The Florida Panhandle could receive more than $10 million of the $80.6 million lawmakers have set aside for water projects in its latest budget proposal.
Ahead of this year’s Session, Senate President Wilton Simpson said water projects will remain one of his priorities despite the economic hardships the state is facing from the COVID-19 pandemic. The Senate proposed that list of water projects, which the House agreed to Monday evening.
Panama City appears to be benefiting from its distinction as the hometown for the House’s lead budget negotiator, Rep. Jay Trumbull.
Panama City would get the bulk of those funds, a total of $6.25 million across three projects filed by Port St. Joe Republican Rep. Jason Shoaf. It would also receive the largest single project appropriation from the list, $3.25 million to remove and relocate a sanitary sewer line from St. Andrews Bay.
Shoaf’s other two projects in Panama City would get $1.5 million each. The first would provide half of a $3 million ask to expand the water system to get residents off drinking well systems. The second would assess the relocation of a wastewater treatment plant to mitigate storm damage.
Beyond Panama City, Bay County would also receive $1 million for its North Bay Water Quality Improvement Program, a project to eliminate existing septic systems in the Deer Point Reservoir and North Bay watershed. Deer Point is used as a drinking water reservoir, and many surrounding areas’ septic systems are failing, resulting in discharge into the reservoir.
In Freeport, the city will get $1 million for a utility improvement project along U.S. Highway 331, a request from Eucheeanna Republican Rep. Brad Drake. The project, which initially called for only $500,000, is part of the city of Freeport’s multi-phase utility expansion to provide water and sewer utilities along US. 331 that will reduce nutrient loading on the Choctawhatchee Bay watershed.
Lynn Haven is also getting $1 million in water system improvements, another ask from Shoaf. That funding would assist with improvements to the city’s stormwater system to eliminate structural flooding and roadway flooding