Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Biz Pac Review and the Great Destroyers: will they ever pay the price for their dishonesty? … by gimleteye

I'd never heard of "Biz PaC Review" or John R. Smith, the author of "Reject the wackos’ solution to Lake O water issues", but reading Mr. Smith reminds how the sugar industry deploys at will a variety of tactics to promote its agenda. (Genius: Biz Pac Review brings you Conservative political, government, business news and video in Florida.. John R. Smith was/is the Governor's appointee to the Bioscience Land Protection advisory Board of the City of Palm Beach Gardens. I think he also writes a blog for the Sun Sentinel.)

Mr. Smith writes, "Floridians are being deliberately misinformed about water flow in Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades. Sometimes, those promoting the falsehoods are purposely misinforming the public to push misguided agendas."

What would those "misguided" agendas be: protecting property values from rampant pollution in the Indian River Lagoon or along waterways trashed by Big Sugar's pollution of the Caloosahatchee? Or saving the Everglades from billions of dollars of taxpayer investment that comprise, in toto, a work-around of Big Sugar in the Everglades Agricultural Area? How about the agenda of providing cheap and affordable fresh water for millions of Floridians instead of highly engineered, chemically processed water?

"The misinformation brigade is led by environmental groups that ought to pay a price for their dishonesty. Sadly, the only antidote is for others to publish the truth. The enviro voices would sound less hollow if they were truly unselfish. But they want the taxpayer to foot the bills for irresponsible purchases touted by a loudmouth minority that could care less about the consequences to taxpayers or private landowners."

Sad to say, this "misinformation brigade" includes thousands of residents who have been spurred to action by the weak, tepid response of their elected officials to meaningfully and comprehensively address the mismanagement of fresh water resources, causing great harm and hardship to individual lives. Mr. Smith's sort of nonsense does seem to come out of the Fox News playbook: take facts, twist one hundred eighty degrees so a plausibly sounding reversal can be pitted against the truth.

Why would anyone do this? To cast doubt and eventually overwhelm uninformed readers.

Environmental groups paying "a price for their dishonesty"? How so, when the fact is that Big Sugar only pays a small fraction of the cost of cleaning up its pollution, thanks to taxpayers' and voters' willingness to accept the burden for the industry's massive pollution.

"This fight is all about how water is released from Lake Okeechobee when water levels rise to threatening heights. The enviros want to send water south, mostly through farmland and the Everglades. But the best solution involves finishing key projects already underway, sending excess water to reservoirs along two rivers to the east and west of the lake. From the very beginning, this has been the key solution in restoring the Everglades and protecting wildlife habitats."

The point about Big Sugar and the reservoirs is that they are severely under-sized to the purpose of cleansing phosphorous pollution. "Staying the course" means kicking the Everglades and restoration ball down the road for the foreseeable future.

"Now, environmental groups want the South Florida Water Management District to exercise an option to buy 46,000 acres of land to store and move water south. The problem is that only 26,000 acres are useable, which is nowhere close to resolving the issue. It’s not the solution, because this land will provide only a tiny storage reservoir that will fill up quickly. To move water south, storage sites with 40 times more capacity than 26,000 acres are needed. And there are dozens of constraints if water is “simply sent south”, not the least of which requires protecting nesting grounds for birds and endangered species. Also, when water rises in the Everglades, it’s a huge threat to the safety standards of surrounding earthen dams."

Mr. Smith, to my knowledge is not a hydrologist. Moroever he's wrong that 40 times the land is necessary. It is a number pulled from Big Sugar's hat. There is not a single environmental position paper or from state or federal agencies that state 40 times, or more than 1 million acres, are needed for water treatment and cleansing marshes. Somewhere between ten and fifteen percent of that acreage is needed. The only reason Mr. Smith would say 1 million acres is to promote the idea environmentalists "want to destroy" Big Sugar. Laughable. Not even the Wall Street Journal, the Cato Institute or American Enterprise Institute, combined have been able to dislodge the sugar subsidies from the Farm Bill, that shed dollars and contaminate our politics. Nevertheless, misinformation plays to the fears of people who live and work in the Everglades Agricultural Area.

The topic that no one wants to discuss -- and this goes especially to the point of the mainstream media -- is that the acquisition of the US Sugar lands will provide the first step necessary to take lands owned by the most politically powerful sugar grower in Florida; the billionaire Fanjuls of Coral Gables and Palm Beach. The Fanjul lands are more centrally located to restoring connectivity between Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades than US Sugar properties. There is no way to bring the Fanjuls to the table, unless there is an advantageous land swap to be made or otherwise buy out the centrally located acreage. And it's far, far from a million acres that is needed.

