Water-Related News

Multi-agency meeting helps identify countywide projects

In early August, a meeting was held to discuss potential opportunities in eastern Lee County to address water storage, water quality and wildlife concerns in a potential regional project.

The meeting was organized by state Rep. Matt Caldwell in order to examine environmental and community concerns affecting the county, to identify potential regional solutions and to prepare a presentation for the October delegation meeting.

Local and state elected officials were in attendance, as well as representatives from local and state agencies.

It provided a forum for multiple agencies to collaborate and identify potential projects that could jointly satisfy the requirements each respective agency is already responsible for meeting.

Several residents were in attendance.

As Caldwell noted, each of the agencies have responsibilities, whether outlined in their enabling legislation or mandated by regulatory agencies, to address varying areas such as water quality, water storage, pollution reduction, wildlife restoration, flood protection, passive recreation and more.

"The meeting simply provides an opportunity for multiple public agencies to coordinate their efforts, to make the greatest positive impact on the community in the most fiscally responsible manner, and create a regional benefit to improve our environment," he said.

As many know, the Tidal Caloosahatchee River has been declared an impaired water body of the state.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has requirements of agencies to reduce pollution levels in its MS4 - a publicly-owned stormwater conveyance or system of conveyances, like ditches or underground pipes, that is designed or used for collecting or conveying stormwater and that discharges to surface waters.

The FDEP requires that all Phase I MS4 permit holders achieve a 23 percent reduction in total nitrogen for the Tidal Caloosahatchee River west Franklin Locks.

This translates into each of the permit holders having to create new projects to meet the mandates.

Other concerns come from a 2007 study, which found Lehigh Acres would have a 15,000 acre-foot deficit of stormwater storage at full buildout - something the Lehigh Acres MSID has been working to combat.

There are also concerns for improved wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities.

"The meeting helped provide an open forum to discuss historical environmental and community problems and begin brainstorming relevant regional improvements to address these concerns," Caldwell said.