GRAHAM STEPS IN AND DRAWS THE LINE IN SWIFTMUD TURF WAR
By LAURIE HOLLMAN member governing board should have control over the
St. Petersburg Times Staff Writer budget and water regulations, but the basin boards
should get a say, too. They should be responsible for
TALLAHASSEE The people who manage water in financing water resource development programs in their
southwest Florida are at it again, and Gov. Bob Graham own districts, as long as those programs fall within their
finally had to step in Monday to referee. jurisdiction and are consistent with plans for the rest of
He laid down the law: No more squabbling. No more the district.
"This is no time, and Southwest Florida is no place, GRAHAM'S PROPOSAL took no one by surprise,
for quibbling," he said. "We need to return to the issues of but there was skepticism as to whether it could be
proper water management for this vital region of our accomplished.
state." Bruce Samson, blaming the bickering on "outside
Graham spoke to members of the governing board and interests," said he was not confident of a quick resolution.
the eight basin boards of the Southwest Florida Water "Time will tell," he said.
Management District, commonly called Swiftmud. It was Dick Powell of the Northwest Hillsborough Basin
his idea to meet. He wanted to solve a problem: The local Board was equally unsure. "Feelings run pretty deeply,"
water boards and the governing board are supposed to he said. And then smiling, he added, "I sometimes think
work together to manage Southwest Florida's water this is a fight between one petty little group and another
supplies, but they just don't get along. petty little group."
People say the dispute is really a fight between the
rural counties that have water and the urban counties. Lawyer appointed to governing board
that don't. Or between agricultural interests and residen- St. etersburg Times Staff writer
tial users. Or between those who want home rule and
those who favor centralized decision-making. Or just a Gov. Bob Graham on Monday appointed St. Pcters-
turf war. burg lawyer Roy G. Harrell Jr. to the governing board of
Whatever the cause, the squabbling has only intensi- the Southwest Florida Water Management District.
fled over time. Some residents have even had to pdy extra Harrell, 41, fills a vacancy on the district board,
taxes as each group has sought control of the water commonly known as Swiftmud, left by the resignation of
management budget. Donald R. Crane Jr. Crane
LAST YEAR, THE governing board tried to abolish also is from St. Petersburg
a group of local water boards and take away their taxing and left the board at the
powers. The local water boards map rivers and develop end of October.
plans for local flood control. Basin board members and Former St. Petersburg
agricultural interests responded by going to court. Their Mayor Corinne Freeman al-
lawsuit is still pending, so was considered for the
Then those who sympathize with the local water appointment.
boards tried to remove Bruce Samson, water manage- Harrell is president-
ment district chairman. Samson, in addition to being a elect of the St. Petersburg
distant cousin of the governor, is a candidate for mayor of Area Chamber of Con-
Tampa. His campaign literature states that he is "bat- merce. He was chairman of
tling rural interests" to protect Tampa's water supply, the Chamber's task force on
and that infuriated some people who appealed to Graham the Sunshine Skyway
for help. bridge and has worked with
The governor refused to remove Samson but decided the United Way for 10
that enough was enough. So, in an unprecedented move, years. HARRELL
he invited the governing board and the local water boards By law, Pinellas and
to meet with him in Tallahassee. Graham appoints each Hillsborough counties are each guaranteed two represen-
group, so the members had good reason to hear what he tatives on the nine-member board. Michael Zagorac, an
had to say. It was this: executive with Jack Eckerd Corp., is the other Pinellas
The lawsuit between the basin boards and the govern- representative.
ing board should be voluntarily dismissed, and those who Harrell's term on the governing board will expire in
don't believe in a settlement should leave. The nine- July 1988.