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Dade City looks for allies in water issue

(ran PC edition)

With the Tampa Bay area's ever-present water pressures threatening the underground reservoirs beneath east Pasco, Dade City commissioners on Tuesday evening agreed to seek strength in the water debate through a coalition of the region's four municipalities.

Commissioner Hutch Brock said after months of study, he is convinced that it's time to reach out to Zephyrhills, San Antonio and St. Leo. A coalition of governments might have more strength to fend off what he said appears to be a real possibility that regional water authority Tampa Bay Water may have in mind.

Proposals on the table at the agency still seem to eye the water under east Pasco, Brock said. And in a proposal, Brock noted an east Pasco coalition may need to "counter potential legislative action and the emergence of independent water groups."

Tampa Bay Water, the agency critics say overpumped in central Pasco and caused environmental damage, is under continued pressure to find new, economical sources of water, Brock said. And an appealing option to that agency appears to be sucking water out of east Pasco, he said.

"One of the best sources for that water is sitting here right now," Brock told fellow commissioners. "There is just a real possibility that people may be knocking on our door."

Zephyrhills City Manager Steve Spina said Tuesday that he will present Brock's idea to his City Council next week.

Dade City Commissioners voted 4-0, with Commissioner Lowell Harris absent, to give Brock and city staff the authority to talk with the other three governments about forming a water cooperative.

The city was approached last year by a group of landowners calling themselves "the Water Group" and looking to become partners with the city in a plan to keep control of the region's water and profit from it when Tampa Bay Water comes looking for new sources.

Brock said involving private groups could eventually be discussed, but right now there needs to be talk among local governments.

Tampa Bay Water and a Dade City group against more pumping, the Coalition to Preserve Our Water Resources, has been waging a public relations battle. Each bought a full-page ad in this month's Greater Dade City chamber of commerce magazine.

"Setting the Water Record Straight" is the headline on Tampa Bay Water's ad.

"Keeping the Record Straight," tops the coalition's ad.

In other business Tuesday evening:

+ New City Manager Harold Sample and City Attorney Karla Owens won commission approval to overhaul economic development ordinances and vowed to actively seek commercial and light industrial development in the city.

"We're going to be absolutely as aggressive as possible," Sample said.

+ And commissioners honored the late Pasco County Sheriff's Office Lt. Charles "Bo" Harrison with a resolution of grief. Harrison was killed by a sniper June 1 as he sat in his patrol car outside a nightclub near Lacoochee.