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BIG SAND LAKE
DRAWDOWN PROJECT

December 1, 2022 Update

As a result of Hurricane Ian and Tropical Storm Nicole, water levels in Big Sand Lake rose more than 30 inches. On November 16, 2022, the Big Sand Lake Advisory Board (BSLAB) unanimously passed a resolution to expend MSTU funds for 8 weeks of pumping prior to the start of the FDOT outfall lowering project in February 2023.

Following passage of this resolution, the Orange County Environmental Protection Division (EPD) submitted an internal emergency requisition package based on a quote presented by Superior Construction. The total project cost of $729,663 includes design, engineering, permitting, surveys, right of way entry and construction fees. The Advisory Board had previously approved $500,000 for the project. Superior Construction is the same contractor hired by FDOT to lower Big Sand Lake's outfall from 95.34' to 92.83' NAVD88.

Project timeline and stipulations

The contract was awarded to Superior Construction on November 17, 2022. The contractor will prepare the project site prior to commencing pumping. Authorization is also required from the South Florida Water Management District and Florida Department of Environmental Protection before pumping can begin.

The November 16th BSLAB resolution stipulates that no activity shall take place until the lake level reaches 96.3' NAVD88, and pumping should begin when the lake reaches 96.0' NAVD88. When the lake elevation is higher than 96.0' NAVD88, the lake is draining via gravity through the outfall at a rate equivalent to or greater than pumping. The BSLAB resolution also stipulates that if pumping does not begin by December 15, 2022, no work shall be performed on the contract.

Orange County Public Works Survey Section fabricated and installed a water level staff gauge at the project location on November 30, 2022. This gauge will allow Superior Construction and County staff to accurately measure water levels during the pumping project. EPD staff recalibrated the real-time water level monitoring buoy on November 29, 2022. While every effort is made to provide accurate real-time data, the data should not be used without first understanding the limitations. Real-time data is 'as is' without warranty of any kind.

The 2021 plans for the pumping project included up to 26 weeks of pumping. The project was placed on long-term hold in January 2022 due to timeline conflicts with the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) project to lower Big Sand Lake's outfall. The two projects cannot operate simultaneously. Based on the Right of Entry Agreement with the owner of the property where the pumps will be staged, FDOT's project date is fixed.

The BSLAB is calling for a second special meeting to discuss approving funding for additional weeks of pumping beyond 8 weeks. Superior Construction estimates that pumping may occur through March 10, 2023 before conflicting with the FDOT project. The meeting is tentatively scheduled for Thursday, December 8, 2022 at 5:00 PM at the Sand Lake Elementary School (pending venue confirmation). Meeting details can be found on the County Calendar.

What's Happening

Orange County has many interesting lakes and rivers that flow into and out of its borders. Our waters eventually flow to the Everglades or Jacksonville!

The Orange County Environmental Protection Division (EPD) is a team of professionals who are committed to ensuring our water bodies can be used for recreational activities like swimming, fishing, water skiing and so much more.

Projects and programs are continually implemented to maintain and restore the health of our lakes and rivers. On July 15, 2016 an Alum Treatment Facility opened at Lake Down to help control nutrient loading into the Butler Chain of Lakes.

Orange County has 12 major drainage basins that are comprised of a series of lakes and rivers. Where you able to name them all? Visit the Orange County Water Atlas to learn more about these basins and the waterbodies that comprise each watershed.

Did you know Orange County contains three rivers that flow north? The St. Johns, Econlockhatchee and Wekiva! There are only a handful of rivers in the WORLD with this claim to fame!

Orange County has:

Education Opportunities

The Jr. Naturalist Program provides opportunities for youth, ages 8-14, to learn about nature through outdoor exploration, environmental activities and wildlife interaction. Classes are held on a Saturday once a month from September through May, excluding December, with most classes being held on Orange County conservation properties. All classes are free and open to the public. Registration is required. Space is limited and varies per class.

Contact Us

Environmental Protection Division
3165 McCrory Place, Suite 200
Orlando, FL 32803
Email: lakes@ocfl.net
Phone: (407) 836-1400
Fax: (407) 836-1499

All e-mail sent to this address becomes part of Orange County public record. Comments received by our e-mail subsystem can be read by anyone who requests that privilege. In compliance with "Government in the Sunshine" laws, Orange County Government must make available, at request, any and all information not deemed a threat to the security of law enforcement agencies and personnel.