OKEECHOBEE — While county officials have voiced disappointment about delays in Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) plans for the State Road 710 Extension, the Okeechobee Utility Authority has a different concern about the project.
At the Sept. 14, OUA board meeeting, OUA Executive Director John Hayford said the road plan takes the roadway dangerously close to the OUA well fields. He said despite repeated requests, FDOT has failed to adjust the planned route to accommodate the necessary setback.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) statute dealing with well head protection that says there should be a 500-foot setback. The FDOT plan does not meet the setbacks required in the Okeechobee County Land Development Regulations, which apply to the north side of the planned route near the well fields, and the City of Okeechobee Comprehensive Plan, which applies to the south side of the OUA property.
He said FDOT’s stormwater conveyance system will not adequately protect the well fields.
“Our opinion is still that while DOT could have captured some of the water on the road with their stormwater conveyance system, we know that only handles wrecks that occur on the highway or spillage that occurs on the highway,” said Hayford. “There are a number of accidents that happen on the shoulder of roads, which the stormwater conveyance system wouldn’t capture.”
Hayford said they did adjust the road path that would have affected a pond on the OUA property, but they did not provide the required setback from the well fields.
“We have shallow well fields. They should have moved the road a couple of hundred feet north to maintain that separation,” he said.
Without the setback, the well fields could be contaminated if there is an accident on that road that causes a spill of fuel or other hazardous substances.
“We have made comments to them since the start,” he said. “They could have taken care of this when they changed it previously.”
He said city and county representatives will meet with FDOT officials on Wednesday, Sept. 23.
Hayford said if FDOT does not adjust the planned route of the road, OUA might have to move the well fields, which would be much more expensive.