Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Florida Voters: Happy Thanksgiving and Gov. Rick Scott thinks you are really, really stupid ... by gimleteye

It's an interesting Florida phenomenon in the Age of Trump: there is so much lying at the top that even the good guys -- or at least a lot of them -- have given up on persuasion tactics unless they involve fawning. Consider water pollution and the vast destruction of Florida's coastal real estate values, rivers, bays and Everglades.

The Palm Beach Post recently reported a visit by Gov. Rick Scott to a section of restored Everglades wetlands. Scott's spin: “Everglades restoration has been clearly a priority over the last seven years. We have made historic progress with environmental restoration projects over the last seven years but we’ve got a lot left to do." There is only one reason for those restored wetlands: environmental groups and the Miccosukee Tribe successfully sued the state of Florida in federal court and won.

There is one inarguable marker for progress: how politics in Tallahassee are efficiently ordered when it comes to doing Big Sugar's bidding; the troops are in place and the marching rehearsals have all been timed with metronomes. The state and Big Sugar are STILL appealing the federal ruling that caused wetlands to be restored; vast acreage that was designated for water quality and pollution clean up of Big Sugar's runoff BEFORE the historic flooding of the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee in the winter of 2015/2016.

Scott aims to succeed Bill Nelson in the US Senate. Agriculture Secretary Adam Putnam, the sweet- faced boy whose family farm was bought out at multiples of appraised value by the South Florida Water Management District, aims to be next governor, and Matt Caldwell, Sugar's ambitious water carrier from Lee County, will slip into Putnam's position.

What they all have in common: Republicans are buried so deep in Big Sugar's pocket that daylight hardly escapes. Dems don't get a free pass.

In the last session of the legislature, the big ticket item was one that Big Sugar finessed like the practiced oligarchs: the additional conversion of lands already in public ownership into a vast storage reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee and their sugarcane fields -- more than 500,000 acres -- in the Everglades Agricultural Area. The price tag for the public to clean up this tranche of Big Sugar's pollution: nearly $2 billion.

Senate President Joe Negron initiated this critical legislation. It passed because Big Sugar let it through without necessary assurances that sufficient cleansing marshes in acreage would be included in the final law, leaving that pesky detail for later. Only one Democrat in the state senate, Jose Javier Rodriguez -- now running for Congress in the seat surrendered by Republican Ileana Ros Lehtinen -- supported Negron's effort to drive home a solid deal for Florida taxpayers. There were not enough Democratic votes to fix the legislation because Big Sugar had gotten to them, starting with Democratic senate minority leader Oscar Braynon.

What emerged was badly flawed and only had a chance of succeeding if the South Florida Water Management District -- run by Gov. Scott directly -- did the necessary science modeling to determine if the reservoir design and scope established by law was adequate to the purpose: stopping plumes of polluted fresh water from destroying our rivers, bays, estuaries and Everglades.

So between the end of the legislative session last May and now, what has happened?

As deadlines crept up, the District kept a closed lid on its deliberations. It finally granted an opportunity for public comment without presenting any of the science models to show that the proposed reservoir plan was large enough in acreage, including cleansing marshes, to solve the pollution problems plaguing the southern half of the state.

The reason for the plan: vast contamination of coastal waterways and real estate on both coasts as a consequence of historical rainfall in the winter of 2015/2016. The cause of the massive pollution: Big Sugar's domination of water management infrastructure in South Florida. The state's multi-billion dollar flood control system is designed and operated with a single, top purpose. Keep Big Sugar's crops dry when it rains too much, and irrigated when it is too dry.

The emergence of a new constituency for outraged citizenry, activated by groups like and Captains For Clean Water, was unexpected. Citizens who trundled to the governing board meetings of the water management district were regularly treated like trash by Scott's designated board chair, Peter Antonucci.

At the district headquarters in West Palm Beach, Big Sugar staged counter-protests with hired actors through the agency of Trump confidante, Roger L. Stone. Where was Rick Scott? Hiding in Tallahassee and planning his Senate campaign.

Big Sugar has reinforced decades of mismanagement with a rigorous scheme of political campaign contributions and public "outreach"; recruiting community leaders to defend its barriers when public resistance emerges to its command and control of Florida's fresh water. It has continuously and successfully elbowed federal agencies out of a management role, leaving power to the state and its control through political contributions including rivers of dark money.

When Rick Scott began his unlikely campaign to win the executive office in 2012, with no prior experience in public service, one friend popped up to help: Big Sugar. Ever since, Scott has played the compliant and complicit actor in giving Big Sugar whatever it wants, when it wants and claiming victory when it is not his.

It doesn't take imagination to see that Gov. Scott is operating on bad faith. His water management district governing board set up a public comment period to end virtually on Thanksgiving Day. We know what that is meant for: for Big Sugar to thank Rick Scott by pushing him into the US Senate for endorsing a plan that is in the end will primarily benefit Big Sugar. Again.

