Friday, May 09, 2014

What is beneath County Commissioner Lynda Bell's treachery: the Everglades … by gimleteye

EDITORIAL COMMENT: As the result of our posts yesterday, a former senior scientist with the South Florida Water Management District clarified the stakes in the drama -- unreported by the Miami Herald -- of a county commissioner, Lynda Bell, doing the bidding of industrial agriculture in Miami-Dade. Back in the old days, the Herald would have had a reporter on the scene to help untangle the issues.

The following, by Larry Fink, is reprinted from a Sierra Club list serve mainly monitored by agency staff, lobbyists, and environmental groups. For purposes of clarification, I have added some parenthetical explanations.

The bottom line is that to understand what is driving the Florida politics, you have to have some understanding of water pollution, regulations, and the specific financial interests trying to avoid accountability.

Mr. Fink stays mostly to the science, and we are appreciative of that. But the politics -- our beat -- are infuriating. If you would like to untangle one piece of this unnecessarily complex puzzle (complexity being the friend of polluters), look at our archive on Palm Beach Aggregates; a rock mining company whose property in the western reaches of Palm Beach (then owned by a Miami-Dade entrepreneur) was purchased by then Gov. Jeb Bush's administration for the highest per acre value ever guaranteed by taxpayers, thus setting the benchmark for extravagant land values on behalf of speculators close to the GOP establishment.

I raise the issue of land speculators -- and what they want -- because the underlying story of what happened the other day at the county commission, is Lynda Bell lying to do a "solid" for her land speculator campaign contributors. She claimed she had environmental support for her resolution to strengthen flood protections in West Dade for agriculture. She didn't. Not a single county commissioner had the guts to pull the resolution that had been inserted without giving adequate time to review. They could have. They didn't.

The Herald could still report this story. It hasn't.

"The original purpose of CERP (Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, signed into law by President Clinton and then Gov. Jeb Bush in 2000) was to provide a more natural quantity, quality, timing, and routing of water to the Everglades, Florida Bay, and Biscayne Bay.

It included projects that had a high likelihood of success, such as the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) Reservoir Project, which became one of SFWMD’s (South Florida Water Management District) accelerated projects outside of the glacial pace set for translating design into infrastructure by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-Jacksonville (Corps), and the Tamiami Trail Skyway, which became one of the decelerated projects under Corps control.

It also included projects with little likelihood of success, such as stacking water in the Bird Drive Recharge Area with reused wastewater to create a hydraulic head that was supposed to act as a hydraulic wall to keep the groundwater that would otherwise seep east into the Miami-Dade County drinking water supply well field into the Everglades National Park (ENP). A portion of the Bird Drive Recharge Area was subsequently purchased by the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians and is now no longer available for that technically infeasible purpose.

There was also a series of pre-CERP projects, including MODFLOW and MODWATERS, that were designated as (Non-CERP) Critical Projects (, which, as a result of getting a four-year head start, are much further along, so the distinction is often blurred to give the illusion that CERP is making more progress than it really is.

No pre-CERP or CERP project was ever intended to provide for additional runoff or drainage management capacity in western Miami-Dade County, and any project built for that purpose could not be reimbursed by the Federal Government under for that purpose using funds budgeted for any pre-CERP or CERP project.

The scope of CERP was subsequently expanded to include the Northern Everglades, especially to meet the minimum flows and levels of the Northwest Fork of the Loxahatchee River and estuary, portions of which are classified as Wild and Scenic and portions of which are designated as mercury-impaired. The mercury cycle is mediated by the sulfur cycle. The NWFLR was to be rehydrated with water with very high concentrations of chloride and sulfate supplied by the L-8 Reservoir Project (L8RP), a series of limestone quarry pits that had been transferred from Palm Beach Aggregates to SFWMD. (Readers: to understand the political origins of the L8 Reservoir Project, and the payoff by then Gov. Jeb Bush to a powerful rock miner, search our blog under "Palm Beach Aggregates". This is a story that has not been fully told.)

It was immediately repurposed by FDEP without public notice as waters of the state, despite containing untreated limestone mining-related wastewater from having breached the caprock separating the surface water from connate groundwater during normal mining operations. Only through serial dilution with a combination of water from the L-8 Canal watershed and Lake Okeechobee can the chloride Water Quality Standard be met, albeit only after additional dilution with L-8 Canal water in a now permanent mixing zone. Where there is the political will to find a use for a several hundred million dollar boondoggle, over which one engineer temporarily lost his PE and several elected county officials went to jail, SFWMD and FDEP will find a way.

