- a ., ., -
Sum anvlRs Water actists want
the Tampa region named an area of
critical state concern, a move that
could tymie development .
y DOAVID PDRMIA
LAND O' LAKES In a move
that could spur a serious backlash
from developers and politicians, a
group of water activists hired a
lobbyist to push for tight state con-
trol of development in the Tampa
The Coalition of Lake Associa-
tions is working to have a swath of
land that includes most of Hillsbor-
ough, Pinellas, Pasco and Hernan-
do counties named an area of criti-
cal state concern.
The designation, which has to
be approved by the Legislature,
:would impose an extra dose of en-
vironmental protection on the re-
gion and stem groundwater pump-
ing that is destroying acres of
lakes and wetlands in Pasco, said
coalition co-chair Judy Williams of
Land 0' Lakes.
But government officials
warned it also would introduce a
new layer of state bureaucracy
that could hamstring development.
"We have to be careful what
we ask for." Pasco County Com-
mission Chairman Ed Collins said.
"We just might get it."
Only four regions of Florida are
designated as areas of critical state
concern: the Green Swamp, the
Florida Keys, Big Cypress Swamp
and Apalachicola Bay.
In those areas, state regulators
review not only the comprehensive
growth plans local governments
develop to guide their growth but
also every proposed zoning
change, building permit and devel-
"It's a big step," said Charles
Pattison. division director of re-
source planning and management
for the state Department of Com-
munity Affairs. "[ITo get the desig-
nation] you've primarily got to
show that there's a state interest
Activists at the Land 0' Lakes-
based coalition believe the state
does have a serious interest in
controlling development and
groundwater pumping here.
Pumping from regional wellfields
has dried thousands of acres of lakes
and wetlands in Hillsborough and
Pasco counties, Williams said.
Water suppliers and major water
importers such as Pinellas County
blame drought and development for
,much of the problem.
Coalition members hired Bart Bi-
bler, a former administrator at the
state Department of Environmental
Protection, to lobby for the designa-
tion of critical state concern.
The coalition expects to pay Bi-
bler $15,000 to $20,000 for his lob-
bying efforts. He plans to begin
pushing for the designation next
week when he meets with G. Steven
Pfeiffer, the assistant secretary of
the Department of Community Af-
"I'm sure there will be many op-
ponents to this," Bibler said. "But
more than anything, it would put a
heightened attention on the prob-
lems of this region."
An area can be named a critical
state concern under the Florida
Land and Water Management Act of
1972, Pattison said. No area has
been given the designation in at
least 10 years.
STo get the Tampa area named a
critical concern, the activists have
to persuade the state that protect-
ing the area's environment is crucial
to Florida's future, Pattison said.
After going through the Depart-
ment of Community Affairs, the pro-
cess most likely would move to the
governor's office, which would form
a special committee to look at the
proposal. It would later pass to the
Legislature for consideration.