• Water authority eyes long-term improvement plans

    By: GARY ROBERTS, Staff Writer, Charlotte Sun

    Updated:

    Charlotte, Florida - MURDOCK -- Although the regional water supply system currently offers capacity that far exceeds demand, an aggressive schedule of water infrastructure projects will be unveiled at the next Peace River/Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority board meeting.

    In the last year, the water authority delivered an average of 25.5 million gallons of water every day to an ever-growing population of more than 900,000 people in its four-county service area, or about 73 percent of capacity. That leaves about 9.2 mgd remaining for future water-use demands.

    The water authority’s biggest customer, Charlotte County, is allocated 16.1 million gallons per day from the Peace River Water Treatment Facility, which supplies the vast majority of water to the county. However, Charlotte is projected to use only 14.0 mgd in 2018.

    Figuring in population growth estimates and water-use trends, the county will not require additional water supply until 2031. Despite this envious situation, water authority members will discuss a draft five-year capital improvements program and 20-year capital needs assessment at their Feb. 2 meeting.

    "The water authority has a very ambitious 20-year capital plan," said Travis Mortimer, capital projects manager for Charlotte County.

    Current planning projections for the five-year capital improvements program, from fiscal year 2019 to FY 2023, call for $94.8 million in total projects, with $50.1 million expected to be paid from grant money. Of this total, Charlotte County is targeted to receive $60 million in infrastructure improvements.

    These local projects include the Phase I pipeline, which consists of seven miles of finished water pipe that will provide a looped, plant-to-plant interconnection between the authority’s Peace River Facility and the city of Punta Gorda’s Shell Creek Waste Treatment Plant.

    This pipeline will bring regional water supply to the Shell Creek WTP for improved operational blending of finished water, extend regional supply to new areas within Charlotte and DeSoto counties, and provide sustainability and needed backup for increased reliability.

    The $12 million pipeline will travel along U.S. 17, from the DeSoto/Charlotte county line to the Shell Creek WTP. Construction is expected to begin in 2019, with the pipeline becoming operational the following year.

    Another Regional Integrated Loop project is in the Burnt Store area of south Charlotte County. This project is comprised of four miles of developer-installed water line, running northeast from the Burnt Store WTP toward Interstate 75 at Tuckers Grade.

    The $4.9 million project is already underway and should be completed in 2019.

    Meanwhile, the water authority’s 20-year needs assessment plan, extending into FY 2038 and including the five-year CIP, is even more far-reaching, and costly. The total price tag is expected to reach $523 million for all earmarked projects, again with about half of the cost coming from grants.

    The 20-year capital plan includes a variety of local projects, including the Kings Highway water main replacement to Charlotte and DeSoto counties ($12 million); 14-mile pipeline project connecting North Port’s Myakkahatchee and Carlton water treatment plants ($49.7 million); 12.5-mile pipeline connecting North Port’s Myakkahatchee WTP and the Englewood Water District ($34.6 million); and still another Regional Integrated Loop project of 11 miles, from I-75 and Tuckers Grade to the town of Cleveland on U.S. 17, completing the link from the Burnt Store WTP to the regional loop system ($22.8 million).

    Patrick Lehman, enjoying his 20-year anniversary as executive director of the water authority, has seen the region’s water needs grow over the years. And he knows the critical importance of continuing to provide a safe, reliable supply of water to Charlotte, Sarasota, Manatee and DeSoto counties, along with the city of North Port.

    "Without water, you will not have a community," Lehman said.

    The Peace River/Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority board will meet at 9:30 a.m. Friday at the Peace River Water Quality and Training Facility, 8998 S.W. County Road 769, in Arcadia.

    Email: groberts@sun-herald.com

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