Thursday, March 05, 2015

Michael Grunwald on Jeb Bush and the Everglades … by gimleteye

As an environmental leader when Jeb Bush was governor, my observation is that Mike Grunwald's key point about Jeb Bush is diluted in his analysis: that Jeb Bush does not tolerate dissent, that his decisions on the environment while governor were based on pre-determined conclusions and -- whether he was fully informed by experts or not -- the net result is that the Everglades are still dying.

The notion that Jeb has "evolved" from the orthodox, conservative GOP beacon needs to be filtered through what Jeb actually did and didn't do during his two terms as Florida governor. For example, although Jeb has said he would govern "like LBJ" if elected president, there is nothing in his record on the environment and the Everglades to indicate that Jeb is inclined to bridging differences of opinion.

For example, in the Politico article, one of Jeb's top lieutenants, water management district chief Henry Dean is quoted, "“There was so much nitpicking and distrust, when all Jeb wanted was to restore the Everglades as quickly as possible,” says Henry Dean, a top water management official under Bush. “You know, we gave it our best shot.”

Let me recount some relevant history. At a meeting with Dean and environmental leaders in 2001, the agenda included additional water storage for water cleansing marshes in the Everglades Agricultural Area. Those marshes could, if sized adequately, prevent the destruction of rivers flowing to both Florida coasts through excess pollution by Big Sugar.

The reason for highlighting this issue, now, is that it is at the center of a boiling controversy as the Florida legislature begins its 2015 session in Tallahassee: whether or not to proceed with the option to purchase significant acreage offered to the state by US Sugar in 2010.

What attendees of the meeting asked for, in 2001, was for Jeb Bush's top lieutenant to give a timetable for providing an alternative to the pie-in-the-sky technology called aquifer storage and recovery (ASR). ASR has been and continues to be a very expensive work-around of taking land from sugarcane in order to "store" fresh water in massive quantities for later use in irrigation or, it is hoped, for environmental purposes.

Dean assured meeting participants that the District would perform the alternative analysis, and he never did. He never did, because his boss -- Jeb Bush -- took his signal from Big Sugar. Period. Later, Dean would take a consulting job with the most prominent of the politically influential sugar billionaires, the Fanjuls of Coral Gables and Palm Beach. End of story.

So when Henry Dean says, "we gave it our best shot"; really? "All Jeb wanted to do was restore the Everglades as quickly as possible"; really? And "there was so much nitpicking and distrust"? The entire original $6.8 billion dollar federal/state plan to restore the Everglades, where Mike Grunwald begins his report, depended on aquifer storage and recovery. How is that, "nitpicking"?

Mr. Dean is flat out covering for the laws of intended consequences.

The bottom line. With Jeb, it is "my way or the highway". It never varied on the Everglades or other environmental issues while he was governor. Florida is buckling under the weight of the Jeb Bush legacy; the domination of public policies by special interests like Big Sugar, every single day.

For supportive data, click 'read more'.

A.C.T.I.O.N * Arthur R. Marshall Foundation * Audubon of Florida * Legal Environmental Assistance Foundation * National Parks Conservation Association * Environmental and Land Use Law Center * Sierra Club * World Wildlife Fund

October 3, 2001

Mr. Henry Dean
Executive Director
South Florida Water
Management District
3301 Gun Club Road
West Palm Beach, FL 33406

Dr. Pat Gleason
Governing Board Member
South Florida Water
Management District
c/o Camp Dresser & McKee, Inc,
1601 Belvedere Road, Suite 211 South
West Palm Beach, FL 33406

Dear Mr. Dean and Dr. Gleason:

We write to thank you for requesting and hosting last week's meeting with representatives of the environmental community on the subject of Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR). We also want to summarize the conclusions and follow-up activities that came out of that meeting.

At the meeting, Dr. Gleason expressed concern that the environmental community as a whole is not officially on record supporting ASR pilot and demonstration projects, and that this lack of expressed support threatens the progress of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP). The stated purpose of the meeting was primarily to determine under what conditions the environmental community might provide such a statement of support. He specifically asked for support of a variance from the Federal Safe Drinking Water act for a field test at Clear Lake in West Palm Beach to determine the existence of a die-off of total colorform.

