Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Why is Miami Beach billionaire George Lindeman continuing to sue Maggie Hurchalla? by gimleteye

Nathaniel Reed, a prominent environmentalist, writes in the Palm Beach Post on the fruitless lawsuit waged by Miami Beach billionaire George Lindeman against a former Martin County Commissioner and Miami native, Maggie Hurchalla.

In "Point of view: Suit won’t alter fact: Lake Point can’t sell public water", Reed asks, "Why is Maggy Hurchalla being attacked through the legal system for telling the truth about Lake Point’s proposal to divert water from Lake Okeechobee and pump it into the firms’ excavations for storage?"

Lindeman -- one of the heirs to the Verizon fortune -- scooped up Biscayne Boulevard real estate before the boom swept up the area and sold off most, before the crash. He took a big piece of that wealth and invested in rock mining of a curious parcel of land at the southeast corner of Lake Okeechobee. Lindeman had no previous experience in rock mining: one of the biggest and most secretive and powerful in Florida. At the time, Lindeman told me that the Fanjuls -- Florida's black hat, Big Sugar billionaires -- had alerted him to the investment opportunity. Lindeman sought my support, as an environmental leader in Florida, for a plan to mine limestone in the area in exchange for putting a portion of the land in conservation protection.

I wouldn't have touched the issue with a fifty foot pole. The Fanjuls then, as now, are wealthy and sharp enough to control the levers of water management and water policy in Florida. With their co-cartel neighbors, US Sugar Corporation, the Fanjuls operate the state legislature as though it were a client state. In an early short story, F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote, "Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me. They possess and enjoy early, and it does something to them ... They think, deep in their hearts, that they are better than we are ... Even when they enter deep into our world or sink below us, they still think that they are better than we are."

From an environmental point of view, the problem with Big Sugar is that it squats on 700,000 or so acres that are critical to the future of South Florida's drinking water supply and to the hopes for restoration of America's faded glory: the Everglades.

Reed's OPED tries to illuminate what is really behind Lindeman's SLAPP suit against Maggie Hurchalla: a plan to establish a precedent to privatize Florida's water supply. (For background on Hurchalla, check our archive.)

With no experience in rock mining, Lindeman's investment appears to have foundered. The Fanjul's strategy for keeping government and environmentalists at bay has always included filing permits for other industrial activities on its former Everglades wetlands; from rock mining, to inland ports, railway transit, energy plants, power lines -- you name it. All, precursor activities to planting more suburban sprawl in the middle of the Everglades Agricultural Area -- a region of Florida that, for farmworkers at least, is desperately poor and a million miles away from the Palm Beach mansions and support systems of Big Sugar.

Did George Lindeman know what kind of hornet's nest he was stepping into, when he changed his business strategy to include "mining" Florida water? If he didn't, it is because he wouldn't take the time to listen.

The SLAPP suit against Maggie Hurchalla is premised on the outrageous notion that a private citizen interfered in governmental processes that should have protected Lindeman's ability to enter a contractual arrangement to sell water on his Lake Point property to a Florida municipality. That is not how Florida water law works. Under Florida law -- unlike states like Texas -- water is not private property. There are plenty of reasons that Lindeman and his Big Sugar allies, from the Fanjuls to the Texas King Ranch interests in Florida, would want to change that law. They would turn their wetlands, exhausted from growing sugarcane, into another way to mint money at the public expense.

Reed writes,
"Lake Point does not have a valid permit to obtain Lake Okeechobee’s water. Any competent Florida attorney knows that the “waters of the state” are owned by the “people” and are managed in trust for them by the five water management districts with oversight provided by the state Department of Environmental Regulation. I suspect that any plan to divert the lake’s water would also require permission from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with input from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Why haven’t Lake Point’s owners pursued the necessary permits? Do the owners honestly believe that Hurchalla’s critique influenced the pertinent decision-makers sufficiently to cast their vague proposal in the scrap heap?

The concept of being permitted to store water during high rainfall events, holding it in pits and then selling the public’s water to counties and/or cities that have overgrown their own water supplies is not part of eastern water law. The sale of the public water by a third party simply is not permitted.

So why the SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) against Hurchalla? Is there any evidence that she maliciously pointed out the fallacy of the Lake Point’s initial vague proposal?

Is there any evidence that her observations based on “common sense and years of homework” influenced decision-makers to critically review and tell Lake Point that their contract does not allow them to sell the waters of the state?

