2 ST. PETERSBURG TIN MONDAY, MARCH 14, 1988 E
It served to give Polk and Blain enough time to file
---- an objection to the authority's renewal permits. Under
AI Florida's administrative procedures act, an affected
/ .L L party is entitled to a hearing on such matters. Polk is
RI[HAflRD O H claiming that the authority's permits should be denied
LNH dlUU because the agency violates the 5-3-1 rule.
SThat rule calls for an arbitrary measurement of
water being consumed. The measuring is to take place
at the boundary of property. Property owners may not
"draw down the Floridan aquifer by five feet, the water
table by three feet or lakes and ponds by one foot.
m It's a doubly dumb rule. First, it does not protect
the water resource because it only applies to water as
d r n k in measured at intersections of property, regardless of
dn intersection of four property owners, water could be
drawn down by four times the rule, by 20 feet, 12 feet,
v ate r v a s four feet, respectively. Second, its premise is the
property right that runs with someone's purchase of
heating up acreage.
Sf This particular battle is just
The Tampa Bay region's water wars have erupted another round in an age-old
again. One must turn to the Mideast or the legend of struggle between water-rich
the Hatfields and McCoys to find a comparably persis- counties, such as Pasco, and
tent strain of virulent, anti-social behavior. At stake in wate r o s
this round of battles is the very water we drink and water-poor ones, such as
who controls it. Pinellas.
On one side is the West Coast Regional Water
Supply Authority, created by the Legislature in 1974 Instead, water belongs to all Floridians whether
to be the agency that purchases, develops, transports it's the water along the beaches of Pinellas that belong to
and protects the region's potable water supplies. It inlanders as well as beach property-owners, or the
lives by a contract among the cities of St. Petersburg underground waters of the state from which we all need
and Tampa and the counties of Pinellas, Pasco and to drink. That principle yet to be framed explicitly in
Hillsborough. Elected officials from each of those local state law nonetheless was behind the removal of the
governments compose the authority's board, old "water crop" rule. That arbitrary standard said only
On the other side is Tampa lawyer Buddy Blain, 1,000 gallons per day per acre could be withdrawn from
Pasco rancher Freeman Polk, Brooksville State Rep. any well.
Chuck Smith, a handful of other legislators and an The water management district chose to downgrade
array of interests who would enjoy seeing the supply that rule to a guideline more than a decade ago, and the
authority stripped of its powers and standing. action helped usher in an era of water peace. The district
The theater for the war is the process by which the has never sought to apply the 5-3-1 rule to the'supply
authority seeks a routine request for a renewal of its authority's permits, and it was scheduled to be dropped
consumptive use permit (CUP) in effect, its license as part of a rulemaking revision currently under study.
to pump water to us all, for sustenance, showers, Now, unless the district downgrades the 5-3-1 rule,
swimming, commerce and agriculture, further fighting seems certain.
The supply authority must obtain its CUP from the Meanwhile, Smith has introduced a bill to put the rule
Southwest Florida Water Management District, an- into state law. State Sen. Curtis Peterson, D-Lakeland, is
other regional body this one composed of officials a friend of rancher Polk, and might support the legislative
appointed by the governor. Its chief duty is to manage effort. All of this posturing could end up like this:
the region's water resources. It does this through its The state hearing officer would be hard-pressed to
permitting process, which includes a number of rules. deny renewal of those permits to te supply authority
One of the calledd the 5-3-1 rule) has potential nd its -million Tampa Bay area customers. But, in a
a nuclear minefield. distorted sense of equity, the officer might feel obliged to
This particular battle is just another round in an order concessions to the objecting party, Polk. That
age-old struggle between water-rich counties, such as could mean Polk would be given free access to supply
Pasco, and water-poor ones, such as Pinellas, and authority water hookups to provide his ranch with free
between industrial and agricultural interests and urban water.
and residential consumers. Who wins?
The supply authority has a record unsurpassed
anywhere of studying and protecting water supplies. It The lawyers who, by contract fees, manage to spin a ,
is meticulous in scientific examination of water few rules and controls and turn public agencies on their
sources. It takes excruciating pains not to damage the ear.
environment in its work. Its request for a simple Who loses?
renewal of a CUP was filed two years ago and should We do. Either our water supplies are threatened, or
have been routinely approved within six months. we end up paying more for lawyers to protect us against
But the management district dragged its feet, the finaglers.
praying games about how long the renewal permit And good morning, Ralph Haben, however you
should last (six years, 10 years, if you're nice, longer if are.