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John’s Island Pipeline Given Thumbs-down By County Commission

Updated: Aug 14, 2019

CWC and allied groups pack county commission chambers for six-hour meeting

CWC and allied groups filled the chambers of the Indian River County Board of County Commissioners yesterday to oppose the award of a temporary construction easement to John’s Island Water Management, Inc. to bore a tunnel under the Indian River Lagoon for a reuse-water pipeline.

The Commissioners received a highly-detailed presentation by Utilities Director Vincent Burke on the feasibility of the alternative of using existing pipelines owned by the County.

County Attorney Dylan Reingold presented a legal analysis of the competing title claim by Mosquito Control, and potentially others, to a crucial pipeline right-of way.

Echoing his previous comments to the Mosquito control District, Dr. Grant Gilmore warned the Commissioners that the wholesale distribution of high-nutrient reuse water on the Barrier Island was making a significant negative impact on the Lagoon, and this had never been taken into account and badly needed to be examined.

The veracity of certain JIWM statements were questioned by Commissioner O’Bryan, who called out one JIWM official for having made statements to the Commission that proved to be untrue, or at least very misleading, concerning ownership and control of certain water assets. Commissioner O’Bryan stated that this, in part, had changed his mind about the decision.

Later in the meeting, when asked, Mr. Reingold characterized the County’s chance of prevailing in court over title to the right-of-way, after a potentially long legal challenge as “51%-49%.” This was later reflected in Commissioner Flescher’s motion to deny the construction easement based on the observation that the County could not award an easement for construction when they did not appear to hold clear title to the property.

The meeting was well-attended by the media, including West Palm Beach NBC affiliate WPTV Channel 5 News who sent a camera crew. Coverage of the event included a short interview with Paul Fafeita, President of the Clean Water Coalition.…

The Commissioners voted on a motion of Commissioner Flescher to deny the easement, seconded by Commissioner Adams. Commissioner O’Bryan joined in a 3-2 decision to deny the easement. Commissioners Solari and Zorc voted against the denial.

CWC views this as a victory for the Lagoon, and we thank all those who were able to take time off from work and family and showed up to support us. The participation of every individual can and does make a difference in our local government.

We are also very fortunate that our local officials embrace open, transparent, and participatory government, and we thank the Commissioners for encouraging public comment, without limitation, by anyone who wished to speak.

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