~__~_~~~_~_~~_~~ ~_ .-~ I-.--~- ------ ---- -----,-- -I. .,_,,..IY IIWC
ay area at r suier inwithdrawals at the 8,000-acre well field, oper-
ated by West Coast, was harming his ranch and
ro ver k in re l tion Swiftmud, which must approve the renew-
ound over killing regulation the surrounding environment.
round over killing regulation al applications of West Coast and other public
supply users, replied that the rule was simply a
By DAVID K. ROGERS /q Fernandez said his agency will ask a state guide. In fact, exceptions to the rule's provi-
Times Stanf Wrter esaid his agenc wil ask a e sions were routinely granted by Swiftmud.
appeals court in Tallahassee to overturn Tues- Perhaps, West Coast Executive Manager
Tampa Bay's chief public water supplier day's decision. Gene Heath said Thursday, but the rule as now
has won the first round in its effort to kill a Despite the hearing officer's decision, both written has great weight in legal proceedings.
state rule originally designed to protect sides in the dispute agree that Swiftmud con- Someone like the Pasco rancher "can take that
ground water, the environment and the rights tinues to have full authority to regulate water rule and can whip up on us with it," Heath said.
of nearby property owners. withdrawals. Similarly, both sides agree that The hearing officer agreed with West
While saying they support the rule's goals, West Coast's ability to provide clean, reason- Coast that the rule exceeds Swiftmud's au-
officials at the West Coast Regional Water ably priced water for Tampa Bay residents thority, is vague and is arbitrarily applied by
Supply Authority contend the rule itself could remains untouched. the water management agency.
serve as a weapon to threaten the flow of The administrative wrangling first State Hearing Officer Donald D. Conn
water to about 1-million Tampa Bay residents emerged two months ago at a state hearing noted, for example, that Swiftmud has allowed
each day. requested by West Coast. The agency wanted exceptions to the rule for all seven of the well
That argument rankles officials at the the rule killed after a Pasco County rancher fields operated by West Coast in Pasco and
Southwest Florida Water Management Dis- used it to argue that West Coast's attempt to Hillsborough counties. Water withdrawn from
trict, called Swiftmud, the state agency that renew its state water withdrawal permits for those well fields is pumped to the residents of
produced the water protection rule 14 years the Cypress Creek Well Field should be reject- Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough counties.
ago for its 16-county region of West Central ed. If the rule were applied as it is now written,
Florida. Based on the rule's requirements, the Conn wrote, the amount of water pumped daily
On Tuesday, a state hearing officer reject- rancher said, West Coast should have its per- from the well fields would either be more than
ed Swiftmud's defense of the rule and recom- mit renewal rejected because the agency was halved or West Coast would have to spend
mended that key portions of it be gutted. violating Swiftmud regulations by withdrawing about $747-million to buy enough land to
Wednesday, Swiftmud Chief Counsel Dan too much water from the well field. comply with the rule's provisions.