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Forum opposes tapping 3 Brooker Creek wells

Pinellas County should not pump water from the Brooker Creek Preserve to irrigate two private golf courses.

That's the recommendation this week from the Environmental Science Forum, an advisory group created by County Administrator Steve Spratt.

By a vote of 9 to 4, the forum's members said no to reopening three old wells in the preserve to provide water for East Lake Woodlands golf courses during times of drought. Pinellas County Utilities has said pumping from the wells would leave more reclaimed water for homeowners.

But most members of the forum said the proposal sends the wrong message as conserving water becomes more and more critical.

"I have wrestled with this and I have done my best to pore through the science," said the forum's co-chair, Darden Rice of the National Sierra Club. "There's just no way around the fact that the public cares very deeply about the preserve."

Four forum members thought the pumping would have little scientific effect and did not oppose it, especially if wetlands and uplands were closely monitored.

Bruce Hasbrouck, environmental services director for Faller, Davis and Associates of Tampa, gave a report from a forum subcommittee that had been charged with looking at alternatives to pumping in the preserve. Hasbrouck, who worked on a wetlands restoration project in the preserve, was the subcommittee's chairman.

The alternatives the group looked at included using water from Lake Tarpon or stormwater, water from new wells and used water from showers, sinks and washing machines at the golf course and at East Lake Woodlands homes.

The group submitted their recommendations, pros and cons to the county at the close of the meeting. And Spratt is scheduled to report on the forum to the County Commission Tuesday.

For now, Pinellas County Utilities is proceeding with a request to pump from the wells. Utilities will submit additional information to Southwest Florida Water Management District, commonly known as Swiftmud, by Jan. 5, 2007.

Times staff writer Theresa Blackwell can be reached at tblackwell@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4170.

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