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The Econlockhatchee River winds quietly along a sandy shore in central Florida.
The Econlockhatchee River is a blackwater river located in Osceola, Orange and Seminole counties that is designated as an Outstanding Florida Water. Also known as the Econ, the river is the second largest tributary to the St. Johns River, and includes a watershed area of 173,143 acres. The mouth of the Econlockhatchee River is located at the extreme southern end of the middle St. Johns River, or in the northern-flowing St. Johns River where the river’s middle basin and the upper basin converge.
Until the 1970s, grazing and agriculture, primarily citrus groves, were the main activities around the Econlockhatchee. Most of the development in the Econlockhatchee’s watershed began after the state’s water management districts put stormwater management rules in place.
However, the area around the Little Econlockhatchee River, a tributary of the Econlockhatchee, was developed prior to stormwater management rules and faces many water quality challenges. Much of the natural river’s floodplain was filled and paved, and many miles of the Little Econ River have been channelized, creating a network of ditches that convey runoff from metro Orlando. Water quality in the Little Econlockhatchee River degraded during the 1970s when more than 8 million gallons of treated wastewater were pumped into the river each day, a practice that has since ceased. Untreated storm water and runoff from intensive land uses continue to degrade the Econlockhatchee River today. In addition, the combination of poorly drained soils, flat terrain and densely packed development in the basin have created flooding concerns.
Local governments have worked to develop master plans to address water quality, flooding and water resource improvement issues. Because wetlands abutting the Econlockhatchee River and its tributaries support an abundance and diversity of aquatic and wetland-dependent wildlife, special regulatory criteria are now in place to require stringent stormwater treatment and other measures, including riparian protection to protect the river. Local governments and state agencies have purchased parcels along the Econlockhatchee River corridor to preserve some of the undeveloped land along the river.
Local governments, in partnership with the District, are also involved in protecting the river. For example, programs in Orange and Seminole counties have been established to implement water quality improvements and upgrade older stormwater systems to control the quantity of water. In partnership with the District, Seminole County constructed and operates a regional stormwater treatment facility in the Crane Strand Canal within the Little Econlockhatchee system.
Updated on 1-2-2013