As expected, the Polk Regional Water Cooperative and the Peace River Manasota Water Authority’s boards voted unanimously Wednesday to approve a settlement to end a pending legal battle over allocation of water from the Peace River to feed projected utility demands on both ends of the river.
Under the agreement, PRMWSA will reduce its requested maximum withdrawal from 258 million gallons a day to 210 mgd. Its current permit allowed a maximum withdrawal of 120 mgd. Most of the withdrawals occur during the summer rainy season.
PRWC had applied earlier this year to withdraw up to 18 mgd from the Peace River and 12 mgd from the Peace Creek Drainage Canal.
Under the settlement, PRWC would be allowed to proceed with that application as long as it is able to receive a tentative nod from on the permit’s approval from Swiftmud within 10 years. The settlement does not deal with a separate permit request PRWC filed to withdraw 10 mgd from the Alafia River.
During Wednesday’s meeting it emerged that water managers at both utilities are working on plans to seek Swiftmud officials to increase the maximum daily withdrawal from the river.
The limits were set to allow the river to function naturally by periodically inundating flood plains.
Cutting further into the river’s natural flow regime is expected to attract questions concerning what further weakening of the protections the river receives from overexploitation may occur in response to future water demands.
Meanwhile, any upsteam water withdrawals by PRWC will require work to locate, design and receive a permit for reservoirs that could hold as much as 10 billion gallons, said Gene Heath, who is the cooperative’s project manager.
This would require a large tract of uplands, he said, explaining that a reservoir to hold a minimal 3.6 billion gallon reserve would require one square mile, which is equal to 640 acres.