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Well field sale set in motion
Pinellas wants to sell and Pasco wants to buy the 12,500-acre Cross Bar Ranch property.
By CHUIN-WEI YAP
Published June 21, 2007
[Times photo: Joseph Garnett, Jr.]
Pinellas County built an education center on the Cross Bar property in 2003 to facilitate tours of the habitat.
LAND O'LAKES - The Pinellas and Pasco county commissions approved twin resolutions Tuesday that set the stage for Pasco's proposed purchase of a 12,500-acre well field in northern Land O'Lakes.
Pasco would use the land for wildlife conservation.
There's no telling yet how much the Cross Bar Ranch well field might cost, but Pasco officials still need to secure the funds. They hope to get a grant from Florida Forever, a $3-billion state conservation land program run by the Department of Environmental Protection.
Tuesday's resolutions supporting the sale reinforce Pasco's efforts to get on Florida Forever's grant list.
In the 1970s, Pinellas had sought inland groundwater for its future drinking needs, said Pick Talley, Pinellas utilities director. The purchases in part contributed to the regional water wars.
"But we have a regional water authority now," Talley said, referring to Tampa Bay Water,"... and it really isn't necessary for Pinellas to own land in Pasco County."
Tampa Bay Water now pumps an average 22.5-million gallons a day from Cross Bar's 17 wells to help meet the region's water needs. Pinellas also built an education center on the property in 2003, to provide classes and guided tours so Pasco schoolchildren could see plants and animals in their natural habitat.
It's hard to tell how much the land would cost.
"We plan to get appraisals," said Rene Wiesner Brown, who manages Pasco's environmental land buys. "The first step is getting to Florida Forever's approved list."
Pinellas spent about $12.9-million to buy the land in pieces through the 1970s and 1980s, but that's not today's value.
Last year, a similar purchase of the 5,100-acre Colt Creek State Park in Polk County cost about $54-million. Polk County provided $5-million; Florida Forever and the Southwest Florida Water Management District split the rest of the tab.
Florida Forever's governing board meets in August to consider the Cross Bar funding request, Brown said. It is likely to ask for further discussions and studies.
Pasco officials are eager to acquire the land, rather than see it possibly go to some other buyer.
"Pasco has a first chance to get at it," Brown said. "But if the deal does not go through, (Pinellas) may pursue other options."
Also on Tuesday, Pasco commissioners told Brown to put a 116-acre southwest Pasco property on her shopping list.
The Pasco Palms property, owned by Frank Darabi, sits opposite Eagle Points Park on Strauber Memorial Highway, Brown said.