Florida Legislators File Bills To Abolish Local Soil and Water Conservation Districts

County soil and water conservation districts are on the chopping block in the upcoming session of the Florida Legislature.

Senate Bill 1078 and House Bill 783 filed by Sen. Travis Hutson and Rep. Keith Truenow respectively propose to abolish the districts. The districts were established in the late 1940s and early 1950s to provide technical assistance to farmers. Some districts also actively advocate for water conservation and better land management. They also sponsor educational programs such as the annual soil judging contests and envirothons.

Affected locally would be the Hardee, Highlands, Peace River Polk and Sumter districts.

Under the proposed legislation, which has been referred to a number of committees in both chambers, any assets of the districts would be transferred to the water management districts if the Legislature approves the measures.

No staff report has been prepared yet to lay out the rationale for the proposed change, though in the past some have contended that the agencies’ original duties have largely been taken over by the water management districts and they may have outlived their original purpose.

Nevertheless, the districts, which are overseen by elected boards, have offered an opportunity for an entry for people interested in running for local elected offices.



Water From Polk Going To DeSoto Mine

When we think of water flowing out of Polk County, we usually think of the seven rivers whose headwaters or upper reaches lie here or the aquifer beneath.

There’s the Alafia, Hillsborough, Kissimmee, Little Manatee, Ocklawaha, Peace and Withlacoochee.

The Green Swamp Area of Critical State Concern contains the high point of the Floridan Aquifer, which supplies water for Polk and surrounding counties.

If you’ve following the debate over phosphate mining in DeSoto County, people in Polk County way wonder what that has to do with them.

As it turns out, the water to run that mine—an average of 10.7 million gallons a day—will be coming from the well Mosaic’s Fort Green mine in southwestern Polk County.

To put that figure in perspective, Polk County Utilities produces and distributes 15.7 mgd to serve customers in unincorporated areas of the county.


FDOT Study Of Trail That Could Connect Marshall Hampton Reserve and Circle B Is On The Horizon

Much of the discussion around the future of Marshall Hampton Reserve has been the effect on the current trail system and entrance area when a new toll road plows through the northeastern corner beginning sometime next year.

The Central Polk Parkway’s first phase between U.S. 17 and Winter Lake Road and ultimately the Polk Parkway will cost an estimated $219.4 million to build. It will be followed a couple of years later by the $149.7 segment between U.S. 17and State Road 60.

So far no further extensions are in the Florida Turnpike Enterprise’s work plan. These projects were once considered part of a much larger project to slice through rural lands in the Heartland to open more land to more intense development under the guise of dealing with a long-term plan to deal with traffic congestion.

The roads that have been approved are being promoted as a way to reduce the amount of truck traffic in Bartow as the freight terminal and other industrial development in south Winter Haven builds out.

For those of you who tuned in late, the Winter Haven city limits extends to south of State Road 60, just a few miles north of Alturas.

Meanwhile, while the scenic oak hammock at the beginning of the trail system at Marshall Hampton is being leveled to make way for the new toll road, Florida Department of Transportation officials have taken the lead on a new trail project long considered by Polk County park planners.

That involves a way to connect the trail systems at Marshall Hampton and Circle B.

That would involve constructing a boardwalk through the swampland between Lake Hancock and Winter Lake Road to connect Marshall Hampton’s Acorn Trail to Circle B’s Lost Bridge Trail.

An $870,000 study to examine the feasibility of this project is tentatively scheduled to begin sometime in 2024 or 2025.

One of the biggest issues for a project like this, based on the history of a similar boardwalk at Mosaic Peace River Park. Is how to deal with the inevitable damage caused by the occasional falling of large trees as a result of hurricanes or other natural forces.

Nevertheless, if this project turns out to be feasible, it would create a new link in a trail system that circumnavigates one of the largest lakes in Polk County, connects thousands acres of undeveloped habitat and the urban trail systems beyond.

Watch for developments as the time for the discussion nears.