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Fact is, open space pays its own way

Editor: As manager of the St. Martins Marsh Aquatic Preserve complex and steward of the state lands being purchased in coastal Citrus County, I would like to respond to some of the statements that have been made concerning the negative economic impacts of our land acquisition program. Many times these statements are made out of ignorance and reflect a simple-minded assumption that since no property tax is paid by the state, the land is no longer of any value to the tax base. This is a falsehood.

These are the facts:

Numerous fiscal impact analysis studies have shown that residential development does not pay its way and there is not a significant difference between commercial/industrial development and open space. Service and infrastructure needs always cost more than tax revenue generated for residential land use. In The Economic Value of Open Space (Fausold & Lilieholm), the average cost for residential development was $1.14 for every $1 in revenue generated. Commercial/industrial cost was 43 cents and open space cost was 42 cents.

In Collier County, almost one-third of the land is owned by either the state or federal governments, a number close to that in Citrus. The cost of services is 26 cents per $1 of revenue generated as open space.

Other studies have shown that conservation lands increase the value of nearby private lands.

In response to the statement that a sale to the state is "a dead end," our program is as much a small business as is a restaurant, for example. It provides a direct service (recreation), and indirect services such as flood control, fisheries protection and ecotourism. It has the same positive benefits to the community.

It also provides jobs. My program employs 11 people, eight of whom were Citrus County residents at the time of their hiring. It provides revenue to the community. Except for state contract items or specialized merchandise not available in the county, all operating funds are spent locally. All the employees live in the county and spend most of their salaries here. If I were an economist, I could use a multiplier effect and say that, indirectly, I provide 110 jobs, but since I'm not, I won't.

I will say that conservation programs don't come with the negative social and environmental costs associated with some other activities.

I respect people's rights to disagree, but base your arguments on facts, not supposition.

Matt Clemons

Crystal River

Did water agency pull

plug on desalination plans?

Editor: Re: Outdoor water ban may be on horizon, March 18 Times.

"If we don't see some changes in either rainfall or conservation in the next 30 days, we probably will be into some serious measures," said Ed Turanchik, a Hillsborough County commissioner and chairman of the West Coast Regional Water Supply Authority.

In the some article, the water authority voted to continue pumping 30-million gallons of water a day from the Cross Bar Ranch Well Field in Pasco County. If this doesn't ring a bell you may want to have your hearing checked. In any case, this is the well field that upset many environmental organizations due to the devastation of the surrounding lakes and wetlands.

Desalination is not mentioned in the March 18 article. Have they forgotten? Could it be that possible thoughts of a pipeline are resurfacing in their minds? Should you feel safe in any county north of Pasco? Quite frankly, we don't in Citrus County. Let me explain.

In April 1995, concerned citizens filled nine buses, provided by the organization TOO FAR (Taxpayers Outraged Organization for Accountable Representation), and converged on Tallahassee to object to a proposed pipeline running south from Lake Rousseau and eventually from the great Suwannee River to supply the overdeveloped counties of Pinellas and Hillsborough.

In Tallahassee we received commitments from many legislators, as well as from then-executive director of the Southwest Florida Water Management District Pete Hubbell, not only to stop the pipeline, but also assuring us that no one would be allowed to take water from one basin to another without exhausting all local sources first, including desalination. We now have several newly elected representatives and a newly appointed Swiftmud executive director. Are they of the same opinion?

In 1991, TOO FAR was formed because in 1988 Swiftmud removed the Wysong Dam from the Withlacoochee River. We felt then, and our position has not changed but gotten stronger, that the dam was there for a very good reason, which was to retard the flow of the river in low rainfall periods and to hold water back long enough so that the lakes, wetlands and surrounding areas would have a chance to percolate to the aquifer. It was a water conservation structure. In years past, nature provided us with a natural dam, through rocks, logs and grasses, etc. However, just as with many other things provided by nature, man has destroyed it.

Many individuals, our local county commissioners and organizations in Citrus County are now advocating the need to preserve, protect and enhance our water resources. We in TOO FAR applaud them all and, in many cases, have joined to better protect the resources.

However, we are still very much concerned and are asking that you join us and help watch for indications of a possible pipeline or reasons that would make us believe the large metropolitan areas are looking north for their water.

We need each other, until the day that the Florida statutes are written well enough to protect us.

As of this writing, legislation concerning water rights is being submitted for consideration. Logic tells us it is not in favor of the rural communities.

Frank Robinson

president, TOO FAR