Residents on Cape San Blas, have been complaining about inconsistent water pressure for years. Now, county officials hope, a solution may be close to fruition.
Gulf County Administrator Michael Hammond said the county government is preparing to implement what it hopes will be the final steps in remedying water pressure inconsistencies in Cape San Blas.
“The dead zone, or what I call the dead zone, is the zone the furthest point away from a booster station,” he said. “It’s not really a dead zone. It just hasn’t been being serviced like it should be.”
Residents have been reporting low or inconsistent water pressure on the cape since a booster station was taken offline several years ago due to disrepair. This is especially true in the areas surrounding the St. Joseph Peninsula State Park.
When the county early this year, purchased Lighthouse Utilities, the water management organization that services the cape, addressing these complaints became one of their top priorities.
“When we acquired the system, there was a list of things we knew we needed to address,” said County Engineer Clay Smallwood. “Some of those things we can address quicker than others, but this particular issue. First we had to get LUCI III back online, which takes care of the pressure in the state park and on the North end of the Cape.”
LUCI III, the name given to the booster station servicing northern Cape San Blas, was offline for several years due to damage from Hurricane Michael. Getting the station back up and running was essential to fixing reoccurring water pressure issues.
County construction crews accomplished this just a few months ago.
“Once we were able to get it back online,” Smallwood continued, “then we could come back and address the pressure issue between LUCI III and LUCI I, or Dead Man’s Curve.”
Now, Smallwood said, pressure issues should only happen when the tank at LUCI III is being refilled.
The plan from here is to build an inline booster station to recirculate water and ensure consistent pressure continuously.
At a county commission meeting on Oct. 26, Phillip Jones, with Dewberry Engineers, said “(they) evaluated the possibility of increasing pressure by implementing an inline booster station.”
“What this inline booster station would do is it would be placed right in the water main between these two points so that it just provides pressure.”
Construction costs for the project are estimated at $932,000.
However, Jones said this is much lower than the projected costs for other projects the county considered – including a $6.7 million pipe that would run eight miles from State Road 30A.
County Commissioner for District 5, Phillip McCroan, voiced concerns about the water system amassing debt and causing a surge in rates, one of the principal issues the county is trying to avoid.
However, Hammond believed that the very reason pressure issues exist would also provide the county with enough revenue to fix them.
“Our problem is a good problem. Number one, we’ve added a couple hundred customers since we bought the system,” he said. “Number two, we sold more water, massively more, this summer than that system’s ever sold, which is taxing our ability to keep the pressure up in certain areas.”
“Our other problem is this – the biggest customer that that line has is the state park, and the state park’s coming back online in the spring.”
Further, Hammond and Jones pointed out that some of the money will be forgiven, and the county is applying the project for Department of Environmental Protection state revolving fund monies.
Smallwood estimated construction of the inline booster station would take upwards of a year to complete, long after the reopening of the state park next spring.
However, he emphasized that strain on the system will continue to grow, and that taking next steps to ensure water pressure consistency now will help avoid disaster in the future.
“Hopefully, we’ll find out February if we can receive the funding,” Smallwood said. “And then we can start designing, and then we’ll start construction.”