In a 3-2 vote, the Indian Trail Improvement District Board of Supervisors on Wednesday rejected a proposed water pump agreement with the City of West Palm Beach.
The decision to discontinue negotiations over the agreement came after listening to protracted arguments from residents against the idea and a unanimous request by the Acreage Landowners’ Association to discontinue the negotiations.
The proposed agreement would have been to study the feasibility of establishing a permanent pump structure at the southern end of ITID’s L Canal that would redirect stormwater discharge from ITID’s M-1 Basin into the West Palm Beach Water Catchment Area via West Palm Beach’s M Canal.
Proponents said the idea would provide ITID with a permanent avenue of extra stormwater discharge that was utilized during the flooding that followed Tropical Storm Isaac through a temporary agreement with West Palm Beach using temporary pumps.
Opponents said they did not trust West Palm Beach to hold to its agreements, and feared the sometimes drought-stricken city would take water from The Acreage during dry periods when the community needs to retain its water.
ALA President Bob Renna presented the request to end further consideration of the agreement on behalf of the 10-member ALA board.
“All the board members are here tonight,” Renna said, explaining that the ALA had met Monday and heard presentations by ITID engineer Lisa Tropepe and opponents Alan Ballweg and Nestor Garcia on the proposed agreement, which would establish a permanent pump station at the L-8 Canal.
“It was resolved that the ALA does not support the proposed interlocal agreement with the City of West Palm Beach and requests that the Indian Trail Improvement District immediately discontinue at this time any further negotiations regarding the said intercept proposition,” Renna said, reading from the ALA resolution.
The resolution went on to state that the ALA supported preparation of a comprehensive plan to address stormwater runoff and flooding. “In plain English, we want you to vote no,” Renna said. “We can all work together and find solutions.”
Supervisor Ralph Bair asked how ITID could develop a comprehensive flood plan if they discard proposals out of hand. “I’m curious how we are going to find solutions,” Bair said. “Believe me, I’m all for a comprehensive approach. All I want to do is continue the discussion.”
Damone asked whether the ALA resolution was not to have any further workshops or consideration of other draft agreements.
“I respect the resolution that’s in front of me, but I do have 39,990 other people that I have to answer to,” Damone said. “I believe that discontinuing the conversation is a disservice to the entire Acreage. To discontinue conversation, that’s irresponsible when you’re looking at a comprehensive approach.”
Damone said she believes the only way to come up with ideas is to communicate with other entities.
ITID President Jennifer Hager said that if the proposed agreement did not pass, it would force the district to look for stormwater solutions within the community.
Former ITID Supervisor Sandra Love-Semande, a current ALA board member, said she did not want to continue any discussions with West Palm Beach until the State Road 7 extension is completed all the way to Northlake Blvd., a crucial ITID goal that has been vociferously opposed by the City of West Palm Beach.
Resident Jean Edwards said she opposed discussions because she considered the city’s friendly overtures empty rhetoric.
“Although we keep hearing the words, ‘it’s conceptual,’ the details of which would be worked out in addendums to follow, if those addendums do not materialize, we are still bound legally for 30 years,” Edwards said, adding that she had listened to the presentations by Ballweg and Garcia and found hope that the district could work out solutions of its own at a fraction of the cost.
Resident Bob Summers said he has been asking questions about stormwater runoff and flood control and getting different answers.
Tropepe said workshops would be one avenue to give people a mutual understanding of stormwater issues. She also pointed out that in the 110-square-mile footprint of The Acreage, there is not a lot of space set aside for water retention.
“A rule of thumb is 12 to 20 percent of the land has to be set aside for water storage, Tropepe said.
Tropepe also pointed out that she had attended the ALA meeting and had two binders of stormwater information with her that she would make available.
“I had two volumes of permits I brought to the meeting to explain everything we have in the district,” she said. “It is a big watermelon, but we do have a handle on how we manage ourselves. We have certain parameters we must follow to move water out of the district.”
Former ITID Supervisor Mike Erickson supported taking a comprehensive approach and supported looking at all aspects of the proposed pump project. However, he thought considering the project out of context is not appropriate. “Don’t ever think this project is the solution, because it’s not,” he said. “If you get 18 inches of rain, you’re gonna flood. It’s the amount of time it took to get it out.”
Ballweg said West Palm Beach’s water needs are anticipated to increase 33 percent in the next 20 years, and asserted that the water it took from The Acreage would generate $19 million per year of revenue if it takes 6 billion gallons per year. He also estimated that the electricity to run the pump station would be $102,000 per year.
Garcia, an engineer speaking on behalf of the ALA, recommended that the ALA purchase its own portable pumps, which could be transported to wherever the need is. “It would take a half-hour to install at any location,” he said.
West Palm Beach representative Pat Painter said the city would build the pump station at no cost to the district, pay for the electricity, and ITID would retain full control over how much water is pumped.
