Reservoir support sought in Martin County

By George Andreassi

November 28, 2007

Martin County commissioners should lobby state water managers to seek bids for the construction of the $500 million reservoir and stormwater treatment area along the C-44 Canal that is expected to improve the water quality in the St. Lucie River.

That message was delivered to the County Commission on Tuesday by Melissa Meeker, a Martin County resident who serves on the governing board of the South Florida Water Management District.

Meeker encouraged commissioners to attend the Dec. 12 governing board workshop on how the district can pay for all the projects that are planned to improve the water quality in Lake Okeechobee, the Everglades, and the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers.

"It really comes down to money and priorities," Meeker said.

Residents of Florida's west coast have been lobbying hard for projects that would improve the water quality in the Caloosahatchee River, which runs from Lake Okeechobee to the Gulf of Mexico, Meeker said.

As a result, Martin County commissioners voted to send letters to Gov. Charlie Crist and the state's legislative leaders, asking them to encourage the water management district to go forward with the C-44 reservoir and storm water treatment area, and related projects.

Bids were originally slated to be go out in June, but that was delayed because of a lack of money and uncertainty about how much property tax reform would reduce the district's income, Meeker said. The new goal is to issue the bids in January.

Martin County has contributed $28 million for the land needed for the project and a groundbreaking ceremony has been held, said County Attorney Stephen Fry.

"I think some folks here would feel like there's been a breach of faith by the district for failing to proceed with that project in a timely manner," Fry said.