Collier water-cleanup projects may stall, federal money in limbo

— Collier County probably will have to wait for a share of federal money for a handful of water-related projects.

County officials had asked Southwest Florida’s congressional delegation earlier this year to include projects in the Water Resources and Development Act for money to build 10 aquifer storage and recovery wells along the Golden Gate canal, study pollution in Clam Bay in North Naples and restore Hideaway Beach on Marco Island.

Congress, though, isn’t on track to have a water resources bill ready for a vote until 2010, a committee spokesman said Friday.

“We’re not expecting anything until early next year,” said Jim Berard, a spokesman for the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, which oversees the bill.

It was unclear Friday how the lack of a water resources bill this year might affect the three projects.

“(The lack of a bill) is unfortunate for the county,” said Debbie Wight, an assistant to the county manager.

The water resources bill would only authorize the county projects; they still would have to survive a second vote by Congress to spend money on them.

The aquifer storage and recovery wells _ in which water would be pumped underground and then drawn out during the dry season _ are estimated to cost more than $38 million and take years to get permits and to build.

Collier County government already has agreed to spend $1.6 million for erosion control structures on Hideaway Beach, but the $3.8 million project still is short on money for sand.

Earlier this year, controversy had swirled around the wording of the county’s request for money for a pollution study in Clam Bay, which has been at the center of a power struggle between county officials and the Pelican Bay neighborhood.

Pelican Bay-based opponents said the request misrepresented the boundaries of the Clam Bay watershed and overstated the results of an earlier county study that warned about increasing pollution from parts of the watershed outside Pelican Bay.

They said they feared the $250,000 study would be a precursor to environmentally destructive federal projects in Clam Bay.

County officials defended the request as taking a holistic approach to Clam Bay but eventually agreed to reword the funding request.

The water resources bill is different than the $410 billion spending bill that is working its way through Congress.

The House approved the bill last week, but the Senate has yet to vote on it.

The bill includes $570,000 for improvements to the intersection of Davis and Collier boulevards, $597,000 for Gordon Pass dredging and $350,000 for technology for the county’s Emergency Operations Center.

© 2009 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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