Last week, Pasco County officials made another attempt to convince their Pinellas County counterparts to sell the two large parcels in northwestern Pasco that Pinellas bought years ago as part of the Suncoast “water wars.” These years of discord pitted water-poor entitites such as Pinellas County and the city of St. Petersburg against water-rich areas such as Pasco and Hillsborough County.
Seemingly, that strife came to an end in 1998, when Pasco, Pinellas and Hillsborough counties and St. Petersburg, Tampa and New Port Richey signed an interlocal agreement that created regional wholesale utility Tampa Bay Water to replace the West Coast Regional Water Supply Authority. As part of the deal, the six members turned over wellfields they operate to Tampa Bay Water and agreed to share the water. Pinellas Couhty, however, retained ownership of the Cross Bar Ranch and Al Bar Ranch properties north of Land O’ Lakes. This is the land Pasco County wants to buy from Pinellas, and preserve.
Last week, Pasco Commission Chairman Ted Schrader asked the Pinellas commission to sell Cross Bar and Al Bar to Pasco. As has been the case in the past, a majority of Pinellas commissioners threw cold water on the Pasco request. The main reason they cited was a desire to keep the Pasco land as a hedge against a renewal of the water wars.
If the region’s water situation becomes so dire that Pinellas feels a need to try to go it alone, owning Cross Bar and Al Bar isn’t going to help. At such a time, good will and cooperation will be what is needed.