Thursday, November 23, 2017
News Roundup

Request to pump water from Hillsborough wilderness preserve sinkhole heads for approval


TAMPA — The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is poised to approve a request to pump up to 3.9 million gallons of water per day from a sinkhole in the Lower Hillsborough Wilderness Preserve.

The state issued a notice Friday that it intends to approve the Southwest Florida Water Management District's requested permit, which is opposed by the nonprofit Friends of the River, the Sierra Club and the city of Temple Terrace.

Environmental advocates worry the pumping could dry out nearby wetlands in the 16,000-acre nature preserve.

"Our primary concern is we're jeopardizing damaging — unnecessarily — an area that is pristine, unique and quintessentially Floridian," Tampa Bay Sierra Club chairman Kent Bailey said Monday. "We have alternatives that have no environmental impact. We just don't need to do this."

But state environmental officials concluded that the proposed pumping won't interfere with any existing legal use of water and is reasonable, beneficial and consistent with the public interest.

The purpose of the $2.1 million project is to help maintain a healthy flow of fresh water in the Hillsborough River below the city of Tampa's dam and to keep salt water from Tampa Bay from coming upstream where it could harm fish and other wildlife during dry periods.

To do that, local and state officials came up with a plan in 2007 to boost the flow of the river with fresh water pumped from four sources. First, they pump water from Sulphur Springs and a complex of sinkholes known as the Blue Sink. If more water is needed, it's pumped from the Tampa Bypass Canal.

The latest request is to pump water from a sinkhole known as the Morris Bridge Sink in northeast Hillsborough County.

The amount of water pumped from the Morris Bridge Sink would vary based on the need and hydrological conditions, but Swiftmud officials have said it would average about 2 million gallons a day over the course of a year. They do not expect the pumping to have a significant impact on nearby water resources.

Neighbors in Thonotosassa, though, aren't so sure.

In 2000, Tampa Bay Water replaced 13 residential wells that failed after the agency pumped 6.7 million gallons of water per day from the sinkhole during a drought.

The state permit would require Swiftmud to monitor water levels in sinkholes, marshes, wetlands and the aquifer near the Morris Bridge Sink, assess the impact of the pumping on nearby areas on an annual basis and investigate any complaints that its pumping had damaged nearby wells.

Swiftmud also would have to report to the Department of Environmental Protection how much water it pumps to ensure that its withdrawals are within permitted limits, according to Swiftmud spokeswoman Susanna Martinez Tarokh.

But the Hillsborough County Environmental Protection Commission wants the state to go further. It has requested the creation of a trigger that would force pumping to stop if there were signs that it hurt the sinkhole.

And it would be smarter, environmentalists contend, for Swiftmud to pump more water from the Tampa Bypass Canal.

When the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dug the bypass canal to help with flood control in the late 1970s and early 1980s, it breached the top of the Upper Floridan Aquifer, they say. As a result, the bypass canal already discharges significant amounts of fresh water, by one estimate up to 20 million gallons a day, that they say should be used before any more water from sinkholes.

Opponents have 21 days to file a request for an administrative hearing on the permit.

"We are considering a range of options and haven't decided on what our response is going to be as yet," Bailey said. "I don't foresee no response from the environmental community."

Contact Richard Danielson at [email protected] or (813) 226-3403. Follow @Danielson_Times

Jon Mott wins record fifth Times Turkey Trot 10K

Jon Mott wins record fifth Times Turkey Trot 10K

By BOB PUTNAMCLEARWATER — The Tampa Bay Times Turkey Trot has long been a fixture on Jon Mott’s sporting calendar. Not even a 103-degree fever Tuesday could keep him away from the event, in its 39th year. Mott, a record four-time 10k champion, added ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Bucs players, coaches say they cherish getting game balls for special feats

Bucs players, coaches say they cherish getting game balls for special feats

TAMPA — In the jubilant moments after a Bucs win, Dirk Koetter will sometimes ask for a game-used ball from his equipment staff, hold it high in the locker room and present it to the player who was most crucial to the victory.NFL players can ask for ...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Updated: 3 hours ago

Updated: 3 hours ago
Woman killed in Largo motorcycle crash could ‘out-game any dude’

Woman killed in Largo motorcycle crash could ‘out-game any dude’

LARGO — Sydney Pender, 27, loved riding her motorcycle, even though she knew the dangers. Three years ago, her friend said, a delivery truck hit her. But she kept riding. On Thanksgiving, it was a crash with a taxi cab that killed her.Pender, a St. P...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Valrico intersection closed after car-sized hole opens in road

VALRICO — A hole the size of a vehicle opened up beneath the intersection of Nature’s Way Boulevard and Elm Grove Lane, Hillsborough officials said.The cause of the depression is unclear, but the intersection was blocked off to traffic.Hillsborough C...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Days after a high fever, Jon Mott wins his fifth Times Turkey Trot 10K

Days after a high fever, Jon Mott wins his fifth Times Turkey Trot 10K

CLEARWATER — On Tuesday, Jon Mott had a 103-degree fever. That was not enough to keep him from maintaining his dominance Thursday at the 39th Tampa Bay Times Turkey Trot.The former Northeast standout added to his record with his fifth title in the ev...
Updated: 5 hours ago

Update: Mother, toddler hit by car in critical condition at TGH

TAMPA — A mother and one of her two small children who were hit by a car while trying to cross Dale Mabry Highway on Wednesday were still in the hospital on Thanksgiving, according to Tampa General Hospital.Cassandra Marie Spicola, 29, and 18-month-o...
Updated: 10 hours ago

Pasco County put under immediate tornado warning

The National Weather Service has put out a tornado warning for Pasco County. Thunderstorms capable of producing a tornado and strong winds are expected over Jasmine Estates, New Port Richey and Hudson until 1:15 p.m., according to the NWS warning. Ba...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Thanksgiving forecast: Rain today, but sunny skies this weekend

Thanksgiving forecast: Rain today, but sunny skies this weekend

It’s going to be a wet Thanksgiving across Tampa Bay, but sunny skies are coming during the long weekend, according to WTSP 10Weather meteorologist Ric Kearbey. 10News WTSPThe latest Tampa Bay-area radar 10...
Published: 11/23/17