November 2019 – On Tuesday, Oct. 15, Joel Brown, Senior Government & Community Affairs Manager – Tampa Bay Region for the Southwest Florida Water Management District, presented at the meeting of the Hillsborough River Interlocal Planning Board’s Technical Advisory Council (TAC) on the progress of a Lower Hillsborough River Recovery Strategy report. The report is expected to be released in November 2019 and will offer an evaluation of the recovery efforts adopted by the District Governing Board in 2007. Recovery efforts began when citizens noticed waterflow over the dam had declined significantly, which was primarily due to the large amounts of water being withdrawn from the reservoir to serve Tampa’s growing population. Consequently, the lower river often became a stagnant bay that negatively affected native wildlife and was an eyesore for residents.
After a challenge to the efficacy of the first standard, the District Governing Board increased the minimum flow level (MFL) in 2007 from 10 cubic feet per second (cfs) freshwater equivalent to 20 cfs from July through March and 24 cfs from April through June. The four water sources that together ensure minimum flows are achieved include Sulphur Springs, Blue Sink, the Tampa Bypass Canal, and Morris Bridge Sink. Higher MFLs also help with salinity reduction and water quality, which are essential to the recovery strategy. If salinity levels are too high, it can have a negative impact on animal and plant life. Overall, recovery efforts have had a positive impact on the health and vitality of the Lower Hillsborough River. In the past year, October 2018–2019, there have only been two instances of a flow deficit, a significant improvement from years past.
The Hillsborough River Interlocal Planning Board TAC remains committed to working with the Southwest Florida Water Management District to monitor water quality and recovery efforts of the Lower Hillsborough River and looks forward to reviewing the upcoming report to ensure recovery efforts remain on track.