Lakewood Ranch makes plans to become self-sustaining utility

nwilliams@bradenton.comNovember 14, 2012 

LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Lakewood Ranch is putting plans in motion to become a more self-sustaining community, and officials want to start that transition by addressing watering issues.

During a workshop meeting at Lakewood Ranch Town Hall Tuesday, Lakewood Ranch Inter-District Authority Board supervisors listened to a staff presentation on a strategic vision to improve water distribution and consumption in Lakewood Ranch.

The two-year irrigation initiative includes educating residents on proper water consumption, upgrading infrastructure and installing water meters, adding staff with utility management experience, and transferring ownership of all infrastructure to the IDA or creating a special utility district.

"The key is making sure we are self-sustaining," said Eva Rey, executive director of the IDA.

Lakewood Ranch supervisors agreed irrigation has to be addressed by one authority rather than each community development district dealing with the issues separately.

"We've got to agree to address this as a global system and this is about funding that directly puts an onus on our system," said Tom Green,

chairman of the IDA.

Rey also said during the presentation that Lakewood Ranch would be able to apply for a variance through the Southwest Florida Water Management District for installing smart technology upgrades, which would allow the community to irrigate more than twice a week. Currently, Lakewood Ranch is limited to a once-per-week schedule by Braden River Utilities, a subsidiary of Schroeder-Manatee Ranch, the developer of Lakewood Ranch.

The irrigation plan will use information provided in an irrigation study conducted by Azad Shah of LPA Group, who was contracted by the Inter-District Authority in 2009. In March, Shah determined some communities in Lakewood Ranch require anywhere between 5-10 hours of irrigation per week, though BRU allows 2 to 4.5 hours per week. Shah also said the districts would need roughly $3.5 million worth of improvements to the irrigation system. Under the initiative, users, not the districts, would pay for the water system. The four community districts added between $90,000 to $100,000 to their 2013 fiscal year budgets this past October to absorb a 50 percent water usage rate increase by BRU.

In other news Tuesday, District 1 supervisors agreed to vote on applicants to fill the district seat vacated by Gary Berns this week. During the public district meeting Thursday at Town Hall, supervisors will choose between Gilbert Pearce or Bob Swiatek, two board members on the Summerfield-Riverwalk Village Homeowner Association.

Nick Williams, East Manatee reporter can be reached at 941-748-0411 ext. 7049. Twitter:@_1NickWilliams

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