Pinellas m ay halt
constr' i ct
By CARLOS MONCADA .
Tribune Staff Writer
CLEARWATER With time
running out, emotions are flaring
as Pinellas County faces the in-
creasing likelihood of halting con-
struction because of a lack of wa-
Pinellas officials say by limit-
ing the water pumped from Tam-
pa Bay area wellflelds, regional
water managers have eliminated
the cushion the county was reserv-
ing for growth.. -:
SThat lack of additional capaci-
ty threatens to put the county in'
'violation of its own growth man-
agement laws as early as June,
-said Pinellas Commissioner Bruce
Tyndall. -" -"
"Not only will there be a possi-
bility of no building permits, we'll
probably have restrictions above
and beyond what we have now on
watering," Tyndall said.
Pinellas is continuing to issue
building permits based on 145 mil-
lion gallons of water pumped a
day. But the Southwest Florida
Water Management District in Ju-
ly limited pumping from seven re-
gional wellfields to 116 million gal-
Water district officials say the
talk about construction moratori-
ums is a lie and a scare tactic.
They say the county can do more
to conserve water even though its
residents have reduced consump-
tion by 7 million gallons a day
The issue has reached a boil-
ing point and has roiled longtime
animosity between Pinellas and
the water district as they prepare
for a legal showdown.
Pinellas has asked a state
hearing officer to review the mat-
ter, and a hearing Is expected in
April. The county, must comply
with the water district's order,
which is being phased in over a
year, by the end of June.
"What we're trying to do is
have it overturned," Tyndall said..
"But what I really think the public
ought to be aware of is, what hap-
pens if that doesn't happen? I
think we better be prepared, or
Some of the potential implica-
SA construction moratorium
'could send ripples through the coun-
ty's economy and spark a recession,
officials said. "
"It's going to affect everybody
from the strongest bank to 'the la-
borer who buys his liquor at the
grocery store," warned Pinellas
Commissioner Charles Rainey, a
veteran of two decades of Tampa
Bay water wars.. '- "'
Water will cost more as bills
begin to reflect the high cost of de-
velopling ew supplies. -'
Residents may have to endure
more restrictions on lawn watering,.
car washing and other ues. -' -
In recent weeks; the relationship
between Pinellas and water district
officials has turned nastier than
usual as each attempts to damage
the other's credibility by dropping
rumors or accusations.
Pinellas claimed some water
district board members violated the
state's open meetings law in Octo-
ber when they delayed a vote on
water-use rules for the southern
part of the water district Florida
Attorney General.Bob Butterworth's
office declined to investigate.
About the same time, water dis-
trict spokeswoman Honey Rand told
reporters that farming sources
claim Pinellas has authorized up to
$3 million in legal fees to fight the
water district. Pinellas officials ve-
hemently deny that contention,
which Rainey called "another Swift-
A provision of Florida's 1985
Growth Management Act called
concurrency prohibits the county
from approving new development
until adequate public facilities, In-
cluding potable water, are in place.
"My estimation is in June, we
will not.be able to meet concurren-
cy," Tyndall said.
That worries builders, landscap-
ers and nursery growers who de-
pend on a steady flow of water.
"We think It would be fairly dev-
astating to the'economy," said Rod-
ney S. Fischer, director of the 190-
member Contractors & Builders As-
sociation of Pinellas County. "When
you take that to Its extreme, you
have people who can't make car:-
payments or house payments or quit i
going tO the grocery store or the
movie theaters. .
SThe water district's emergency'
order requires Pinellas and, to a
lesser extent, Pasco and Hillsbor-
ough to reduce pumping at well-
HWs operated by the West Coast
Regional Water Supply Authority.
,:Whether the region meets South-
west's 116 million gallon limit is
"too close to call" said Bruce Ken-
nedy, the authority's interim gener-
Since July, the region has aver-
aged li0 million gallons a day, Ken-
nedy said' But demand is expected
to increase over the coming months
because of the dry season and tour-
ists, he said.
.he order is aimed at protecting
lakes and wetlands near the well-
fields in south Pasco and northwest
Hillsborough that have been
drained by overpumping and five
years of drought.'
Even 145 million gallons eventu-
ally won't satisfy the region's needs,
Pinellas officials say. Other options
include a water pipeline to Citrus or
Hernando counties and desalination
of Gulf of Mexico water. Also con-
templated are additional wellfields
In Pasco and Hillsborough, and de-
salination of brackish water from
Lithia Springs in Hilisborough.
But Pinellas officials complain
that. planning is difficult because
Southwest keeps changing its rules.
"There's no standardization,"
Rainey said. "You almost want to
file a civil rights action against
them for unequal treatment. Why
should people suffer when strawber-
Pinellas says the district has Im-
posed regulations more strict and
costly than those it places on other
water users, such as agriculture,
which uses almost half the water in
the West Central Florida district.
But water district officials say
environmental problems In the
Tampa Bay area are more severe
than in other parts of the district.
They say uniform regulations-would
not provide flexibility needed for
varying water supplies throughout
."Our objective is to protect the
water resoure, like we're supposed
to do, but at the same time not to
cause some sort of economic hard-
ship," Rand said. "This Is a doable
'Staff writer Kathleen Beeman
contributed to this reportL