By STEVE REILLY STAFF WRITER, Charlotte Sun-Herald Newspaper. Reprinted with permission.
A major expansion of the city’s water plant and the creation of an “off-line” reservoir are the best ways Punta Gorda can ensure it will meet its future water needs, according to a water study.
The city’s Utilities Advisory Board voted 5-2 Monday to recommend the Punta Gorda City Council consider the findings of a Water Supply Master Plan.
Advisory board chairman Stan Munson and Tom LeGros dissented, both saying they wanted the advisory board to have more time to review the recommendations.
The city’s existing water plant on Shell Creek currently is permitted to produce 8 million gallons a day. The city is now attempting to maximize its production to 10 mgd. But the city will then work on constructing a larger plant to produce 15 mgd.
Laura Baumberger, a Carollo consulting engineer, told the advisory board the best route the city can take is to expand its water plant to 15 mgd. The study recommends the city begin preliminary design on the water plant next year to have it permitted and running by 2013.
The study did look at the city pulling up groundwater as an alternate water source, but Baumberger suggested the Southwest Water Management District is dissuading utilities from drawing more water from the aquifer. Permitting, she said, could be difficult.
Baumberger pointed out the water district is more likely to offer the 50-50 grants for an expansion of its surface water resources.
“Shell Creek is identified as a future supply source in the (district) regional water supply plan,” she said. “This is a source they want you to develop. It will have less permitting challenges because it’s already identified as a source (by the district).”
The grants could be significant factor, since the costs for the water plant expansion and a off-line reservoir to store water could reach $70 million to $100 million.
Last year, the city paid $4.9 million for 166 acres for a future reservoir, adjacent to the water plant. Baumberger said the city could reduce the costs for the digging out of the reservoir by selling the dirt for fill. The city can also sell excess water until the plant’s capacity is needed by its own customers.
Baumberger also encouraged the city to consider enhancing its water conservation measures. The study determined the average utility customer uses 141 gallons a day.
“By decreasing water demand by 10 gallons per person per day could delay the (water plant expansion) by two years,” she said.
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