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Pasco Lake renourishment shelved

Finding that the track record on other lakes is poor, county officials say they want to study the idea as part of a larger plan.

By BETH GLENN

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 13, 2000


NEW PORT RICHEY -- Residents who live around Pasco Lake may not see water in the lake bed before January 2002.

That's because two Pasco County commissioners who sit on the Tampa Bay Water board on Friday said they would vote to place the lake renourishment project back into a study with a host of other potential mitigation efforts, rather than include it in this year's budget. The Pasco Lake project will receive a priority rating from board members later.

County commissioners Steve Simon and Anne Hildebrand's cool stance toward the Pasco Lake project echoed a recommendation by Assistant County Administrator Doug Bramlett.

"It should be a part of the overall mitigation plan as opposed to just a single one-on-one project," Bramlett said. "When the mitigation plan comes out, it's going to address many issues and what needs to be resolved. This may or may not be ranked high."

At issue is whether to line Pasco Lake with clay or a synthetic liner in order to keep the water from draining out through its sandy bottom.

The lake lies 5 miles north of State Road 52, just east of U.S. 41 and is adjacent to the western edge of the Cross Bar Ranch well field. Neighbors say the lake once held 8 feet of water and recreational boaters. It was refilled once before in April 1999 when it sank below what a water authority memo called an "extremely low management level."

But by this year the lake was dry again, sparking discussions about how to line the lake bed with something watertight.

Moreover, the feasibility of the whole process has come under question, which bodes ill for its renourishment chances. Of the four lakes water officials tried to replenish, only one was successful, according to Tampa Bay Water head Jerry Maxwell. Pasco Lake and another lake were failures, he said, while one lake was a marginal success.

"Pumping groundwater back into a lake that's been dewatered because of overpumping doesn't make a lot of sense to me," Bramlett said. "Those efforts don't work because the lake bed acts like a sieve, so you have to line it so the water stays in the lake."

Plus, the liner's effectiveness could be undercut by sinkholes beneath the Pasco Lake, according to a consultant hired by the water authority.

And since the size of the lake is in dispute, so is the cost of the project. Engineers estimate it will cost about $1.44-million to line a 21-acre area. But a separate reviewer has said the lake historically spanned up to 73 acres.

With such important questions looming, Bramlett said it was best to keep studying the project's effectiveness and compare it with other mitigation efforts.

Construction of projects that rank high on the list will begin in fall 2001 and are expected to be operational by January 2002.

"I'm not saying not to do it," he said Friday. "I'm saying it should be part of an overall process."

- Staff writer Beth Glenn covers business in Pasco County. She can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6229 or (800) 333-7505, ext. 6229. Her e-mail address is glenn@sptimes.com.

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Paper: Date: 5/13/00+

Page: 1 Section: PASCO TIMES+

Byline: CHRISTOPHER GOFFARD

Notes:

NEW PORT RICHEY -- In the 13 years he worked at the West Pasco courthouse, Tony Murdock trained himself to notice what others missed. So no one really expected his surprise going-away party Friday would take the veteran bailiff by surprise

While colleagues tried to keep him busy on the other side of the courthouse, judges, lawyers, secretaries and dozens of other courthouse staff crowded into Courtroom F amid big platters of chicken wings, coleslaw and beans.

Murdock, of course, had been tipped off. But when someone asked him to make a speech to the throng who came to wish him well, he wiped his eyes and found he couldn't talk. His boss, Circuit Judge Stanley R. Mills, had the same trouble.

"I'm sort of in a case of denial here," said Mills, whose courtroom Murdock has protected for more than 10 years.

Murdock, 51, the longest-serving bailiff at the courthouse, is moving to New Jersey to care for his ill father and plans to work in security at an Atlantic City casino. His wife and two teenage daughters will stay in Pasco until the girls finish high school. As a going-away gift, friends bought him a $500 airline voucher so he can return.

"I've handled everything in the building from petty theft to murder one and everything in between," Murdock said.

He has fingerprinted serial killers, entertained countless juries with friendly patter and seen metal detectors established at the courthouse entrance.

At 5-foot-7, Murdock wasn't physically imposing, but he brought to his work a knack for defusing potentially volatile situations before they could erupt. "There are a lot of things that don't escalate because he calms them down," said Dottie Savinsky, Mills' assistant. "Tony knows how to talk to people."

It was Murdock who once prevented a staffer at the Department of Juvenile Justice from being attacked in court, Mills said, because he quietly put himself between an irate defendant and the staffer when he sensed growing fury on the defendant's face.

"Before the rest of us saw it, he saw it," Mills said.

With Murdock as a deterrent, the defendant bolted in another direction, running headlong into a door.

Several months ago, when Murdock told Mills he was leaving, it was hard on both men.

"I had to take two gulps of soda before I did it," Murdock said.

Murdock said they have become like brothers. When Murdock's daughter was hit by a car, he called the judge for solace. In his courtroom, Mills said, Murdock was "sort of the hub of the system."

"He's sort of the glue that cements it together," Mills said. "He may not be real tall, but I'll match the size of his heart against anybody in the building."

- Staff writer Christopher Goffard covers courts in west Pasco County. He can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6236 or (800) 333-7505, extension 6236. His e-mail address is goffard@sptimes.com.

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