Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Everglades Coalition rejects District plans for massive $1.5 billion lemon reservoir ... by gimleteye

OK. Here's a novel story. Gov. Rick Scott believes he can polish his "environmental" credentials for an undeclared Senate run through a piece of legislation committing the state to build the biggest free-standing, man-made reservoir in US history. The legislation passed last year, but it contained a number of poison pills for the environment. The bill to create a massive new reservoir, costing at least $1.5 billion, had the stamp of approval of Big Sugar, the regulated industry that dominates water management infrastructure of Florida.

Big Sugar is powerful because subsidies in the US Farm Bill rain profits on a few billionaire farming families. In turn, those families -- the Fanjuls' Florida Crystals and US Sugar, descendants of Charles Stuart Mott-- sprinkle campaign contributions and dark money over candidates and incumbents for public office who make it their point to stand close-by while studiously avoiding laws and regulations meant to protect the environment and the public interest.

You remember the public interest?

We used to call it health, welfare, and public safety but now it is whatever regulated industries can squeeze from their hirelings in public office. Turns out: they can squeeze quite a lot.

In 2017 Senate President Joe Negron did his level best to fix the multi-billion dollar damage being done to his constituents downstream of toxic Lake Okeechobee discharges during flood events. SB10 was signed into law by Gov. Scott, after creative theatrics by Big Sugar. The new law is meant to protect the Everglades and help renourish Florida Bay. Surprise: the law strongly weighs in favor of industry.

Negron's constituents were coated with toxic, guacamole thick algae during the historic rains of 2015/2016 winter; the indirect consequence of a water management system that does not have enough storage and polishing marshes for Big Sugar's pollution because Big Sugar won't share any more of the burden for protecting downstream resources that it is required to do, by law. And since Big Sugar controls the legislature, its lobbyists write the law and dictate the terms of what it is required it to do.

So we are at this awkward point that was entirely predictable a year ago, when the best Senator Negron could do came up short by a mile because Big Sugar controls the water management district, and the water management got to offer back to the legislature this year its version of what Big Sugar will agree to, next. Doesn't matter that the public's money is being used to deform the public interest.

Gov. Scott could help fix the problem by directing the water management district to terminate leases to Big Sugar on state lands and point the way to increased cleansing and water treatment marshes. He could go even a step further by supporting new legislation to take away the poison pills in last year's legislation; namely, the prohibition against eminent domain, the provision requiring the District to only reach out to willing sellers, and an unnecessary carrot that didn't belong in the legislation but directly benefits Florida Crystals: a provision pointing Florida in the direction of allowing Big Ag to sell rainwater to municipal or industrial users that need it.

Meanwhile Florida Bay -- the irreplaceable shallow water wilderness and foundation of the Keys economy -- is in the midst of a horrible algae bloom; still starved for clean fresh water at the right time of year. The Miccosuckee Tribe and Everglades continue to bear the costs to tribal lands from upstream water mismanagement.

Will Gov. Scott step away from his record of coddling Big Sugar through his appointments to the water management district governing board? The only cause for concern: if voters catch wind of the fraud.

EVCO EAA Reservoir Letter January 2018 by Alan Farago on Scribd

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