A RESOLUTION OF THE TOWN COUNCIL OF THE TOWN OF PALM BEACH, PALM BEACH COUNTY, FLORIDA URGING EXPEDITED COMPREHENSIVE ACTIONS TO STORE, TREAT, AND CONVEY CLEAN WATER TO AND FROM LAKE OKEECHOBEE TO ALLEVIATE HARMFUL DISCHARGES TO EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK, FLORIDA BAY AND NORTHERN COASTAL ESTU ARIES
WHEREAS, the discharge of water from Lake Okeechobee has contributed to algae blooms within local water bodies and recreational areas in South Florida, including the Lake Worth Lagoon, Peanut Island and ocean-side beaches, resulting in beach closures and impacts to tourism; and
WHEREAS, the Everglades is the largest and most important freshwater, subtropical peat wetlands in North America; and
WHEREAS, one-third of all Floridians, nearly seven million people, depend on the Everglades for their water supply; and
WHEREAS, approximately 1.7 billion gallons of water per day are lost from the Everglades through discharges from Lake Okeechobee to the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean, causing significant harm to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Rivers; and
WHEREAS, additional improvements are needed to manage stormwater runoff onto publicly owned properties north of Lake Okeechobee such as those recently approved by the South Florida Water Management District to slow down the flow of water south to the Lake and limit discharges from the Lake as recommended in the 2015 University of Florida Water Institute Report; and
WHEREAS, the United States Army Corps of Engineers has prepared the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP), the goal of which is to deliver a finalized plan, known as a Project Implementation Report (PIR), for a suite of restoration projects in the central Everglades to prepare for congressional authorization, as part of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP). The CEPP will identify and plan for projects on land already in public ownership to allow more water to be directed south to the central Everglades, Everglades National Park and Florida Bay; and
WHEREAS, Lake Okeechobee is the heart of the South Florida ecosystem yet its capacity is limited by the condition of the Herbert Hoover Dike which is in need of repair and is critical to the future storage of water and the health of estuaries; and
WHEREAS, studies indicate that failure of the Dike at Lake Okeechobee could cause catastrophic flooding in large areas of Palm Beach County and create massive economic losses from flooded crops in the Glades. In 2006, a state hired panel of engineering experts warned that the leak prone Dike around the lake posed a grave imminent danger to the people and environment of South Florida; and
WHEREAS, once the Dike is restored the Lake can retain large quantities of water that will not flow into estuaries. With more storage capacity discharges from the Lake can be reduced. Increased storage north of the Lake will enhance water quality, storage south of the Lake will provide relief to discharges in the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Rivers while providing more water to Florida Bay. The South Florida ecosystem will be enhanced with these improvements while protecting life and property; and
WHEREAS, storage of water south of Lake Okeechobee in the Everglades Agricultural Area ("EAA") will assist in reducing discharges from Lake Okeechobee to the estuaries and to restore the Everglades and Florida Bay and has been prioritized in restoration plans since the original adoption of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan by State of Florida and the Federal Government in 2000; and WHEREAS, the current schedule for the implementation of Everglades restoration projects has delayed the initiation of planning for storage within the EAA until 2021 or later, potentially resulting in a decade or more of additional harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee to the estuaries; and WHEREAS, it is estimated that Florida has 2.3 million on-site sewer treatment and disposal systems in operation, serving approximately 31% of the population. Of the 2.3 million septic tanks, less than 1% are managed by operating permits and/or maintenance agreements, with the remainder only being serviced when the system fails. Over half of the 2.3 million septic tanks are over 30 years old and installed under less stringent standards. Sewage, or "blackwater" from a typical residential building contains a variety of inorganic and organic substances including, but not limited to, nitrogen, phosphorous and E. coli bacteria; and
WHEREAS, over the past century, development, population growth, excessive drainage of wetlands, and alterations in water quality and flow, including construction of water control structures and facilities within the Everglades has altered the natural hydrologic patterns of water in the region and have greatly damaged the Greater Everglades ecosystem; and
WHEREAS, protecting and restoring the Everglades is critical to restoring hydrology and surface water, which can reduce threats caused by saltwater intrusion.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE TOWN COUNCIL OF THE TOWN OF PALM Beach, Palm Beach County, Florida, as follows:
Section 1: Recitals. The above recitals are true and correct an are incorporated herein by reference.
Section 2: The Town of Palm Beach urges the federal government, the State of Florida legislature and the Governor of the State of Florida to expedite the process of planning and funding land-based water storage treatment and conveyance north and south of Lake Okeechobee while limiting discharges from Lake Okeechobee as recommended in the 2015 University of Florida Water Institute Report.
Section 3: The Town of Palm Beach urges the Federal Government and the State of Florida to expedite the planning for water storage, water quality treatment and conveyance south of Lake Okeechobee to decrease harmful discharges to the east and west coasts of Florida while increasing the flow of clean water south to the Everglades and Florida Bay. Section 4: Further, the Town of Palm Beach urges Congress to immediately increase funding and expedite work authorizations for the United States Army Corps of Engineers Lake Okeechobee Dike restoration project and authorize the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP) which increases the ability to store, treat, and convey water south.
Section 5: The Town of Palm Beach urges the State of Florida or its agencies to embark upon implementation of a region wide septic tank replacement program converting to centralized sanitary sewerage collection, distribution and treatment systems to eliminate “blackwater” leaching into the various surface water resources of this region in order to reduce contamination from the nitrogen, phosphorus and E. coli.
Section 6: The Town of Palm Beach urges all relevant and responsible governments and agencies to implement robust planning programs in the South Florida region to control over-development and agricultural runoff into Lake Okeechobee and local tributaries.
Section 7: Transmittal. The Town Clerk is directed to furnish copies of this Resolution to:
• U.S. Senator Bill Nelson
• U.S. Senator Marco Rubio
• U.S. House of Representatives Members for the State of Florida