The Golden Gate Estates Area Civic Association wants to express appreciation to Daniel DeLisi, governing board member of the South Florida Water Management District, for attending our January meeting and discussing Golden Gate Estates issues.
This meeting was very important to the civic association as it was the first time that a water-district board member took the time to visit and listen to issues of Golden Gate Estates and Collier County.
DeLisi represents Lee, Collier and Hendry counties on the nine-member board that oversees water supply and flood control over an area from Orlando to the Keys. The board member from Southwest Florida has another duty that no other member has, and that is to chair the five-member Big Cypress Basin Board, which oversees Collier County only, but is subservient to the nine-member governing and executive staff in West Palm Beach.
Nearly all board members from Southwest Florida have not been from Collier County. This means they are unaware of the issues of the Big Cypress Basin and lean to other area's needs.
Appointees to the water-district board are usually not well-schooled in natural resources system management. The surface-water management area of the Big Cypress Basin should be managed based on resource needs, not consolidation of costs with West Palm Beach.
Every time a reorganization merges an employee's duties in the Big Cypress Basin with duties in West Palm Beach to save money, the resource and the residents of Collier County have suffered from lack of management attention. Our civic association's concern is that this issue will escalate yearly.
An indicator of competent resource management is the permitting process. In Collier County, project permitting is done by the SFWMD in Fort Myers at the Lower West Coast Service Center. Yet, the center and all its employees are located in the Okeechobee Basin and report to executive staff at West Palm Beach.
The permitting process applied to Collier County projects is not based on the needs of the resource. Evidence of this is found in the area of mitigation for the loss of wetland functions. Collier projects that create loss of wetland functions are required to offset this loss in mitigation banks outside of the functional watershed or in another county.
The Golden Gate Estates Area Civic Association's concern is that over time the increase of impervious surfaces without any functional offset will cause the residents of Collier and especially the Estates to have escalating problems of flooding, water quality and wildfires.
The residents of the Estates felt the most abused by the water district's decision from West Palm Beach to abandon the people and their concerns along Frangipani Avenue for access to their homes and businesses. In a continuing battle to take money away from the Big Cypress Basin, the executive staff and governing board supported not to renew a 10-year contract for canal maintenance in Collier County.
Estates residents pay taxes to the Big Cypress Basin, the SFWMD and Collier County government to assist residents with issues of drainage, access and infrastructure, even when things are a little messy. After paying taxes for 40 years even in the bad times, the water district has made it clear it is walking out on its responsibilities to the community of the Estates and Collier County residents.