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Conservation Foundation wants to preserve 5,000 acres in North Port

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NORTH PORT, FL (WWSB) - Orange Hammock Ranch is 5,764 acres of North Port. One of the largest properties to be preserved on the Suncoast.

"I think it's fair to say that the water district, the county and the Peace Water Authority have enough funds to make a good offer to the owners," said Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast's Christine Johnson.

"The entire southern border of the Orange Hammock Ranch is the Snover Waterway which is a man-made ditch that collects water from all the properties to the north, then flows into the Myakkahatchee Creek, which is the drinking water supply for the City of North Port," Johnson said.

If you live in North Port and turn on the tap… odds are that water, at one point, flowed through Orange Hammock. Organizations like the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast and it's President Christine Johnson fear what would happen if a developer purchased and built on the land. "We would be cutting off our drinking water supply and whatever does flow off that developed property would be dirty water instead of clean water," said Johnson.

For 20 years, preservation of the land has been a top priority for the Conservation Foundation, and finally they were able to get enough community support to come close to the $22 million price tag. "The Southwest (Florida) Water District and Sarasota County and now the Peace River Water Authority have all committed funds so that Water District, who has taken lead, will make an offer to the owners," Johnson said.

We don't know what that offer is, or whether the owner will accept it. We do know, however, that the states fiscal year ends in September and if a decision isn't made before that… some of the funds could hang in the balance. "They have sequestered those funds and as you move from year to year you're always in jeopardy of having those funds be taken to use elsewhere," Johnson said.

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