An approximately $13 million reclaimed water project is under construction on pastoral lands of a working cattle ranch in Land O’ Lakes.
In the next year, 15 man-made wetlands will be created on about 237 acres at 4G Ranch, owned by the Phillips family. The system is expected to be operational in 2018, and will provide the county with up to 5 million gallons of reclaimed water a day.
Pasco’s residences and golf courses are among those expected to benefit from the project. The wetlands also will be a resource in times of drought, along with the county’s 500-million gallon reclaimed water reservoir on Boyette Road.
It is a one-of-a-kind environmental experiment to turn dry uplands into wetlands that will help restore natural habitats that were degraded from years of well pumping during drought. And, the wetlands eventually will help recharge the Floridan aquifer.
On Oct. 24, officials from Pasco County, the Southwest Florida Water Management District (Swiftmud), and members of the Phillips family had a groundbreaking for the Central Pasco County Beneficial Water Reuse Project.
“It was one of the most exciting projects I’ve ever been involved in,” said Randy Maggard, governing board chairman of Swiftmud. “I think this will set the standard from here on out.”
Reclaimed water for the wetlands will flow from an existing county water main near 4G into a network of pipes that will deliver the water to each of the 15 wetland “cells.”
Each cell will be of different size and capacity, and also landscaped.
“We control the water level on each cell independently,” said Jeff Harris, Pasco’s staff biologist and project manager.
In addition to the project site, Harris said about 2,000 surrounding acres will be rehydrated.
The 4G ranch, he added, is ideally situated between the Cross Bar well fields and the Cypress Creek well fields.
In June, Pasco County commissioners approved a 25-year lease agreement in a public/private partnership with the land owner, William Ted Phillips Sr.
The agreement can be extended for three 10-year periods. The county’s leasing costs for the first 25-year period will be about $2.3 million.
Swiftmud will contribute half of the project’s construction costs, up to about $7.1 million.
The project in concept dates back about seven years.
Work on the agreement with 4G Ranch, and design of the project, began more than two years ago.
The long wait was worth it, said Teddy Phillips Jr., the ranch owner’s son. He also is chief executive officer of Phillips & Jordan Inc., the construction company in charge of building the wetlands.
“We made this thing look like it is a piece of natural beauty,” Phillips Jr. said. “We think this is a great model.”
Published November 2, 2016