Sunday, February 22, 2015

Richard Grosso writes, on Rep. Katie Edwards, the Everglades, Big Sugar and the Big Squeeze … by gimleteye

EOM: In the past few weeks, there has been an urgent effort by civic activists to press Gov. Scott and the governing board of the South Florida Water Management District to buy lands offered by US Sugar in a 2008 option with then Gov. Charlie Crist. Most of the citizen energy is mobilized through distressed property owners and activists who are frustrated by the glacial pace of fixing the rampant pollution of the Indian River and Caloosahatchee River.

Big Sugar is flexing its muscles in response -- mobilizing its own counter-attack -- , in the Florida legislature. Last week, House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, firmly in Big Sugar's camp, said there would be no purchase of US Sugar lands. Apparently US Sugar now does not want to willingly sell its land, casting doubt on whether the land deal was ever meant to be completed or just a tactic to burn Gov. Crist and boost the career of now US Senator Marco Rubio

Rubio is acting as a political pace car for the presidential campaign of Big Sugar chief acolyte, former Gov. Jeb Bush.

One of Florida's most important public interest attorneys, Richard Grosso, rebuts a Palm Beach Post editorial by Representative Katie Edwards, whose district includes portions of western Broward County edging against the historic Everglades. The Post ought to have noted for its readers, that Ms. Edwards -- before moving to Broward to run for office -- was director of the Dade County Farm Bureau; representing mainly big tomato and row crop producers in South Dade.

Ms. Edwards is far outside the Florida Democratic mainstream on Big Sugar. However ill-informed -- Rep. Edwards is putting pressure on state Democratic leaders.

The issue of fixing the Everglades by using lands in the Everglades Agricultural Area adequate in size to the purpose is of considerable importance to Miami-Dade. Write or call your state legislative representatives to ask for their support to complete the US Sugar purchase. In and of itself, this land purchase is only a step along the multi-billion dollar way to restoring the remnant Everglades and protecting fresh water resources in Miami. But it is a critical step and has to be done.


I respectfully, but vehemently disagree with Rep. Katie Edwards (Feb. 21 Palm Beach Post POINT OF VIEW: Stay the course on Everglades restoration projects).

Her opposition to exercise of the state’s contractual option so buy 46,000 acres of U.S. Sugar land ignores that decades of clear science that storing large volumes of water south of Lake Okeechobee, in and around the Everglades Agricultural Area, is the only way to re-create the natural water storage role this area played before we drained and decimated the Everglades.

Her call to “stay the course” with just the currently planned restoration projects ignores the fact that the current lack of a major water storage project has for years been the single greatest flaw in the existing restoration plan identified by the National Academy of Science and others. That flaw exists because of the dominant political power of US Sugar Company and others in the industrial agricultural industry in the area, who have opposed this project in favor of the current approach under which the public subsidizes the artificial drainage of their land and the clean-up of their pollution.

The argument posed against buying this land for this critical water storage need over-states the progress that has been made on pollution clean-up by existing projects, ignores the remaining and massive water quantity needs, and fails to acknowledge that land previously bought by the public plays a dominant role in pollution clean-up. It takes land to do these projects, and you usually need to buy that land to use it.

The existing projects cited by Rep. Edwards will have only minimal impact on the crisis in the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries. Anything other than taking the water we now dump to the estuaries, storing it south of the lake and replenishing the Everglades with it, is window-dressing. That water has to go somewhere other than the estuaries. It needs to go south – as the water source for the Modified Water Deliveries project noted by Rep. Edwards.

When government needs to buy land to build or expand roads or other purposes, it does so, even where the impacted landowners would rather not sell. As long as Florida politicians continue to put the desires of a small number of politically powerful interests over the future water supply, flood protection and ecosystem restoration needs of the future of all south Floridians, the plan to restore the Everglades will be dangerously inadequate.

