Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Florida's use of taxpayer dollars for propaganda against taxpayers must stop ... by gimleteye

In Clearwater yesterday, Gov. Rick Scott answered a few press questions with tired talking points: “Thanks to the support of the legislature, we’ve made a significant investment in our environment … When I first got elected we settled a decades-old lawsuit over the Everglades. We’re investing $880 million to improve the water quality. We’ve also invested significant amounts of money to move water south […] but the federal government needs to do their part. They need to step up, and they need to do more work to fix the dike at Lake Okeechobee."

The Governor avoided the single fact that could eventually solve the crisis of Florida’s estuaries, of Florida Bay, the rivers and Everglades: buy more land in the Everglades Agricultural Area where sugar billionaires extract hundreds of millions in profit annually and pollute state politics.

The political pollution of Florida starts with the governor’s appointees to the boards of the state water management districts.

The South Florida Water Management District in March of this year launched an extraordinary attack on citizens who are organizing to protest state water policies and programs that are putting billions of dollars of coastal real estate at severe jeopardy of pollution from Lake Okeechobee, while preserving the rights and prerogatives of Big Sugar.

As a taxing and revenue authority, the District is one of the most powerful governmental entities in Florida. Although the District has its own public relations program to "educate" the public, it is unprecedented for a taxing agency to attack taxpayers as the District began to do in March.

The first rhetorical mortar assault against taxpayers began on March 11: "News outlets and social media sites continue to falsely report that South Florida's water is polluted and toxic, untouchable and filled with sludge. These allegations cannot be backed up by the facts. So-called "expert sources" are spewing emotion instead of science.”

Two months later, and toxic blue green algae is spewing out of Lake Okeechobee, the diseased heart of Florida.

The missive continued, "As part of Gov. Scott's Restoration Strategies Plan, an additional $880 million is being invested to build more treatment wetlands and water storage capacity to ensure that Everglades National Park will be healthy for decades to come." Gov. Scott improbably claims victory for his Restoration Strategies Plan in 2012. The plan was only the result of litigation brought by Friends of the Everglades and the Miccosukee Tribe through a lawsuit that the state lost and is still being contested by its partner, Big Sugar.

Just days later, on March 15, 2016: "Get the Facts": "Backpumping Media outlets continue to falsely report that rare emergency pumping of water into Lake Okeechobee was orchestrated by farmers.”

The point of civic protesters was inacccurately characterized by the District: Big Sugar billionaire farmers do, in fact, dictate water programs and policies at the District. On March 22nd, the District hammered its critics, again branding them as liars. “Commentators continue to falsely claim that private interests influenced a water management decision to back pump water into Lake Okeechobee during extreme January rainfall, ignoring the fact that SFWMD flood control operations were carried out to protect families and properties surrounding Lake Okeechobee. SFWMD works collaboratively with other public entities to communicate water management issues to the public. Misinformation and agenda-driven campaigns do nothing to inform or educate South Florida's citizens on the complexities of the regional flood control system.”

What is extraordinary about this "pot calling the kettle, black” is that the District is spending taxpayer dollars to wage a blatantly political agenda-driven campaign in service of Big Sugar. Its agenda: to extract the last drop of profit from sugar cane fields until they can build zero lot line housing tracts in the EAA.

What changed is that social media sites like Bullsugar.org and the SWFL Clean Water Movement began attracting hundreds of thousands of viewers, shocked by the visible evidence of District policies through massive fish kills in Brevard County.

March 23, 2016 "Get the Facts: Indian River Lagoon Fish News outlets and social media sites erroneously connect fish kills observed in Brevard County and the northern portions of the Indian River Lagoon with releases from Lake Okeechobee to the St. Lucie River and Estuary in Martin County. Fish kills have been reported in the Banana River and Indian River in Brevard County, nearly 100 miles away from where fresh water released from Lake Okeechobee by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers mixes with brackish water in the St. Lucie River and Estuary. No Brown Tide has been reported in the St. Lucie River.”

