PALATKA, Fla., Oct. 9, 2012 -- St. Johns River Water Management District staff propose retaining 93 percent of the agency's existing conservation lands and will hold a second series of public meetings to present its draft recommendations.
Of the remaining 7 percent, staff anticipate recommending that 6 percent be placed under conservation easements or remain in District ownership as an alternative use. Approximately 1 percent is proposed to be sold as surplus.
In a presentation to the District Governing Board's Projects and Land Committee on Oct. 8, staff gave an update on the lands assessment process, which began in December 2011, and provided examples of draft recommendations that will be the subject of six public meetings in late October and November.
The District's public lands assessment seeks to ensure that District lands continue to achieve water resource protection goals. For nearly a year, staff have been evaluating whether any properties, or portions of properties, should be identified as surplus lands, or should be considered for alternative uses.
Draft recommendations currently include:Retaining 571,519 acres, which represents 93 percent of District-owned lands.Donating 24,819 acres to local governments and retaining conservation easements on those lands.Selling 9,142 acres and retaining easements to protect the lands' conservation values.Selling 4,687 acres of lower conservation value lands, such as a maintenance compound, nursery or property that is no longer needed for conservation or projects.Converting 7,426 acres to alternative uses, such as leases allowing for forestry activities or peat removal.
Staff estimates the surplus sale of lands with lower conservation values may generate as much as $21 million. Any funds generated through surplus sale will be used to purchase additional, higher quality conservation lands.
Additionally, funds received from converting lands to alternative uses may total up to $5 million, as well as generating annual revenue and saving money on land management costs.
Meetings to present the draft recommendations to the public will begin later this month. The meetings will be held:6 p.m., Oct. 23, City of Palm Bay Council Chambers, 120 Malabar Road S.E., Palm Bay6 p.m., Oct. 25, District headquarters, 4049 Reid St., Palatka6 p.m., Oct. 30, Gainesville City Commission Chambers, 200 E. University Ave., Gainesville6 p.m., Nov. 7, Volusia County Council Chambers, 123 W. Indiana Ave, DeLand6 p.m., Nov. 14, St. Johns County Auditorium, 500 San Sebastian View, St. Augustine6 p.m., Nov. 15, City of Winter Garden Commission Chambers, 300 W. Plant St., Winter Garden
Staff will provide updates about the assessment process and receive public input on proposed changes to District land ownership or use. A summary of the draft recommendations will be posted on the District's website prior to the public meetings.
The District Governing Board is expected to consider final recommendations and public input at a Dec. 11, 2012, public meeting. In addition, any land sales must subsequently be approved by the Governing Board. No action will be taken at the Dec. 11 meeting to sell any land.
The District has purchased properties over the past 35 years to protect water resources. The properties also provide areas for public recreation and environmental education, as well as protect natural and cultural resources.
More information about the assessment process and access to an online comment form for individuals who wish to provide input about a specific property or the process are available at floridaswater.com/landassessment.