Collier County watersheds receive $1.3 million boost

— Collier County’s pledge to write plans to manage its watersheds has received a $1.3 million boost.

After balking at the cost this summer, raising the possibility of missing a 2010 deadline in the county’s growth management plan, county commissioners voted 4-1 Tuesday to spend the money.

Failing to meet the 2010 deadline could have gotten the county in hot water with state growth regulators at the Department of Community Affairs.

The county missed a 2000 deadline to write the watershed plans and set the new deadline under pressure from the DCA and environmental groups.

The plans are meant to address issues of water quality, flood control and water supply.

Collier County Audubon Society advocate Brad Cornell commended commissioners for taking a proactive step to protect watersheds rather than trying to do it on a permit-by-permit basis.

“This is our green infrastructure that keeps Collier effectively going and operating,” he said.

Commissioner Tom Henning cast the sole dissenting vote against spending the money. He questioned whether the county was going beyond what the growth plan required and said the work ought to be rebid because of its cost.

The work is a second phase of a project for which commissioners budgeted $4 million in 2007.

Commissioner Fred Coyle said he is amazed that the county couldn’t write at least a first draft of the watershed plans using data that already exists.

A “desire for perfection” is delaying the project and is costing taxpayers money, which is in short supply given the economic downturn, he said.

“You’re not going to get any more money from me,” he told county stormwater managers. “End of story.”

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