Water Disputes Heat Up In Polk As Regulators Propose Limits

Cooperation appears to be at risk at the Polk Regional Water Cooperative.

This probably should not surprise anyone who has been following water policy issues for any amount of time.

Everything was great when all you had to do was to agree to get together to get money from the Southwest Florida Water Management District to conduct alternative water supply studies and to meet some local funding deadlines.

That all changed in recent months.

Member governments begin balking at paying for multi-million-dollar projects involving deep wells, desalination plants and pipelines hey claimed wouldn’t help their constituents even though it might contribute to the general project’s goals.

Some local governments announced plans to develop alternative water supplies on their own, or at least try to.

Others criticized the PRWC staff and consultants for pursuing projects in their service area without consulting them.

Then last month the state issued proposed rules that would limit further water withdrawals from the Floridan aquifer. A number of local governments have filed legal challenges that will be considered at an upcoming weeks-long administrative hearing.

And that’s just the lead up to Wednesday’s PRWC board meeting.

Next week Swiftmud’s Governing Board will discuss whether to continue funding the cooperative’s work now that many of its members are challenging the new state rule that Swiftmud officials were involved in drafing.

Meanwhile, a Florida Senate committee filed a bill this week that would ratify the proposed water rules for now and require reports in a few years on how much of a hardship the rule presented to public and private permit holders.

Local officials are opposing that legislation, claiming it cuts off their due -process legal challenge rights.

The staff analysis of the bill points out that everyone was warned this was coming 10 years ago and had ample to prepare if they were so inclined.

This is a developing saga, a lot of which will depend on whether the proposed legislation goes anywhere and what the outcome to the challenges turns out to be.

Stay tuned.


Posted in Group Conservation Issues.