1. Archive

Southwest Florida bodies of water will not be abused

Editor: A great deal of misinformation has been circulating about the future of the Barge Canal and its related water bodies, Lake Rousseau and the Withlacoochee River. Let me set the record straight.

The Southwest Florida Water Management District does not plan to permanently drain Lake Rousseau or in any way negatively alter the flow of the Withlacoochee River.

The district has, in fact, proposed to fill in and eliminate the navigational lock and repair the spillway. The spilling controls lake levels, not the locks. The current status of Lake Rousseau would be maintained. The lock was built to lift big barges from the level of the Gulf of Mexico up to the level of Lake Rousseau. Eliminating the lock would save considerable maintenance and operating expense, and small boat navigation would be maintained.

Under the district's proposal, the spillway that controls the discharge from the lake to the lower Withlacoochee River would be rebuilt to move more water through the lower river during periods of heavy flow. Reconstruction also would provide the capability of doing temporarily environmental drawdown of Lake Rousseau to maintain water quality in the lake. Drawdowns could lower the lake level for a short period of time _ 120 days, for example _ but it would then be refilled naturally.

Discussions about drawdowns may have prompted the mistaken impression the lake would be drained. Drawdowns would be multi-agency undertakings. Any impacts to the area, including loss of recreational opportunities, would be identified and minimized to the greatest extent practicable. Detailed plans would be discussed in advance at area public hearings. Public input on how to reduce any possible negative impacts would be carefully weighed. A drawndown project would be authorized only if it is shown to be in the public interest.

Concern also has risen over the possible use of Lake Rousseau as a drinking water supply for the Tampa Bay area. That prospect is highly remote at this time.

To plan the orderly development of water supplies in the 16 counties of southwest Florida, this water management district produced a "Needs and Sources Plan" in 1992. The objective was to project the water demands to the year 2020 and identify the sources that could best supply them. Planners were charged with finding local supplies for local demands. In the case of the Tampa Bay area, water demand in 2020 can be met from existing well fields and two proposed new ones in Hillsborough County.

The report examined the feasibility of desalination of sea water, which has not been recommended because of the high cost and environmental concerns. It also evaluated the pumping of water from springs or rivers to the north to supply the Tampa Bay area, specifically Lake Rousseau. It is made clear in the report that this option is not recommended as a source for the Tampa Bay area. In addition to the prohibitive cost of transporting water for a long distance, there are environmental and other restrictions against using water from Lake Rousseau.

If, at any time, the district receives a request for a permit to use water from this lake or river for local or distant use a thorough analysis is required. This ensures that the proposed withdrawal would not negatively affect the environment or other existing users of water in the vicinity. District policy requires that withdrawal from rivers shall not exceed 10 percent of the flow when it is above established minimums. When flow is low and damage might occur, no withdrawal would be allowed.

The Withlacoochee River and its lakes are major natural attributes of Florida. Any threats to their quality or quantity are of great concern, not only to the residents of the area, but to the board members and staff of the water management district as well.

Peter G. Hubbell, executive director

Southwest Florida Water

Management District, Brooksville

Moring, Fitzpatrick criticized

Editor: The headline in the June 1 Citrus Times proclaimed, "Bar requests court administrator." President Jack Moring of the Citrus County Bar Association is quoted as saying that the bar unanimously agreed to ask county commissioners for reconsideration of its earlier rejection of hiring an administrator to help oversee the local courts.

Mr. Moring, I find it remarkable that it was unanimous. I don't doubt your word. I doubt that the reporter heard you right. I have found that it is safer to disagree with a reporter than a lawyer.

Mr. Moring also said that clients, rather than lawyers themselves, benefit from lawyers' positions. Isn't that sweet?

Moring's statement reminds me of what Frank Rodell of the Yale University Law School once said: "While law is supposed to be a device to serve society, a civilized way of helping the wheels go round without too much friction, it is pretty hard to find a group less concerned with serving society and more concerned with serving themselves than the lawyers."

Mr. Moring also said this action taken by the local bar was done so at the suggestion of "Spike" Fitzpatrick. "Spike" really gets around, doesn't he? Isn't he the guy that got our esteemed State Attorney Brad King to call up the governor and ask for a special prosecutor to investigate charges against Judge Gary Graham?

Incidentally, you probably know that the special prosecutor, taken away from fighting crime in his own district, decided there was no foundation for the charges, right?

We know that "Spike" was only concerned with the welfare of the taxpayers of Citrus County. Sure, we do!

I would like to see a designated timewhen everybody who believes that the Citrus County Bar Association(along with its most illustrious member, "Spike") has only the interests of the average citizen at heart, stops whatever they are doing and stands on their heads for a minimum of five minutes. It is the least we can do for these civic-minded people.

Incidentally, the judge that replaces Judge Edwards will be chosen by our revered Gov. Lawton Chiles, from a list of three people recommended by the Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission.

Guess who is a member of that commission? "Spike" Fitzpatrick. Like I said, he really gets around.

Wouldn't it be nice if the local newspapers were a little more concerned with what goes on in Citrus County and kept us informed? For instance, how is a replacement judge picked? What are the qualifications?

After having read the criteria for a nominee, Judge Gary Graham is the only judge in Citrus County that meets that criteria, in my opinion.

Melvin Belli once said, "Bless those men in black robes. They're in the same union with us."

Gary Graham did not join that union. Look what the local bar members have done to him. Too bad for Citrus County.

County Commission Chairman Gary Bartell is to be commended for his stand in opposing Judge Edward's request. I hope the rest of the commission stands with him.

Robert D. Wright, Inverness