested during the 2021 legislative session. The report has both positive and

disappointing aspects. Despite strong technical comments presented by FOWR, there

was no acknowledgment in the report of apparent major contribution of the I-4

Ultimate construction to the Little Wekiva River sedimentation. The report concluded

that “scientific evidence is lacking to determine the contribution of sediment load from

any individual sources, current or historic. In short general accumulation and

movement patterns strongly suggest that aggregate effects of basin urbanization,

particularly prior to modern stormwater rules, are responsible for the majority of

historic and current sediment issues.”

The report recommends projects and further studies and monitoring including site-

specific monitoring for sediment at stormwater outfalls and inputs. “In short, sediment

removal projects such as dredging and properly located and managed sediment traps,

should be the focus of future projects to best improve sedimentation issues in the river.

Furthermore, consistent and long-term in-stream maintenance activities (e.g., sediment

removal, invasive plant control, etc.) are vital.” The report notes that changes in rainfall

patterns and more frequent and intense tropical storms could have multiple impacts to

the basin and that SJRWMD is accordingly evaluating enhanced permit review and

compliance for the Wekiva Basin. FOWR will continue to work with SJRWMD and others to explore further studies, legislation and preventive measures that can help address sedimentation of the Little Wekiva and other Florida rivers.

FOWR OPPOSES ANNEXATIONS WITHIN WEKIVA STUDY AREA

Seeking to annex land within the Wekiva Study Area, Eustis has amended its

comprehensive plan and adopted new development rules that allow more

intensive development within areas zoned as residential and commercial. The

land east of the city that is being targeted is, according to the Florida Geologic

Survey, one of the most effective recharge areas for the Floridan Aquifer. The

city has eliminated the rural residential and agricultural zoning categories, and

will allow higher density development and more impervious area within

developments.

The Friends of the Wekiva River spoke against the proposed changes at a City Commission meeting, but the changes were adopted in spite of the opposition. FOWR is now working with the Lake County Conservation Committee to oppose the proposed annexations east of the city limits. If approved for annexation, the higher density development and reduced pervious area would reduce the recharge of the Floridan Aquifer and the surficial aquifer that supplies water to Blackwater Creek, a major tributary of the Wekiva River.

Wekiva Parkway Bridges Crossing the Wekiva River Nears Completion

At a recent meeting of the Wekiva Parkway Commission, Florida Department of Transportation District Secretary Jared Perdue stated that the Parkway from east of Mount Plymouth to Seminole County, including the bridges over the Wekiva River, will be open to traffic in the late spring of this year. Construction from the Wekiva River to Orange Boulevard in Seminole County is proceeding and will open in the summer or fall of this year.

Because the Wekiva is a Wild and Scenic River, the new bridges over the Wekiva River were designed to be compliant with the Wild and Scenic Act. Workshops with federal, state, local interests and the Wekiva Wild and Scenic River Management Committee established guidelines for the construction of the bridges. As a result, the bridges now span the entire width of the river and there are no piers in the river impeding the flow of the river. This wide span will also permit wildlife to pass under the bridges. All construction was from above, so no work took place in the river except for removal of the numerous piers associated with the old bridge. The new bridges are higher than the former bridge to improve the view as one approaches the bridges while paddling on the river. Sounds of traffic will be less for the surrounding area than in the past.

We look forward to the completion of the Wekiva Parkway.

State of the River Report — Summer 2022

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State of the River Report-Summer 2022

Update on Little Wekiva RiverChampions of the Little Wekiva River in Longwood are anxiously awaiting the beginning of sediment removal, where thousands of tons of sediment have filled the river channel and diverted the flow in multiple directions. Seminole County has said the project is on track to begin later this year at the end of the rainy season in October/November.In May, Florida Fish and Wildlife and Seminole County began spraying to eliminate some of the invasive plants that have taken root in the sediment, turning the river channel into a jungle. As part of the project, following sediment removal the County will replant with native species.On May 23, Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy held a media event on site to announce the contribution of $688,000 in federal dollars to the remediation project made possible by her advocacy. She also reported that she has asked the federal Army Corp of Engineers to look into the cause of the catastrophic sedimentation, emphasizing the importance of avoiding a similar problem occurring in the future.Here is a clip from Congresswoman Murphy’s visit showing some of the problem area.https://www.wesh.com/article/little-wekiva-river-restoration/40079406We recently learned that Governor DeSantis vetoed a $500,000 appropriation that had been approved by the legislature in the 2022 legislative session for the Little Wekiva River restoration. This is of course very disappointing. We checked with Kim Ornberg at Seminole County who confirmed that this veto does not affect the appropriation from 2021 and will have no impact on the County’s project that begins in the Fall. The County is looking into why the 2022 appropriation was vetoed.FOWR and residents along the Little Wekiva River continue to monitor the worsening condition of the river and the risks to adjacent home and look for both immediate and long-term solutions.