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Deal proposed in Peace River water feud

A potential lengthy and costly legal battle over water withdrawals from the Peace River may be averted if all of the parties accept a proposed compromise.

The board of the Peace River Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority held a closed session with attorney Douglas Manson on Wednesday to discuss the possible settlement.

Patrick Lehman, the authority’s executive director, said he hopes that an agreement can be reached that satisfies all parties – including Polk County, the Polk Regional Water Cooperative and the municipalities of Lakeland, Fort Meade, Wauchula, Bartow and Winter Haven, which sued to block the regional water utility from taking more Peace River water.

“They need options, let’s face it,” Lehman said of Polk’s interest in finding additional water supplies.

The Southwest Florida Water Management District, which regulates water resources across a broad area, suggested a way to quench all of the parties’ future thirst that Lehman says takes in the “broader picture.”

Yet it involves making Hillsborough County part of that regional solution.

The Peace River authority supplies drinking water to Sarasota, Charlotte and DeSoto counties and the city of North Port.

The authority draws water from the Peace River during the rainy season and stores it underground and in two reservoirs to distribute during the dry months.

Currently, the authority’s permits from the water district, commonly known as Swiftmud, allow it to withdraw a maximum 120 million gallons per day from the river. It has contracts to provide up to 34.8 million gallons daily.