Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Blunders by the Toxic Trio: Rick Scott, Adam Putnam, and Matt Caldwell created this Florida water crisis ... by gimleteye

Inconveniently for Florida's Toxic Trio: Rick Scott -- running for the US Senate against incumbent Bill Nelson, for Adam Putnam -- the Ag Secretary running to succeed Scott as governor, and for Caldwell -- a state representative aiming for Putnam's job as Ag Secretary -- Florida's weather is conspiring against claims they deserve your vote. They don't.

The immediate crisis -- far from the first -- is the reappearance of highly toxic cyanobacteria in algae blooming in the diseased heart of Florida: Lake Okeechobee. Both Florida's rivers -- the St. Lucie and the Caloosahatchee -- carry water out of the lake towards a million residents and tourism businesses on the east and west coast of the southern half of the state. It happened in 2013 then again in 2016 and now.

The water has to go somewhere, when rain levels cause the lake to rise, and the US Army Corps of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District release those billions of gallons of toxic water downstream. The water could be treated and cleansed if it was allowed to filter through wetlands sufficient in space and volume, south of the Lake. Those lands belong to some of the wealthiest welfare recipients in the US Farm program: Big Sugar. And every year Big Sugar takes its winnings from the electeds and spends millions to ensure that the state legislature, executive mansion, Congress and even the presidency is locked and loaded to shoot down any serious effort to share the adversity caused by Florida's manufactured water crisis.

Florida Gov. Scott, Ag. Secretary Putnam and legislators like Matt Caldwell had the answer in the palm of their hands, and they let it slip away. Now they want your vote.

Taxpayers could be on the road to salvation, but the toxic trio closed the road and built an exit ramp to more wastefulness and more environmental harm and more threats to public health and safety. They did this is three ways.

First, Scott and his co-conspirators killed the deal to buy US Sugar lands because it was opposed by its sometimes competitor, the Florida Crystals/Fanjul family empire. Second, Caldwell, Putnam and Scott created a new law that extended lease terms without competitive bidding on at least 23,000 acres of public lands to sugar farmers. Those lands could have been deployed to cleansing the cyanobacteria-laced waters, but the toxic trio bent to Big Sugar's will. Third, the toxic trio endorsed a new law that prohibits the state from eminent domain in the Everglades Agricultural Area while, at the same time, funds a multi-billion dollar reservoir that even the US Army Corps of Engineers doubts will work or be cost effective.

The bottom line is that billions of taxpayer dollars and years of civic efforts have been squandered while governmental processes slowly grind toward common sense: more water storage lands in the Everglades Agricultural Area. From the Now Or Neverglades Movement to the nation's premier science review agency, the National Academies of Sciences, the eventual solution to taxpayer and property owners woes is clear: buy the land that is necessary to fix Florida's water crisis.

Anyone paying attention knows that Big Sugar is at the heart of Florida's water crisis. The industry excels at muddying the waters, pointing fingers in every direction, but cyanobacteria doesn't lie. It is lifted into air we breathe and is linked to severe and incurable neurological diseases like Alzheimer's.

Remember the Toxic Trio when you go to the polls in November: Scott, Putnam and Caldwell do not deserve your votes.

The next step is simple: Fund Everglades restoration
July 23, 2018 06:30 PM
Finally, on July 25, after 18 months of silence, the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force is scheduled to convene in Washington, D.C., to discuss next steps for Everglades restoration. As Floridians know, the intergovernmental restoration effort is the world’s largest infrastructure project that will, when complete, bring economic and environmental benefits for a vast region that ranks 13th in the nation in population and economic output.

The congressionally chartered Task Force, co-chaired by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and the state of Florida, fosters the necessary collaboration needed to line up funding, engineering capability and science to get restoration done. The Task Force meeting could not come at a more important time. Several issues require immediate attention.

However, before launching into what needs to be done now, it is good to reflect on recent progress. First, the Water Resources Development Act now winding its way through Congress authorizes the Central Everglades Plan to send greater supplies of fresh water through expanded storm water treatment areas to the remaining natural Everglades. Details are still to be worked out on how this new water will be allocated among environmental and urban interests, but this is a good first step to address a water deficit that is well known and documented by restoration scientists as well as the National Academy of Sciences.

Despite this progress, there are troubling issues that require immediate attention from top officials gathering in Washington. First, federal funding must be increased. To date, the state of Florida is ahead of the federal government on the legally mandated 50-50 cost share. Funding for the Army Corps of Engineers and its Everglades restoration projects has been reduced in recent years. However, every dollar invested in Everglades restoration produces $4 in economic benefits, so it defies logic to cut the Army Corps’ restoration budget. Accordingly the Task Force and Zinke should advocate to the Office of Management and Budget and President Trump that the president’s budget for the next fiscal year include at least $200 million in Everglades restoration construction funding for the Army Corps of Engineers. This is a significant increase of more than $100 million over current funding levels. Past Democratic and Republican administrations have prioritized the Everglades by including funding at this level, and the Trump administration should do so, too.

Next, the Task Force must address the harmful discharges of polluted water that are now flowing unchecked into the St. Lucie estuary in Martin County. Specifically, the Task Force should establish an advisory body to recommend to the Army Corps and Florida specific operational changes to the Central and Southern Florida Project, including the Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule. That may be taken within current law to prevent harmful discharges of water to the St. Lucie Estuary when toxic algae blooms occur in Lake Okeechobee. The advisory body should provide a report within 60 days and, if changes in the law are needed to achieve this goal, the Task Force should recommend them so that they might be enacted into law. Toxic discharges are harmful to human health and the environment. They need to stop now.

