The Yankee Lake Regional Wastewater Treatment Facility is a state-of-the-art system enabling the preservation of a 3,000-acre pristine wildlife area along the St. Johns River.

Why Does this Project Matter?

The facility supports a variety of Florida’s threatened and endangered species that not only utilize the Yankee Lake Property, but its adjacent County-owned natural lands, Black Bear Preserve, and Central Florida’s Wekiva Springs State Park. Situated between two Outstanding River Systems, St. Johns and the Wekiva River, the Yankee Lake Regional Wastewater Treatment Facility hosts a multitude of complex permitting, operations, and discharge hurdles.

What is ESA Doing to Help?

Since 1999, key ESA staff have worked with the County to accomplish strategic permitting and compliance activities at Yankee Lake, including:

  • Assisting the County with permitting, construction oversight, and compliance of the Yankee Lake Regional Water Treatment Facility, which included construction of the main treatment facility, 3 miles of pipeline through the St. Johns floodplain, and an intake structure on the St. Johns River.
  • Providing annual land and species management activities for the preservation of 1,000+ acres of natural resources, including 300 acres of on-site Florida scrub jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens) habitat. The Yankee Lake scrub jay population is the last remaining scrub jay group in Seminole County.

ESA staff are actively supporting this valuable avian population with the implementation of the current Scrub Jay Monitoring and Habitat Management Program (resubmitted by ESA staff to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service [FWS] in 2000). Currently, the facility supports three scrub jay families with the ability to support additional family growth from on-site, as well as off-site (Seminole State Forest and Rock Springs Run State Reserve) migrant populations.

While it is relatively accepted that the Yankee Lake Scrub Jay population is considered a “sink population,” new efforts in scrub jay conservation have identified the overall importance of focusing on small, peripheral sinks impact on the larger scrub jay populations. It is now understood that sink populations provide genetic diversity in mating, contributing to the overall health of the species through immigration. Photo Credit: Lewis Grey/YL Audubon Tour 2023

ESA’s wildlife biologists are providing annual land management objectives that include maintaining optimal scrub and scrubby pine flatwood habitat utilizing a combination of mechanical applications (equipment to disk, grind, cut, chip, and roller chop), prescribed fire applications, and herbicides applications.

In order to efficiently and effectively utilize fire as a key land management tool, management units and property boundary fire lines are reconditioned bi-annually.

ESA also provides scrub jay monitoring services that include annual territory assessments, monthly census accounting, young of year counts, conditioning, and banding services. Additional land management tasks have included aerial interpretation of bug wood infestations and treatment options, sand pine timber harvest and pulpwood operations, and feral hog trapping.

Click each to listen to various Scrub jay vocalizations:

Typical weep calls and scold calls

Hiss calls, click calls, and weep calls

Scold calls

Alarm mobbing calls to owl decoy

Angry interaction calls

Chreep calls

Bill tapping and typical calls

Pictured above: adult scrub jays at Yankee Lake, Seminole County. Photo Credit: Lewis Grey/YL Audubon Tour 2023.

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Testimonials icon

"This is to express the support of Seminole Audubon Society to continue the contract with Environmental Science Associates (ESA) to manage the Florida Scrub Jay habitat at Yankee Lake Seminole County Northwest Water Reclamation Facility…We need continued good management to maintain a good habitat and healthy population of these special birds. It takes years to create the right nesting habitat. ESA has a proven track record with their knowledge and expertise.”

Phyllis Hall, President & Conservation Chair

Seminole Audubon Society

A Florida scrub jay fledgling is held by a wildlife biologist as it is banded at Yankee Lake, Seminole County. Banding is used by researchers to identify and keep track of individual birds.

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