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John’s Island making a big investment in irrigation water for golf courses and lawns

STORY BY LISA ZAHNER (Week of September 30, 2021)

While the Shores, Vero and Indian River County continue to fight about the future of utility service on the barrier island, John’s Island is investing nearly $10 million to make sure its residents and two island golf courses have plenty of irrigation water.

In July, the Vero Beach City Council approved a deal with John’s Island Water Management to pump irrigation water from the Indian River Farms Water Control District’s Main Relief Canal on the mainland.

The city is building a $2.1 million plant with a capacity of 3 million gallons per day to treat the canal water as part of efforts to reduce freshwater and nutrients entering the Indian River Lagoon, with the help of a $1.5 million grant from the St. Johns River Water Management District.

Another grant of $2.1 million will help construct the $9.7 million, 18-inch PVC irrigation water pipeline from the city’s plant to Bee Gum Point in Indian River Shores. The John’s Island Property Owners Association will cover the balance of the cost of the pipeline.

According to the agreement, Vero will own and maintain the infrastructure up to where it connects on A1A with John’s Island’s existing irrigation water mains. John’s Island will then purchase the water from Vero at a rate of 53 cents per 1,000 gallons. For the first 1.5 million gallons per day, John’s Island has a take-or-pay rate, with the price per 1,000 gallons remaining 53 cents after that on an as-needed basis.

“This water will replace the use of all aquifer wells and the City of Vero Beach reuse water. We will solely use this treated stormwater for all of John’s Island common area, condominium and single-family home properties. The John’s Island club will also use this stormwater and not use the aquifer wells anymore for their club facilities and two golf courses on the island,” said John’s Island General Manager Mike Korpar.

The “reuse” water Korpar refers to that, along with well water, is currently used for irrigation, is treated wastewater piped in from the city’s sewer plant. The city sells reuse irrigation water to Indian River Shores at a rate of 67 cents per 1,000 gallons.

The contract states that John’s Island can only use the piped-in canal water within the John’s Island community, that it cannot re-sell irrigation water for use outside the community.

Vero Beach Utilities Director Rob Bolton said the design and permitting of the four-phase project will take about nine months.

“The agreement has been signed by both parties. John’s Island deposited the $1,000,000 for design costs,” Bolton said. “Terracon is performing the soil borings and Morgan and Associates is surveying Bee Gum Point.”

When complete, the stormwater treatment plant and pipeline will enable the city to maximize its environmental credits for diverting millions of gallons of stormwater into marketable irrigation water.