DRAINING LAND IN BROOKER CREEK PRESERVE FOR GOLF COURSES?-Andrew Stelzer05/31/06
Many Readers of the St Petersburg Times were surprised to open their papers earlier this month, and find out that there were plans to pump water out of Brooker Creek preserve, and use the water for two private golf courses. Since then, many times readers, as well as the editorial board, have been heavily critical of the plan, which is being pushed by Pinellas countyâ€™s utility department, and its director, Pick Talley. Talley says that of the 8500 acres in Brooker Creek preserve, much of it actually belongs to the utilities department.
ACT-Talley â€œThe well field was purchased by utilities, under the understanding..it was called a preserve..thats where the controversy is..can â€œ
But Dave Kandz, the chairman of the conservation committee of the St Petersburg Audubon society, says the county is being disingenuous.
ACT-Kandz â€œIf you are gonna have a preserve, preserve itâ€¦â€?
ACT-Kandz â€œIf the county wants to call it a preserve, if they want to pump water call it a park or land mitigationâ€¦.thereâ€™s a reason.but still if you want to preserve, preserveâ€™
An organization called Friends of Brooker creek first found out about the plan and began barraging the county commission with emails. The Audubon society has taken a position against draining of the land. The preserve, which was established in 1994, has already been chipped away by construction projects, including a water treatment facility, athletic fields, and a water blending plant. And there are other plans in the works.
ACT-Kandz â€œOne thing is the utilities department is trying to pump wells and pump water to the golf courseâ€¦there are other issues, they want an equestrian facility, there are horse trails, but when you start building stables and barns..â€?
ACT Also put water blending facilities thats not the kind of thing you want to put in a preserve..â€?
Talley says between 6 and 700,000 gallons a day would be pumped out of the area on average---probably for about 90 days during the dry season. He notes that the Pinellas utilities commission would be required to monitor to make sure there is no environmental impact made by draining the land.
ACT-Talley â€œThe small amount of water would not have any impact..if water got so low, we could stopâ€?
Talley says instead of calling the entire area a preserve, it could have been called an Environmental land management area, or 4,000 acres could have been called a preserve, and the remaining land could have been called a Land Management Area.
ACT-Talley â€œ..the issue is whether the county should have named it..â€?
Kandz notes that the preserve is home to 19 protected species, including several birds, the American alligator and gopher tortoise. Additionally, there was a Southern Bald Eagle nest near the preserve.
ACT-Kandz â€œâ€¦and if you damage the habitat they wont have a home anymore..â€?
Talley says part of the problem is that public perception that private golf courses are not a worthy cause; but argues that in fact, using the water from aquifers under Brooker creek for the golf courses will save the county water.
ACT-Talley â€˜What were supplying now it reclaimed water, and we would â€¦reduce our potable water use from..â€?
ACT-Talley â€œWe can take reclaimed water back for residential use. The ultimate goal is to .â€?
A permit application has been submitted to the southwest Florida water management district; which has 30 days and decide whether to issue a permit for the draining issue, and they also have to decide thereâ€™s no environmental impact as well. County commission could stop it, but does not have to approve the plan. Kandz in hoping the commission will take a stand.
ACT-Kandz â€œThe utilities director thinks he has the right to do whatever he wants, its up to the commission..â€?
For more information about the Booker Creek Preserve, log onto www.friendsofbrookercreekpreserve.org