Taxpayers may pay if water
district, board fight goes on
By PATRICE FINCHBAUGH Until the legal aspect is settled, a judge has
Tribune Staff Writer
ordered 16 counties to collect $7.3 million
Property taxpayers in .16 coun-
ties could shell out an extra $7 mil. extra to cover projects.
lion in 1985 unless a power struggle_
between the Southwest Florida
Water Management District and its manner in which their parent board with the public ... the public re-
eight local basin boards ends soon. proposed to divide ad valorem tax spected us for that"
Until final millage rates have revenue next year. They charged As Flrida grows andmore de-
been balanced between the basin that too much money would be di- mans are placed on a finite water
boards and its parent probably by verted to the governing board's resource the district's responsible
a judge the two sides have-asked purse and with it, control of some ites, too, will expand, said Odiorne
counties to levy millages to cover projects to occur on-the local level. in a interview. Shesaid 'simor
their respective wish lists. That The Hillsborough Basin Board ant that the agency remain respon-
means an excess $7 million would be led the group by adopting a final sive to the people.
collected because some of the proj- $8.06 million budget on Aug. 27 -
ects are duplicated on paper. That about $858,000 higher than the gov- In prepared remarks made
money would be placed in a reserve earning board approved in July. Wednesday afternoon, governing
account, district officials say. The Alafia Basin Board cast a board chairman Bruce Samson said
Essentially, the local water similar vote of rejection on Aug. 31, there is a "certain irony in the oppo-
boards want to retain control over and Tuesday the Northwest Hillsbor- nents' position in this case, wrapped
certain water-related projects which ough Basin Board followed suit The in the banner of supposedly trying to
the district's governing board wants Manasota and Peace River Basin protect taxpayers, which in fact
to consolidate under its own budget boards have likewise sent budget-re- would result in unnecessarily raising
"The basins want $13.1 million col- jecting signals to Brooksville head- the taxes of the citizens of the
elected on their behalf. The district quarters. basins...
recommends only $5.88 million. Due to the litigation, the district "Finally, we are troubled by the
Until litigation is resolved, a Her- was ordered by a Hernando circuit positions of Hardee, DeSoto and
nando county judge has ordered judge to advertise its budget'accord- particularly, Hernando County, our
county tax collectors to gather $7.3 ing to the basin- boards' original home county, in this litigation. We
million more than the district wishes. That order is being appealed question their commitment to the re-
recommendation. by the district gional approach to water manage-
Governing board members voted. Staff and, some governing, board ment which we have worked so hard
9-0 Wednesday night on a combined members argue that consolidation of to achieve."
tentative $24.3 million budget Their the budget is necessary to prepare Odiorne, who is not a party in the
final vote will occur at a Sept 19 for a future fraught with regional litigation, said the issue of unfair
public hearing in Tampa. The final water supply problems. Basin boards taxation was precisely what
budget amount is contingent on the will still be a part of the plan, but prompted. the basin boards to reject
outcome of a lawsuit filed by three their efforts will.be aimed at admin- the proposed 1985 budgets.
counties, a citrus growers' group and istering activities of a' local nature For example, she said, counties
the Northwest Hillsborough Basin only. like Hillsborough have already paid
Board. No way, say members of some of their dues to a'regional water supply
Should the district prevail and the basin boards. They want more authority. But under the governing
the $7.3 million be deemed excess than informal input -n districtwide board's new financing system, all
revenue, it could be deducted from projects. counties would pay equally to the es-
next year's taxes or refunded to the "I was always proud of (the dis- tablishment of two new water supply
counties, according to Gary Kuhl, trict)," said Patricia Odiorne, a authorities. In effect, Hillsborough
the district executive director, member of the Alafia Basin Board would again be,taxed, but this time
As of Wednesday, five basin for 11 years. "The system works be- for an agency to serve other coun-
boards had rejected publicly the cause: there was always a liaison ties.
Sacrifice for nation's future
Until this century, the wild fron- mer Interior Secretary James Watt de-
tier, home of the Indians and chal- nied phosphate companies a permit to
lenge to the first white settlers, was so mine there, saying that the companies
vast that few thought of much beyond were entitled to leases only if they
taming it. But with the rush of immi- could prove that the phosphate depos-
grants to America, that urge to civilize its are worth more than the cost of
threatened to put the human touch in mining and restoring the land to its
every corner of the nation. original state. Under that definition,
Watt then ruled that the deposits were
Fortunately, an American land eth- l y"l e.
ic developed in response to the pres-
sure to mine and clear and build. The Now, an important wilderness bill
core of the ethic "simply enlarges the in the U.S. House would forever pro-
boundaries of the community to in- hibit the Department of Interior from
clude soils, waters, plants and animals, allowing phosphate mining in the
or collectively, the land," wrote natu- Osceola. To preserve the peace of that
ralist Aldo Leopold. forest, it is vital that the House act
And as an outgrowth of that ethic, immediately on this bill, which has
Congress passed the Wilderness Act, been laboriously worked out in the
which is 20 years old this week. The Senate. The measure, one of 17 state
law set aside certain public lands wilderness bills now before Congress,
where "man himself is a visitor who also would add about 50,000 acres to
does not remain." the National Wilderness Preservation
o System. Among them is part of Brad-
In one of the most farsighted pro- well Bay, a remote, wildlife-rich sec-
grams it has ever devised, Congress tion of the Apalachicola National For-
has since designated about 80 million est and Mud Swamp/New River, also
acres of federally owned land as pro- in the Apalachicola forest.
A tected wilderness.
d w The new designations would sim-
The federal wilderness includes ply prohibit building, tree-cutting,
23.7 million acres in the lower 48 motorized-vehicle driving and other
states and Hawaii and 56.5 million disruptive human activities in the wil-
acres.in Alaska. That is about 1.2 per- derness areas. But they would not out-
cent of the nation's total land base in law hiking, hunting or fishing the
the lower 48 states that has been set sort of natural recreational activities
aside in national forests, national that -generally don't cause lasting
parks, national wildlife refuges and harm to land or wildlife.
Bureau of Land Management lands.
In return for protecting wilderness,
Along the way, the federal wilder- Americans get these benefits: a water-
ness program has drawn some opposi- shed protected from pollution by the
tion, much of it from people who oth- filtering effects of lush vegetation;
erwise stand to profit from private use plant and animal communities exist-
of the lands. Some say that wilderness ing in harmony in their native habi-
protection locks up valuable oil, min- tats; and the pleasure of seeing lands
eral and timber resources needed for that are largely untouched.
the public welfare. Others erroneously
believe wilderness lands are not avail- In writing about the birthday of
able for recreation, such as hunting the Wilderness Act, former Sen. Gay-
and fishing lord Nelson now chairman of the
Wilderness Society summarized the
Actually, most wilderness areas task eloquently: "The ultimate test of
don't contain large amounts of miner- man's conscience may be his willing-
als or other materials that industry ness to sacrifice something today for
can profitably use. In Florida's Osceo- future generations whose words of
la National Forest, for example, for- thanks will not be heard."