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Polk stormwater projects ranked

BARTOW — A stormwater treatment plan proposed for wetlands adjacent to Lake Conine in Winter Haven was the top-ranked project by the county's Stormwater Technical Advisory Committee, whose recommendations go to the Polk County Commission.

Other projects in the order in which they were ranked were Crystal Lake, Crooked Lake West and Audubon Saddle Creek.

The Lake Eva and Lake Gwynn projects tied for fifth place, followed by projects proposed for Lake Annie and Lake McLeod.

Source: The Ledger


Civil Engineers: State Infrastructure Is Mediocre, But Improving

A new report card released by Florida's civil engineers shows the state's infrastructure is mediocre, but making some gains.

Engineers are giving the state a C grade overall. That’s an improvement over that state's C - grade released in 2012. The rating comes from the Florida Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers. The group analyzed a number of categories including drinking water, energy and transit. The state’s aviation, bridges and ports get the highest ratings, all in the B range. But coastal areas, school facilities and storm water management need improvements; they all land in the D range. The group’s president, Jose Acosta, says the report can help policymakers prioritize the state’s needs.

“Really it’s about creating a dialog about what are needs are proactively,” he said.

The engineers are calling for increased investment at the state and local level, to prepare for a growing population, rising sea levels and tropical storms.

“Because of population growth and the various needs throughout our state, from the Keys and Miami, all the way up Pensacola, Tallahassee and Jacksonville, we need to have a stronger commitment to funding our infrastructure and having the collaboration and coordination needed to get there,” he said.

According to a separate analysis by the group, infrastructure inefficiencies cost American households $3,400 each year.


Environmental groups visiting DC to press for purchase of Lake O ag lands

Environmental groups are sending a contingent to Washington, D.C., this week in hopes the federal government will put pressure on the state to buy agriculture lands south of Lake Okeechobee for Everglades restoration projects.

Under the Charlie Crist administration, the state was prepared to buy out all of U.S. Sugar and turn those lands into a storage and conveyance system that would take water flows from the lake and deliver them to the Everglades and Florida Bay, where the water naturally belongs.

Jennifer Hecker, with the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, collected dead sea grass from local beaches, along with a container of water filled at the Centennial Park boat ramp in downtown Fort Myers.

"We’re getting a mass of sea grass where it’s all washing up on the beaches and basically the scientists believe that the color of the water is so dark, that it is tricking the sea grasses into shedding their leaves," Hecker said Wednesday morning. "They’re not certain whether this will cause it to permanently die-off but they’re monitoring the situation and the beaches of Sanibel are coated now with this grass."

Continued in the News-Press »


Projects could help save the future of water in Polk County

“Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink … ”

We all remember that quote from the Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner we had to memorize in school, but it’s becoming a very real possibility to those who look into Polk County’s future.

To forestall that ominous possibility, the Polk County Regional Water Cooperative has identified three major water projects that could stave off that ‘not a drop to drink’ for eons. The three projects include new well fields in Frostproof and northwest Lakeland and the third, one the city of Winter Haven has already done the planning for — damming parts of Peace Creek to create reservoirs to recharge the aquifer.

All told, the three projects will cost more than half a billion, yes, billion dollars. Most of that cost is for the building of treatment plants and water lines linking the remote well fields to facilities for distribution and additional treatment.

Winter Haven Assistant Utilities Services Director Mike Britt has been involved in developing the city’s project for years and was glad to see the water co-op tag the project for pursuing with the Southwest Florida Water Management District.

Britt explained the project is a complicated one, but basically calls for damming parts of Peace Creek to allow former wetlands to return to their original states.

Continued in the Polk County News and Democrat »


Lakeland names Laurie Smith as new manager of Lakes & Stormwater

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LAKELAND – The Public Works Department is pleased to announce that Laurie Smith has been named Manager of Lakes & Stormwater. Smith has more than 20 years of experience in overseeing environmental compliance, construction management, and natural resource management programs. Prior to joining the City of Lakeland, Smith began her career in 1995 as an environmental consultant for Marin Environmental, overseeing contaminated property assessment and redevelopment projects.