At the same time, the District and Big Sugar launched a massive campaign on television news and newsprint claiming that the real problem was not malfeasance at the state but homeowners’ septic systems and the failure of the federal goverrnment to fix the aging dike around Lake Okeechobee. The District began to attack the press as liars, too. On April 14, 2016 "Get the Facts: C-43 Reservoir With an astonishing evasion of the facts, the Fort Myers News-Press published an article incorrectly claiming the C-43 Reservoir will not work for the Caloosahatchee River and Estuary because of algae blooms.” On April 22, 2016 "Get the Facts: Everglades Water Quality A recent article in the Key West Citizen perpetuated erroneous facts about the quality of water flowing into Everglades National Park and Florida Bay.” On May 2nd, "Get the Facts: Everglades Modeling In a recent letter to the Fort Myers News-Press, former Lee County Commissioner Ray Judah inaccurately alleged flawed scientific modeling was used in Everglades restoration planning."

Judah, a Republican, has been an advocate for buying Big Sugar lands south of Lake Okeechobee. He is a well regarded speaker at civic events on Florida's southwest coast. A public servant for decades, Judah was targeted by U.S. Sugar Corporation through a super PAC that plowed nearly $1 million to eject him from the Lee County Commission in 2012.

On May 11, the District published, "Today, the Caloosahatchee River Watch group is holding what was advertised as a public forum to discuss the C-43 Reservoir project. However, this "forum" will consist solely of one-sided detractors in pursuit of an agenda without facts to support it.”

The District added, "Caloosahatchee River Watch did not contact the South Florida Water Management District that designed and is building the reservoir, to invite any of the agency's noted scientists and engineers to explain its benefits. Any complete and fair discussion of this reservoir must include relevant facts.”

It is easy to understand why citizens would not “invite” the District to its meetings: the District governing board has repeatedly ignored the entreaties of citizens — who mounted the Amendment 1 campaign to secure funding for land acquistion — to buy the U.S. Sugar lands. If those lands had been purchased in 2015, the District would be on the way to the only solution that promises to eventually fix the trashing of Florida waterways. Instead of addressing this point, it defaults to half-truths and evasions: "When complete, the C-43 Project will hold approximately 170,000 acre-feet of freshwater from local stormwater runoff and releases from Lake Okeechobee. It is not designed to completely eliminate all lake releases. The reservoir's primary purpose is to store freshwater during the wet season and release it to the Caloosahatchee River Estuary during drier months to help balance salinity.” In other words, your estuarine real estate, parks, and fishing grounds will continue to be polluted.

On May 11, 2016 "Get the Facts: Florida Bay”, the District writes, "The recent Florida Bay seagrass die-off has led to a public discussion about freshwater flows into Florida Bay, with opinions expressed in newspapers by public officials and interested private parties. … The recent seagrass die-off is a result of a 16-month, localized rainfall deficit: From May 2014 through August 2015, the Taylor Slough watershed received 25-35 inches of direct rainfall -- the lowest total for any part of the District's 16-county region. As a result of the rainfall deficit, salinity in parts of Florida Bay was more than twice as high as ocean water.”

Combined with a four to five times average rainfall in January 2016, the drought of 2014/2015 shows that the elasticity in the water management system has vanished. Because there is not enough water storage south of Lake Okeechobee to handle extreme events likely to become more common under climate change conditions, the estuaries and rivers and Everglades will continue to be blasted. There is only one solution, supported in a 2015 letter by 207 scientists to Gov. Rick Scott: buy land south of Lake Okeechobee.

That truth is not reflected anywhere in the water management district’s diatribes against citizen protesters and taxpayers. What these “Get the Facts” show is Florida government walking lockstep with Big Sugar. This District use of taxpayer dollars for propaganda against the best interest of taxpayers is shameful.


Anonymous said...

I agree with stopping propaganda waste. what do you think about Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen breaking with party over transgender son? Would she (a hard nose GOPer) do the same for every minorities????????? I really truly doubt it. Politics has become a personal enterprise.

How about giving Haitians Wet Foot Dry Foot Congresswoman?

Anonymous said...

Regime change!

MikeWBL said...

I suggest all riverfront homeowners, Pine Island Sound homeowners, etc. should protest real estate valuations since our property has been adversely affected by the toxic water releases. Our Fish habitat has been destroyed and the fishing is terrible. Perhaps a decrease in property tax revenue will get the attention of our Lee County Commissioners!

Tom Southern said...

The water management districts aren't the only ones using our money to brainwash us. FPL does it too.......using our money to lie to us about what they're doing and not doing with the leaking radiation at Turkey Point and by their fighting efforts to make residential solar installations more affordable to Floridians.