The Everglades? Florida's badly damaged rivers and bays? Taxpayers? If you have to ask the question, you know the answer.

From Bullsugar:

Senate President Joe Negron’s legacy is in jeopardy. 
Ironically, even as the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie are being crushed once again by discharges, we are closer than we’ve ever been to a real solution, thanks largely to his championing SB10 this year. But the devil is in the details, and as gratifying as progress is, we’re watching it slip away through a flawed planning process.
The South Florida Water Management District doesn’t appear to be acting in good faithto follow the letter and spirit of SB10 or to stop the discharges. The plans they’re showing the public are designed to fail, at least for the purpose that Joe intended.
Independent expert analysis and the district’s own presentation reveal that their plans are either impossible to follow, won't do much to stop the discharges, or both:
  • The reservoir dimensions they propose would need towering sides, berms more than 50 feet high, and depths requiring space-age pumps that may not exist. The design has to be cost-effective for federal approval, and engineers say any configuration much deeper than 12-½ feet can’t be built or run efficiently enough to qualify.
  • The plan doesn’t include enough land to clean the water efficiently--approximately 13,000 acres of STAs for 240,000 acre-feet of lake water--which will restrict the reservoir’s ability to maximize discharge reduction. This is a bottleneck in the current proposal that undermines the reservoir’s entire purpose.
  • The district refuses to present modeling for wet years--the only time it matters. Instead they graphed an average year, when the project might send 300,000 acre-feet per year south. We don’t have a problem in an average year; designing this project for an average year is designing it to fail. We need to see projections for at least 1.3 million acre-feet--a relatively modest wet-year target.
  • The district’s approach begins with limitations that prevent the design from working: making treatment acreage a secondary consideration instead of starting with the minimum needed (the graph starts with zero treatment and still never reaches the reduction target); and assuming a fixed 16,000-acre footprint despite having as much as 15,000 acres of available public land in addition to the 14,000-acre A2 parcel. SFWMD has public land and the authority to use it--there’s no excuse not to model enough treatment.
SFWMD's own charts show a reservoir designed to fail
We can’t allow a state agency to sabotage the planning process and undermine our last chance to protect our water, our economies, our property values, and our health. Thankful as we are for what Joe has done this year, we need his leadership now more than ever to hold SFWMD accountable to deliver the solution we all fought for.


Captains For Clean Water
Our Estuaries Need Your Help Right Now!

We need your help! We are calling our members, supporters and followers to email the South Florida Water Management District by this Wednesday, November 22 and ask them to model a reservoir that is both effective at reducing Lake Okeechobee discharges, and cost effective to build. Sending a personal email to the EAA Reservoir Project Manager is an easy step you can take to help ensure the future of our estuaries.

Send an email to:
Mike Albert, Project Manager
South Florida Water Management District

Key Points (to include in email):

Ask the SFWMD to run modeling for the EAA Reservoir that takes into account ALL state-owned land in the EAA that may be used for land swaps.

Ask the SFWMD to increase treatment capacity by including additional Stormwater Treatment Areas within the EAA Reservoir project.

The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) started the public planning process for the EAA Reservoir one month ago. After committing to upholding the timeline laid out in Senate Bill 10, the SFWMD released initial modeling for the reservoir project, but failed to include enough land for the project to construct a reservoir that would provide meaningful benefit to our estuaries. Senate Bill 10 identified land within the EAA which could be used for land swaps to create a large enough reservoir, coupled with Stormwater Treatment Areas (STAs), to provide a meaningful conveyance of water through the EAA and into the Everglades. The SFWMD did not account for this in the modeling, and instead modeled reservoirs on a smaller tract of land without enough treatment capacity to alleviate discharges. Without sufficient treatment capacity, the reservoir will quickly fill up and will be unable to mitigate discharges. Also in question is the feasibility of constructing the reservoir concepts. One of the concepts calls for a 24-foot-deep reservoir, which would be cost prohibitive to construct and operate.

Captains for Clean Water is a grassroots 501(c)3 organization founded by a group of fishing guides and outdoorsmen who were frustrated with the water mismanagement and years of subsequent devastating effects in the state of Florida. Our unique approach focuses on building a culture that promotes clean water and healthy estuaries. Through education and advocacy, we fight for science based solutions to Florida’s water management issues.

We are working to hold the government accountable to implement recent legislation - that we helped pass - to protect Florida’s Everglades and coastal estuaries by reducing harmful Lake Okeechobee discharges and restoring Florida’s historic water flow.

Join us in helping save Florida’s coastal estuaries and America’s Everglades by becoming a member of Captains for Clean Water.

1 comment:

Marshmaid said...

It would be great to start a running point-counterpoint checklist with two columns for each (Scott, Putnam, Caldwell) to which the news outlets could link. "What they say" v "what really happened"so average citizens could see without having to read beyond their attention span. I would include all their lies, not just on the environmental front. This is a great piece, just wish everyone in SOFLA subscribed to you blog!