"Gov. Rick Scott is fulfilling his pledge to finance a fix, and sugar farmers support the governor’s priorities and funding, which are part of his commitment in his 2015 “Keep Florida Working” budget. The Legislature and the South Florida Water Management District should also be applauded for prioritizing the completion of more than $5.5 billion in existing and planned, shovel-ready restoration projects. Florida should stay the course."

There it is again, the latest talking point you will hear from legislators to board members of the water management district: "Stay the course". Rep. Katie Edwards, former Dade County Farm Bureau executive director, just used exactly those words in an OPED. The course that Mr. Smith wants to stay (Is Mr. Smith related to Nancy Smith, the writer for the faux Sunshine State News that regularly prints pro-sugar propaganda?) is simply to do what Big Sugar wants; to make money the old fashioned way, shifting the great majority of costs to taxpayers.

"The driving force behind all the protesting chatter is the Everglades Foundation, which needs something to do because the Everglades Restoration Strategies plan was unanimously passed by the Florida Legislature."

A couple of points. First, while the Everglades Foundation is a counterweight, it is a David compared to the Goliath, Big Sugar. Secondly, to give the Florida legislature credit for the "Everglades Restoration Strategies" plan is stretched credulity. Any movement by the Florida legislature or Gov. Rick Scott on the Everglades has been thanks to federal litigation waged by environmental groups.

"It is also supported by every state and federal agency as the best way to clean up water flowing to the Everglades. When the strategies are complete, the final water quality standards will be met. That means that, to be relevant and keep raising money, the Everglades Foundation must find another way to re-direct its political machine."

It is not at all clear "final water quality standards will be met" in large part because then Gov. Jeb Bush did Big Sugar's bidding and pushed off meeting final water quality standards for the Everglades from 2006 to the indefinite future. The latest date is 2025, although the difficulty in reaching the water quality standard has scientists reaching for better solutions: ie. increase the size of water treatment marshes such as would be offered through the opportunity of using US Sugar lands to leverage water storage and cleansing marshes that collectively offer the best chance for meeting the 10 parts per billion phosphorous standard in water moving to the Everglades.

Mr. Smith writes, "If the foundation really cared about meaningful progress on restoring the Everglades and helping the coastal estuaries along the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers, it would be joining other major players in pushing to build projects already planned and focus on cleaning water north of the lake."

No group has pushed harder for building projects than the Everglades Foundation. The problem is that Big Sugar is constantly chipping away at the effort to fund projects that have to be built. They do this in Washington DC, through lobbyists far from the public eye. It is all part of the grand disinformation campaign by Big Sugar: 'we want to be partners in fixing the Everglades and estuaries', and then go about undermining anything that might accomplish those objectives.

"At this point, there is no plan to use the optioned land south of Lake O. As a water management board member said recently, “If it was that simple, it would have been done already.” He’s right.

No one said it was simple. But the reason that there is no plan for the optioned land south of Lake O, is because Big Sugar -- and especially the Fanjuls -- have been doing everything in their power to make sure there will never be a plan.

"All state and federal government parties, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and sugar farmers, agree that they should build the projects already planned, authorized and agreed on in the strategy that passed. The plan is working. These science-based projects will actually produce real benefits for all of South Florida. The work done to date demonstrates proven results, with a dramatic improvement in water quality.

It’s time to finish the job and actually build the entire $5 billion in projects on the land that has already been purchased, not spend another $500 million of taxpayer money for a project that will provide little benefit. Florida doesn’t need to own more land. It’s futile to waste taxpayer money on an irresponsible, pie-in-the-sky scheme to push water south."

This "pie-in-the-sky" label is actually the same wording that environmentalists have used to describe the absurdities of aquifer storage and recovery; the heart of the 2000 Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan that meant to drill 300 wells for water storage; a kind of vertical parking lot for excess (and dirty) fresh water.

It is regrettable that in Florida there is no organized Democratic response to what is primarily a GOP-engineered support system for whatever Big Sugar wants. Right now, the Florida legislature -- controlled by the GOP -- is churning through various scenarios to undo the will of the people through Amendment 1, the provision that put in the Florida constitution a permanent funding source for environmental land acquisition because the legislature -- again, at the urging of Big Sugar -- would not step to the task.

Read the recent editorial from the Tampa Bay Times for the facts. The wackos are in full control of Tallahassee. Big Sugar poisons people, poisons democracy, and poisons the Everglades.