“The operation of the pump is totally in the district’s command,” Painter said, adding that ITID discharges to tide about 50 billion gallons a year, almost 10 times the amount of water the city would like to take. “You are throwing away water. You need to stop shutting yourself off from the watershed you’re in. Look around, this place has no lakes. Look around you, other places have lakes. I ask the board as well to keep an open mind. If you shut the door on this, it might not come back again.”
Bair made a motion to continue discussion with West Palm Beach, but it failed 3-2 with Hager and supervisors Carol Jacobs and Gary Dunkley opposed.
An important omission of this article is the fact that David Hanks, Utilities Director of WPB, publicly admitted that he issued an executive order to violate SFWMD’s permit and overdraw water from the Grassy Waters well field AND that he would do it again should his customers need water. In light of this, I think it would have been foolhardy to continue talks with WPB and potentially disastrous to the Acreage to enter into any agreement with any entity that can’t be trusted to abide by agreements, permits, etc., and places their needs above that of others.
ITID has WPB’s proposal, and it can be considered along with the many suggestions for improvements put forth by Alan Ballweg and Nestor Garcia, to name a few. I congratulate ITID for making a sound decision. Our tax dollars can stay within the Acreage and be put to good use in shoring up our existing system and initiating improvements, including attaining increased peak discharge that has been repeatedly denied by SFWMD. Planning and action are needed and now. Nearly 6 months have passed since TS Isaac. Let no more time pass; it’s time to “git-r-done.”
As for those “egos” referenced by another commenter, I’m thankful for those egos that have the courage and knowledge to speak out, not for any personal/political gain but out of their deep abiding love and concern for the Acreage and our way of life and good, clean water is crucial in sustaining that very way of life.
Thank you to our new board members for rightfully rejecting this “offer”. There have been many less costly, less radical ideas presented to mitigate our storage issues.
It was an attempted water grab that had the potential to seriously impact our water supplies and well systems. We rely on sufficient water levels to keep our wells flowing.
That some members of our board and our engineer where ready to hop on board is truly frightening. For them, the Acreage residents should be the priority- not WPB residents. Although I can empathize with the plight of those residents, this is a problem they need to solve without harming our water supply.
WPB needs to slow it’s growth until it can figure out it’s water issues, and perhaps invest in a desalinization plant.
A foolhardy decision made by a rutterless board.
This vote was in NO WAY a vote on the draft agreement. This vote was to decide whether to keep the conversation going with the City of West Palm Beach.
There are several aspects of the draft I took issue with. Does this mean I felt we should stop talking? No.
The majority of the ITID BOS now takes its cues from a couple of so-called “activists”, who have egos greater than the State of New Jersey, who have an underlying political agenda, against one board member.
This vote to stop continuing talks was irresponsible on its face and laced with palace intrigue, to the detriment of the district and the taxpayers.
Distortions and misinformation about this agenda item were abound in cyber-space. It is this self-serving politics of smear and fear that will be the undoing of the Acreage if we don’t pay attention.
The BOS has a fiscal and fiduciary responsibility to look at all aspects of an issue to ensure they are representing the people who elected them, not just a select few.
“The M-1 Basin is at most 37.21 square miles” and this is a quote from someone who knows; and that 37.21 square miles includes Bay Hill, Rustic Lakes and a few other properties. I am not sure why the District Engineer for ITID puts out numbers like 110 square miles when speaking about the active ITID units of the Acreage, as it is simply not true. Nor is it true of the active ITID units when you add in the M2 Basin units, which is much smaller area than the M-1.
Let us not forget, as it relates toward what is, imho, a “water-heist” effort by a desperate City in need of drinking water supplies, the source of the water needed by WPB, via an agreement with ITID, would be the M-1 Basin of ITID. If you open the door, it will likely never be closed.
In addition, ITID annual discharges from our own community are in the 6 billion gallon or so range, not 50 billion?? What the heck is Pat Painter drinking? As pointed out by another resident, the SFWMD makes the decision what amounts of water are sent out to tide via the C-51 Basin (which ITID is actually not considered a part of for peak drainage).
Why does the Town Crier not perform some “fact-checking” when they print supposed “facts” in their newspaper?
Most businesses do workshops, then put something up for discussion, then contract. Why in this instance contract first and no prior discussion or workshops? If there was no ‘contract’ on the table, “up for discussion” wouldn’t be such an issue. But, sooner or later this contract would have gotten slipped into a motion that would approve it “as is”, without any addendums offered or delineated. The workshops would mysteriously never appear. It would have been too late. Bad contract. Bad Deal. This was slippery of the The City of West Palm and a water grab.
I agree with Ms. Semande, let The City of West Palm finish up the State Road 7 extension– which thousands out here need to assuage the traffic woes before entering into any further agreements.
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