Smith worked for Kleinfelder from 2002 through 2012 as a Senior Project Manager overseeing environmental compliance and remediation programs. She was the Florida Regional Manager for PM Environmental until 2013, when she joined the City of Lakeland as the Senior Environmental Specialist with the Lakes & Stormwater Division, where she oversaw programs necessary for compliance with the City’s stormwater discharge permit and coordinated stormwater capital improvement projects.

Director of Public Works, Heath Frederick said, “Laurie has been serving as our Senior Environmental Specialist with the Lakes & Stormwater Division for the past three years. She has done a great job leading projects and focusing on educational programs.” He added, “With her education, background and institutional knowledge, we know that Laurie will continue to carry the Lakes & Stormwater division into the future.”

Smith said, “I am very excited to continue my career with the City of Lakeland as the next Lakes & Stormwater Division Manager and I look forward to carrying on the Divisions mission to maintain, protect, and enhance our lakes and stormwater systems.” Smith has a Masters of Environmental Science from the University of New Haven and a Bachelor of Science from Southern Connecticut State University. Smith’s hobbies include spending time with family and friends, hiking, fishing, and golfing. Her start date was June 27th and her annual salary is $77,037.42.

Lakeland Lakes and Stormwater Department webpage »


CHNEP receives FWF Conservation Organization of the Year award

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The Florida Wildlife Federation has named the Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program among 10 outstanding Florida conservationists that are being recognized for their conservation achievements.

Conservation award winners are chosen from nominations made to the Federation’s board of directors based on their accomplishments on behalf of Florida’s fish, wildlife and native habitats.

The Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program received the Conservation Organization of the Year Award for 2016. Established in 1995, the program encompasses 4,700 square miles from Bonita Springs north to Venice and east to Winter Haven. It is one of only 28 estuary programs across the United States.

The estuarine conservation program is commended for the collegial partnership of citizens, elected officials, resource managers, and commercial and recreational resource users. Using sound science to build consensus, the partnership effectively acts as a single voice for the Charlotte Harbor watershed.

However, it was the estuary program’s outreach to elementary school students through its Adventures in the Charlotte Harbor Watershed that caught and held Florida Wildlife Federation’s attention. The educational program, financially supported by the Federation, includes not only the coastal schools, but also the often overlooked “upstream” and rural schools.

By engaging local schools and communities, the program is strengthening the land-water connection and building a multi-generational appreciation of the Charlotte Harbor estuarine watershed.

Source: Florida Weekly »


Winter Haven to take out loan to give parks facelift

The Winter Haven City Commission is going into hock to the tune of as much as $7 million to provide upgrades to three parks and improve about three-quarters of a mile of Seventh Street. The loan will make up the difference between the cost of the $12 million in improvements and the cash the city will have on hand in its next budget.

The parks to be upgraded are the Lake Maude Recreation Park, South Central Park and the Tennis Center.

The projects were the top four picked from a wish list of 11 projects. Those left out this budget cycle were Chain O’ Lakes Park, Martin Luther King Park, Winter Haven Recreational and Cultural Center, Fire Station No. 3 parking improvements at Sertoma Park, field and concession stand renovations at Sertoma park and a skate park. All told, the 11 improvements would have set the city back more than $29 million.

The City Commission heard the proposals at a recent budget meeting where Mayor Brad Dantzler told his fellow commissioners the entire list couldn’t be done without a tax hike.

Continued in the Polk County News and Democrat »


Septic waste disposal rule changing; effects on Polk unknown

Land disposal ban takes effect to reduce water pollution

LAKELAND — New rules regulating septic tank waste disposal take effect July 1, but it's unclear whether Polk's approximately 120,000 septic tank owners will notice any changes.

The change will ban land disposal at current Department of Health-approved sites, the traditional method of getting rid of the waste, and push septic tank companies to either apply for a permit at a site regulated by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection or to dispose of the waste at a sewer plant or a landfill.

Kevin King, environmental supervisor for septic tank permitting at the Polk County Health Department, said septic tanks companies can apply for a temporary variance to continue current operations until July 1, 2017, to give them time to get a DEP permit or make other arrangements.

Septic tanks are widely used to treat human waste in areas where central sewer service is unavailable or unaffordable. They are common in unincorporated areas of Polk County and in smaller cities that never developed a central sewer collection system and treatment plant.

Local companies have reacted to the new rules in different ways.

Continued in The Ledger »

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