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Preserve pumping idea is panned

(CLEARWATER, FLORIDA  3/7/08) Handout photo/map of the Brooker Creek Preserve.  TIMES | HO Pinellas County is developing a proposal to modify the land uses allowed in the Brooker Creek Preserve. This latest map would add two new categories of land use for parts of the preserve now designated for preservation/resource management.

Special to the Times

(CLEARWATER, FLORIDA 3/7/08) Handout photo/map of the Brooker Creek Preserve. TIMES | HO Pinellas County is developing a proposal to modify the land uses allowed in the Brooker Creek Preserve. This latest map would add two new categories of land use for parts of the preserve now designated for preservation/resource management.

EAST LAKE — Remember that idea to pump water out of the Brooker Creek Preserve and use it to irrigate private golf courses?

You know, the one that Pinellas County officials seemed to drop last year after environmentalists and the county's own environmental advisory group opposed it.

Get this: a version of that idea resurfaced this week at a meeting of the advisory group, which is known as the Environmental Science Forum.

And it got a frosty reception.

County officials Thursday pulled back the veil on their latest plan to clarify and codify exactly how land in the Brooker Creek Preserve can be used.

"Our 37th draft of this thing," county director of environmental management Will Davis told the group. "I'm here today to show you what we're prepared to recommend."

The plan includes two proposed new land use categories for the preserve. The goal, officials said, is to incorporate the land use changes into the county's comprehensive plan and also make the preserve's management plan consistent with any changes.

First Davis showed the forum an old map showing large areas of the preserve where the county's Utilities department had previously agreed not to develop water projects. But that map had alarmed environmentalists who saw it taking away from the preserve, not adding protected acres.

"So what we want to do is put this map away now," he said, to laughter, and pulled out a new map.

The latest map shows two newly designated areas, one north of Keystone Road and one south of Keystone Road. Those areas don't include all the acreage Utilities has purchased over the years, but do identify what Utilities says it will need for future water needs.

As now proposed, north of Keystone Road, Utilities would reserve the right to develop up to 200 acres to meet water needs in addition to the 60 acres already developed. Projects could rise as high as 60 feet tall and could include a reservoir.

South of Keystone, Utilities would reserve the right to develop wells and build structures needed for well fields, like pumps and pump housing. Utilities also could pump water to reduce the need for potable water use, perhaps by watering golf courses with preserve water instead of potable water.

The reaction to that idea was not positive.

The forum should flag the words about using preserve land to reduce potable water demand, said forum member Barbara Hoffman, who is on the board of the Friends of Brooker Creek Preserve.

Ann Paul of Audubon of Florida, Florida Coastal Island Sanctuaries, was concerned that if the plan was adopted, the public might not have any say on projects like the former plan to water golf courses with preserve water.

In the end, the forum decided to send the plan to a committee for further study and comments.

"If we voted on it (tonight)," said Bruce Hasbrouck, an environmental consultant, "it probably wouldn't get a very good vote."

Theresa Blackwell may be reached at tblackwell@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4170.

Preserve pumping idea is panned 03/07/08 [Last modified: Friday, March 7, 2008 8:45pm]

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