Best Practices - Vol. IV

Mayor Nancy M. Graham

Federal Funding for Water Reclamation

The City of West Palm Beach was recently successful in obtaining a federal appropriation for the City's Wetlands-based Water Reclamation Program. This project was initiated because the City faced numerous growth-related hurdles including water supply, wastewater, and achieving sustainability with the large wetland areas within the City. The City is also part of a regional water management system that includes the Everglades. South Florida, where the City is located, is the site of the largest civil works program in the country for the purpose of restoring the Everglades. In the face of these pressures, the City opted to develop a Wetlands-based Water Reclamation Program that would focus on sustainability of both people and the environment. This Program was also complementary to redevelopment efforts within the City's downtown, known as "City Place," that also emphasized sustainability.

"I realized that this program could not go forward without state and federal funding," says Mayor Nancy Graham. "I perceived that obtaining federal funding was a mountainous task. Looking back, there were many factors that played into our success and I emphasized the ones that I believe were crucial to success. First, we clarified our message. The Water Reclamation Program has a greater significance than just meeting a local need. It is an investment in the sustainability of South Florida, the restoration of the Everglades, as well as a means of reusing thirty million gallons per day of wastewater. We developed a colorful brochure with a clear theme that emphasized the regional and sustainable benefits of the Program.

"The second element of our success was in developing partnerships that supported our Program. The City knew that buy-in was necessary from regulatory and planning agencies as well as from state and federal agencies that are operating in South Florida."

Following several presentations, the City obtained a resolution from the Governor's Commission for a Sustainable South Florida in support of the Program because it exemplified the Commission's efforts to spread the gospel of sustainability. A federal South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Working Group evaluated the program and ranked it as a priority project that would help achieve Everglades restoration. Numerous agencies came forward to support the project: the South Florida Water Management District, the regional water management agency; the Florida Department of Environmental Protection; and the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council. The State's Florida Communities Trust gave the City a grant of $1.3 million for wetlands needed for the project.

"Obtaining local bipartisan support was the third crucial element" says Graham. "Since almost all politics is local, this was a very important step. The City received support from the chairman of the county commission, U.S. Senators Bob Graham (D) and Connie Mack (R) and U.S. Congressmen Mark Foley (R) and Clay Shaw (R)."

Personal leadership and relationship-building in Washington, Mayor Graham believes, are very important in finding federal funding for important projects. "This was the fourth and most exciting part of our success. As Mayor, I took several trips to Washington to visit with our Senators, Congressmen, and President Clinton's staff to emphasize the uniqueness of our program, its importance to South Florida, and to obtain information. Congressional staff in Washington were key to pointing out the source of funding for our Program. Our Program received very favorable reviews. Congressman Mark Foley became the Champion for the City's project and continues to serve in that role as we go back to Washington for additional funding."

Contact: Office of the Mayor, (407) 659-8025

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The United States Conference of Mayors

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