Southeast Volusia Audubon Society, P.O. Box 46, New Smyrna Beach, FL 32170;

October 2012 SJRWMD Update

As part of its work to protect water resources, the St. Johns River Water Management District has purchased land over the past 35 years that provides a variety of public benefits. Under Florida law, water management districts are authorized to buy land for several purposes, including flood control, conservation and the protection of water resources. The District owns approximately 600,000 acres of land throughout its 18-county service area.

To examine whether the agency’s goals continue to be achieved, the District in December 2011 began a comprehensive evaluation of District-owned lands. As part of the assessment process, staff are evaluating every acre of property to examine the need for conservation purposes.

The evaluation will determine if any properties, or portions of these tracts, should be identified as surplus lands, or if portions of any properties should be considered for alternative uses.

Sometimes, negotiations between the District and a seller may have resulted in the inclusion of acreage that has minimal water resource value or is in a condition or location that is difficult and/or expensive to manage as conservation lands. The District occasionally, though infrequently, may dispose of such lands as surplus property rather than spend taxpayer funds to manage them.

The evaluation process includes numerous opportunities for public participation. Informational public meetings were held during summer 2012 and public comment was received during those meetings. Additional meetings will be scheduled for fall 2012. Also, an online comment form is available for individuals who wish to comment in writing about a specific property or the evaluation process.

Some District-owned lands are project sites for water resource development; some are sites for water control projects. Properties range from wetlands and historically wet areas to dry upland areas. Virtually all District properties are open to the public for recreation that is compatible with conservation goals.

The evaluation process will be completed and a list of any surplus properties identified will be developed in fall 2012 for District Governing Board consideration on Dec. 11, 2012. Disposing of surplus lands requires a two-thirds vote of the District’s Governing Board.

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Ed Garland