Current News Items (within the last 30 days)
County to spend $600,000 to repair culverts
Polk Commissioners last week got a quick lesson in culverts — how they work and how they don’t.
The board learned that there are some six of the bridge-like structures that are in immediate need of replacement or repair, and the clean-up measures will cost about $600,000.
A slide presentation illustrated how huge pipes laid underneath roads should work to provide drainage and were also shown how older structures can crumble, plug drainage systems and lead to localized flooding.
According to Transportation Department Director Jay Jarvis, the money to pay to fix six culverts that have failed will be transferred from an existing road striping budget, so no additional funds will be required.
The areas that are in immediate need were Alturas Babson Park Road; Crystal Lake Road where a crumbling structure will be replaced with new pipe; Keller Road at Bowlegs Creek, also failing will need new piping; the Old Eagle Lake/Winter Haven Road will require new drainage structures or pipes; County Line Road where standing water issues will be addressed and Eloise Loop Road where failing drainage systems have resulted in localized flooding.
Jarvis did not say when the work in the six locations would be undertaken or whether the work would be done by contractors or with county staff.
“Thanks for teaching us all about culverts,” said Commissioner Melony Bell at April 19 commission meeting. “I learned a lot about what they are and what they do when they work and when they don’t.”
The board agreed unanimously to the money transfer so the work can be undertaken as soon as possible.
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Lake Alfred City Commission approves capital improvements program
The City Commission in Lake Alfred has approved the proposed Five-Year Capital Improvements Program.
The CIP will be included in the preparation of the 2016-17 and 2017-18 fiscal year budgets.
The approval Monday allows the city to chart out and to prepare for its long-term and larger capital expenses.
Following the capital improvement program presentation by City Manager Ryan Leavengood, City Commissioner John Duncan requested to move two items up to fiscal year 2016-2017 instead of waiting until 2018-2019 for each to be completed.
A $45,000 purchase of extrication equipment for the Fire Department was moved up as well as a $80,000 purchase at the Echo Terrace lift station.
“This particular set of extrication equipment is one of the oldest operating units I have seen,” said Fire Chief Chris Costine. “These were purchased by the city years ago.”
The $80,000 will be used to make multiple purchases at the Echo Terrace Lift Station due to upgrades in equipment that right now is running at peak capacity.
Continued in The Ledger »
Haines City votes 3-0 for 20-acre land purchase
The City Commission in Haines City approved a 20-acre land purchase during Thursday’s meeting.
The commission voted 3-0 to approve the $300,000 purchase of land adjacent to the wastewater plant. BCR Environmental, which manages a composting facility at what used to be East Park, will pay $60,000 of the cost. BCR will use 10 acres to expand its use for compost and the city will use the other half to construct rapid infiltration, which stores treated wastewater.
In addition to the $60,000 from BCR, the company will pay the city $1,000 per month over the next 20 years as part of the lease agreement. That would essentially offset the entire cost for the city.
“The city in essence, is going to be net neutral,” said City Manager Jonathan Evans. “On top of that, we’re going to get to use 10 acres.”
Resident Billy Young alleged that doing business with BCR was a conflict of interest because of Commissioner Don Mason’s affiliation with the company.
Continued in The Ledger »
The Florida Springs and Aquifer Protection Act
The 2016 Florida Legislature adopted SB 552, a long-awaited, comprehensive water bill that tackled issues from Everglades restoration to water supply and created the Florida Springs and Aquifer Protection Act (the Springs Protection Act or the Act), which is now Part VIII of Chapter 373, Florida Statutes. See Ch. 2016-1, § 22 et seq., Laws of Fla.
The Springs Protection Act is aimed at protecting Florida springs fed by the Floridan Aquifer, one of two aquifer systems which underlie the majority of the state (the other is the Biscayne Aquifer, located in an area stretching from Boca Raton to the Florida Keys) and one of the most productive aquifers in the world. As the legislature recognized, the “[w]ater quality of springs is an indicator of local conditions of the Floridan Aquifer,” and these springs are threatened by polluted runoff, discharges resulting from inadequate wastewater and stormwater management practices, and reduced water levels of the Floridan Aquifer from withdrawals. The Act focuses on the water quantity and quality of Florida’s springs.
The Springs Protection Act builds on existing law, including the Florida Water Resources Act and the Florida Air and Water Pollution Control Act, and requires the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) to adopt:
- recovery and prevention strategies to ensure that water levels at Florida’s springs do not fall below established Minimum Levels; and
- basin management action plans (BMAPs) to ensure that pollutant levels in Florida’s springs are below established Total Maximum Daily Loads.
