Budget conference: Money to flow as House agrees to Senate water projects offer

naples bay culvert
The biggest ticket on the list goes to the Clewiston Wastewater Treatment Plant upgrade.

Road projects were often the target in the old days of the state doling out local project dollars. But in Florida these days, the default may be water projects instead.

Millions of dollars are set to be sent across Florida to address water management needs under a Senate-proposed eight-page project list agreed to by the House over the weekend.

Apalachicola, which is likely to receive $5 million annually over five years for surface water and groundwater efforts, as per bills working their way through the Legislature, is to also receive $300,000 for an inflow and infiltration study and $130,000 for spray field repairs.

Tallahassee Republican Sen. Corey Simon and Port St. Joe Republican Rep. Jason Shoaf originally asked for $600,000 for the inflow and infiltration study as a fixed capital outlay.

“There is a significant amount of inflow and infiltration experienced in both the vacuum sewer system as well as the stormwater conveyance system in the city of Apalachicola,” according to the funding request.

“The proposed project would allow for the evaluation of areas of concern in both systems with a focus on the downtown area that is susceptible to flooding and sewer back-ups and assist in the design of improvements that reduce inflow and infiltration.”

The spray fields appropriation, which comes out of operations funding, equals the original amount requested. The money will allow Apalachicola to replace and/or repair spray heads, solar panels and a single-use pump that are integral to the city’s wastewater treatment plant.

The idea is to streamline maintenance and provide better water quality.

Work will also advance on the state’s push to improve septic tank fields or connect those structures to a central sewer system.

Brevard County is set to receive more than $21 million in water project funding, $4.5 million of it dedicated to septic-to-sewer conversion for 540 homes in the Micco/Little Hollywood area near the Indian River Lagoon.

Brevard County Republican Rep. Randy Fine asked for $9 million in his budget request, which is half of the estimated $18 million it will take to do the job. The other half would’ve come through a local match.

“These are priority properties on or close to the waterfront and pose the highest threat to lagoon water quality in terms of nutrient (and) pathogen loading,” according to the request.

Many of the homes are old and considered too close to the water.

As well, $450,000 is going to Phase 3 of septic upgrades to advanced treatment units, which covers 50 sites. It’s another project with a 50% local match.

“This project will upgrade at least 50 septic systems which pose the highest threat to Indian River Lagoon water quality in terms of nutrient and pathogen loading,” according to the request by Merritt Island Republican Rep. Tyler Sirois.

“Grants will be offered to those homeowners who agree to upgrade to (National Science Foundation)-certified aerobic treatment units or in-ground nitrogen reducing drainfields. These upgrades will be funded on a prorated basis of $1,200 per pound of reduced nitrogen loading to the lagoon, up to a maximum of $18,000.”

The biggest ticket item on the list is the Clewiston Wastewater Treatment Plant upgrade project, slated to receive $11 million, a request put in by Senate President Kathleen Passidomo and Naples Republican Rep. Lauren Melo.

“The project will improve the treatment processes sufficient to meet all state environmental permitting requirements including … flow limits (and) benefit the area’s environment by producing reuse quality effluent for irrigation purposes while redirecting waste loads from the airport to the city’s National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitted (wastewater treatment plant) treatment facility allowing elimination of the existing smaller airport wastewater treatment facility,” according to the Senate budget request.

It’s an estimated $14 million project with $3 million coming from the federal government.

The money will pay for design, permitting, construction and engineering inspection services for a comprehensive upgrade of the city’s wastewater treatment plant facilities, including enhanced treatment processes and increased capacity.

A few projects came in with a $10 million price tag, including Phase 2 for red tide septic tank mitigation in Naples, another Passidomo request. Naples Republican Rep. Bob Rommel made the request on the House side.

The project is a joint effort of the city of Naples and Collier County to convert “930 failing septic tanks to a centralized sanitary sewer system while enhancing the stormwater system to improve water quality to reduce nutrient loading in the sensitive impaired water of Naples Bay.”

The overall project is pegged at $45 million, with $10 million as a fixed capital outlay from the state and $35 million supplied locally.

Wes Wolfe

Wes Wolfe is a reporter who's worked for newspapers across the South, winning press association awards for his work in Georgia and the Carolinas. He lives in Jacksonville and previously covered state politics, environmental issues and courts for the News-Leader in Fernandina Beach. You can reach Wes at [email protected] and @WesWolfeFP. Facebook: facebook.com/wes.wolfe


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