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Guest Column

Public waterways' health is responsibility of all

Published June 12, 2006

Many citizens of Citrus County and some local politicians are of the opinion that septic tanks along the waterways of our county should only be replaced at the cost of the homeowners and not with assistance from a county fund, i.e., a general fund, a special river and lakes improvement fund, or a grant-assisted county tax fund.

The fact that overrides that rationale is as simple as looking at the funding of major road improvements, school improvements, and fire control and emergency medical services.

When the entire population of any county has access to and use of the recreational resources provided by the waterways within that county, why should they not pay a proportionate share of the cost associated with maintaining the health and cleanliness of those public resources?

One has simply to do a quick count of the nonwaterfront people using the waterways on any given holiday weekend. The ratio of use by nonwaterfront home owners will far exceed that of those who own homes on the water.

Prime locations to observe this phenomena would be at the Homosassa River docks, Lake Henderson access points, Fort Island boat ramps or the Crystal River and Kings Bay boat launch facilities.

Our state representative, Charlie Dean, longtime sheriff and waterfront property owner, recognizes this, along with some of our county commissioners.

It is time for a unified endeavor by all those in public office - servants of the people, elected by the people - to agree that sources of pollution to our waterways and the eradication of those sources along with the preservation of those precious and irreplaceable gifts of nature can only be accomplished by the use of funds generated countywide.

Such funds would be enhanced by the addition of grants, matching funds or special assessments. To wait for dollars to fall from the sky for total funding of replacement of septic tanks on the shores of our waterways or to place the entire costs of such improvements on waterfront owners is a fallacy.

While we wait, and officials debate the issue, pollution grows. Springs are turning yellow and our natural resources are deteriorating.

If we do nothing, we can expect to see signs with wording such as "pollution exists in excessive amounts, do not swim or consume fish from these waters.''

It has happened in other areas of Florida. We must ensure, by forward thinking and responsible fiscal planning, that it does not happen here.

The continued use of septic tanks along our waterways and shoreline is a source of contamination existing today that only grows worse as building permits increase.

All of our elected officials as a major component of their campaign rhetoric endorsed the concept of clean, accessible waterways and maintenance and preservation of Citrus County rivers, lakes and shores. It is appropriate now for them to make those promises a reality.

Jim Adkins of Inverness is a native Floridian, a waterways advocate and a preservationist. He is the author of River of Many Fishes.

[Last modified June 12, 2006, 08:07:31]

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