Let’s Go Mothwatching In Polk

We’ve spent years managing and protecting natural areas in Polk County.

The coming week is a time to learn more about the wildlife these lands are protecting.

I’m talking about National Moth Week, which kicks off Saturday.

Two local events have been scheduled so far, both of them on properties owned and managed by Green Horizon Land Trust.

One will be Saturday at Barbara Pedersen Preserve at the edge at 6609 Scenic Highway beginning at 8:30 p.m.

The other will be next Tuesday at Lewis Arboretum, located on Overlook Drive across from St. Matthew Catholic Church in Winter Haven.

Bring a folding chair, bug spray, refreshments and the kids.

These are family-friendly events.

The event will feature setting up lights near sheets and waiting to see what will be attracted to the lights and land on the sheet.

In addition to moths, these events typically attract not only moths,, but also beetles, mayflies, caddisflies and all other manner of flying invertebrate.

The event is free.


Despite Questions, Well Construction Proceeds

One of the questions revolving around the Polk Regional Water Cooperative’s quest for more water to keep the growth machine going is how productive the lower reaches of the Floridan aquifer will be and how expensive it will be to deliver whatever water the cooperative extracts to local taps.

Despite the questions, the infrastructure to support this effort continues.

One part you may have noticed as you drove down Boy Scout Road east of Lake Wales is construction of a well system, including a deep injection well to dispose of the brine that will result from treating this lower-quality water from the section of the aquifer Polk is exploring.

The County Commission purchased the 30-acre parcel on which the well is located for $600,000 in December. That doesn’t include the cost of the well construction.

County officials also plan to use the property for a future fire-ambulance station.



Peace River Water Use Appeals Proceed

The appeals of the Southwest Florida Water Management District’s proposed approval of a permit to pump significantly more water from the Peace Rive are proceeding.

The latest word is that there is a recommendation to consolidate the appeals filed by the Polk County Regional Water Cooperative, Polk County, Bartow, Fort Meade, Lakeland, Winter Haven and Wauchula since their appeals raise more or less identical issues. No date for the formal hearing before an administrative hearing officer has been scheduled.

The issue involves a request by the Peace River Manasota Water Supply Authority, which supplies water to customers in Charlotte, Manatee and Sarasota counties to double the amount of water it would be allowed to withdraw from the river as part of a 50-year water supply plan.

The appeal was filed this spring after Polk officials belatedly learned of the downstream utility’s plans even though PRMWSA officials contend it had been under public discussion for some time.

The heart of the issue is that if Swiftmud were to grant the permit, it would prevent any other utility from withdrawing water from the river because PRMWSA’s permit would consume all of the water that Swiftmud officials currently feel is the river’s sustainable yield.

Although Polk had not planned to use river water to meet its supply needs in the short term, Polk Regional Water Cooperative officials filed for a permit to withdraw water near Fort Meade as a defensive measure. It is unclear how much water would be available, providing Swiftmud granted this permit. Obtaining water from the Peace and Alafia rivers are part of the Polk cooperative’s long-term planning options.

Under PRMWSA’s existing permit, water is withdrawn only during high flow periods and only a limited percent of that flow can be diverted. The rest of the water—despite some talk in Polk County about water being wastefully allowed to “flow to tide”—is necessary to maintain the health of the Charlotte Harbor Estuary.

The status of the appeal will be discussed at the next PRWC meeting, which is scheduled for 2 p.m. July 19 at the Lake Myrtle Sports Complex in Auburndale.

Lakes, Soil Board Makeups To Change

There will be some new faces on the Lakes Region Lake Management District and Polk Soil & Water Conservation District boards after November, according to qualifying information posted by the Polk County Supervisor of Elections.

Kevin Henne and Carter Adams are the lone qualifiers for Seats 1 and 3 respectively. They will succeed current board members Matthew Kaylor and Dan Adams.

There are three seats up for election in the Polk Soil & Water Conservation District.

Daniel Lanier of Fort Meade is the lone candidate for the Group 4 seat now held by Mike Darrow.

In the Group 2 seat, incumbent Joe Garrison of Dundee faces opposition from Greg Williams of Lakeland.

