THE TAMPA TRIBUNE
Published by THE TRIBUNE COMPANY, 202 S Parker St Tampa, Fla 33606
Richard F. Pittman, Publisher
Edwin A. Roberts, Jr. Paul Hogan
Editorial Puge Editor Managing Editor
James F. Urbanski, General Manager
W. Scott Trundle, Business Manager
John W. Roell, Advertising Director
Jack Butcher, Circulation IDirector
George T. Gleason, Controller
Gerald W. Wright, Personnel Iirector
G. Fred Fuller, Production Director
Robert T. Hollister, Promotion Director
New Water War
Erodes Old Values
T'S ONE THING for the members A geopolitical floor fight over
of the state House of Representa- water rights will not be calm. It cer-
tives to fight over taxes, but legisla- tainly isn't very savvy to allow one to
tive disagreements turn fratricidal occur. And there's neither fairness
when one legislator starts taking nor quality of leadership in allowing
away from another. one legislator to cut off the water
House Speaker James Harold supply to the district of another.
Thompson of Gretna has such a Water is Florida's most precious
situation brewing among his 119 col- resource. It is, by decision of the
leagues. state Supreme Court, a state re-
Unless Thompson asserts his lead- source not owned by any govern-
ership, the battle between central ment, agency, person, politician or
Florida rural and urban counties special interest. In the caseof the
over how water is used will boil up Apalachicola River,.whichflows a
on the House floor in the last 10 days few miles west of Thompson's home-
of this session in a geyser of accusa- stead, there is water, as it were, to
tions and acrimony, burn. And even in the 16 counties of
It's bitterly ironic that such a floor the Southwest Florida Water Man-
fight would occur in Thompson's ad- agement District, commonly called
ministration, and at a time when Swiftmud, there should be plenty of
management of growth looks to be water for everyone if it is regu-
the foremost accomplishment of his lated properly.
first year as Speaker. Regulation of water is what this
Thompson is a 40-year-old lawyer water war is all about. And who con-
from a small Panhandle town north- trols the consumption rate of that
west of Tallahassee. His Florida water is what has pitted county
family roots go back to the 1800s. He against county, neighbor against
is a man characterized by Gaines- neighbor and soon will set legislator
ville Rep. Jon Mills, when Mills was against legislator.
designated last month to succeed Two votes by the House Natural
Thompson in 1987, as being a man Resources Committee are the mea-
with "calm, savvy and fair leader- sure of the depth of open enmity.
In April, on a 17-7 vote, the com-
mittee cut in half the membership of
Pinellas and Hillsborough counties Jones and his rural colleagues
on the Swiftmud governing board, fear Swiftmud will take seriously its
even though the two counties ac- legislative charge to protect Flor-
count for more than half the dis- idea's vanishing wetlands, a task as-
trict's population, and taxes from the signed it and the state's four other
two counties make up more than half water management districts last
of its budget.aer
In early May, on a 17-4 vote, the Jones and his rural colleagues fear
committee prevailed in solidifying Swiftmud will begin to regulate the
and strengthening the power of in- use of water by agriculture. Swift-
land rural interests to control the mud estimates that farms in its 16-
water use by urban coastal areas. A county district use 1 billion gallons of
bill, sponsored by Rep. Charles water every day. But, while industry
"Chuck" Smith of Brooksville, effec- and local governments must mea-
tively reduces Pinellas' and Hillsbor- sure their water use with meters,
ough's membership on Swiftmud by there is no such requirement for the
expanding the governing board, re- district's 5,500 farms. Swiftmud has
quires nine (of 11) votes to veto the begun reconsideration of the merit
budgets of subordinate basin boards, of agriculture's exemption from
refuses to give Swiftmud the budget- -metering.
ary power to buy land in the environ- The water war has turned overtly
mentally sensitive Green Swamp, punitive and hostile. Legislators are
and lessens Swiftmud's regulatory misleading one another. Compro-
power over streams. mises made are being reneged on.
The fact that Brandon Rep. S.L. Bills are being passed on the basis of
"Spud" Clements voted in favor of what's good for a friend, not on the
Rep. Smith's bill is puzzling, on the merit of what's best for Florida.
surface. But underground is the an- Rural legislators elsewhere in the
swer. Clements is a friend of Chuck state are beginning to look sideways
Smith and, knowing the lay of the and actually aim restrictive legis-
land on the committee, Clements lation at other coastal counties,
went with his friend. The fact that such as Dade, that get their water
Rep. Smith's bill would effectively from inland.
stop development of the new central Those are the ingredients that
,Hillsborough County wellfield by the will put lawmakers at each other's
West Coast Regional Water Supply throats in the session's final days,
Authority didn't deter Clements. when the Legislature's important
But Clements' anti-home county business is being hammered out.
vote should impel the Hillsborough Those are the ingredients that
County Commission and Clements' will make a mockery of the procla-
east county constituents to march on nation that the House has passed
the state c'p ital. Without that well- sound laws to manage growth.
/ield atrf its millions of gallons of Those are the ingredients that
water, commercial and residential now test the calm, savvy, fair leader-
development in the eastern county ship of Speaker James Harold
will be stopped. Thompson. Will he stand steadfast?
The intent is to destroy the viable Or will this water war erode his reso-
and verified concept of regional lution?
water supply and regulation. Rep.
Fred Jones of Auburndale couldn't
have laid it out any plainer at that
May 1 committee meeting. Jones
urged his colleagues to give Polk
County the power to control regula-
tion of agriculture's water use and