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CQ Roll Call Report:  Water One of Florida's Five Most Pressing Issues in 2015
Florida’s ecosystem makes the state especially vulnerable to rising sea levels and consequently puts it at high risk for storm and flood related damages, all of which are heightened by aging and failing water infrastructure. The legislature did authorize spending on water infrastructure in 2014, drawing from a fund designated for land and water conservation, but voters and legislators still feel strongly enough that further water infrastructure investments are needed to include water in the top five of the state’s most pressing issues in 2015.


Stuart to upgrade water system


Posted: 2014 Oct 03 - 06:45

By Donald Rodrigue

For Hometown News


STUART -- Thanks to a $5 million government loan, the residents of Stuart will soon have an upgraded water system before the city's old infrastructure begins to cause problems.


The Florida Department of Environmental Protection announced the awarding of the low-interest loan in early September, designated to improve the city's drinking water quality through the replacement of 59,000 feet of its aging water pipes.


Dave Peters, the city's assistant public works director, says the city applied for the loan in 2012 to be stay ahead of the game. No one so far has complained to his department about water quality or low water pressure.

"This is kind of a proactive approach to ensure that the water quality remains at an outstanding level," he said. "What occurs is that the old pipes begin to close up and get smaller over time. Some of the minerals in the water begin to attach to the metal. A two-inch pipe laid in the 1960s could reduce down to one inch... and people would begin to see their water pressure and flow drop."

In addition to protecting water quality and flow, the program will save money and promote water conservation through decreased water loss and aid public safety by increasing the water flow for city firefighters, says DEP Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr.

"It is essential that we invest in our wastewater, storm water and drinking water infrastructure," he said. "This funding program enables us to make this feasible and affordable for local governments. $72 million in state funding has been appropriated for the next fiscal year to continue this important program to improve drinking water."


Currently, Stuart's aging drinking water distribution system requires frequent, expensive maintenance to prevent health issues as well as prevent water loss, Mr. Vinyard added. The new infrastructure will be sufficient to meet the city's projected needs for the next 15 years, increasing the system's capacity to six million gallons per

day.


Mr. Peters says residents will see very little disruption in water service because connecting new pipes only requires a brief stoppage of water flow.


"The water will never actually have to be cut off, and most people won't even know it happened," he said. It will be just for a very few minutes and during the daytime when most people are at work or school."


Once a contractor is awarded the bids this fall, Mr. Peters says the work should take about 18 months to complete. In addition to replacing pipes, the loan will also cover the installation of FlexNet, a high-tech water metering system that utilizes smart meters to enable residents to monitor and control water conservation measures. It will also allow city staff to isolate costly water leaks.


This is the second time that Stuart has utilized a low-interest loan from the DEP's state revolving funds program.


"This is an outstanding program for any government entity looking to do renewal or replacement work," Mr. Peters said. "Working with DEP and the folks in the SRF section has been very rewarding to us, and they couldn't be more helpful."


The Drinking Water State Revolving Fund program has awarded $825 million in loans since its inception in 1998. It is funded by federal grants, state matching funds, loan repayments and interest earnings.


Tampa Vs. Aging Infrastructure

By Sara Jerome, Water Online


Water main breaks and leaky pipes are bringing Tampa's water infrastructure into the public eye, reflecting a pattern in cities across the U.S.


The city averages about eight pipeline breaks per day, according to Fox 13 Tampa Bay. In August, two water mains broke in one week, leaving "crews busy with repairs, and commuters navigating detours," the report said. 


"It wasn't immediately clear how much the fixes will cost, but the city is prepared to spend at least $30 million over the next three years to fix old pipes," the report said.


Issues with valves contributed to each of the breaks.

"The water department says the dual breakages are unrelated, but were caused by the same thing: Valves closing near both locations caused the water to suddenly back up, like a car wreck, increasing the pressure inside the pipes," the report said. 

Tampa Water Department Director Brad Baird noted, "That force can result in a pipeline rupturing."  


The underlying problem is the city's aging infrastructure. 

"Officials say the age of the pipes didn't help either. But Baird points out that the water department is two years into a five-year plan to replace pipes all over the city. Neither of the two recently ruptured pipes were on the schedule, showing how unpredictable and expensive it can be to take care of an aging water system," the report said. 


