KEYSTONE HEIGHTS – The St. Johns River Water Management District has approved a contract with an engineering firm for a multi-million dollar project to pipe water from the flood-prone Black Creek …
KEYSTONE HEIGHTS – The St. Johns River Water Management District has approved a contract with an engineering firm for a multi-million dollar project to pipe water from the flood-prone Black Creek near Penney Farms to Lake Magnolia in Keystone Heights.
The District approved a design bid from Jacksonville-based engineering firm CDM Smith and will now move to negotiate a contract. Their design work will be due by 2019.
“The board’s action today is the district’s first major step in the biggest water resource development project ever in northeast Florida,” said Ann Shortelle, executive director of the St. Johns River Water Management District. “The Black Creek Water Resource Development Project has far-reaching benefits and is truly an all-around win for the region.”
The project would capture water when levels are high along Black Creek. Excess water would travel through a proposed pipeline along State Roads 16 and 21 to a spreader field near Lake Magnolia on Camp Blanding property.
The water would then travel down Alligator Creek, which would increase the water levels of all bodies within the Etonia Chain of Lakes – which include the ailing Lake Geneva and Lake Brooklyn.
Approximately 75 percent of the time, the Black Creek Water Resource Development Project will capture flow in the creek above a predetermined threshold.
The pipeline would have a 10 million gallon transmission capacity. The project’s main goal is to recharge the upper Floridan Aquifer through the bolstering of Lake Geneva and Lake Brooklyn, which are aquifer recharge areas.
Approved during the 2017 Florida legislative session, the project comes with $13.3 million in current legislative appropriations and an expected completion year of 2021. Estimates have put the project’s total cost at $44 million.
Legislators have earmarked $5 million a year from the Land Acquisition Trust Fund as recurring payments to complete the project.
Voters approved the Florida Land and Conservation Initiative – Amendment 1 – in 2014 to divert 33 percent of net revenue from the existing excise tax on documents to the Land Acquisition Trust Fund.
The fund was developed to acquire and improve beaches, wildlife habitats, conservation easements and drinking water resources
“I was [at the SJRWMD board meeting] yesterday and actually spoke to the agenda item, and we’re just incredibly excited and very, very thankful to our legislative representatives…for all the hard work they did,” said Keystone Heights City Manager Scott Kornegay. “We’re looking forward to the project getting underway.”
Senator Rob Bradley (R-Fleming Island) along with Rep. Bobby Payne (R-Palatka) championed the legislation during last session.
“Amendment 1 created a revenue stream that will allow water resource protection projects of this magnitude to move forward, and I applaud my colleagues in the Florida Senate for supporting our funding request,” Bradley said. “I am very excited about the benefits of this project to meet the future water supply needs of Northeast Florida and to replenish the lakes in Keystone Heights.”
Kornegay said the city would have a celebration when the lake levels rise to where they were decades ago.
“I don’t know about a ceremonial dive,” he said, “but we’ll certainly celebrate.”