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Florida wildlife agency balances needs of economy, wildlife with Pasco land swap

Land swap plan favors wrong kind of birdies Feb. 22 editorial

Wildlife agency is balancing needs

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has been involved in this issue for more than two years. Through many meetings and site visits, this area and its wildlife was thoroughly inventoried. The result was a detailed management plan. The plan addresses more than just black bears; it includes all wildlife species. This science-based plan has been reviewed and ratified by the professional wildlife managers whose mission is to protect the wildlife of the state. It encourages black bears to stay away from both the development and Aripeka Road while contributing to habitat improvement north of the road.

At the urging of the Gulf Coast Conservancy, the Southwest Florida Water Management District and Pasco County began the first step in executing this plan with the purchase of a 210-acre parcel north of Aripeka Road. The Pasco Board of County Commissioners indicated that the purpose of the purchase was to complete the southern range for black bears. As part of that, a previously considered road crossing for black bears was eliminated. The Gulf Coast Conservancy, satisfied with the plan when it suited its no-growth agenda, now claims total disdain for it.

The SunWest site is presently an active, permitted mine that could continue excavation for decades to come without reclamation. Currently, the mining operation is not in full production. Even so, black bears have not been observed on the site for at least five years.

Particularly disappointing is the fact that I met with the Gulf Coast Conservancy and incorporated all but one of their suggestions into our plan. Their only recommendation that I did not and will not do is, "go away." Even so, I have left their suggestions in our plans and, based on discussions with Fish and Wildlife staff, SunWest has even expanded our commitments.

The Urban Land Institute, in its independent review of Pasco County, stated that SunWest is exactly the type of project and in the location the county needs for smart growth. Have we not seen enough of what life is like with no economic activity?

Our plan has the support of the neighbors, the approval of wildlife experts and a thorough, professional evaluation by the staff of the Southwest Florida Water Management District. I believe we have done the best possible job, been held to the highest possible standard, and have met that standard.

In this case we are not choosing between environmental quality and economic opportunity. We will have both.

Robert Carpenter, project manager SunWest Harbortowne

Energy bills fall, but not here

Electricity rates drop 14.6 percent. Don't get excited; that's not a local headline, it's Rhode Island's largest provider, National Grid passing along rate reductions, which went into effect on Jan. 1, as a result of the steep drop in energy pricing over the past several months. Those are their words, not mine.

The Tennessee Valley Authority has announced a decrease in its fuel cost adjustment effective Jan. 1; residential consumers can expect a decrease ranging from $4 to $8 in their monthly power bills.

Our local provider, Withlacoochee River Electric Cooperative, which relies on some of the same energy component parts as the aforementioned providers, had over the past few years raised customer rates numerous times when natural gas was rising to above $15. Now that same natural gas has retreated to below $4 (week of Feb. 16), Withlacoochee refuses to acknowledge this reduction, and pass along savings to their customers.

In fact, not only have they ignored the 65 percent plus decrease in fuel costs, Withlacoochee raised the base rate by 11 percent, from $44.10 per 1,000 kilowatt hours to $49.12, and increased the customer charge 30 percent a month, from $11.50 to $15.

Then as if to say, here's a bone, it lowered the fuel cost adjustment line item by 6 percent, from $57.29 per 1,000 KWH to $54.19. They package all this fuzzy math up in one nice little customer-friendly public statement by saying, it's not our fault, due to an increase in coal transportation costs, we have to raise our customers' rates by 4.7 percent.

Indeed. Withlacoochee has some explaining to do.

Jim Gries, Weeki Wachee

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Florida wildlife agency balances needs of economy, wildlife with Pasco land swap 02/23/09 [Last modified: Monday, February 23, 2009 5:34pm]

    

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