The issues surrounding water quality in and around Florida have been weighing heavily upon government leaders throughout the state, and specifically here in Southwest Florida. Communities such as Punta Gorda, Fort Myers, Estero, Cape Coral, Naples and Marco Island have all been dealing with this subject over the last decade.
Newly elected Governor Ron DeSantis has made the issues surrounding the environment a major focus during the first months of his new administration and didn’t waste time upon settling into his new office in Tallahassee. One of his first initiatives was to reconstitute the Board of Directors for the South Florida Water Management District, and Marco Island saw the appointment of City Councilor—Charlette Roman—appointed to one of those prestigious positions.
Roman is no stranger to environmental issues as she has been a strong advocate of protecting the fragile environment here on Marco Island since her arrival almost 17 years ago.
Marco Island has not been immune from the issues having been headlined throughout Southwest Florida media outlets. Photos of dead fish, turtles and other marine life have been splashed across news outlets, both in print and electronically.
It became a byline during the local 2018 election when council candidates utilized the issue to propel them into office. Newly elected Councilman Sam Young would be outspoken about the issue during the election in 2018, as he sought a more aggressive and hardline approach to water quality issues. He even went so far as to push the state regulatory agency to make a formal declaration calling segments of Marco waters as “impaired,” causing some to question that approach and the potential financial impact on local values. Other areas throughout Collier and Lee County have also had some of their areas similarly labeled, but this was a first for Marco Island.
On Monday, November 18th, the city held oral interviews for three finalists who will be considered for the award of a Request for Proposal (RFP) for Consulting Services for Nutrient Source Evaluation and Assessment. This contract, which will be awarded to the successful presenter, will be the next step in the city’s attempt to evaluated what may be the sources that are impacting our waterways.
Council has initiated a more vigorous testing program as part of their 2019-2020 budget to assist in the process as the city attempts to pinpoint sources of increased levels of phosphate, nitrogen and other contaminants.
Council would also focus on identifying the sources of those contaminants which may be affecting water quality on Marco and its surrounding waters. Councilors have been unanimous in their beliefs that the solution must be data-based, therefore the need to contract for the study to identify sources.
Turrell, Hall and Associates from Naples, Wood Environmental and Infrastructure Improvements from Tampa, and Environmental Research and Design from Belle Isle were the three-finalist chosen earlier this month. Those three firms were chosen after a review and tabulation from a three-person city team which rated their qualifications highest from the six total submissions.
The city’s evaluation team included City Manager Michael McNees, Jason Tomassetti the P.E. who serves as the city’s Stormwater Engineer, and Jeffrey Poteet who is the city’s Utility Manager. Upon completion of the oral presentations, the evaluation team would assign numerical values as to how they evaluated the three companies.
In the end, the staff will be recommending Environmental Research and Design from Belle Isle to the city council for their approval of the contract for the work to be done. They scored a total of 13 points of a possible 15, while the other two companies tied at 7 points each.
Staff’s recommendation will be made at the December 2nd meeting of the council in their chambers starting at 5:30 PM.