Continued on jdsupra.com »
Sixth Circuit Will Not Rehear Venue Question in Clean Water Act Rule Dispute
On April 21, 2016 the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit denied several petitions for rehearing en banc a Sixth Circuit panel decision that looked at which courts (federal district court or federal courts of appeal) have original jurisdiction to hear challenges to the EPA’s Clean Water Rule. This recent ruling leaves in place the Sixth Circuit panel ruling holding that jurisdiction lies at the appeals court level.
EPA’s Clean Water Rule has already sparked a long and complicated history of litigation. As a refresher, here are some of the highlights:
- June 29, 2015: EPA publishes final “Clean Water Rule” setting out a new definition of “Waters of the United States.” 80 Fed. Reg. 37054 (Jun. 29, 2015). Soon after, multiple petitions are filed challenging the rule in federal district courts and in federal circuit courts.
- July 28, 2015: The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation consolidates the pending circuit court actions in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.
- August 27, 2015: The federal District Court for the District of North Dakota concludes that jurisdiction is proper in the district courts and enjoins enforcement of the Clean Water Rule in the 13 States that are parties to the lawsuit in front of the court.
- October 9, 2015: The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals issues a nationwide stay of the Clean Water Rule. In Re: Environmental Protection Agency and Dep’t of Defense Final Rule “Clean Water Rule”, Nos. 15-3799/3822/3853/3877, 803 F.3d 804 (6th Cir. 2015).
- February 22, 2016: A three-judge panel of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals holds that the circuit courts have jurisdiction to hear the challenges to the Clean Water Rule.
- March 3rd, 2016: The Federal defendants file a Motion to Dismiss the North Dakota District Court case in light of the Sixth Circuit’s decision from February 22nd.
- March -April 2016: Several Parties file petitions to the Sixth Circuit for rehearing en banc the panel decision on jurisdiction from February 22nd.
- April 21, 2016: The Sixth Circuit denies the en banc petitions, leaving the February 22nd decision in place.
We will have to wait and see if the States and industry groups challenging jurisdiction in the Sixth Circuit will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Meanwhile, there are still parallel proceedings questioning jurisdiction at the North Dakota district court and the Eleventh Circuit (on appeal from the District Court for the Southern District of Georgia). The Sixth Circuit’s denial of rehearing makes it more likely that the Clean Water Rule will ultimately be reviewed in the circuit courts, specifically, the Sixth Circuit. However, the order has no immediate substantive effect on the regulated community because it leaves in place the nationwide stay of the Clean Water Rule.
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Winter Haven water rate study supports annual increase
A water rate study presented to city commissioners Monday night supports the city's 2.5 percent automatic annual increase and proposes restructuring customer classes, which would cause some to see changes in their bills — but only by pennies.
"Some will recognize a few pennies more and some a few pennies less," Finance Director Cal Bowen said, "but overall, we will not generate any more money from this."
The city would bring in some extra bucks with its automatic annual water rate increase, though.
Commissioners didn't take any action Monday, but Commissioner Pete Chichetto questioned what would happen if the city didn't continue the annual increase.
The annual increase started in 2011, when the last rate study was conducted.
Continued in The Ledger »
Vegetables irrigated with treated wastewater expose consumers to drugs
A new study shows that eating vegetables and fruits grown in soils irrigated with reclaimed wastewater exposes consumers to minute quantities of carbamazepine, an anti-epileptic drug commonly detected in wastewater effluents.
A new study by a multidisciplinary team of researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Hadassah Medical Center shows that eating vegetables and fruits grown in soils irrigated with reclaimed wastewater exposes consumers to minute quantities of carbamazepine, an anti-epileptic drug commonly detected in wastewater effluents.
Fresh water scarcity worldwide has led to increased use of reclaimed wastewater, as an alternative source for crop irrigation. But the ubiquity of pharmaceuticals in treated effluents has raised concerns over the potential exposure for consumers to drug contaminants via treated wastewater.
"Israel is a pioneer and world leader in reuse of reclaimed wastewater in the agriculture sector, providing an excellent platform to conduct such a unique study," said research co-author Prof. Benny Chefetz from the Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment at the Hebrew University and the Director of the Hebrew University Center of Excellence in Agriculture and Environmental Health. The study is the first to directly address exposure to such pharmaceutical contaminants in healthy humans. It was recently published in Environmental Science and Technology.
"In a randomized controlled trial we have demonstrated that healthy individuals consuming reclaimed wastewater-irrigated produce excreted carbamazepine and its metabolites in their urine, while subjects consuming fresh water-irrigated produce excreted undetectable or significantly lower levels of carbamazepine," said Prof. Ora Paltiel, Director of the Hebrew University-Hadassah Braun School of Public Health and Community Medicine, who led the research.
The study followed 34 men and women divided into two groups. The first group was given reclaimed wastewater-irrigated produce for the first week, and freshwater-irrigated vegetables in the following week. The second group consumed the produce in reverse order.