In the Group 3 seat, incumbent Brian Dockery is not seeking another term. The contest for that seat will be between Kyle Carlton and OnDrew Hartigan, both of Lakeland.

The Polk Soil & Water Conservation Board races are countywide, so you might want to pay attention to the platforms and qualifications of the candidates in the contested races.

The district, which was established around 1945, had been inactive for some time and was revived following the 2016 election and its leaders are working to come up with some programs to make the agency relevant.


Storm-Delayed Cleanup Back On For Saturday

If you want to get rid of tires that are causing eyesores or collecting water and breeding mosquitoes, Saturday is the day.

Keep Polk County Beautiful is offering to allow Polk County residents to dispose of up to 24 tires for free at Westwood Park in the Inwood neighborhood near Winter Haven.

The park is located at 1145 36th Street NW. The event will run from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.

This cleanup, which will also involved curbside cleanup in the surrounding neighborhoods, was postponed earlier this spring because of the frequent storms that blew through the area.

This event is also a good opportunity to get information about recycling and the proper disposal of any kinds of wastes.


Tenoroc Adds Paddling Trail

The paddling trail winds around spoil islands left over from phosphate mining

Tenoroc Public Use Area has opened the first of what is planned to be a series of paddling trails in the recreation area’s phosphate pits.

The 2.9-mile Wetland Wandering Trail is located in the East Wetland Area. (See location map below)

The trail is marked with wayfinding buoys.    

Tenoroc Manager Danon Moxley said he would like to create a network of these trails at other water bodies to attract more public use to Tenoroc, whose existence is not well-known beyond the angling community despite being open for decades.

In case you haven’t visited Tenoroc, formerly known as Tenoroc Fish Management Area, you might be surprised by the amount of recreational opportunities available here.

The original attraction was a chance to catch largemouth bass and other sports fish.

However, today there are trails for hikers and equestrians as well as plenty of land to explore for a variety of nature observation opportunities.

Tenoroc, whose main entrance is on Tenoroc Mine Road off North Combee Road just outside of Lakeland contains a number of units stretching from the north side of Lake Parker to the north edge of Saddle Creek Parka and the south end of the Williams property within sight of the Auburndale-TECO Trail within its 7,300-acre footprint.

The recreation area is open Friday through Monday for day use activities. Admission is $3 per person.


Peace River Water Permit Dispute Heats Up

Just weeks after the Polk County Water Cooperative challenged a permit request from the Peace River Manasota Water Supply Authority to double the amount of water it can withdraw from the river.

PRMWSA provides drinking water for customers in Charlotte, Manatee and Sarasota counties. The permit, which would be good for 50 years if approved, is intended to meet the area’s projected water demand.

PRMWSA’s response has been to claim, correctly, that they are downstream, which is where the river flows.

They further state that they only take a fixed percentage from the river and only during high flows. This is also correct.

However, they also disingenuously claim they are unsure why Polk is challenging their permit.

The permit challenge is a public record. They likely have a copy by now.

Polk’s position is that the permit request would reserve all of the water that the Southwest Florida Water Management District’s current regulations allow to be taken from the river. That allegedly boxes in Polk or any other users—Wauchula has also challenged the permit—who may want to tap the river in the future for their projected water demand.

Polk also alleges the legal notice Swiftmud issued regarding PRMWSA’s was misleadingly worded and not circulated as widely as it should have been to give anyone affected due notice.

These issues will be sorted out at some point.

The latest word is that the issue will end up before a state hearing officer. How soon any of this will happen is unknown at this point.

    Peace River south of Fort Meade during low flow


Meanwhile, there could be another permit challenge in the offing.

That involves the Polk County Regional Water Cooperative’s request for a permit to withdraw water from the Peace River near Fort Meade.

It is unclear how much water would be available from this section of the river. During droughts there is sometimes little or no water flowing in that part of the river.

Also, any permit would have to meet the same standards as the PRMWSA’s permit in that withdrawals would be restricted to 10 percent of high flow.

It would seem that if there is a cap on water withdrawals from the river, its unclear why it matters which section of the river is affected as long as it meets the other permit requirements.

Polk has no immediate plans to pursue this permit—it is not among the three projects currently approved by Swiftmud for funding—but it seems Polk officials simply wanted to get on record with its request in connection with the downstream utility’s request.