Nevertheless, when the Corps determined that it was inappropriate to rehydrate the NWFLR with the high levels of connate water chloride and sulfate seeping into the L8RP and refused to reimburse SFWMD for that purpose under CERP, the L8RP was almost immediately repurposed to serve as one of the “shallow” reservoirs for load-leveling of EAA runoff to be directed down the Eastern STA Flow-Way, despite containing even higher sulfate concentrations than in EAA runoff to the mercury-impaired Everglades.

This demonstrates SFWMD’s technical and political flexibility in accommodating the flood control, water supply, and drainage needs and aspirations of South Florida, sometimes to the point of agreeing to uses for which the permitting, consulting, or reimbursing agencies
do not have the required reasonable assurances or for which there are conflicting consumptive uses of the same water quantity or quality.

In contrast to pre-CERP and CERP projects, the C-4 Emergency Detention Basin immediately north of Tamiami Trail and just east of Krome Avenue was constructed for the purpose of providing additional flood control capacity in western Miami-Dade County. (This is County Commissioner Pepe Diaz work.) It was largely paid for with a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for that purpose and cannot be used for anything that conflicts with that purpose, including wet-season stacking of water to increase the flow of groundwater into the ENP or into the Miami-Dade County drinking water supply wellfield, both of which have been proposed.

If Miami-Dade County wants and needs additional drainage capacity, FEMA, not CERP, would be the way to go. Conversely, attempting to co-opt/hijack a specific pre-CERP Critical Project or CERP Project for some other purpose would, at the very least, compromise its reimbursability by the Federal Government.

That said, there is a Non-CERP project to study whether additional flood control and/or drainage capacity is needed in Miami-Dade County under the growing list of Non-CERP Projects, the Miami-Dade County Regional Canal Study. The purpose of this study is to determine whether modifications should be made to the existing (not new) C&SF Project infrastructure to provide flood damage reduction and solutions to other related water resource problems within Miami-Dade County. It would be stretch to read it as providing for the opportunity to modify the design or operation of any pre-CERP or CERP project for that purpose now.

If SFWMD wants to rehydrate ENP (Everglades National Park) with water from a water supply in West Miami-Dade County that originates with untreated or inadequately treated urban, suburban, or agricultural runoff or drainage from otherwise wet lands that probably should
never have been developed in the area immediately adjacent to ENP, we may not be good to go with respect to meeting the 10 ppb TP WQS at the point of discharge into ENP all of the time, even with the 8.5 Square Mile Project to serve as a filter marsh. This might not be true of the flow-weighted annual average, however.

Unfortunately, SFWMD has been systematically replacing its flow-proportional autosamplers with manual grab sampling, ostensibly to cut installation and maintenance costs, but also to cut critical information about the pollutant mass loading rates into our fresh, estuarine, and marine waters as another implicit subsidy to the private sector.

Perhaps that was what SFWMD staff was referring to a the last WRAC (Water Resources Advisory Council) meeting when they said they were not ready to operate the completed pre-CERP and CERP projects until they were assured that they were not get into a legal bind, as might be
the case when a legally significant fraction of the water being supplied to ENP or Florida Bay is untreated or inadequately treated runoff or drainage water captured by the ellipsoid of withdrawal of one of its pre-CERP project pump stations in West Miami-Dade County. In addition to excessive levels of phosphate, the pollutants of known or potential concern would also include excessive levels if nitrate, which is often the limiting nutrient in estuarine and marine waters and is likely the limiting nutrient in Florida Bay and sulfate, which is the primary influence on the mercury cycle in the mercury-impaired Everglades.

Evidence for the power of sulfate's influence over the mercury cycle comes from the observation that the methyl mercury hotspot in the Everglades has moved from the lower third of WCA-3A to the top of the ENP as a result of rerouting high-sulfate EAA runoff from WCA-3A to ENP via the L-67A stub canal. This was prompted by the need to avoid a violation of the TP WQS (Total Phosphorous Water Quality Standard) in the upper portion of WCA-3A and to avoid ponding water that would disturb the nests of the Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow (CSSS). Now that STA-3/4 is meeting its not-to-exceed TP water quality-based effluent limit in its NPDES permit, it would appear the only barrier to flow through the S-12s into ENP is the CSSS. Whether the now banned pesticide endosulfan or any other registered pesticide is present in ag runoff or drainage in concentrations of concern would also be of interest.

Perhaps these water quality constraints can be added to the work plan for the Miami-Dade County Regional Canal Study. That should slow down the process of coopting/hijacking one or more of the Non-CERP projects until you can marshal the required countervailing social, economic, and political forces to derail this travesty of environmental injustice."

Larry E.
Fink, M.S.
Consulting, LLC


Ann Hinga said...


Anonymous said...

