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Land Donation worth $53M to aid in Restoring Everglades, Sets Land Partnership Standard for Local Governments

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Published on Thu, 14 May 2009 – 15:55:36 -0400 EDT
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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. /Florida Newswire/ — Okeechobee Land Dev. announced a land donation worth $53 million and 2,256 acres near Lake Okeechobee that will eventually help clean up polluted runoff flowing into local waterways has set a new standard in public-private partnerships. Martin County Commissioners unanimously endorsed the project Tuesday at their board meeting, and the South Florida Water Management governing board is set to approve the project Thursday.

A rare opportunity exists to create a Water Management Facility, while concurrently donating wetlands, and forested uplands, all at minimal or no cost to the public. This project will provide South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) with a largely completed water treatment and transfer hub/reservoir and adjacent wetland filter marsh storm water treatment area (STA) as a land donation.

Under this proposal, Lake Point would forego its permitted plans for an equestrian/residential development, and instead provide the majority of the groundwork for the facility prior to donating it to the District. Despite the land cost being in excess of $53 million, this proposal is made possible by the owner’s potential ability to offset its costs by excavating and selling the shallow limestone rock deposits at the site, which, could be used for various infrastructure and commercial projects including rebuilding the Herbert Hoover Dike (“HHD”), the proposed lining of the nearby C-44 canal, and construction of the C-44 reservoir.

Public-private partnerships involve a collaboration of governments and private investors working toward the common goal of completing quality public works projects in a timely manner. This concept of a public-private partnership, where all parties are receiving benefits from the partnership, is a stellar example of how local governments will reach their environmental and economic conservation goals in the future.

“This partnership with Lake Point has set a precedent for future dealings with local governments around the state,” said Lake Point land owner, Jud Laird. “This project proves that partnership is possible, and we can achieve our conservation goals with these kinds of partnerships. In the future, concessions to landowners by local governments should be matched with these kind of partnerships that give back environmentally and financially to their communities. ”

When completed, the property, which is strategically located with connections to the C-44 canal, L-8 Canal and Lake Okeechobee, will contain a complex of reservoirs and storm water treatment areas. County records indicate the Lake Point Project will also reduce the amount of fresh water discharged from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie River.

Susan Valliere, Martin County Commission chairwoman praised the project at the meeting saying, “It is a fabulous project. It beats 20-acre ranchettes any day in my opinion.”

Martin County Commissioner Patrick Hayes, who has been active in St. Lucie River issues for years, said at the Tuesday meeting that the project was an “extraordinary opportunity,” and complimented the benefits it can provide to the St. Lucie River.

According to records, the storm water treatment areas are expected to remove 2.6 to 7.7 metric tons of phosphorous per year from the C-44 Basin.

An additional benefit to Martin County will be a 150 acre recreation area near the Okeechobee Waterway. “This project truly enhances local restoration goals and is a great demonstration of the value of public-private partnerships.” Laird said. It will set a new standard for Counties across Florida urging landowners to give back to their communities.”

LAKE POINT RESERVOIR AND STORMWATER TREATMENT AREA PLAN
620 acres – Stormwater management reservoir
300 acres – Stormwater management reservoir
225 acres – Stormwater treatment area, Cell 1
240 acres – Stormwater treatment area, Cell 2
135 acres – Stormwater treatment area, Cell 3
150 acres – County recreation area
114 acres – Created wetlands
To be determined – Preserved wetlands

Benefits Overview
* Provides ability to cleanse and convey water (in various directions) between Lake Okeechobee, C-44 canal and L-8 waterway via 3 existing (permitted) pumps
* Property is currently agricultural. Existing 100+/- acres of wetlands will be preserved, protected and added to under this plan.
* Creates 1,000 acres of water treatment transfer hub and water quality facility
* Costs are minimal to the South Florida Water Management District
* Gifted land, with 85 percent of the earthwork completed upon delivery
* The Owners cost in the land will be in excess of $53 million
* Provides approximately 800 acres of preserved or created wetlands, mostly in the form of stormwater treatment area v Donates 150 adjacent acres of upland preserve, “rare and unique” to Martin County
* Proposes only 20 foot excavation depth as opposed to 60-80 foot depths in other areas of the state.
* Reduces air and noise pollution, and wear and tear on infrastructure, by creating local construction aggregate for necessary public work projects and environmental restoration efforts and Okeechobee levee rehab.
* Replaces 40 permitted, potentially 100 ranchette sites with a reservoir/stormwater treatment area designed in cooperation with the District.
* Expands an existing and permitted excavation operation for ‘certain mining activities already permitted rather than creating a new project in a less suitable location and with potentially adverse impacts
* Creates local jobs and stimulates local economy. Many of the current employees live within 35 miles of the site.

Information: Stacey Hetherington, of Whitaker Communications, for Okeechobee Land D, Inc., +1-772-263-0025.


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