Monday, February 08, 2016

Tom MacVicar: the face of water mismanagement in South Florida ... by gimleteye

On his corporate website, Thomas K. MacVicar, P.E., offers his qualifications: "The Design and Operation of the Central and Southern Florida Flood Control Project, The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, State and Federal Agency Coordination."

What MacVicar omits: his current role as chief strategist and agent for Big Sugar.

Here is a video of MacVicar, made more than 25 years ago, while employed by the South Florida Water Management District. He speaks of hopeful progress for Lake Okeechobee. In the early 1990's, after being passed over for the top job at the District, MacVicar rotated out of government into private industry where he has worked ever since; mostly representing Big Sugar and other industries whose profits intersect with environmental rules and regulations. MacVicar's career spans the hope at first and then loss, as promises of restoration began to take the shape of half-measures with a single purpose: to keep Big Sugar and its prerogatives at the top of the priority list, never mind the consequence to taxpayers or -- now -- homeowners and businesses on both Florida coasts.

The tough comments, below the video, are by Larry E. Fink, whose former position as lead scientist for the South Florida Water Management District affords particular insight.

In the video, the last commenter is haunting: "It's going to get better, I'm sure." Water mismanagement has gotten worse in Florida in the past twenty five years -- horrible as we can see today in the suffering of the St. Lucie, the Indian River, and the Caloosahatchee and all communities downstream.

If there is any hope at all, it is in electing politicians in Florida unafraid to use eminent domain exactly as it is intended to provide for public needs for water in Florida, as there are no willing sellers among the Big Sugar billionaires like those employing Tom MacVicar. Buy out Big Sugar lands adequate to the purpose of storing and cleansing its pollution.

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

Lake Okeechobee water quality has been sacrificed in stages:

(1) Falsely conclude that something other than successive Lake Okeechobee emergency releases were impairing the uses of the East and West Coast estuaries, so that neither had to be considered the limiting waterbody in the Lake Okeechobee watershed Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL);

(2) Adopt a limiting nutrient target equivalent to an algae bloom density equal to or greater than 30 ug/L in chlorophyll a equivalents once every five years or 40 ppb TP, when 30 ppb TP would have virtually eliminated large-scale algae blooms altogether;

(3) Ignore the declining net TP settling rate from the increasing TP flux recycling from the muck sediment that covers roughly 50% of the lake bottom, equivalent to a TP concentration closer to 70 ppb than 40 ppb;

(4) Ignore the slow recovery of submersed aquatic vegetation (SAV) from shading by the unnatural algae blooms and hurricane-induced muck resuspension events and the positive feedback between lost SAV cover and the magnitudes, durations and frequencies of unnatural resuspension events;

(5) Ignore (3) and (4) in the oversimplified water quality model developed by Bill Walker for FDEP used to calculate the official TP Total Maximum Daily Load approved by EPA Region 4, when the EPA-approved WASP model had already been adapted to Lake Okeechobee by LimnoTech using physical, chemical, and biological process rate data collected by UF's Ramesh Reddy and co-workers, both under contract to SFWMD;

(6) Underestimate the TP mass loading reduction in watershed runoff required to restore and sustain unimpaired uses of Lake Okeechobee and the estuaries to which it discharges it's pollution because of (1)-(5);

(7) By ignoring (3), falsely conclude that hydraulic dredging was unneeded, by ignoring the Lake Trafford experience, falsely conclude that it is technologically infeasible, and falsely conclude that it is ecomically unreasonable by ignoring the value of the lake and estuarine uses impaired by degraded water quality.

The elimination of the cattle ranching source in the Lake Okeechobee watershed was necessary but not sufficient to restore and sustain any impaired use in the limiting water bodies, let alone all impaired uses.

Emergency back-pumping from the EAA exacerbates this deficiency.

A combination of on-parcel water retention, BMPs, and STAs might be sufficient, but nobody is in any hurry, because it is disruptive of the status quo, expensive, and everybody knows that without hydraulic dredging, Lake Okeechobee will become more and more like Lake Apopka, so why bother.

To honor the memory of dedicated activists like Wayne Nelson, we need to cut through the political science, a.k.a bullshit, and push for a combination of cost-effective measures to reduce the watershed load to the 30 ppb TP target by 2020, not whenever, combined with continuous hydraulic dredging powered by the wind, with dewatering on fallow EAA farmland to recover it's water, nutrient, and soil building values.

I am available to consult on any of the issues raised in the preceding but not on the psychology of incrementalism and defeatism as distorted realism that has captured environmental activism at every jurisdictional scale.

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


The Lake Okeechobee TMDL also ignores its growing mercury impairment problem, but that's another story.


Anonymous said...

I believe MacVicar is the guy that was always everyone's go-to expert witness in Homestead when they needed one for a hearing. Florida commons? etc?

Anonymous said...

He is/was a darling of the South Dade Farm Bureau Insurance Company.

Anonymous said...

What does the Farm Bureau get from MacVicar? Water modeling and flow predictions that ALWAYS tilt to their benefit.

Anonymous said...

Dump this crap water on miami beach and in front of the pricey Brickell condos and you'll get it to stop in a ny minute. Get these photos of crap water in the front pages of New York papers spelling end of tourism in Florida then maybe they'll pay attention.

Anonymous said...

The irony is that when asked of his accomplishments as a U.S. senator in the GOP debate on Saturday, Marco Rubio first cited "he was protecting the people of Florida from eminent domain abuse."

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Anonymous said...

Tom MacVicar is also one of the leading experts for the Miami-Dade rockmining community in their efforts to do as little as possible about seepage and groundwater contamination issues in/due to the lakebelt region.

outofsight said...

Tom obliviously doesn't anything besides Perrier and Wine.