Polk’s Water Future Still Unclear, Sierra Told

The only thing certain about the future of water consumption in Polk County is that doing

it the way we’ve done it for decades will be unsustainable, representatives of the


Regional Water Cooperative told Ancient Islands Sierra Thursday.

That means spending millions of dollars to study whether it’s really practical to pump

and treat brackish water from the lower reaches of the Floridan aquifer or whether

collecting stormwater at key points along the Peace Creek Canal would provide enough aquifer recharge to justify pumping additional water from the freshwater section of the aquifer.

County Commissioner George Lindsey III, the cooperative’s current chairman, gave a presentation along with Assistant County Manager Ryan Taylor and consultant Mary Thomas.

The major points of Thursday’s presentation were:

–The regional approach to water planning by local governments improves chances of getting adequate financial help to implement expensive projects.

–A major challenge is to hold the coalition board made up of elected officials together long term when elections change the makeup of some local governing bodies.

–Developers have been slow to adopt water-conservation programs, despite offers of subsidies to implement better practices in new subdivision.

–The price customers should expect to pay triple what they pay now for potable water.

–Conservation remains a priority because it costs the less to implement.

–It’s still unknown how practical some of the proposals are in either delivering adequate supplies and in being able to be implemented affordably.

Any final proposal will get an outside professional review.































Even Balloon Releases Have A Lobbying Group

Balloon releases litter the landscape and sometimes endanger marine wildlife, but stopping these releases can be challenging.

One reason is a group called the Balloon Council, according to Treehugger.

The article also informs us there is a way to fight back.

An organization called Balloons Blow offers fact sheets on the environmental damage balloons cause.

This a really relevant topic as graduations are occurring all over Florida and other events such as weddings are common at this time of year. Both sometimes include balloon releases.

If you hear one is planned talk to organizers and ask them to celebrate in a more sensitive manner.


Solar Advancing In Polk County

Solar farms keep coming to southwest Polk County.

The Polk County Planning Commission voted unanimously this week to approve a solar farm in Chicora, The Ledger reports.

Meanwhile, an additional solar farm has been proposed for a 358-acre site owned by KMT Farm and Timber Company between U.S. 98 and
E.F. Griffin Road. It is scheduled to come to the Bartow Planning and Zoning Commission May 14. If city officials approve the project, it will be operated by Tampa Electric.

This is the latest addition of solar power to Bartow.

In March city officials announced an agreement with NovaSol Energy for the addition of solar power to the city’s power grid.

Also in March, city officials approved a TECO solar farm near the Peace Creek north of State Road 60.


FEMA May Allow Rebuilding In Flood Zones

Over the years the government has bought several homes in places in Polk County such as the flood plains of Peace Creek, Lake Lowery and Lake Seward after they suffered repeated flooding.

The idea was to reduce the impact of the taxpayer subsidy for poor development decisions.

Now it seems that the Federal Emergency Management Agency is thinking about allowing people to rebuild in these flood-prone areas as long as they build to a still-undefined higher standard.

It seems there is some pressure from local governments who are concerned leaving the land vacant will have a major effect on their tax base.

What’s missing from that discussion is that these local governments are the ones who approved the developments in the first place and enacted development codes that usually don’t adequately deal with the changes new development causes within a drainage basin as far as the amount and velocity of runoff.

The idea has drawn criticism from environmentalists and public works officials.

This comes at a time when people in flood zones are already complaining about high flood-insurance rates as federal officials are trying to make the rates reflect the true cost of dealing with claims. That is, they’re trying to run government like a business.

The reason the government is in the flood insurance business in the first place is because the private insurance company knows a bad risk when they see it and are not interested in writing policies at rates anyone can afford. Business owners never like to run businesses like the government.



Gaye Sharpe Named To Succeed Jeff Spence

Gaye Sharpe, whose skills as a scientist, manager and fifth generation Polk County native helped to make the Polk County Environmental Lands Program a success, has been tapped to become the new director of parks and natural resources.

Sharpe, whose appointment by County Manager Jim Freeman must be confirmed by the County Commission, will succeed longtime director Jeff Spence, who is retiring.

She played a key role in the development of Circle B Bar Reserve and Polk’s Nature Discovery Center and had been involved in a variety of environmental monitoring work before taking over the Environmental Lands Program, which was funded by tax proceeds approved in a 1994 referendum organized by Sierra and other local environmental groups.

Her appointment provides some continuity in the program at a time when taxpayer funding for the program has ended, forcing the program to be supported by an endowment created to provide a sustainable funding source for the management and operation of the sites purchased by Polk County and its partners.

Kissimmee River Wild And Scenic Status Advances

U.S. Rep. Darren Soto’s efforts to give the Kissimmee River federal Wild and Scenic River status passed an important milestone this week.

Soto secured a unanimous vote in the House of Representatives to support legislation that would launch a study of the proposal he broached last year.

The bill has been referred to the Committee for Energy and Natural Resources in the Senate.

The Kissimmee River was once a winding 103-mile river that was ditched in the 1960s for flood control, destroying thousands of acres of riverine marsh habitat that once attracted large numbers of waterfowl.

The project, which was opposed by the environmental community and many outdoors groups, also eliminated the river’s environmental services as a natural pollution-treatment plant.

By the 1980s government officials acknowledged the project was a mistake and launched a study to undo most of the damage.

That brought on the largest river-restoration project in world history through Congressional authorization in 1992.

Work finally began in 1999 and is scheduled to be completed in 2020, about five years after the initial predicted completion date.

The entire river will not be restored because of encroachment in the floodplain by development on the south end of the river near Lake Okeechobee that officials decided makes some flood protection necessary unless the property owners were bought out and forced to move, which was not approved.

Polk Issues on April Swiftmud Board Agenda

Continued funding of Polk Regional Water Cooperative projects and a lawsuit against Sanlan Ranch and Holloway Park in Lakeland for longstanding permit violations will be among the items on the agenda with the Southwest Florida Water Management District’s Governing Board meets at 10 a.m. April 24 at Lake Eva Banquet Center in Haines City.

The water cooperative will continue to receive $5 million a year for the next five years in connection with planned projects to explore using the Lower Floridan Aquifer for future water supplies and to use restoration of portions of the Peace Creek Basin to justify additional withdrawals from the Upper Floridan Aquifer.

The cooperative will also be required to develop additional water conservation measures.

The Lakeland enforcement action involves disputes stretching back to 2015 over permit compliance for wetands alterations and preparation of proper engineering plans for campground expansion work.

The board also will be briefed on a long-range plan to support conversion of septic tank and package plants to modern sewer treatment service in parts of the district to reduce groundwater pollution that affect surface water quality. No specific projects are included in the agenda.