As the former Deputy Executive Director of the South Florida Water Management District, I am very familiar with the Indian Trails Grove Property and the water resource benefits it would have for Palm Beach County and the region. The property is ideally located next to the L-8, MO and M canals and could play a central role in water storage, water quality and water distribution with potential benefits for the lagoon of Lake Worth, the Loxahatchee River, the Grassy Water Preserve, and Basin C-51.

Benefits could be achieved in partnership with South Florida Water Management and the Army Corps of Engineers under the Loxahatchee River Plan of the Everglades Comprehensive Restoration Plan (CERP). The 1,600 acres proposed to be deeded to the county could provide a drainage route connecting the L-8 canal directly to the MO canal to distribute water to other canals. Additionally, the 1,600 acres could be used as an impoundment to treat water and distribute cleaner water to the Loxahatchee River via the MO and C-18 channels.

Ernie Barnett

Alternatively, significant benefits could be achieved as a stand-alone project for Palm Beach County. Specifically, the county could construct a shallow impoundment on the 1,600 acres, both to provide more immediate benefits and to supplement any benefits agencies may obtain later. Additionally, during the high phases of Lake Okeechobee, discharges from Lake Okeechobee could be intercepted and stored on all 1,600 acres, reducing harmful discharges into the Lake Worth lagoon. Water could be treated on the 1,600 acres and distributed to the Grassy Waters Preserve, using Canal M to provide cleaner water to West Palm residents and to provide cleaner water for potential distribution to the Loxahatchee River via Canal C-18.

Often the most difficult and controversial aspect of successfully implementing a water resources project is securing the land. But the opportunity to do so opens up a range of possibilities. As with any real estate issue, location, utility and availability are key and this property ticks all the boxes. Consideration of acquiring this strategically located property should not be summarily dismissed without a full understanding of its potential to improve the water resources of Palm Beach County and the region.

County commissioners are expected to launch the land swap proposal for review, as the site could prove to be a valuable resource for Palm Beach County.

Ernie Barnett, of Stuart, is president of Water and Land Advisors, Inc. of West Palm Beach.