New plan for fresh water to the lower Hillsborough River
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08/22/07 Mitch E. Perry
WMNF Drive-Time News Wednesday | Listen to this entire show:

In front of the Hillsborough River Dam in Tampa’s Rowlett Park today, Mayor Pam Iorio announced a plan to bring freshwater to the lower Hillsborough River.

When fully implemented, the plan calls for augumenting the river with a minimum of 13 million gallons per day of fresh water. Water will come from the Tampa Bypass Canal and Sulpher Springs. Later, a new pipe will be built from the Tampa Bypass Canal to the river to save water lost to leaks in the system.

The total costs of the project, about $46 million, will be split between the Southwest Water Management District (Swiftmud) and the city of Tampa.

Iorio said the agreement requires the city to comply with the minimum flow by 2017, but she says the public will see results much sooner.

John Ovink is with Friends of the River. The group was formed 7½ years ago after Tampa and Swiftmud said that 6 million gallons per day of freshwater was enough to keep the lower river healthy.

They ultimately to file an administrative law challenge to have a judge determine if the water needed a higher flow rate. Out of that came an agreement to have Swiftmud conduct a five-year study to come up with a new minimum flow.

Ovink says the agreement is good news for fish and other wildlife in the Hillsborough River.

Phil Compton is another founding member of Friends of the River. He said there were times during the past seven years when he never thought this day would come.

Earlier this month, the Tampa City Council authorized a rate increase for all Tampa citizens that will ultimately double the amount people pay for water. Part of those increased fees will go toward 50 percent of the total costs of the project, including a transmission pipeline for Tampa Bay Water’s existing transfers of water from the Tampa Bypass Canal to the river.

Compton said that keeping the Hillsborough River clean will still take considerable effort. And, Compton says, because the new minimum flow will begin on New Year's Day, Friends of the River will hold a big party at Rowlett Park on the Saturday after New Year's.

Swiftmud’s board is scheduled to vote on the proposal at its meeting on Tuesday.

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