Peace River Permitting Dispute On Tuesday Swiftmud Agenda

The ongoing legal dispute over competing requests for withdrawals from the Peace River is scheduled to be discussed at Tuesday’s Southwest Florida Water Management District Governing Board meeting.

Here’s what has happened so far, at least the part that has been publicly disclosed:

On Oct. 2, 2017, the Peace River Manasota Water Supply Authority applied to Swiftmud for a permit to increased its permitted maximum withdrawal from 120 million gallons a day to 258 mgd.

On April 24, 2018 Swiftmud officials issued a notice of its intent to issue the permit at its May 22 regular meeting. Polk officials claim they were unaware of the proposed permit until the notice was issued.

On or about May 10 Polk Regional Water Cooperative submitted permit request to Swiftmud for water withdrawals from the Peace River, Peace Creek and Alafia River.

Between May 14 and 21, the Polk Regional Water Cooperative, Polk County and the cities of Bartow, Fort Meade, Lakeland, Wauchula and Winter Haven filed challenges to halt the issuance of the permit, arguing it would foreclose their ability to use water from the river to meet their future water needs.

On Sept. 19, Swiftmud officials attended the PRWC meeting to propose an alternative future water supply consisting of wells in southeastern Hillsborough County that might become a possible new water source if a pilot project to pump treated sewage underground to create a freshwater barrier to salt water intrusion works. They set up an Oct. 3 information meeting for PRWC members to get more information.

The Oct. 3 meeting occurred, but only Davenport representatives attended following an email circulated by Ryan Taylor, PRWC’s executive director, urging members not to attend because of alleged concerns that it would interfere with a mediation meeting scheduled for Oct. 8.

The Oct. 8 closed-door mediation meeting occurred as scheduled. Swiftmud officials said the parties are at an impasse, but PRWC officials disputed that.

In the meantime, without a settlement, the case will go to a formal hearing next year. The full cost to the taxpayers will be unknown until it’s over.

Swiftmud officials have lobbied Polk officials to avoid another lengthy and costly water war, similar to those that raged in the Tampa Bay area decades ago.

The Swiftmud meeting will be held at the agency’s Brooksville headquarters, beginning at 9 a.m. You can go to Swiftmud’s website and view the meeting online.

It will be interesting to hear what board members—particularly those from the counties involved—say about this issue.