A proposal to appropriate an additional $11 million to support early work on three projects proposed by the Polk County Regional Water Cooperative is scheduled for routine approval Tuesday when the Southwest Florida Water Management District Governing Board convenes at 10 a.m. at the Lake Eva Center in Haines City.
The appropriation is included among the items on the consent agenda, a group of items that are approved by a single vote, because the main decision occurred earlier when the Polk cooperative met the deadlines for funding imposed by the agency as part of a long-term project to development an additional 30 million gallons per day of what have been termed “alternative water projects.”
The $11 million covers part of the $23 million first phase work on the projects, which involve Lower Floridan Aquifer projects in the Lakeland and Frostproof areas and a water project involving storing water in the Peace Creek Drainage Canal basin in hopes of getting credits that will allow Winter Haven to withdraw more water from its existing wells.
The $23 million figure represents only 3.6 percent of the estimated $640 million cost of the three projects.
The financing of the rest of the costs is still to be worked out. Swiftmud has committed to contribute additional money as the cooperative requests it. Where the cooperative’s share will come from remains to be determined.
Polk officials were hoping to get approval from the Florida Legislature to use sales tax funds if voters agree to a local-option tax increase as outlined in a bill sponsored by members of the Polk legislative delegation. However, I heard this week that the legislation may be revised to eliminate that provision.
Without the sales tax, other funding options–none of which require a referendum–include utility rate increases, property tax increases or an increase in utility impact fees.
How much the projects eventually cost or whether all of them will be needed will depend on the success of water-conservation efforts, which remains the cheapest source of water.