The Northwest Florida Water Management District governing board last week adopted a $47.9 million budget for fiscal year 2013-14, which runs from Oct. 1, 2013, to Sept. 30, 2014.
“This budget reflects the district’s focus on the projects and programs that directly benefit the natural resources and communities of northwest Florida,” said District Executive Director Jon Steverson. “By focusing on efficiencies and controlling operational expenditures, the district is able to maximize the use of taxpayer dollars on the protection and management of the Panhandle’s water resources without adding to northwest Florida residents’ tax burden.”
The district’s budget is comprised of a combination of ad valorem revenues, state and federal funding and other revenues, including timber sales. The district also continues to direct state revenue appropriated during prior fiscal years to critical resource restoration and protection projects throughout the region, such as Apalachicola Bay.
In his letter to the district giving his official approval of the proposed budget, Gov. Rick Scott noted district efforts to control administrative overhead costs at the agency and commended the significant expansion in the portion of the budget related to restoration and public works projects, such as the new water supply development grant program for communities across the Panhandle.
Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Herschel Vinyard expressed approval of the district’s efforts, as well.
“We have worked closely with the Northwest Florida Water Management District over the last 15 months to improve water resources in the region, and their budget is a reflection of that successful relationship,” said Vinyard. “I continue to be impressed by the progress the district is making in protecting water resources, especially when it comes to our treasured springs.”
The projects funded in the FY 2013-2014 budget maintain a consistent focus on the district’s core mission responsibilities of water supply, water quality, natural systems and flood protection. Major objectives for the upcoming fiscal year include:
· $4.7 million for Apalachicola River and Bay watershed protection and restoration, including $3 million in legislative funding. The district will provide $2.5 million in cooperative funding assistance to the city of Apalachicola to provide stormwater treatment and improve the quality of water flowing into the river and bay. The district will also move forward with the development of a freshwater needs assessment and strategic plan for the bay.
· $3.3 million for springs restoration and protection, including projects that will restore and ensure the long-term protection of habitat at Williford Spring. Other projects will improve water quality in Jackson Blue Spring and restore and protect stream banks at various springs and springs-related sites along Econfina and Holmes creeks, including Devil’s Hole Spring.
· $1.8 million for the development of a meaningful minimum flows and levels (MFL) program. During FY 2012-2013, the district developed a list of 25 priority waterbodies and began expanding data collection efforts to meet a new, more realistic implementation schedule. This year, the district will further enhance efforts to develop MFLs as identified in that schedule, with special emphasis on the St. Mark’s River Rise-Wakulla Springs-Spring Creek system.
· $10 million to provide assistance to local governments and non-profit utilities for water supply development. The district will implement a competitive grant program that will help communities in northwest Florida meet local water supply challenges, while also addressing regional priorities for water resource protection and management.
· $5.5 million to help local governments and utilities implement Alternative Water Supply development projects, particularly within priority regions.
· $3.9 million for St. Andrews Bay watershed protection and restoration, including the restoration of spring bank and riparian habitat associated with Williford Springs and Econfina Creek. It also includes grant funding assistance to local governments for stormwater and other projects to improve water quality and aquatic habitat within the bay.
To view the FY 2013-2014 budget and a copy of the Governor’s approval letter, visit the district’s website at http://www.nwfwmd.state.fl.us/bizfinance.html.