Last, the Task Force should think ahead to next steps for restoration, including launching additional public planning to address acquiring additional lands in the Everglades Agricultural Area that are needed to increase the ability to capture water sent to tide and send it south to the Everglades. Aside from being the solution to the discharge of polluted water from the lake, restoration scientists agree that additional lands to provide water to the Everglades and a public planning process, including the sugar companies, are needed. Planning takes time. It is the first step in a multi-step process that requires congressional authorization and funding. The Everglades and the South Florida economy do not have time to wait. This effort needs to start now.



Anonymous said...

would it not be possible short term to filter the water before you send it through the locks thereby decreasing the amount of algae that is transported? I know filters are expensive, but the health of our waterways, estuaries, the ocean itself and our health should be primary to the discharge of this water. If we can't or won't restore the historic flow to the everglades, then, at least treat the water being discharged, filter it, or somehow figure out a way to kill the algae.

Anonymous said...

Reformers have been trying for years to do away with the federal government’s protectionist sugar policies, which kill jobs and drive up the price of groceries for ordinary Americans.

Americans in 2014 were paying 39 percent more for refined sugar thanks to federal tariffs on imports, domestic production quotas, and a controversial federal lending program.

But reforms can never seem to get through Congress.

One big reason: the huge amounts of money that Big Sugar contributes to members of Congress, who set federal sugar policy.

How does Palm Beach County’s congressional delegation rate?

It turns out three of Palm Beach County’s four congressional representatives take big money from Big Sugar.

Here’s an idea of how much they’ve taken from sugar interests over the years:

U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch: at least $50,900
U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton
U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton

Since U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch was first elected to office in 2010, he’s had no bigger financial supporter than Florida Crystals, the sugar company headquartered in West Palm Beach.

The company, its employees and its political network have contributed more than $50,000 to the Boca Raton Democrat’s election campaigns, more than any other group or individual, according to the political-spending watchdog OpenSecrets.org.

And wouldn’t you know it? Deutch told The Opinion Zone he thinks federal sugar policy is fine just the way it is.

On OpenSecrets.org’s list of his top contributors, Florida Crystals rings in at #1.

Deutch Contributors
Credit: OpenSecrets.org

U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings: at least $167,900
U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Miramar
U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Miramar

Over the years, Alcee Hastings, D-Miramar, has received quite a bit of affection from the sugar lobby.

Since his election in 1992, he’s accepted more than $50,000 from U.S. Sugar, $68,900 from Flo-Sun and another $46,500 from American Crystal Sugar, according to OpenSecrets.org.

Hastings got $36,500 in campaign contributions from the sugar industry in 2012, the fourth-highest amount for any House member.

On OpenSecrets.org’s list of his top contributors, Flo-Sun (the umbrella company that encompasses West Palm Beach-based Florida Crystals) weighs in at #6, U.S. Sugar at #11 and American Crystal Sugar at #15.

Hastings Donations
Credit: OpenSecrets.org

U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel: at least $32,500
U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach
U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach

First elected in 2012, Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, is relatively new to Congress.

But in the sugar realm, records show she’s been making up for lost time.

In just two years, she has already taken $32,500 from Florida Crystals, according to OpenSecrets.org.

On the website’s list of her top contributors, Florida Crystals is #4.

Frankel Donations
Credit: OpenSecrets.org

Carolyn941 said...

Pity... FACTS don't mean a thing to this writer. The natural Everglades begins in ORLANDO. It was the City Planners who let DISNEY build on top of the natural Everglades in 1966. The natural filters this article states forgets to point out this MAJOR FACT. Yes, while there are natural filters to the South of Lake O. The natural filters begin in ORLANDO!! Why not make Orlando con scribe to what you are saying that the farmers have to do? Give up their business & land when all ORLANDO has to do is stop the phosphates running off. Since Orlando has paved up every natural run off the water pools & those lush green lawns & golf courses & the greenness of Disney is not achieved by water alone - it is achieved with Fertilizers (phosphates)!! The farmers have been South of Lake O for 200 plus years!! When the natural filters that begin in Orlando have been paved up & every open avenue for natural water run off has been diverted it dumps into the Kissimmee. The problems Lake O experiences is from ORLANDO as it is a toxic shitbowl. You've been duped and has many others by the political ad revenues blaming big sugar for years. They were there 200 plus YEARS before Disney & Orlando!! Just because they are "lowly" farmers as this article suggests do you think they have any less right to their land and their business which they've owned for centuries? LONG before Disney & Orlando developed in the major metropolis that is is now. I think the farmers have every right to their business & their lands. Make Orlandoians suck it up by practicing conservator-ship - ie: get rid of the golf courses, get rid of the residential lawns & in its place put rock or artificial turf or heaven forbid - leave it natural!! And stop the building! The towns to the north have natural underground phosphate reserves. Once the phosphates are disturbed they too run into the rivers that lead south to Lake O. Oh - btw the way - the paving up of every natural water run off is also causing havoc with our Aquifers. Depletion of the Aquifers lead to sinkholes!!!