Editorial: House takes wrong approach on water
Friday, February 20, 2015 4:52pm
Tampa Bay Times

The Florida House is moving to quickly change how the state manages and preserves water that is more about pleasing developers and farmers than protecting the environment. The legislation delays the cleanup of the Everglades and puts new pressure on the water supply in fast-growing Central Florida.

The Florida House's move to quickly change how the state manages and preserves water is more about pleasing developers and farmers than protecting the environment. The legislation delays the cleanup of the Everglades and puts new pressure on the water supply in fast-growing Central Florida. The priorities are upside down, and the Senate should insist on a more balanced approach.

Supporters are framing the legislation (HB 7003) as a comprehensive approach to address both water resources and conservation. In reality, this is an action plan for contractors and agribusiness masquerading as a sound policy for growth.

The bill addresses a legitimate concern for meeting the water needs in fast-growing Central Florida, where water demand is expected to increase by 40 percent by 2035 as the population swells to 4 million. It pushes the state, the three water management boards and local governments in all or parts of five counties to better collaborate on their water needs. But the bill advances an aggressive strategy toward developing new water resources while remaining silent or vague on the role that conservation should play. And it leaves the door open to forcing taxpayers in distant parts of the 5,300-square-mile region to pay for water improvements for the Orlando suburbs. Thinking in regional terms makes sense. But this bill is too skewed toward the interests of the utilities.

The measure also expands the effort in South Florida to curb the runoff of pollution entering Lake Okeechobee, a critical step in cleaning up the Everglades. But it allows farmers to effectively opt out of clean water enforcement by the Department of Environmental Protection, leaving them instead to adopt a regimen under the Department of Agriculture that replaces tight permitting restrictions with new targets. There should be tougher monitoring and enforcement of the use of large amounts of water by agriculture interests, not less.

The House killed a Senate plan for restoring Florida's springs last year, arguing that Rep. Steve Crisafulli was the incoming House speaker and wanted a bolder and more ambitious water bill to pass under his watch. This one's neither bold nor ambitious. Though it addresses the springs, the House doesn't indicate how much it would spend. It doesn't attack the source of nitrogen-choking pollution by cracking down on leaking septic tanks. And the bill requires that any plan to limit farm runoff must "balance" water quality with "agricultural productivity."

The bill sets the stage to water down the Everglades cleanup timetable, and it does nothing to advance efforts — from setting stronger antipollution rules to buying land in the basin — that would have a real impact. It gives the state more authority over local officials in determining how water resources are used. And the Agriculture Department will assume more of a regulatory role over the very industry the agency promotes.

This is not what Florida voters had in mind in overwhelmingly voting in November to enshrine water and land conservation in the state Constitution. And many aspects of this legislation work against the very projects that taxpayers will commit billions of dollars to in the coming years. The House has work to do; advertising this bill as a forward-looking water policy doesn't make it so. It is in many respects a step backward and tilts in favor of both large urban and agricultural water users rather than conservation and the concerns of individual Floridians.

Editorial: House takes wrong approach on water 02/20/15 [Last modified: Friday, February 20, 2015)


Malagodi said...

Thanks again.

Alexandria said...

Big Sugar needs to go. Enforce the Clean Water Act of 1972 and Clean Air Act and fine them out of existence. Demand that the elected hacks do their jobs. The time of compromise is over.Disney, Over building and a whole slew of bad farming practices along the Rivers has destroyed the Springs to the North. Bad science used to justify water farming which has taxpayers paying farmers to hold fouled up water on their lands.Instead they should be fined and clean up their mess. Yes we pay billions in screwed up scams. The Water Management Districts, DEP, heck all acronyms should not be allowed to change rules to accommodate the whims of well a well financed few who feed and finance the John R. Smiths of the world. Christ Jeb Bush put off the eradication of just 10 of the invasive plants and trees draining Florida from 2006 to 2016 now big landowners are getting wetlands removed from the maps so they can develop more of their lands. Yes new wetland determination another joke.When the weasels tell a lie we need to say You're Lying very loud and in public. I go to meetings and people say "I'm not against development" they just don't want it next to them. Its okay to build over there. Well its not okay. Hell development needs to stop period until they can justify there will be clean water for the Everglades there will be clean water for people. I hear about the toolbox all the time but we do not demand the tools we settle for paper mache', duct tape and glue. Septic tanks are less of an evil than billions of gallons of sewage being pumped onto our reefs which utilities now just want to deep well inject. We need to change the out of sight out of mind mentality. We need to say John R.Smith is a flea.