Rick Ferreira, CEO of the engineering firm Jones Edmunds, which has offices in Tampa, pointed to the water main breaks in a recent editorial calling for infrastructure improvements. 


The ruptures "snarled traffic at busy intersections," he wrote in the Tampa Tribune. "City officials said the age of the pipes was not a factor, but one of the pipes is 60 years old, while the other is 50."


"The answer to solving difficult infrastructure problems lies in the innovative and intelligent application of engineering and science technology," he wrote. 


In a 2012 report published by the American Society of Civil Engineers, Tampa Bay received a C+ on its water infrastructure and a D on its stormwater infrastructure. 


Congress Authorizes Eight Jacksonville District Projects

By Jenn Miller
Jacksonville District


Eight U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District projects that will provide critical infrastructure to local ports and ecosystem restoration efforts in Florida received approval as part of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) of 2014, which was signed by President Barack Obama June 10.

Four navigation projects and four Everglades restoration projects were included in the bill that, in total, authorized 34 Corps projects across the nation.

“Receiving authorization for these projects demonstrates the valuable work we’re doing here in Florida and the quality work Jacksonville District continues to deliver,” said Col. Alan Dodd, Jacksonville District commander. “Congressional authorization is the first step.  It now makes these projects eligible for funding during the appropriations process.  After receiving appropriations, we can then finalize designs, partnership agreements and contract actions that will enable us to start construction.” 

The eight Jacksonville District projects that have received congressional authorization are:

§  Jacksonville Harbor’s Mile Point Project: Will improve navigation safety by reducing the impacts of ebb tide crosscurrents at the confluence of the St. Johns River with the Intracoastal Waterway.

§  Jacksonville Harbor Project: Will deepen the Jacksonville Harbor channel to allow passage of larger ships, thereby reducing transportation costs and improving navigation safety.

§  Canaveral Harbor Project: Will deepen Canaveral Harbor to improve navigation safety and allow passage of larger ships.

§  Lake Worth Inlet Project: Will widen and deepen Lake Worth Inlet to increase overall port efficiency and safety and generate transportation cost savings.

§  Caloosahatchee River (C-43) West Basin Storage Reservoir Project: Will capture and store basin stormwater runoff, along with a portion of water discharged from Lake Okeechobee; water will be slowly released into the Caloosahatchee River.

§  C-111 Spreader Canal Western Project:  Will preserve clean water for Everglades National Park and restore freshwater flows to Florida Bay.

§  Broward County Water Preserve Areas: Will reduce seepage loss from Water Conservation Area (WCA) 3A/3B to the C-11 and C-9 basins and capture, store and distribute surface water runoff from the western C-11 Basin that has been discharged into WCA 3A/3B.

§  Biscayne Bay Coastal Wetlands Project: Will improve the ecology of Biscayne Bay, including the freshwater wetlands, tidal creeks and near-shore habitat by redirecting freshwater runoff that is currently being discharged through man-made canals directly into Biscayne Bay.


Biscayne Bay Coastal Wetlands Broward County Water Preserve C-111 Spreader Canal Western Project Caloosahatchee River C-43 Western Basin Storage Reservoir Canaveral Harbor Everglades restoration Jacksonville District Jacksonville Harbor Lake Worth Inlet Mile Point navigation U.S. Army Corps of Engineers USACE Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 WRRDA 2014


Ports Advocates Front and Center as President Signs Florida-Critical WRRDA Act



By: NANCY SMITH | Posted: June 11, 2014 3:55 AM

Environmentalists weren't alone in applauding President Obama Tuesday for signing the bipartisan Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA).


The Florida Ports Council has been in Washington, D.C., with officials from Gov. Rick Scott's office, from the Florida Department of Transportation and from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity -- all advocating for the Florida-vital legislation.

“Florida’s congressional leadership was critical to the passage of this important investment in Florida’s and this nation’s infrastructure. With the last water resources act occurring in 2007, the passage of this WRRDA is a true accomplishment,” remarked Doug Wheeler, president and CEO of the Florida Ports Council.

“This bill contains critical improvements to the Corps project approval process, seaport policy improvements, and long-overdue release of HMT funds, which will assist Florida ports’ efforts in creating jobs, growing the economy and continuing to position Florida as a global hub for business,” Wheeler said.