I wonder if this is really about the 8 1/2 sq mile area, which is now zoned Ag but with historical flooding. Are we now bailing out the illegal dwelling there? I don't know where else there is a major flooding problem in our Ag areas and 8 1/2 sq mile should have remained seasonal Ag, but that didn't fit in with James Humble or Charles LaPradd, the most incompetent Ag Manager ever seen in this Country. He was just as incompetent when he was in Homestead City Hall under Roscoe Warren, then I think Bell for a short time before she hired Mike Shendwhatever his name is to replace LaPradd.

I object to any of our tax dollars being used for this bait & switch project to bail out, once again, 8 1/2 sq mile or any other farmer who is trying to sell their land (re zone) for development because their kids don't want to farm (Alger).

Anonymous said...

Still not clear on what actual impact a BCC resolution will have on South Dade. Seems like the State will trump Bell's ill conceived attempt at water management since resolutions carry no legal weight and are often viewed as nothing more than feel good panderings poised by posturing politicians (didn't they pass some resolution scolding Donald Sterling the other day? I'll bet that has him shaking in his Berlutis)
Add to which by getting her resolution though in such a deceitful manner, it has zero credibility as a policy tool in future water management debates.
Just asking

Anonymous said...

If a commentor is going to spout off, at least get the facts straight. LaPradd left Homestead a long time before Bell was Mayor and he was not replaced by Shehadeh. They were there at the same time and Shehadeh was far above LaPradd in the chain of command. Just because you do not agree with LaPradd does not mean he is incompetent.

Anonymous said...

If LaPradd was competent, he'd be defending DERM and the small farmers, not just the large landowners as he does. If he's not incompetent, then he's just a panzy for Alger & Humble & Loser (meant to spell it that way).

Sorry to the defender of LaPradd. He is the worst, always has been. That's my opinion. You must be on the City or County payroll or agree with his inaction's or speaking out against this stuff.

As to the Bell resolution. It really doesn't mean anything other then patronizing her campaign contributors. It was a mistake for the BCC to go along with it.

Anonymous said...

Can only hope some of the Commissioners will read this post and bring the item back up at the next meeting. They were fooled but have a way out if they defeat it. She is really something else.

Anonymous said...

siri, the point is that these little hammer blows cumulatively end up fracturing the intent of regulations. It is the long game played by the Great Destroyers. How they must have slapped high fives when Lynda Bell did their bidding in such an underhanded way. Just like Joe Martinez did on the UDB issues, counting on their support for his grand political future. It's awful. What's worse Homestead voters don't even know for the most part or they would never ever elect such lousy public officials.

Anonymous said...

remember the current herald editor is a very close friend of Gimenez and its not in Gimenez' best interest to lose Bell on the commission. therefore, its highly unlikely that the herald will print harsh articles against Bell, no matter how egregious

Anonymous said...

Could I get a dumbed down, thin executive summary of what you said?

Evan Skornick said...

Interesting read. Two thoughts to add:

1) One part of Larry's discussion revolved around flood control in the C-4 Basin. He specifically mentioned an important drainage project along Tamiami Trail near SW 13th Ave called the C-4 Emergency Detention Basin. Its an engineered stormwater retention pond (2 ponds, actually) that is a crucial part of flood management for some pretty densely populated parts of the County. What most folks don't know is that the C-4 EDB sits on State owned land, but not owned by the SFWMD. The land is owned by the Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund (the Governor, Attorney General, Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Chief Financial Officer of the State of Florida). The Northern cell of the C-4 EDB actually has an option on it for rockmining, meaning that the area could, and likely will in the future, be excavated, and bringing into question its efficacy as a floodwater retention area.

2) Seeing a lot of negative comments about the County's Ag Manager, Charles LaPradd. I had many contacts with Mr. LaPradd during my years at the SFWMD and DERM/PERA and I must take issue with the characterizations of him in these comments. While we had many issues on which we disagreed, I always understood that we had different mandates for our employment, and our disagreements were always respectful. Before you can take issue with his position on any subject you need to understand that his job is to advocate for and promote agricultural businesses in the County, period. It is inevitable that would lead to him being aligned with individuals or groups that appear to stand against land use controls or environmental protections. What you don't see is the work he is doing at the Federal and State level to bring visibility to Miami-Dade agriculture although he does that, too. Additionally, I know for a fact that he fights just as hard for small farmers (such as tropical fruit growers on 1 acre plots of land) as he does for the big farmers. And before you attack me as a County shill or LaPradd supporter, know that I no longer work for the County or even live in the State, so I have no dog in this fight. I just don't like to see people vilified for doing their job (kind of like DERM was and still is).