4 April New Plan and Funding to Remedy Ailing Keystone Lakes Emerges April 4, 2017 By Laura Pavlus General Keystone Lakes, Clay County, Tourism 0 Clay Today - by Jesse Hollett - READ FULL ARTICLE HERE KEYSTONE HEIGHTS - Every year, the shoreline to Keystone Beach on Lake Geneva seemed to move farther and farther beyond the dock. When the lakes left, so did much of the business integral to Keystone Heights’ downtown district, a prized Italian Restaurant turned into a Shell gas station and much of the district’s business space remains hollowed out, vacant. A new project aims to pipe water from Black Creek near State Road 16 and Penney Farms to Lake Magnolia on Camp Blanding property to halt the slow drain of Lake Geneva and the local economy. Senator Rob Bradley (R-Fleming Island) joined Reps. Bobby Payne (R-Palatka) and Travis Cummings (R-Orange Park) near the former shoreline of Lake Geneva on March 24 to reveal an overview of the project. Keystone Heights Mayor Tony Brown and water management district officials flanked the representatives. “I would drive over the bridge and see the lake get lower and lower and lower, then I would drive past Lake Geneva behind us and see the lake get lower and lower,” Bradley said. “Every time I came out here it would break my heart. “We had a lot of visitors. We had a lot of economic activity around here, and now we don’t, and the reason is simple. The lakes have left us.” Although not the first plan proposed to solve the Keystone Lake Region’s water level problems, the project remains the first with serious clout behind it. The project calls for constructing a pipeline that would have a 10-million-gallon transmission capacity. Current estimates put a $41 million price tag on the project with completion slated for June 2023. It would be paid for using funds from Amendment 1, which was approved by Florida voters in 2014. Here’s how the pipeline would work. When water levels are high along Black Creek – often from storm water flooding – the excess would travel through the proposed pipeline to be built 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 of water within the Etonia Chain of Lakes. The project – dubbed the Black Creek Water Resource Development Project – will capture flow in the creek above a predetermined threshold approximately 75 percent of the time. “This represents a long-term solution to the regional problem, provides for a long-term source. It would provide a larger volume of water to provide for greater recharge to the region,” said Scott Laidlaw, water supply bureau chief for the St. Johns River Water Management District. Laidlaw said the water management district has investigated the plan for four years. Lake Geneva and Lake Brooklyn are major recharge areas for the upper Floridan Aquifer, the primary underground water source for Northeast Florida. A bill currently working its way through committees in the Florida Senate – Senate Bill 234 – and its Florida House companion – House Bill 847 – currently stalled in the house, would earmark $35 million a year in Amendment 1 funds for projects involving the St. Johns River and the Keystone Lakes Region. Florida 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 – among others. The Keystone Lakes Region has dealt with low flow levels in its lakes for decades, thus causing water level fluctuations in the Etonia Chain. Lake Geneva and Lake Brooklyn – both part of the Etonia Chain – recharge the aquifer as water naturally drains into sinkholes below the rock bed. As a result, water levels in those lakes have been consistently low and mostly relied on storm water. “The attention given to Keystone Lakes in important,” said Lisa Rinaman St. Johns River Riverkeeper. “It’s just about making sure that there are no intended consequences to Black Creek. But if it’s recharging our aquifer, then all our waterways will benefit.” The Riverkeeper currently has a hydrologist studying the plan. The results of that study are not out yet. SB 234 is currently in the Senate appropriations committee to be considered as a law after it unanimously sailed through its first committee – a committee Bradley co-chaired – in early February. “We’re doing everything we can right now and fighting hard,” Bradley said. “So far so good.” Related Clay Updates 2040 Comprehensive Plan Clay County planners have been busy collecting data across the county to redesign the Comprehensive Plan to ensure economic growth is precise and sustainable. New 5-Year Economic Development Plan Unveiled A new five-year strategic plan charting Clay County’s economic development future recommends county officials maximize the First Coast Expressway construction, create an entrepreneurial ecosystem for area millennials and to brand Clay County with recognizable signage on its borders. Clay Boards Meet Jointly on Comprehensive Plan Update Members of the Clay County Board of County Commissioners and Clay County Planning Commission sit in a joint workshop Tuesday where they heard an update on the county's 2040 Comprehensive Plan. The county’s comprehensive plan is reevaluated every seven years to make any necessary changes as required by state law. The evaluation also gives staff a chance to see what worked and what didn’t work, to allow extended deadlines for some projects, and to discuss things that might need fixing. The updated plan is only a draft at this point, but will soon move into its final stages as the October 1 deadline for submittal to the state looms. Auxadyne is Going to Transform the World, Let Alone Keystone Heights The Florida Institute for the Commercialization of Public Research (the Institute) announced today that it has finalized a funding agreement with Auxadyne, a Keystone Heights-based company with technology developed at Florida State University. The Institute supports new company creation based on publicly-funded research, and bridges early funding gaps for companies spinning out of Florida-based universities and research institutions. Economic Development Plan Gets More Ironing Out Armed with a new strategic plan for economic development completed, Bill Garrison, president of the Clay County Economic Development Corp., recently met with county official to divvy up tasks involved with bringing the plan to fruition. Jacksonville's Tech Coast Conference Planted a Stake in the Ground While organizers of the Tech Coast Conference were thrilled that about 800 people attended the event Aug. 17 in Jacksonville, they’re assessing the real impact the conference had on the local technology industry beyond the numbers and say it’s basically planted a stake in the ground. Showing 0 Comment Comments are closed.