New WRAC forum briefed on water projects

WEST PALM BEACH — The problem of water pollution from septic tanks was a topic of discussion at the first Water Resources Accountability and Collaboration forum, held Dec. 3 at the South Florida Water Management District Office in West Palm Beach.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has asked the Florida Legislature for $2.5 billion over the next four years for Everglades restoration and water protection, including $150 million for water quality improvement grants such as septic-to-sewer conversions and upgrades, wastewater improvements and stormwater system upgrades.

Dealing with Florida’s septic tank problem is a multi-billion dollar issue, said SFWMD Executive Director Drew Bartlett. It will take a combination of state and local funding, he said.

Mr. Bartlett said the state needs to target funding in areas where large numbers of septic tanks are impacting water quality.

“A septic tank on a farm is not what you are worried about,” said Mr. Bartlett. Septic tanks for a hundred homes on half-acre lots clustered on a canal is a concern.

“When it comes to the state contribution, $150 million is a great number,” he said. Local governments need to be ready to take advantage of state funding, he added.

The new WRAC was approved by the SFWMD governing board in June 2019. WRAC is a fact-finding body. Public participants were selected by the SFWMD executive director. Unlike a previous version of WRAC, this board has no authority to make recommendations to the governing board.

The newly appointed WRAC includes: Dr. Albrey Arrington of the Loxahatchee River District, Cara Capp of the National Parks Conservation Association, Angela Chelette of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Gene Duncan Jr. of the Miccosukee Tribe of Florida, James Erskine of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, James Evans of the City of Sanibel, Doug Gaston of Audubon Florida, Susan E. Gosselin of Osceola County, Inger Hansen of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Lee Hefty of Miami-Dade County, Todd Hiteshew of the South Florida Utility Council, Alexander Johns of Seminole Tribe of Florida, John Lai of Sanibel and Captiva Chamber of Commerce, Grant Lanham of Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida, Charles LaPradd of Miami-Dade County, Geoffrey Mullins of the Everglades Foundation, Dr. Ryan Orgera of Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, Richard Pinsky of Akerman LLP, Lt. Col. Todd Polk of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Herbert Raybourn of Walt Disney World, Gary Ritter of Florida Farm Bureau and Benita Whalen of Dispersed Water LLC.

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