Alligator Creek project closer to a reality

Jesse Hollett
Posted 6/1/16

KEYSTONE HEIGHTS – A strategic plan to increase the flow of Alligator Creek through a major chain of lakes in Keystone Heights is now closer to a reality than ever before.

The Alligator Creek …

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Alligator Creek project closer to a reality

Posted

KEYSTONE HEIGHTS – A strategic plan to increase the flow of Alligator Creek through a major chain of lakes in Keystone Heights is now closer to a reality than ever before.

The Alligator Creek Enhancement Strategy intends to install a pipeline in Lowry Lake located at Camp Blanding that will discharge water downstream into Alligator Creek for times when the creek is dehydrated.

If the $250,000 proposed strategy becomes a reality, water flowing from Lowry Lake at Camp Blanding would help raise the water levels of the other five lakes in the Etonia Chain of Lakes, a major recharging station for the Floridan Aquifer, the source of Florida’s drinking water.

As proposed, ACES would act like a straw sucking water downstream in times when the hydration of Alligator Creek is low and extend the Lowry Lake’s hydro-period, which is the length of time water flows from Lowry Lake into Alligator Creek. Lowry’s natural drainage into Alligator Creek is measured to be 200 million gallons over an 80-day period.

ACES’ maintenance and upkeep would charge the county $25,000 a year, but can and will be adjusted on a year-to-year basis based on several contributing factors, such as rainfall.

The strategy, a partnership between the St. Johns River Water Management District and Clay County, began last September. Once Camp Blanding gives its approval, SJRWMD will begin the process of gathering permits, according to John Fitzgerald, leader of the North Florida Water Initiative.

“What we’re waiting for is approval for Camp Blanding,” he said. “It’s on Camp Blanding’s property to construct and operate it out there, and also for us to move forward.”

Lakes in the Etonia Chain have fluctuated, sometimes dramatically, for decades. While Lowry Lake tends to remain around the same water elevation, the sinkholes in the rock bed under Lake Geneva and Lake Brooklyn make those particular lakes more unstable as water from these lakes recharges the aquifer.

ACES could be the solution to the instability in the lakes, according to Vivian Katz, president of the Save Our Lakes Organization, which has been fighting to restore and protect the ecological integrity of lakes in the Keystone Heights region.

However, in light of backlash from residents living around Kinglsey Lake, she believes that this strategy could be delayed longer than anticipated.

“Anything that were to happen to Lowry Lake has nothing to do with Kingsley,” Katz said. “What needs to happen in the creek is water needs to continue to flow so that when there is rain we benefit from it exponentially.”

Katz’ reservations come in response to critics of ACES, who believe there hasn’t been sufficient scientific studies done on the subject to say definitively that this project will affect Lake Kingsley as well.

If this project affects Kingsley, it affects not only Kinglsey but also the north fork of Black Creek,” said Michael Romanelli, who lives near Kingsley Lake. “We flow continuously into Black Creek. If we stop, it will have a tremendous effect on the north fork of Black Creek.”

However, Katz asserts the opposite, stating that Lowry and Kingsley Lake are in different watersheds and located around six miles away from each other, so would therefore have no inherent effect on one another stating, “Everyone’s upset and they don’t need to be.”

As SJRWMD continues to troubleshoot ACES with Camp Blanding, the plan will become more concise. Whether or not the plan becomes more than a blueprint, Katz leaves a short warning, a warning which harmonizes with events like the Flint, Michigan lead water crisis that left thousands of families without safe drinking water.

“Instead of one community fighting another, everyone needs to understand and see what they can do to help,” she said. “This is our drinking water.”

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