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County to weigh well issue

Pinellas can drill new wells at its well fields in Pasco, a judge rules. Now Pasco must decide what to do next.

By ALISA ULFERTS

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 13, 2000


Pasco County commissioners will cloister themselves tonight to discuss what to do now that they've lost Round 1 of Pasco County vs. Pinellas County, cases 1927 and 1928.

Had Pasco won, Pinellas County would have been blocked from pumping 1.3-million gallons of water a day from well fields Pinellas owns in central Pasco. But administrative law Judge William F. Quattlebaum ruled last week that Pasco didn't prove that it would be harmed if the Southwest Florida Water Management District granted Pinellas the permit.

"I think it's wrong," said Rick Tschantz, Pasco's assistant county attorney for water issues. Tschantz said that tonight's executive session was to figure out where to go from here.

"We're going to have a recommendation on an appeal or not appeal. We wanted to do that in a closed session without Pinellas hearing our strategy," Tschantz said Monday.

Pinellas wants to drill seven wells on its Al-Bar Ranch property and increase pumping at the Cross-Bar Ranch well field to restore wetlands damaged by overpumping in the area. The county also wants to create a wildlife habitat on the 12,000 acres it owns in Pasco, Pinellas officials said.

Water district officials signed off on the idea and announced that they planned to give Pinellas those permits April 25 unless they heard from those affected. Pasco appealed that decision.

Pasco officials are concerned that the pumping at Al-Bar, coupled with Pinellas' plans for drainage ditches to retain water around Cross Ba0, could damage surrounding Pasco properties -- especially Crews Lake.

Pinellas County officials have accused Pasco of wanting to stop all pumping at the expense of restoring parts of the environment that have been damaged by pumping.

If Pasco commissioners decide to appeal, then the cases will go before the District Court of Appeal, Tschantz said.


-- Staff writer Alisa Ulferts covers Pasco County government. She can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6244 or (800) 333-7505, extension 6244. Her e-mail address is ulferts@sptimes.com.

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