Tampa, FL -- A major step toward restoring the Hillsborough River is giving hundreds of Tampa homeowners a sinking feeling.
The solution involves draining water from nearby sinkholes and lakes, and it's got them worried their homes and properties may be compromised.
When the original Hillsborough River Dam was built in 1897 it solved a big problem of how Tampa would ensure itself a water supply, but it created unforeseen problems -- environmental problems.
"Everybody's afraid they're gonna have sinkholes. They're gonna run out of water," said Jim Wilson reacting to the proposed solution.
Wilson and his neighbors say it's a frightening prospect.
On Tuesday, SWFMD approved permits for a plan to pump up to two million gallons of water a day out of the lakes and sinkholes that make up the Blue Sink area around Sulphur Springs.
"If you take all the water out of my lake, there goes my investment for a lifetime of work. You can't sell a house on a mud hole," said Wilson.
Wilson and others are deeply concerned that pumping that much water out of the natural sinkholes will dry-up their private wells. Drain their lakes and de-stabilize the ground their homes sit on.
"Wouldn't you worry about it? It's like sitting on a time bomb, isn't it?"
The Blue Sink project is one of four designed to restore water flow on the other side of the Hillsborough Dam.
The structure, built more than 100 years ago, created a reservoir for Tampa's drinking water, but it also choked off life for fish and other animals downstream.
Conservationists sued to restore the water flow and won, forcing the City to find a way to restore the water.
"We do understand their concerns," said Tampa's Water Department director Brad Baird.
But Baird says SWFMD and the City have tested and re-tested the potential long-term impacts of pumping the water out of the sinkholes and into the river.
Baird says they discovered it could lower the aquifer by a mere six inches, meaning residents should see virtually no impact.
"We will not have impact to lake levels, to the wells, and it does not show that we would have increased risk of sinkhole development," he said.
But when they see how much water is already flowing from other pump projects, it's hard for Jim Wilson and his neighbors to believe it won't affect the sinkhole activity in the area. They're afraid they'll pay the price if the engineers are wrong.
Wilson says he understands the need to restore the river and its wildlife, but thinks the city needs to get its priorities straight.
"They've got more interest in the fresh water of the river than my livelihood or my quality of life. I think it's wrong," said Wilson.
The water department says it will take about two years to complete the planning and construction of the Blue Sink pump.
Wilson and others have vowed to keep fighting in that time, but with the 30-year permits now approved there's little to stand in the project's way.
Check out some of our most read stories from 2013:
#shortyellows: Florida quietly shortened yellow lights
Terrorism Warning: Memo says terrorists practicing dry-runs on Florida flights
Kittens shot: Officer shoots kittens in front of children
Courtroom apology: Woman apologizes for flipping off judge
Weird ice: Strange, giant circles appear on frozen pond
Controversial Club: College student organizes "White Student Union"
CFO Trouble: School administrative chief in trouble over her porn sex blog
Warning Shot Wife: Mother gets 20 years for firing warning shots at abusive husband
Science Arrest: Teen girl arrested over science project explosion
Wait, WHAT?? Dog shoots man in the leg with a handgun
Popular photo galleries:
Faces of Meth: Devastating before and after photos of meth abusers
Trayvon Martin Shooting: Trayvon Martin crime scene photos and George Zimmerman injury photos
Hooters Winners: Winners of the 2013 Hooters swimsuit pageant
Rejected: Funny Florida license plates rejected by the DMV***warning graphic***
Deadly sinkhole: Home collapses, man dies in giant sinkhole
Florida Sex Offenders: Look up sex offenders in any Florida neighborhood here
Restaurant Inspections: Look up inspection reports for any Florida restaurant here