The Peace River Settlement Spin Begins

I’ve been watching for official reaction to the unanimous vote Wednesday by the board at the Polk Regional Water Cooperative to authorize its lawyer, Edward de la Parte to sit down with his counterparts at the Southwest Florida Water Management District and the Peace River Manasota Water Supply Authority to work out some sort of settlement to avoid proceeding with a legal challenge to a pending permit over how much PRMWSA can withdraw from the Peace River.

PRMWSA sent out a press release Thursday hailing the still unseen settlement agreement. As of this writing, Polk officials have issued no official statement.

Perhaps it might be wiser to wait until there is actually a settlement instead of an agreement to discuss a settlement. The schedule calls for everything to be wrapped up by Dec. 19, when the Polk cooperative is scheduled to meet to consider approving any settlement is worked out by then.

By then the Swiftmud Governing Board, whose handling of the permitting decision is at the heart of this dispute, will have met again. At the meeting Dec. 11 in Brooksville, the subject of the settlement may come up.

Swiftmud officials have pressed for a settlement, citing the public expense. However, Swiftmud officials have been criticized for allegedly keeping PRMWSA’s pending permit application pretty close to their vest.

Some of the research Polk officials conducted in connection to this challenge also revealed PRMWSA’s staff proposed seeking to withdraw less water from the river than the current pending permit proposed, but its board pushed instead to take all of the available water from the river.

PRMWSA’s next scheduled board meeting is Dec. 5 in Port Charlotte. Its board will obviously have to sign off on any settlement, too. The question is whether those folks will wait for Polk’s decision before they take action.

Polk’s challenge seems to have persuaded the other two parties to reconsider their positions.

It will also be interesting to see how the Peace River fares in this deal.

Polk still has a pending permit application to tap the river and one of its tributaries, the environmental wisdom of which has been questioned.

This isn’t over yet.