OUA board members lobby for sewer funding

OKEECHOBEE — The Okeechobee Utility Authority board members have taken the initiative to lobby elected representatives in Tallahassee and Washington, D.C. for help with funding septic-to-sewer projects in the county.

At the July 11 meeting of the Okeechobee County Commission, Steve Nelson, of the Okeechobee Utility Authority, said board members are hitting all representatives on the state and federal level on the septic-to-sewer issue.

“We are going to meet with everybody that we possibly can before the session starts,” he said.

He said he believes they can get more accomplished by going to the offices of the elected representatives than by going to Tallahassee during the legislative session.

“We all know Tallahassee is a different breed,” he said. “There is money, but for some reason we can’t shake the tree.”

Commissioner Kelly Owens agreed that “waiting until session is underway and going up there at that point, typically decisions have already been made.”

Mr. Nelson said other water issues are also of concern.

“One of the problems that I see and hear is the fear of our tourists not coming back next year because of the low levels of the canals and the concern of tearing up their boats,” said Mr. Nelson.

Commissioner Brad Goodbread said 175,000 acres a year of agricultural land is lost and 1,000 people move to Florida a day.

“I think it’s easy to see where the problem is,” he said.

Commissioner Bryant Culpepper said silt coming down the Kissimmee River from the north is polluting Lake Okeechobee

The water control structures open from the bottom, he said. He suggested they change to a weir system that allows water to flow from the top and traps the silt against the structure at the bottom. He said he has tried to reach out to state and federal officials to discuss this issue.

“I offered to take Mr. Mast (Congressman Brian Mast) out on an airboat to show him,” said Commissioner Culppper. “I never heard back.”

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