Water-Related News

Florida resiliency plan scrutinized for failure to address prevention, aid smaller communities

'We're spending a whole lot of money here on projects in a reactive way.'

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection presented its first Resilient Florida plan Tuesday evening — but not without some criticism from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

The plan, presented to the Environment, Agriculture and Flooding Subcommittee, provided a preliminary outline for the Resilient Florida Grant Program — the state’s new annual $100 million commitment to tackle issues around sea level rise and mitigation efforts. The program was established under SB 1954, a 2021 legislative priority of House Speaker Chris Sprowls that was signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis last summer.

Adam Blalock, the DEP Deputy Secretary for Ecosystems Restoration, presented the proposal to the committee. He outlined how the department selected the projects it put forth in the grant list, starting with local governments submitting project grant requests via the DEP’s Resilient Florida online portal, which opened July 1. Submissions closed Sept. 1.

The department received 384 project requests through the portal, totaling nearly $2.25 billion, Blalock said. After evaluating the projects for eligibility — the proposals could not be used for recreational structures like piers or for aesthetics — 275 projects were left, totaling $1.77 billion.

Environmental groups wary of Florida Senate’s ‘Heartland’ plan

Critics contend the money could be broadly used under the bill, going beyond the intent of a 2014 voter-approved constitutional amendment.

TALLAHASSEE – Florida lawmakers could further carve up the use of voter-approved conservation money, after a Leon County circuit judge this month rejected a challenge by environmental groups to how money has been spent.

The Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday approved a measure (Senate Bill 1400) that would provide $20 million a year to help protect the headwaters of several waterways in Central Florida.

The bill would help carry out a 2017 law known as the Heartland Headwaters Protection and Sustainability Act, which was designed to protect the headwaters of the Alafia, Hillsborough, Kissimmee, Ocklawaha, Peace and Withlacoochee rivers in the Green Swamp and Polk County. The bill points, at least in part, to concerns about future water supplies in the region.

Polk County Utilities reports two wastewater spills. The first was a 376,000-gallon spill.

LAKELAND – Twice last week, Polk County Utilities filed reports to state regulators about spill incidents at the Southwest Regional Wastewater Treatment Facility in Mulberry.

The first was a 376,000-gallon spill of effluent to the ground. In the second incident, 8,415 gallons of sludge oozed from a manhole cover at the facility.

Both met the criteria for reporting the incidents to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, which had distributed the publicly available notices of pollution.

FDEP requires utilities to report spills of 1,000 gallons or larger.

The notice on Jan. 11 concerning the original spill stated, “An effluent reject storage tank overflowed at the facility resulting in a discharge of approximately 376,000 gallons onto the ground.”

This legislative session, lawmakers to take up water quality, land conservation and seagrass

Florida lawmakers convene Tuesday in Tallahassee for the start of the legislative session.

WMFE environmental reporter Amy Green talked with Pam West of 1000 Friends of Florida about environmental priorities, like whether there is a measure to address an unprecedented manatee die-off.

WEST: No. In fact, there is a bill that proposes to do the exact opposite, and you would never know it by its title. It’s the Seagrass Mitigation Bank bill.

It’s the one bill that we’re looking at this legislative session that could do more to harm the beloved manatee than any other bill out there. Because what it proposes is to take existing, viable healthy seagrass beds and destroy them and try to mitigate for that loss sometime later down the road.

GREEN: The measure authorizes seagrass mitigation banks to offset losses. Pam West, what should lawmakers be doing?

WEST: One of the easiest things that could have happened this legislative session — they tried to make it happen last legislative session — was the implementation of the recommendations from Gov. DeSantis’ own Blue Green Algae Taskforce.

They worked around the state with all these workshops. Hundreds of hours by experts and citizen input. Had some robust recommendations, and yet not one of these recommendations have so far been implemented and codified into law. And we are now unfortunately seeing the consequences of not taking action on Florida’s impaired waters.

Central Florida ‘Resiliency Summit’ planned for Jan. 31st.

The CFRPC serves DeSoto, Hardee, Highlands, Okeechobee and Polk Counties

The public is invited to a virtual summit being planned by the Central Florida Regional Planning Council and Heartland 2060 partners to discuss resiliency in the Heartland Region.

The webinar will be held on Mon, Jan 31st, 2022, from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. EST

Weather and other natural events and manmade events have increased stressors to the region's economy, security, health, environment, and built infrastructure. Building on the regional approach of the Heartland 2060 vision, there are opportunities to support ongoing local efforts to prepare for and recover from these unexpected events such as extreme weather. Working together, the community can create a more resilient Region.

This summit will discuss a collaborative approach that will position the Region, jurisdictions, and agencies to better plan for resilience, meet new and changing state and federal regulations and guidelines, and enable greater access to resources for projects.

A Virtual Event

RSVP to Save Your Spot Now

Cherry Hill Water Facility construction nearing completion

When the Cherry Hill Water Production Facility goes into service, it will have the capacity to pump 3.2 million gallons per day to homes in the northwest area of Polk.

The construction of the facility is part of the county’s regionalization effort and will replace the existing infrastructure at the Indianwood and Homestead water production facilities, along with the on-site elevated storage tank.

This new facility also includes two new upper Floridan aquifer wells, a 1-million-gallon storage tank and a bank of high service pumps. The new facility will improve hydraulics, water quality and reliability in the northwest regional service area.

Construction also continues on the $2.5 million direct potable reuse pilot project at the site.

That project, which is through a joint agreement with the Southwest Florida Water Management District, will determine whether the direct potable reuse process can produce drinking water that meets or exceeds federal and state standards while providing an option for increasing Polk’s water supply in the future.

For more detailed information on the project, go to: Direct Potable Reuse Pilot Project Website.