Hang tough, Swiftmud
One of the least heralded but potentially most render the Swiftmud board incapable of making
important battles of the Tampa Bay area's water water policy on a regional basis. One immediate
wars is nearing a conclusion. The outcome will result was to force taxpayers to pay twice for the
determine whether water is truly a state resource same projects and services, once on taxes levied by
that is to be managed regionally, as the Legislature the basins, once again on Swiftmud's levy, until
intended. The alternative, still advocated by some Gov. Bob Graham who appoints the members of
small counties and agricultural lobbies, calls for all the boards forced the basin boards to with-
local control, which would doom Florida's efforts to draw from the suit.
manage intelligently its expected population Citrus Mutual, joined by Hernando County and
growth. former Swiftmud chairman Darrell McAteer of
The issue is whether the Southwest Florida Brooksville, persisted in the suit. Judge Raymond
Water Management District, commonly called T. McNeal of Ocala is expected to decide the case
Swiftmud, has any real power over the budgets of later this month.
the eight "basin boards" that are responsible for Now, however, there are whispers of settle-
ment in the air. And no wonder. Two months ago, in
The regional water board refusing to make Swiftmud pay the lawyer who had
The regional water board represented the basin boards, McNeal declared as
appears about to win a matters of fact that "basin boards are subordinate
long-running suit over its and subservient to the governing board (Swift-
budget and taxing powers. mud)" and that their lawsuit had been "not of any
Why settle? benefit to the taxpayers whatsoever." Moreover,
McNeal asked aloud, why would the law require the
basin boards to submit their budgets to Swiftmud if
local flood control and drainage projects within Swiftmud lacked discretion over them?
Swiftmud's 16-county jurisdiction. Such comments would give Citrus Mutual,
Swiftmud's recent emphasis on water conserva- McAteer and Hernando County a strong incentive
tion has alarmed some rural and industrial inter- to settle the suit. But why would Swiftmud be
ests, while the belated establishment of an urban interested in a settlement as some of its officials
majority on its governing board has made some are said to be when it's at the brink of winning?
small counties apprehensive about their future. Swiftmud should not entertain any settlement
There is enough water to go around if it's managed that offers less than a total and final dismissal of the
wisely, but some people begrudge the "if." lawsuit, with prejudice against its being refiled; a
Two basin boards, three small counties and stipulation that Swiftmud, not the basin boards, are
Florida Citrus Mutual, a growers' association, filed ultimately responsible for water policy; and a re-
suit two years ago for a judicial declaration that quirement that the plaintiffs pay the costs of the
would require the Swiftmud board to rubberstamp suit. To settle for less would appear to be snatching
the basin' board tax levies. Their real object was to defeat from the jaws of victory.