Water-Related News

Water projects get priority for Lee County’s future Conservation 20/20 land buys

Lee commission sets new guidelines for 20/20 land purchases

Lee County commissioners voted 4-1 Tuesday to set new criteria for purchase of land for the popular Conservation 20/20 program, but stopped short of agreeing to align land acquisition decisions with the county budget cycle.

A series of public speakers spoke in support of retaining the current criteria for picking properties for inclusion in Conservation 20/20 and the application process that has been used.

The commission approved a scoring matrix to compare potential conservation purchases. It gives projects considered "significant for water resources" the most weight.

Board members did not vote on the administration's plan to require new 20/20 purchases to be submitted by October, when the county budget year begins.

The Conservation 20/20 money comes from property taxes and is used to purchase environmentally sensitive land. The program was first adopted in July 1996.

Both proposed changes were sharply criticized by residents who took three-minute turns addressing commissioners during an hour-and-a-half public comment session.

Several criticized the new 100-point 20/20 scorecard planned for determining priorities in proposed water projects.

Broadly defined water projects would be eligible for up to 50 out of 100 points on the scorecard. In contrast, designation as a wildlife or plant habitat adds a maximum of 22 points to a score.