For now, officials
calm the water war
By JEAN HELLER .
BROOKSVILLE Top officials in the
hostile war overwater sat down in the same
room Wednesday and managed two hours of'
debate without filing a single lawsuit.
They found they had a lot in common,
most prominently a desire to resolve months
of rancor over how water will be allocated
and regulated in the Tampa Bay area.
They also would lke to end the litigation
that has set public agencies and elected
officials against one another.
The largest stumbling block to peace,
they discovered, is a reluctance by any of the
principals to take the first step back off the
firing line. When they parted, they had
agreed only to prepare position papers and
sit down together again in about 10 days.
S-The meeting was supposed to be a pre-
sentation by the region's largest water dis-
tributor, the West Coast Regional Water
Supply Authority, to the.district water regu-
lator, the Southwest Florida Water Manage-
ment District, known as Swiftmud. But it
turned into a debate between Swiftmud and
Pinellas County representatives.
West Coast's interim general manager,
Bruce Kennedy, and its legal counsel, Don
Conn, presented a suggestion from Hilsbor-
ough County commissioners that Swiftmud
stay its emergency order of June 1994, which
limits West Coast to pumping 116-million
gallons a day on average over a year.
In return, the proposal said, West Coast
and Pinellas County would suspend legal
action against Swiftmud over the pumping
cap, and the five jurisdictions that make up
the West Coast board Pinelas County, St.
Petersburg, Hillsborough County, Tampa
and Pasco County, would agree in writing to
do everything they could to hold to the cap
voluntarily while short- and long-term solu-
tions to the water crisis were explored. The
truce was to last until Oct. 1.
Swiftmud's representatives said they
doubted their board would agree to staying
the pumping cap until after Pinellas and West
Coast put their lawsuits on hold, and not just
the challenge of the pumping cap. Swiftmud
Executive Director Peter Hubbell said he
wanted all litigation to end because the long
list of actions were so interwoven their
issues could not be dealt with piecemeal.
"It would be hard to have movement and
a free flow of information on one or two items
when our attorneys tell us we can't because
we're over in another arena duking it out,"
Ed de la Parte, Pinel-
las' lead water lawyer,
said the county wanted
the pumping cap stayed,
along with a require-
ment for augmentation
of lakes thought to have
been depleted by pump-
ing and Swiftpmud's deci-
sion to issue pumping
Somebody has permits with life spans
to go first, of only a single year.
lawyer Ed de De la Parte said the
Ia Part said. stays must be perma-
nent, not temporary un-
til Oct. 1.
"To stay them temporarily and then not
resolve anything (by October) means we
wasted eight or nine months, and we are still
eight or nine months from getting a decision
from a hearing officer," de la Parte said.
"Somebody has to go first," he added, clearly
signaling Pinellas wasn't volunteering.
Pinellas officials have refused to acknowl-
edge that pumping in Hillsborough and Pasco
has contributed to environmental damage.
Utilities director Pick Talley said if he were
presented scientific data "that showed we,
couldn't continue our levels of pumping with-
out doing ecological damage, we would be
willing to adjust to help solve the problem."