Continued in Science Daily »
Lakeland hires new public works director
LAKELAND — DeLand will need to write a want ad.
C. Heath Frederick, the director of DeLand's 47-employee Public Works Department, accepted Lakeland City Manager Tony Delgado's salary offer of $121,288 a year Wednesday to run Lakeland's 264-employee department.
Frederick will fill the vacancy created when the former director, Rick Lilyquist, left Lakeland for Osceola County in November after 17 years leading Lakeland's department of trash, trucks, tar and trusses.
The Department of Public Works covers a wide set of responsibilities including construction and maintenance of roads and buildings, the Solid Waste Division, the storm water utility and management of the city's automotive fleet.
Continued in The Ledger »
Sinkhole insurance may expand to cover more than catastrophic loss
TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott has until Wednesday to sign a sinkhole insurance bill before it automatically becomes law.
The bill, SB 1274, sponsored by Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, would allow insurance companies to offer more comprehensive sinkhole damage coverage to homeowners than current state law permits.
“It would allow them to set up a line of business to offer sinkhole insurance as a specialized line,” Latvala said. It would not be offered in conjunction with a homeowner’s regular insurance like it used to be, he added, “so people who are in sinkhole prone areas could buy extra protection.”
Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando counties are especially prone to sinkholes and sinkhole damage, with more than two-thirds of all sinkholes occurring in the region known as “sinkhole alley.”
Latvala said he’s heard nothing to make him think Gov. Scott had a problem with the bill. “I’ve got to believe that it’s fine or I would have heard something,” he said.
The Governor’s Office said the bill was under review.
State lawmakers in 2011 approved a measure to limit coverage of sinkhole damage to homes and businesses with “catastrophic ground cover collapse” as a way to cut down on the rising cost and number of claims and costs during the previous five years.
A home had to fall into a sinkhole to qualify for insurance coverage, Latvala has said. And it didn’t cover repairs to sinking floors and cracks in walls.
Continued in the Suncast News »
How Many Straws?
Water officials say that, added up, the impact of private irrigation wells may be significant in Florida. Lack of data keeps them from knowing for sure, and may be skewing the state’s rosy water-conservation numbers.
In the Turnberry Lake development near Jonesville, private irrigation wells are a familiar sight in the backyards of many homes. When prospective residents come to view the neighborhood, they are given the option to add an irrigation well to their home site, alongside options like low-flow shower heads and LED light fixtures.
Turnberry Lake, known for its sandy soil and grassy landscapes, consumed the most water out of 28 neighborhoods surveyed in the 2014 Envision Alachua report. While it’s landscaped with drought-tolerant Zoysia grass and many native plants and trees, a single-family Turnberry home averaged 538 gallons per day; that’s 73 percent higher than the county average of 308 gallons per day.
With high water consumption comes higher water bills from the local utility — a factor that prompts some homeowners to seek alternatives for landscape irrigation. Private irrigation wells are one option. But water officials are beginning to worry about the impact private wells may have on water resources. Every well drilled into the Floridan Aquifer is like poking another straw into a drink; scientists say the cumulative sips contribute to the decline of the region’s springs and rivers.
“If you have a really high water bill, but you still really want that green lawn, one alternative you have is to put in an irrigation well,” said Stacie Greco, Alachua County water conservation coordinator.
Floridians use about 6.4 billion gallons of freshwater every day, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, a number that has dropped in recent years amid increasing efficiency, awareness and prices. In the city of Gainesville, water use has dropped 22 percent since 2007 despite population growth.
Continued on WUFT.org »
USDA Seeks Partner Proposals to Protect and Restore Critical Wetlands
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the availability of $15 million to help eligible conservation partners leverage local investments to provide technical assistance and financial resources for wetlands protection and improvements on private and Tribal agricultural land nationwide.
The Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership (WREP) is one way state and local governments, non-governmental organizations and Tribal governments collaborate with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to increase the number of voluntary conservation projects for targeted, high priority wetland protection, restoration and enhancement. Local and regional WREP partners match federal funding and technical assistance to increase the assistance they can provide to eligible private landowners interested in enrolling their agricultural land into conservation wetland easements. WREP is a special enrollment option under USDA’s Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP).
Wetland reserve easements allow landowners to enhance and protect habitat for wildlife on their lands, reduce impacts from flooding, recharge groundwater and provide outdoor recreational and educational opportunities. The voluntary nature of NRCS easement programs allows effective integration of wetland restoration on working landscapes, providing benefits to farmers and ranchers who enroll in the program, as well as benefits to their communities.
USDA is now accepting proposals for funding. Proposals must be submitted to NRCS state offices by May 16, 2016. More information is available on the NRCS Agricultural Conservation Easement Program webpage.
Full text of USDA news release »