Past prejudices take.
the blame for death
of well-pumping bill
By JON RABIROFF
Tribune Staff Writer
NEW PORT RICHEY A state
bill intended to protect property
from excessive well-field pumping
has sunk amid accusations it was
killed by prejudices left over from
the Tampa Bay area's "water
State Rep. Charles Smith, D-
Brooksville, said the proposal to
turn the so-called 5-3-1 administra-
tive rule into a state law died
Wednesday in the House Natural
Resources Committee because of "a
paranoia that anytime I sponsor a
bill, I'm out to cut off all the water
to (Pinellas and Hillsborough coun-
Rep. Peter Dunbar, R-Dunedin,
who voted against the bill in com-
mittee, countered, "It was a bad
bill. It was a political statement and State Rep. Charles Smith
not something based upon conserva- claimed the "water wars" led
tion of the resource." to his proposal's downfall.
The so-called water wars were
fought years ago over Hillsborough acre well fields, where 3 million to P 7 '
and Pinellas counties' rights to wa- 4 million gallons of water a day /
ter in Pasco County. Pasco officials could be pumped from the ground
argued their county should not be and damage surrounding property.
the primary water source for the Dunbar called the 5-3-1 rule a
entire region, simplistic solution that ignores a
Some Pasco County officials had number of conditions soil condi-
been big boosters of Smith's effort. tions, demographics and how the
Patricia Pieper, chairwoman of water would be used that should
Pasco's Citizens Water Advisory be considered when determining
Council, said the bill's demise was how much water can be pumped
"the beginning of the end for prop- from a well field.
erty rights. We can't keep thinking "You have to go on a case-by-
there is an angel somewhere taking case basis," he said, adding that the
care of our water. If you deplete it, state's water management districts
you have nothing." were well-equipped to ensure water
At issue is a rule set by the is secured "carefully and in an envi-
Southwest Florida Water Manage- ronmentally safe way."
ment District in 1974 which man- Last month, the Southwest Flori-
dates district officials scrutinize da Water Management District
pumping that reduces water levels came out against the bill, even
in nearby wells by 5 feet, lowers the though it defended the rule against
water table by 3 feet or draws down West Coast's challenge. The dis-
lakes and streams by 1 foot. trict's lobbyist, Bob Harris, said dis-
State hearing officer Donald trict officials did not believe
Conn is expected to rule by the end technical guidelines belonged in a
of the month on the West Coast Re- statute.
glonal Water Supply Authority's Smith said if the rule is declared
challenge of the rule. The authority, invalid by the hearing officer, he
which provides the water but must hoped the water management dis-
seek permission from the water trict would adopt immediately a
management district to increase rule of similar intent "that can with-
pumping limits, contends the rule is stand what is sure to be an endless
antiquated and threatens its ability series of challenges, from the water
to adequately supply water to more supply authority."
than 1 million people in the Tampa The authority's challenge to the
Bay area. rule stems from the agency's desire
Smith, along with three state to renew pumping permits at the
senators, sponsored the bill, fearing Cypress Creek and Cross Bar Ranch
a successful challenge to the rule well fields in Pasco. The authority
would leave the owners of property asked that it be allowed an exemp-
near well fields without adequate tion from the 5-feet portion of the
protection against excessive pump- rule at both locations.
ing. Pasco County rancher Freeman
"This has nothing to do with the P whose property sits between
ownership of water," he said. "It the two well fields, filed objections
has nothing to do with who is going to the permit renewal applications,
to get the water. It is a property- saying the authority should be de-
rights issue." nied the exceptions and permits.
Pieper said the elimination of The authority, in turn, challenged
the 5-3-1 measure would clear the the rule in an attempt to sidestep
way for the development of one- Polk's objections.