After much discussion, environmental leaders explained that there is, at this time, still far too much uncertainty about ASR in general and about the pilot and demonstration projects specifically to allow the community to take a position on specific uses of these technologies. In addition, the community expressed its concern about the lack of meaningful opportunities for non-governmental scientists to participate in the investigation and development of ASR technology, the lack of sufficiency of geologic and hydrologic data in the proposed ASR areas, the lack of adequate attention to human health threats posed by contaminants in the source water, and the lack of an ASR contingency plan.

In an effort to begin to address these concerns and to move the ASR debate forward, the meeting participants agreed to the following activities:

1) The environmental community will submit within two weeks of the Sept. 19 meeting a series of questions concerning ASR pilot and demonstration projects and concerning ASR as a viable solution for CERP water management strategies to the South Florida Water Management District. The District will respond to these questions within a two to three week period.

2) The District shall seek to expand the technical/scientific investigation and development process of ASR in the CERP to include an outside scientific review panel to provide a non-biased evaluation of research approach and results. Such a panel can provide the opportunity for meaningful participation in the process by mutually approved, qualified, governmental and non-governmental scientists who are not involved in South Florida activities.

3) The District commits to develop an ASR contingency plan by identifying a timeline and resources that might be dedicated to such a process. We appreciate the opportunity to discuss the concerns we continue to have about the use of ASR technology in the Everglades. We look forward to working with you to ensure that the debate over ASR moves forward in a way that expedites Everglades restoration, protects public health, and provides environmental justice to the citizens of South Florida.

If you have any questions, or require additional information, please do not hesitate to call us at (305) 860-9888.


Jonathan Ullman
Sierra Club

Shannon Estenoz
World Wildlife Fund

John Marshall
Arthur R. Marshall Foundation

Erin Deady
Audubon of Florida

April Gromnicki
Audubon of Florida

Brion Blackwelder
Nova University, Environmental
& Land Use Law Center

Susie Caplowe
Sierra Club

Dr. Hal Wanless
Geology Chair, University of Miami

Frank Jackalone
National Co-Chair, Everglades Coalition

Suzi Ruhl
Legal Environmental Assistance Foundation

Alan Farago
Sierra Club

Cynthia Laramore

Mr. Ron Tipton
National Parks and Conservation Association

cc: Peter Kwiatkowski, SFWMD

*The following excerpted notes, from a 12/17/03 meeting between environmentalists and Henry Dean/ South Florida Water Management District. Bear in mind and in light of the current controversy over whether the state legislature and Gov. Rick Scott will take up the purchase of the whittled-down US Sugar lands purchase, that the following took place more than a decade ago.

"The WMD (South Florida Water Management District) team did not seem to remember Henry’s promise to the environmental community in regard to ASR (aquifer storage and recover). Following legislative battles over ASR and statewide concern expressed by environmentalists, Henry suggested a two part plan:
- Go forward with pilot projects to gain information on ASR feasibility and sufficiency.
- Expedite the “contingency plan for an ASR alternative.
That solution answered the question:
“What are you going to do if you get half way through this project and find ASR doesn’t work?”
It also answered those who felt that the yellow book CERP analysis was inadequate to justify ASR and that alternatives should be carefully analyzed BEFORE spending vast amounts on ASR testing.
Those concerns had to do with the following:
- The issues of coliform vs. chlorination and long term recovery rates are notthe only concerns regarding ASR
- CERP’s primary justification for choosing ASR was that no more land should be taken out of productive agriculture for reservoirs.
- The level of analysis and conclusions were, according to involved staffers “down and dirty”. The costs and benefits were not clearly analyzed or justified in a level of detail consistent with other CERP conclusions.
- The National Academy of Science report on ASR highlighted concerns that will not be answered by short term pilot project research
- If an alternative to ASR exists that is cheaper and better, it’s time to find out now. Such an alternative will clearly require land acquisition which needs to start early.
The District first couldn’t remember any such promise. They then said that this responsibility belonged to John Ogden and the Recover Team. They said that Recover asked that this wait until the CERP update analysis was complete. Recover also wanted to wait to see what the pilot projects produced.

And, from Eye On Miami in 2010: "Henry Dean: A bad teacher is one who tries to make sense out of everything".

