Hillsborough moves meeting about sinkhole: keeps option of legal challenge

Les Miller

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The region’s water management district has rejected Hillsborough County’s request for more time to consider a plan to pump water from a sinkhole located in sensitive wetlands; and after several environmentalists spoke out against pumping water from Morris Bridge Sink during Wednesday’s county commission meeting, Commissioner Les Miller announced that the county would move the timing of a meeting next week in order to consider legal action if the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) proceeds with a plan to pump water from Morris Bridge Sink.

“You should have a memo this morning where we have cancelled the EPC meeting for the 14th and added it on to the land use meeting for the 12th. And, I’ll tell you why. Because I received an e-mail from my staff that states that the Florida Department of Environmental Protection did not grant our EPC request for the extension of time to file an appeal. And then, set the deadline for January the 13th. Which is the middle of the week. In light of that our staff is  holding discussions with SWFWMD staff to try and reach an amicable resolution short of filing an appeal. We have not made a final decision at this time. That was last week. So, while our staff are continuously talking with SWFWMD. That’s why I cancelled the meeting on the 14th, so at the end of the land use meeting, if they come back with any information, they can present it to us on the 12th. And we can be ready for the 13th.”

That could mean filing a legal challenge to SWFWMD’s plans to pump water from Morris Bridge Sink by next Wednesday.

Last month the County Commission voted to ask SWFWMD to delay its decision because of the potential environmental risk. It also signaled that a legal challenge could result if the pumping plan moved forward.