SLAPP suits were originated by developers, who, annoyed at public input on their plans, sought to muzzle any criticisms of their proposals. What if our Founding Fathers were sued for speaking out against the heavy hands of the Crown? Our country was built on citizens’ opinions, especially when Hurchalla’s opinions are supported by fact, undeniable facts.

The day responsible criticism is threatened by wealthy developers of controversial projects is a sad day in America."
George Lindeman has been immune to criticism about his lawsuit against Hurchalla. It has become an unseemly burden, though, and degenerating from stubborn unwillingness to change direction into a point of pride where cost is no obstacle. It is a shame because there is a lot of good in George Lindeman. Why he is bearing Big Sugar's cross is a mystery.


Anonymous said...

So she's getting sued for pointing out that Lindeman is planning on breaking the law? The judge should award her an hour of legal fees from Lindeman.

Are SLAPP suits ever used for good?

Alexandria said...

Maggie will be fine. They must prove she was malicious or vicious she is neither. I'm sorry but Palm Beach Aggregates is planning on selling its water to Broward County. Dan Shalloway and Enrique Tomeu have been scamming taxpayers for years first they sold the 1200 acre pit for 217 Million Dollars plus 30 Million for lawyer fees all care of the taxpayers and SFWMD the South Florida Weapons Mass Destruction just sunk an additional 70 million in what is called the Pilot Pump Project and it has failed 4 times ( a little problem with Salt Water Intrusion) but the plan is to sell 7 cells at 200 Million per to water utilities in Broward. So Lindeman is smoke and mirrors. For some reason the environmentalists have stayed awful quite about this scam. FPL has the biggest plant 3800 megawatts sitting at the PBA pits oddly its on 240 acres of refilled land with a 36 inch 900 PSI gas pipeline with Tomeu blasting within 200 feet of the pipeline everyday till 2035. Also 18.9 Million gallons of diesel are on stored on site. There is no shut off valve for 34 miles on that pipeline. It is not a matter of if but when were all blown to kingdom come .Also the plant deep well injects 21 Million gallons per day of fresh water.For its cooling towers.Funk beyond belief. All of this mess is within 1000 feet of the Arthur Marshall Wildlife Refuge 147,000 acres of Everglades.And to the north the J.W. Corbett Wildlife Refuge 60,388 acres of pristine wetlands. Marshall took a 4 million dollar donation from FPL. Look up the Water Resources Task Force.

cyndi said...

Alexandria no one is staying quiet about anything and Maggy owes a lot of money in legal fee's. Something she does not deserve.

Alex said...

Dear Cyndi,
Maggie has been thru hell. She has done nothing wrong and the judge if well informed will not let the suit stand. I do not know who her lawyer is but quite a few will defend without compensation or reduced fees. Fear is what the bad guys live for and I can ashore you I see fear everyday. Compromise and complacency got us where we are today. Something is going on behind the scenes the Paul Harvey part is missing. My point is that the environmental community is fragmented and very few voices remain. I have been fighting water issues for 30 plus years starting in Dade County. I asked for dye tests at the rock mines there when I was 17 they finally did them when I was 47. Were at the end game Turkey Point is a nightmare and needs to be shut down. Rock mining is destroying Florida. There is 9 feet of silt in Lake Okeechobee. They want future generations to drink reclaimed water.Yet they stop their dogs from drinking from the toilet. Instead of ocean outfall (blowing sewage on the reefs) now we will just do deep well injection which will destroy whats left of the Aquifer with vertical migration and or go to the Gulf or the Atlantic.If everyone spoke out then Slapp suits would not exist.

cyndi said...

Alex she was asking donations. She has over 100,000 legal bills. We love her but there are people here who do not. This whole thing is not just about George Linderman.
Here is her sight. She is asking for donations.

Maybe where you are its fragmented but where I am (Martin County) we're very much together educated, on the ball and communicating with one another.
My heart goes out to you fighting anything in Miami. My very own commissioner at a meeting the other day made a snarky remark about Miami Commissioners have to to drag them screaming to the table.
I understand about the water issues. Ive been documenting since 2012.

cyndi said...

Maggy Hurchalla has more balls than the entire board of govenors at SFWMD.

Anonymous said...

George Lindemann was sentenced to four years in prison for killing at least one of his expensive horses. When he was released his rich father handed him a fortune and told him to leave Greenwich, Ct and move to Miami Beach. Miami Beach has always accepted felons.