By Tom Palmer
THE LEDGER

Published: Tuesday, December 14, 2010 at 11:36 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, December 14, 2010 at 11:36 p.m.

BROOKSVILLE | Southwest Florida Water Management District officials agreed Tuesday to pay two property owners $2.3 million to purchase 49 acres along Saddle Creek in connection with the Lake Hancock project.

The payments went to Raymond and Mary Lou Shea for a 39.7-acre tract on Winter Lake Road across from Circle B Bar Reserve and to Don and Kaye Crabtree for a 9.6-acre parcel on Saddle Creek Farm Road.

Both were settlements as a result of eminent domain lawsuits.

The acquisition involves a plan to raise the regulated level of the lake from 98.7 feet to 100 feet above sea level.

That will potentially allow water managers to release water downstream to supplement flow in the upper Peace River to meet the river’s minimum flow as required by state law.

The river has not met its minimum flow because of long-term declines in the aquifer caused by heavy water use in the area.

The minimum flows program is an attempt to help the river to recover from past declines.

Without the project, sections of the river could continue to dry up periodically because of its dependence on rainfall.

The established minimum flow for the Peace River at Bartow is 17 cubic feet per second. On Tuesday, the flow was 4.5 cfs.

As of Nov. 1, Swiftmud officials had purchased 7,255 acres and had acquired perpetual conservation/inundation easements on an additional 1,067 acres.

[ Contact Tom Palmer at [email protected] or 863-802-7535. His blog on the environment is at http://environment.blogs.theledger.com. ]

This story appeared in print on page B3

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