In a written statement, the Ports Council summed up the final version of WRRDA by saying it "promotes the nation’s competitiveness, prosperity, and economic growth by upholding the seminal federal responsibility to maintain a strong transportation infrastructure and ensure the efficient flow of domestic and international commerce."It impacts infrastructure, navigation, flood, environmental restoration, and water projects from the Florida Panhandle all the way to the Everglades.Julie Hill-Gabriel, Everglades policy director for Audubon Florida, saluted the act's signing. "Now, for the first time in seven years, federal and state restoration partners can start work on new Everglades projects.“Audubon looks forward to continuing our work with project managers to increase vital wetland habitat, protect our fragile coastal estuaries, and to secure the drinking water for over 7 million Floridians,” she told the Orlando Sentinel.Florida environmentalists' enthusiasm for WRRDA's passage may have been somewhat dampened by the Corps’ Civil Works Review Board, which failed in April to approve the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP). Board members found it impractical at this time. Corps officials have called it "a delay."CEPP is a plan to clean up water from Lake Okeechobee and release it into the Everglades. Now excess water is released into the Caloosahatchee River on the west coast and the St. Lucie River on the east coast.Specifically, the WRRDA Act reforms the U.S. Army Corps process to remove inefficiencies and add timelines for Corps studies. Among other important provisions, it also assures the full use of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund by 2025 so that 100 percent of the funds collected go toward their intended purpose of operation and maintenance activities.


Reach Nancy Smith at nsmith@sunshinestatenews.com or at 228-282-2423. 


June 11. Obama signs off on reservoir, other Everglades projects. news-press.com


President Barack Obama signed a water quality and infrastructure bill Tuesday that is expected to bring hundreds of millions in federal money to Lee Countyfor the Caloosahatchee Reservoir.

Called the Water Resources Reform and Development Act, or WRRDA, the bill is aimed at cleaning up waterways and improving ports, harbors and other shipping infrastructure. Eight projects in Florida are on the list, which must now pass through an appropriations stage before work can begin.

"It's checking the box and moving these forward so we can get these submitted to Congress (for the final funding vote)," said Jenn Miller with the Army Corps of Engineer's Jacksonville office. "It's kind of like conveyor belt, we're all working to move these forward and to get things constructed."

Local politicians and environmental groups have pushed the federal government to fund the reservoir for years, citing algae blooms, closed swimming beaches and massive freshwater plumes as reasons why this area needs the 55-billion gallon reservoir.

"We haven't had a WRRDA bill in seven years, so it's a win for Southwest Florida," said Sanibel Mayor Kevin Ruane. "It's going to help create essential jobs and its going to also continue to deal with the environment and the economy and pair the two together. Everyone seems to understand that correlation."

Ruane said work could begin this year on the reservoir, a water storage compound that water quality experts say will address more than one-third of the stormwater runoff problems within the Caloosahatchee River watershed. The reservoir is expected to cost $630 million, with the Army Corps and the state splitting the cost.

Historically, WRRDA bills were issued every two years, but the federal government has not made this type of allocation in seven years. Ruane said he feels confident that the federal funds will be available again in 2016.

"Everyone I've talked on the appropriations side says we're going to be happy," Ruane said.

South Florida environmental groups lauded Tuesday's signing as well, saying the region has long been in need of federal money to battle growing water quality challenges.

"C-43 will definitely improve conditions in the river, and this is a critical step toward construction," said Jennifer Hecker with the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.

The Conservancy and other groups had chided the Army Corps for not moving ahead quickly with a series of Everglades restoration projects called the Central Everglades Planning Project, or CEPP, a suit of water quality and quantity projects that carry a $1.9 billion cost.

"They are intended to be passed every two years because there are important projects all over the country that need to be authorized," Hecker said. "What happens is we accumulate a back-log of projects, and that makes it difficult to find funding because you have an enormous price tag. Having the CEPP in need of authorization will help motivate more timely funding in the future."


KEY FLORIDA PROVISIONS IN WRRDA BILL:


• Ensures 100% of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) goes to their intended purpose of operation and maintenance activities by 2025

• Supports underserved and emerging ports, such as Port Panama City and Port of Port St. Joe, by allocating 10% of the HMTF on harbors with an output below 1 million tons annually

• Streamlines environmental reviews and consolidates unnecessary studies

• Utilizes no earmarks