"Yesterday I heard the line at a play, "A bad teacher is one who tries to make sense of everything". Earlier in the day I had been thinking of Henry Dean, the former director of the South Florida Management District, quoted in a recent Miami Herald report on his objection to the US Sugar deal supported by Gov. Charlie Crist. Mr. Dean is not a teacher. He is now a consultant whose clients include billionaire Fanjul sugar interests who oppose Charlie Crist.The Fanjuls are pouring money into the campaign of his Senate opponent, Marco Rubio, and also helping raise funds for Kendrick Meek, the Democratic challenger for the US Senate seat vacated by Mel Martinez.

Mr. Dean is paid handsomely to represent those predetermined conclusions that he stood for, as the top official for the key state agency charged with protecting the Everglades. The Fanjuls became extraordinarily wealthy manipulating US farm policy related to sugar growing and organized to support an Everglades restoration plan in the 1990's that was destined to fail because it relied, entirely, on risky and unproven technologies like drilling 300 wells to store rainwater for future retrieval. The plan, supported by the Clinton White House, completely bypassed evidence that the wells would not work.

Today, the Fanjuls are spending substantial sums to bust up the alternative: a plan by Governor Crist to return 70,000 acres of land used for sugar farming to the purposes of Everglades restoration. The only restoration that has ever made sense has been to purchase enough land from the former Everglades and match square miles with water storage necessary to hold and to eventually clean water so that when it is returned to the Everglades, at the right time and in the right volumes, a semblance of normalcy will restored to the landscape that defines Florida. And so, 'a bad teacher is one who tries to make sense of everything' reminded me how many decades the public has been lead around in circles by flawed logic that moves always in the direction of Big Sugar.

The Fanjuls have always opposed any Everglades restoration that uses sugar lands for public benefit, whether or not they own it. Unless, that is, they are paid the billions that they believe their own land is worth as a matter of private property rights. They oppose the US Sugar deal not because it costs too much-- nearly twice the going price for agricultural real estate according to experts-- but because it costs too little. What they support is a plan that cannot work. The concept they endorsed-- a work-around of their property called aquifer storage and recovery-- was supported by the South Florida Water Management District at the time and federal authorities who completely bypassed the US Geological Service; the sole federal agency with the science and expertise to stand up and say that it didn't make sense. Because of this work-around, the Everglades restoration plan became a national poster child for fitting science to meet predetermined conclusions. And the public lost more than a decade to false directions and other expensive work arounds.

The MIami Herald reported, "Henry Dean, a former district executive director who is now a consultant for Florida Crystals and the Florida Sugar Cane Cooperative, said the cuts "would have devastating effects." In 2001, at a meeting I attended with Mr. Dean and environmentalists, Mr. Dean promised that he would provide a conceptual alternative to Everglades restoration, because-- environmentalists urged him to acknowledge-- the plan based on risky technologies involving underground wells for water storage and billions of dollars did not make sense. There was, by the way, a real teacher on the side of environmentalists at that meeting: Dr. Harold Wanless, chairman of the Department of Geology at the University of Miami. Dr. Wanless had gone to Tallahassee to try to persuade legislators that the plans they supported-- at the behest of Big Sugar-- would not work.

After that 2001 meeting Mr. Dean promised he would get back to us with an alternative, but years passed by and he never did."


Anonymous said...

Great post! If we can only get enough good people to protest and contact legislators we can change course.

Alexandria said...

Henry Dean is a jerk. He was part of the biggest rip-off of taxpayer money I ever saw The Palm Beach Aggregates pits 217 MILLION DOLLARS for a 1200 acre salt water hole. Plus 30 MILLION for the lawyers in the friendly eminent domain scam. The man is scum Dean along with Shalloway and a few SFWMD board members made millions. Big Sugar needs to follow the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act of 1972 AND SINCE THEY DO NOT FOLLOW THOSE RULES THEY SHOULD BE FINED DAILY. Since the fines should be enormous then we eminent domain them just like Golden Gate at 10 cents on the dollar. If we can do it to the little people then bastards who have destroyed the Everglades should pay dearly. Big Sugar has destroyed the natural flow of Everglades water and should pay to fix it.