Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Glades County - Site Of 1780 Acre Acquisition

SFWMD November Meeting To Consider Purchase Of Glades County Land

MOORE HAVEN, FL. -- At Tuesday's meeting, Benita Whalen, Director of South Florida Water Management's Okeechobee Service Center provided Glades County Commissioners with a copy of a letter from SFWMD Executive Director Carol Ann Wehle informing the Board of SFWMD's project that proposes acquisition of 1,780 acres of land in Glades County south of the Caloosahatchee River and north of SR80 about eight miles east of LaBelle and upstream from Ortona Lock. 

The Governing Board of SFWMD will consider this proposal at a public hearing in its meeting November 13, 2007 at Key Largo Marriott Bay Beach Resort which begins at 9 am.  Ms. Whalen introduced Ms. Agnes Ramsey, SFWMD�s Deputy Director of the Everglades Restoration Planning Department, who gave a brief overview of the project explaining the main purpose was removing nitrogen from the Caloosahatchee River Basin water.

Ramsey presented maps of the areas considered for the project, and referencing the site of former Prudential citrus grove on property now owned by Boma Corp LLC as preferable because of its boundaries of the Caloosahatchee on the north both east and west or Ortona Lock including contiguity to the Corps of Engineers Ortona campground on the south bank of the River across from Ortona Lock, and the existing canals on the east and west sides of the property which would allow processed water from the project to be discharged on both sides of the Ortona Lock. 

The map of the proposed site discussed by Ms. Ramsey depicted an area along SR 80 on the south boundary of the property that may be excluded because of its potential for development.  Glades Commissioners all expressed concern for the removal of property now subject to ad valorem  assessment from the tax rolls with possible limited PILOT (Payment in lieu of taxes) compensation, as well as the non-specific  determination of exclusion of about two miles of State Road 80 frontage with its inherent possibility for development that would enhance the tax base. 

It was suggested that if SFWMD would clean up the Pearce Canal, Moore Haven Canal and other public Lake Okeechobee access points in Glades County, it would make the loss of this property more palatable to Glades County.  Ms. Ramsey mentioned the desire to provide public access on SFWMD project facilities, noting this will abut the Ortona Campground Park and includes wetland forestation that will be protected.  Ms. Ramsey stated that whereas phosphorous pollution comes from sugar cane, only citrus groves produce nitrogen run-off contamination.  Pete Quasius, present at the commission meeting, of the local Audubon club, lauded the Water Management District for its efforts to clean up the water.

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