County may nix prime aquifer map
A regional landfill developer’s request to change a Charlotte County map that labels its far eastern county area a Prime Recharge Area for the Floridan Aquifer may lead Charlotte County to nix that map.
That’s because there really is no place in the county that plays a major role in replenishing the Floridan aquifer, a county official confirmed Friday.
However that won’t stop opponents of Calusa Green’s proposal to develop a 554-acre tract off County Road 74 into a landfill from objecting to the map change when it comes before the planning and zoning board Monday.
The board, which will hear the case at 1:30 p.m. in commission chambers at the County Administration Building, 18500 Murdock Circle, Murdock, is to decide whether to recommend to the County Commission that the proposed map change be sent to the state Department of Economic Opportunity for approval. The commission will consider the case Jan. 8, 2013.
Both Clarke Keller, an east Punta Gorda farmer, and Fred Hill, the leader of the Southwest Florida Rural Landowners Association, acknowledged Friday that Calusa Green’s argument for changing the map stands on solid ground. Both opponents agree the Floridan Aquifer gets little recharge and has poor water quality in Charlotte County, so a map limiting development to protect it has little value.
However Keller said he expects the planning board, which will be acting as a legislative body rather than a quasi-judicial one on this issue, to weigh the county’s intent rather than “semantics.”
Keller points out Shell and Prairie creeks get recharged from the surficial aquifer, not the Floridan. If the landfill blocks that recharge or impairs it with toxins, the city’s water supply would be compromised, he argues.
“At the end of the day, (board members) are there to protect the public welfare, so I don’t think it exceeds their authority to consider this,” he said.
Hill said he’s rallying residents to attend Monday’s hearing to “let the county commissioners and the public know that we’re not going to allow this landfill, period.”
Calusa Green’s consultant, geologist David Brown of Progressive Water Services, argues the county’s prime recharge map makes little sense. The map identifies the east county region as prime recharge area. However its legend states the area provides “from zero to very little” recharge for the upper Floridan Aquifer.
The county’s Smart Growth 2050 Plan limits development within that district. The limitations include that no more than 10 percent of a site may be impervious surfaces. That affects Calusa, because its plan calls for an impervious liner to prevent garbage leakage.
Calusa’s site sits on top of about 20 feet of sand and crushed shell that make up the surficial aquifer. Beneath that is a layer of dense clay, according to Green.
That layer represents the top of the 600-foot-thick intermediate aquifer, which includes the upper and lower Hawthorn aquifers, Brown said. Those aquifers consist of layers of clay, limestone and dolomite, with small pockets of water, Brown said.
Those layers provide a “confining unit” that prevents recharge from reaching the Floridan aquifer, he said.
Brown speculates Charlotte County adopted its map in the late 1980s based on a push by the Legislature and water management districts to identify important groundwater resources so counties could protect them.
The county’s map is identical to one that a geologist published in 1988, Brown noted. However that map merely depicts an area where the Floridan gets minimal recharge.
Staffers from the Southwest Florida and South Florida water management districts, in recent letters to the county, confirmed the Calusa Green site is not considered to be in a prime recharge area.
Inga Williams, county planner, said documents associated with the county’s 2050 plan make references to the need for policies that protect the surficial, intermediate and Floridan aquifers. However those references were not adopted into in the prime recharge policy.
Williams said she was aware eastern Charlotte County contributed little to the Floridan aquifer but was “surprised” to learn it wasn’t worth protecting because of its poor water quality.
She said county planners will consider replacing the map to reflect “what we do need to protect.”