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April 5, 2023 Update

  • Superior Construction completed the Big Sand Lake Drawdown Project today when the lake level reached 93.0’ NAVD88. The pumps were operated beginning January 9 through April 5, 2023, lowering the lake level a total of 3.65’ in 13 weeks.
  • Peak stage following Hurricane Ian was 97.03' NAVD88. Pumping operations began when the lake level was 96.65’ NAVD88.
  • SFWMD Water Use Permit 48-02756-W authorized pumping until the lake level receded to 93.0’ NAVD88. Pumping operations ceased on April 5, 2023 when the lake level reached 93.0’ NAVD88.
Water pumping operations

Background information

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 BSLAB unanimously passed a resolution to expend funds for 8 weeks of pumping when the lake receded to 96 feet NAVD88 and before conflicting with the Florida Department of Transportation's (FDOT) outfall lowering project that will lower the outfall from 95.34' to 92.83'.

On November 17, Orange County awarded a contract for pumping services to Superior Construction, the same contractor hired by FDOT to lower Big Sand Lake's outfall.

To allow Superior Construction and County staff to accurately measure water levels prior to and during pumping, Environmental Protection Division staff recalibrated the real-time water level monitoring buoy NAVD88 on November 29, 2022, and Orange County Public Works' Survey Section fabricated and installed a water level staff gauge at the project location on November 30, 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.)

On December 8, 2022, the Big Sand Lake Advisory Board (BSLAB) approved changes to the lake pumping plan. The new plan extended the pumping duration from 8 to up to 16 weeks (as time allows) and raised the maximum water level threshold for pumping to 97 feet NAVD88. The previous threshold was 96 feet. The December 9 water level reading was 96.82' NAVD88.

Change Order #1 was issued on December 9, 2022 to modify the previous water level conditions listed on the Purchase Order (PO). Change Order #2 was issued on February 1, 2023 to increase the PO amount for additional weeks of pumping. The new total cost of the construction phase of the project is $1,049,637. The new contract amount required approval by the Board of County Commissioners for a budget transfer from reserves.

Final regulatory authorizations for pumping were obtained from the South Florida Water Management District on December 16, 2022 and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection on December 20, 2022.
Superior Construction secured the pumps and began preparing the site on December 21, 2022. After placing the plugs in the outfall pipes, the lake's head pressure began eroding the pipe structure. Due to the infrastructure failure, Superior Construction received approval to modify the plans by constructing an earthen dam downstream from the pipes and shifting the riprap slightly downstream.

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. Were 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. Space is limited and varies per class.

Contact Us

Environmental Protection Division
3165 McCrory Place, Suite 200
Orlando, FL 32803
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.