SWFWMD forming groups to help battle saltwater intrusion

skennedy@bradenton.comDecember 15, 2013 

MANATEE -- The Southwest Florida Water Management District is forming two "stakeholder" groups to help in its battle to slow saltwater intrusion, officials said.

"One of the goals we need to achieve in the next 12 years is to reduce the rate of saltwater intrusion into the aquifer to protect the quality of the groundwater," wrote Tara Poulton, the water district's government affairs program manager, in a missive to Manatee County officials.

"Saltwater intrusion" refers to the migration of saltwater into freshwater aquifers.

Water district officials have asked if Manatee County would want to appoint a representative.

The water district is seeking interested parties for an informal working group from the most affected areas, which include portions of Manatee and Sarasota counties and the southernmost part of Hillsborough County, said Terri Behling, the district's external affairs manager.

One who said he has been invited to participate is Subrata Bandyopadhyay, senior manager for environmental compliance for The Mosaic Co., a phosphate producer that operates mines in eastern Manatee County.

He said he had been invited to join both groups, but would probably just pick one.

The district has a well-

established strategy to deal with saltwater intrusion, said Bandyopadhyay, who handles water-related issues as part of his work.

"Most likely, this committee will look at available projects and prioritize, and see which ones could ... (best) achieve the goal," he said.

"Mosaic is a groundwater user, and we do have expertise, we do perform modeling, and look at the impact, and we can bring that expertise to the table," he said.

From a drinking water standpoint, Manatee County has plenty of surface water reservoirs and other resources, but officials would like to slow the rate of coastal saltwater intrusion, so it doesn't rapidly go further inland, said Behling.

The stakeholder groups will be meeting with the district's staff members, poring over data and making suggestions, she said.

"We have scheduled four bi-monthly meetings to present information and findings, and get input from them as to what projects are already in the works, and what are some potential projects to help us meet our goals," Behling said.

District officials always like to hear from people, she said.

One group will evaluate and make recommendations about long-term strategies in the most affected coastal areas; its is expected to issue recommendations next fall, according to SWFWMD.

A second group will evaluate and make recommendations about a specific area in Central Florida along Lake Wales Ridge; its recommendations are expected to be complete in the winter of 2015, documents said.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.

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