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Water-Related News

Tampa will tap Blue Sink to boost river flow

By Kevin Wiatrowski

TAMPA – Tampa won approval this month for another project intended to protect the health of the Hillsborough River at times of drought.

The Southwest Florida Water Management District gave a green light [in late December] to a plan to pump up to 2 million gallons of water a day from Blue Sink, a natural pool just west of the point where Fowler Avenue meets Florida Avenue.

The plan calls for running water lines from the sink to the foot of the city’s dam between Rowlett Park and Rogers Park in East Tampa. The dam, first built by ranchers a century ago, holds back the Hillsborough River to provide drinking water.

The modern dam was built in the 1940s. Most days, it allows enough fresh water past to push back against the slug of salt water that moves up from Tampa Bay on each high tide. The fresh and brackish water below the dam makes the river an important breeding ground for fish and other sea creatures.

That changes during droughts, when the freshwater flow slows to a trickle or stops entirely and salt water pushes farther up river.

Years of lawsuits and arguing over the health of the river helped produce a calculation known as the river’s minimum flow level. That’s nearly 11 million gallons a day from July to March and 13 million gallons a day from March to June.