Request to help Hillsborough River with water pumped from sinkhole raises concerns
On this everyone seems to agree: It's good to make sure there's enough water flowing in the Hillsborough River to keep it from becoming so salty that it stresses fish and other wildlife.
But how to do that?
That's been a point of disagreement in the past, and is so again.
The Southwest Florida Water Management District, or Swiftmud, is asking the state for permission to pump up to 3.9 million gallons of water per day from a sinkhole known as the Morris Bridge Sink. The sinkhole is in northeast Hillsborough County in the Lower Hillsborough Wilderness Preserve.
If the Florida Department of Environmental Protection approves, that water would be used to boost the flow of the river during dry periods. In the past, the river flowed with enough volume to keep saltier water from Tampa Bay from coming upstream, but that changed after the city built a dam at Rowlett Park to create a reservoir in 1897.
After decades of dwindling river flows, local and state officials came up with a strategy in 2007 to boost the flow of the river. It calls for first using water from Sulphur Springs and from a complex of sinkholes known as the Blue Sink, then, as necessary, from the Tampa Bypass Canal and the Morris Bridge Sink.
Swiftmud officials say the average amount pumped from the Morris Bridge Sink would be about 2 million gallons a day over the course of a year. But it would vary, based on the need.