POINT OF VIEW: Stay the course on Everglades restoration projects
Posted: 5:00 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 21, 2015
Palm Beach Post

There has been a recent cry by advocacy groups that the only way to protect the coastal estuaries and the Everglades is for the state to exercise the option to buy 46,000 acres of U.S. Sugar land with about $500 million of taxpayer money.

Buying land only warehouse it is not a responsible use of taxpayer dollars or a responsible way to spend the majority of Amendment 1 (Land and Legacy Trust) funds. A better, more responsible approach is to stay the course of implementing sound projects that have been authorized and started, and that continue with the state’s investment to see the ecological benefits come to fruition.

Two years ago, the Florida Legislature authorized, and began funding for, an $880 million suite of projects that are designed to complete the water-quality component of Everglades restoration. With the current footprint — artificial marshes, coupled with on-farm “best management practices” — we have removed more than 90 percent of unwanted nutrients.

This final investment of $880 million is designed to meet the state’s ultimate goal: limiting the discharge of nutrients in the stormwater treatment areas (STAs) to a water-quality standard of 10 parts-per-billion.

To date, there are $5.7 billion of authorized and started state and federal projects, with $3 billion already invested and $2.7 billion remaining to be funded. This doesn’t include the critical projects authorized by Congress in the Water Resources Reform & Development Act of 2014.

The Legislature is likely to endorse Gov. Rick Scott’s commitment to completely fund the state’s share of the most critical features for the coastal estuaries: storage in the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie basins. These projects will bring real relief to our economic and ecological resources that need it most.

Equally important is completing the Modified Water Deliveries Project in southern Miami-Dade County. Without the ability to move water south into Everglades National Park — and without flooding the agricultural lands in southern Miami-Dade County — we will never be able to put the pieces together to get the right water quality for the Everglades.

The federal government must be held accountable — and complete the work on the Herbert Hoover Dike that surrounds Lake Okeechobee — to protect the lives and property of all those who depend on the lake.

The Modified Water Deliveries Project, authorized by Congress in 1989, was a pre-condition to many Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) components, and it must be completed by our federal partners so that the state can pro-actively protect our ecological and economic assets.

Now is the time to stay the course and to complete the projects on the books.


Editor’s note: Katie Edwards is the state representative for District 98, which covers parts of western Broward County.


Anonymous said...

Edwards is not a Democrat. She is a politician and ran as one to win a seat in Broward because she couldn't win in Miami Dade as a Democrat, after switching parties, thinking the Obama bump would help her win down here. As the former executive director of the Farm Bureau she lobbied heavily to pave over our farms/UDB for her friends. She's no friend to the small scale farmers nor the Everglades. She's toxic; always has been.

Anonymous said...

Katie Edwards is only looking out for number one, herself. She convinced the local farmers to pay for her college studies in law. Where's that law degree Katie? She left the farm bureau, a Republican bastion, when she couldn't get anything else from them. Not only is she rude and arrogant, she's a bottomfeeder.

Anonymous said...

But Rep. Edwards is right about one thing. The US Sugar Deal is a red herring that would be a huge waste of taxpayers dollars (beyond what has already been wasted on the deal). It was a sweetheart deal buyout of a company that was failing miserably, concocted by lobbyists and pitched to then-Gov. Christ, who fell for it hook, line and sinker. The fact is these lands are in the wrong place to be able to do the Everglades any good at all. Sure the purchase would look good in the news and for certain politicians, and everyone could pat themselves on the back for "doing good work for the environment", but then what? This deal was, and still is, a complete boondoggle and should have been scrapped by the SFWMD Governing Board before the final contracts were signed. Buying that land is corporate welfare at its finest, and a huge waste of taxpayer dollars that could be better spent elsewhere. And before GoD calls me a Fanjul troll, know that I worked in the Everglades for the SFWMD before being let go. Everyone there knew this was a horrible deal then, and they know it now.

Anonymous said...

Katie has always had a problem telling the truth. She is all about Katie and is no Democrat. She shoots from the hip with no analysis or forethought. If she can gain some cred with the sugar boys, she will do it. This person should never be in government.