RELEASE FROM HILLSBOROUGH RIVER CANCELLED AT LAST MINUTE-Andrew Stelzer04/10/06
Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio held her annual state of the river Discovery tour this morning at Rowlett Park on the banks of the Hillsborough rover. The press conference was meant to culminate with the opening of the reservoir dam for 2 minutes to show the public and the media how water could be added to the lower Hillsborough river to keep flow levels high enough to sustain a healthy ecosystem, but unexpectedly, the opening of the dam was called off at the last minute, leaving many wondering who was in charge, and what it means for the future survival of both the river, and the city of Tampaâ€™s water supply. WMNFs Andrew Stelzer was there, and filed this report.
ACT-Compton â€˜We look forward to working with the mayor to finding a balance..â€™
Phil Compton from Friends of the river told the crowd that Tampa mayor Pam Iorio's efforts to affirm the Hillsborough river as the jewel of the city were being supplemented by an ambitious effort to restore the shore line and health of the rivers overall health
ACT-Compton â€œWe must restore Tampa's natural nursery by giving it what science ways it needs so it can thrive..as youâ€™ll see in a minute the city doesnâ€™t need much waterâ€?
The plan was to let a symbolic amount of water flow into the Hillsborough River by opening up the damn built in the 1960s, when Tampaâ€™s drinking water demand began outpacing what the river could supply. Currently, the reservoir which pumps 82 million gallons of drinking water to Tampa residents every day; the reservoir is filled by the upper Hillsborough river, along with rain water. But Tampa has been without any substantial rain for the past several months, and the new city water director Brad Baird, informed the group of 30 or so eager people that there would be no release.
ACT â€œWe will not have a release of the water..We are 40 days into the dry season although we had rain this weekend we are still in conditions we are still in a situation where rainfall is lower than normal, so weâ€™ve elected not to release even a small amount, it would drain the reservoir in less than 100 days.â€?
But the scheduled release was only going to be for 2 and a half minutes, which according to less than the amount which would be used by 2 people in a month, and Tampa City councilwoman Linda Saul-Sena didnâ€™t know how to explain what happened.
ACT-Saulsena â€œI was surprised and very disappointed, WHAT HAPPENEDâ€¦ I donâ€™t know, we practiced Friday morning we all had a meeting..We knew it was dry and were gonna do it for 2 minutesâ€¦NOBODY RAISED OBJECTIONSâ€¦No I called them 3 weeks before..The mayor called me at 430 on Friday, I assumed it was happeningâ€¦â€?
Mayor Iorio said she had an idea the release might not happen.
ACT-Iorio â€œI think itâ€™s a decision that the water department made to not let water outâ€¦one of my administrators called me on Friday and said he was uncomfortable, he said we donâ€™t typically open up our dam and let fresh water out.â€?
WMNF spoke to Rich Brown of friends of the river and John Ovink of the mayorâ€™s river round table about their take on the decision not to release the water.
ACT â€œItâ€™s a huge surprise..To all of usâ€¦ -someone got cold feet over how little water.. WHO MADE THE DECISION.. I donâ€™t know, it was made between Friday close of business, it want made while government was in business.
Local environmental activist Ed Ross had his take on the morningâ€™s events.
ACT-Ed Ross â€˜Thereâ€™s two factions in the city, one who wants to do whatâ€™s right, and one who wants it to be as low as possible. They donâ€™t want a high release, thats gonna be the bog issue is what should the minimum flow be. WHAT IS THE MESSAGE when we are in drought there should be no flow.
Meanwhile, Iorio said Tampa is trying to reduce our reliance on groundwater, and she is advocating for the increased use of reclaimed water. 55 million gallons of highly treated unclaimed water are already put into Tampa bay every day. The cityâ€™s star one program which allows people to use treated reclaimed water on their lawns, has not been very successful. The mayor said she wants to have more people use reclaimed water to water lawns and golf courses. But there are plans to expand Star 1, with the Star 2 program in south Tampa, and the mayor says she hopes that a large water pipe can bring unclaimed water through New Tampa and up to Pasco county, allowing people there to use reclaimed water as well. But in the mean time, Iorio said she wants to put the treated water back in the lower part of the Hillsborough river, to try and increase the water flow. Iorio said that 30,000 new people move to Hillsborough County every year, and providing water for all of them is a tremendous challenge, as it is in neighboring counties.
ACT-Iorio â€œIt would not go into the potable water supplyâ€¦there has been an option of downstream augmented flow. It would be Regional resources..â€?
But the possible health effects of reclaimed water are still in question, and Kimberly Overmann a citizen who lives on the river north of the dam, said that it the reclaimed water isnâ€™t safe for humans, it shouldnâ€™t be put back in the river.
ACT-Kimberly Overmann â€œif the water is not clean enough to put on vegetables..When we figure out the cost we figure out, lots of communitys have had to retrerofix, star and reclaim costs money, if we can find a balance, so every citizen can take advantage then we donâ€™t have to worry and we will be sadly mistaken..Ive watched the manatee not come mate anymore, thatâ€™s our state animalsâ€¦WE HAVE NEVER PUT A PRICE TAG ON THE ENVIRONMENT..â€?
Brown said more has to be done to encourage conservation.
ACT-Rich Brown â€œThe city does lots of conservation buts its all positive, what they havenâ€™t done and no one has is gone to negative conservation, which is we are going to start raising the priceâ€¦â€?
For more information about signing up to use reclaimed water, log onto www.tampagov.net and search for star water
For WMNF news, Iâ€™m Andrew Stelzer