Over six decades, the South Florida Water Management District has acquired nearly 1.5 million acres of land within its 16-county jurisdiction to support flood control infrastructure, protect water resources and restore impaired ecosystems.
As part of a broad effort to maximize its resources to meet mission-critical responsibilities, the District is conducting a comprehensive land assessment to ensure that each parcel is being put to its most effective use. The assessment process is similar to efforts being undertaken by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the state's four other water management districts.
Completed in September 2013, the first phase of the SFWMD land assessment was a review of fee-owned lands – approximately 750,000 acres in which the agency has full or shared ownership rights. A review of non-fee-owned lands is planned to follow in Fiscal Year 2014.
The land assessment process will thoroughly analyze each parcel of SFWMD land to determine how its current use contributes to the agency's core mission of balancing and improving water quality, flood control, natural systems and water supply. Land uses will remain in place for parcels that are determined to contribute fully to the core mission. To provide the most benefit to taxpayers, lands that do not directly support the core mission may be considered for alternative uses or recommended to the SFWMD Governing Board for possible surplus.
The District is utilizing a variety of criteria to evaluate its lands, including:
Analyzing statewide and SFWMD-specific geographic information system (GIS) mapping layers to identify each parcel's environmental value and its value related to water resource management
Examining the intended uses of the parcels when they were acquired
Soliciting input from SFWMD subject matter experts with direct knowledge of individual lands
Receiving feedback and recommendations from stakeholders, nearby landowners, local governments and members of the public
The District is committed to making the land assessment transparent and providing multiple opportunities for public involvement. The public can review detailed regional land portfolios and submit comments on specific properties on this webpage, and regional workshops are being held to gather further public input. In addition, the Water Resources Advisory Commission (WRAC), the Governing Board's Project and Lands Committee and the full Governing Board will receive periodic updates on the process and presentations on staff recommendations.
For the first phase of the land assessment process, the 16-county District was divided into five geographic regions. Posted below for each region are detailed land portfolios, summaries of comments from the public and SFWMD subject matter experts and staff recommendations.
* NOTE: Due to a variety of assessment challenges, the Munger Tract (Upper Lakes), Pal-Mar Area (East Coast) and Bird Drive Basin (Everglades) will be analyzed separately from other SFWMD lands in their respective regions. Learn more »
Land is a key component in providing regional flood protection as well as in restoring and sustaining ecosystems from central Florida to the Florida Keys. Water stored on land also seeps into groundwater aquifers, replenishing our drinking water supply.
Throughout its six-decade history, the SFWMD has acquired and managed lands for distinct and diverse purposes, including: to build and operate flood control infrastructure and provide for associated system maintenance; to conserve and preserve natural floodplains and environmentally sensitive areas; and to construct large-scale water quality improvement and natural systems restoration projects to restore impaired ecosystems.
As part of a broader effort to review and continually improve its business, administration and operational practices, the SFWMD is conducting a comprehensive land assessment to ensure that each parcel is being put to its most effective use for South Florida's taxpayers. The comprehensive land resources assessment is similar to efforts by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the state's four other water management districts.
No. The land assessment is a self-evaluation tool to study how SFWMD public lands are currently being used. While the assessment process may result in some properties being considered for alternative uses or possible surplus, the ultimate goal is to ensure that all SFWMD lands are supporting the agency's core mission to the greatest extent possible.
The SFWMD is committed to ensuring the land assessment is transparent and the process includes multiple opportunities for public involvement.
The public can review detailed regional portfolios and submit comments on specific properties during a 30-day comment period for each region. Regional public meetings will also be held to gather public input on the assessment process and specific parcels. In addition, the Governing Board's Water Resources Advisory Commission (WRAC), its Projects and Lands Committee and the full Governing Board will receive periodic updates on the process, including opportunities for public comment.
The first step of the assessment process is the development of detailed land resources portfolios by region. Each portfolio will contain factual data on each major project area within the region such as size, location, acquisition date and funding source(s), intended purpose, land use to-date, water resource and ecological characteristics, public access/recreation, maps, photos and any issues of concern. As appropriate, the portfolio will also drill down to the unit and/or parcel-level on some properties that merit a distinct analysis.
The water resource benefits and documented uses of some lands may stay the same, while temporary or permanent changes may be recommended for others.
Current land uses will remain in place for parcels that are determined to contribute fully to the agency's core mission. To provide optimal taxpayer value, lands that do not directly support the core mission may be considered for alternative uses or recommended for possible surplus. Alternative uses may include a temporary change in land use until a property can fully contribute to the core mission or a permanent change in land use that could potentially fit better with the core mission than the original intended use. The surplus process may result in lands being swapped for more needed properties or offered for public bid to raise revenue that could support ecosystem restoration projects, which may include acquisition of additional lands.
Prior to this comprehensive assessment, the SFWMD had a surplus lands program in place, which periodically identified properties no longer needed for mission-related projects. The sale or exchange of those particular lands is on hold, and reassessment of the properties will be included in the development of the regional portfolios and public comment process.