Monday, September 5, 2011

Vinyard Claims No Water Czar in the Works ... sure.

Water Management
CEO Herschel Vinyard
In response to a question from the St. Petersburg Times, new guy secretary of DEP Herschel Vinyard says he hasn’t heard about the idea of a water czar though he’s “very focused on water and water policy because water is so important to the state’s future.”
Well, he’s got that last part right, at least.  But does he really have no plans for centralizing control of water and water management district money in Tallahassee?  Or is he just being coy?
According to Vicki Tschinkel, widely respected former Secretary of DEP, the CEO-governor’s intent is simple and clear, “The governor wants control over the water supply in Florida.”
The exchange was published in the Times Sunday, 9-4-11, by reporter Craig Pittman in an article entitled, “State environmental chief, Gov. Rick Scott shaking up water management districts.
All I can think of is, “Well, here we go again.”
I don’t know if there’s a bacteria that’s carried on the hot winds of BS that prevail in T-Town or if it’s just the same old Florida Chamber and Committee of 100 lobbyists who lurk in the dark corners of Clyde’s, like mold, waiting to infect the uninitiated with the same old ideas.  Who or whatever it is, the same idea keeps popping up.
To centralize control of all of Florida’s water out of an office in Tallahassee is the apparent holy grail of those who want to make money with the control of water.  They think there’s so much water in the Suwannee River and the first magnitude springs of north Florida, and there’s so much water needed for the new condos on South Beach and farming celery in The Everglades, that we only need a viaduct, like the Romans, and just let it flow downhill, north to south.  Just open the valve.  So simple and so efficient.  And there’s a bundle to be made.
Maybe drop off a little for JD Alexander in Polk County on the way.  He’ll need it after he terms out and becomes president of the newly-independent-from-USF-if-he’s-successful Alexander Polytechnic Institute for Political Intrigue and Subterfuge.
But I digress.
Whatever happened to those old academic fears that warned against such dastardly concepts as inter-basin transfers, favoring the rights of the have-nots over the rights of the haves, taking the future of those with water and dedicating it to the future of those without, making money for those without water at the expense of those with water, or the real clincher, taking my water and giving it to somebody else?  Apparent these highly emotional positions no longer carry weight.
Nancy Agenziano
Haven’t they ever heard of Nancy Argenziano?  Haven’t they ever heard of local sources first?  Are they willing to stand up in front of 600 plus angry people whose homes have wells, septic tanks, 100-year old oaks in their front yards, fences around their property and locks on their gates, and tell them their water is going to be piped elsewhere?
Haven’t they ever heard of a water war fought in the Tampa Bay area with Pinellas County and the City of St. Petersburg on one side and Pasco and Hillsborough counties on the other?  A war that started in 1968 and ended in 1998 pursuant to a very expensive agreement where property taxpayers, mostly from the Tampa Bay area, paid some $300 million to end?
Aren’t they paying attention to the suit just filed by the Suwannee River Water Management District against the St. Johns River Water Management District because groundwater permits issued in St. Johns are going to dry up springs in the Suwannee District?
Haven’t they ever heard of Minimum Flows and Levels that set limits on rivers, lakes, springs, wetlands, and aquifers below which no further withdrawals will be allowed because it will cause “substantial harm”?  Aren’t they aware of how many MFL’s have been set for these water bodies in the northern areas of Florida, as required by law, where many have already reached that minimum level?
Haven’t they thought about the constitutional line over which they are about to step that prohibits the state from levying an ad valorem tax.  Have they considered that if they cross that line, it will trigger another lawsuit for the CEO to contend with?  A very prominent T-Town attorney has indicated to me:
“… the Florida Constitution prohibits a state ad valorem tax and that is the reason that the amendment was passed in 1975 giving the water management districts the power to assess ad valorem taxes.  Now that the Governor and Legislature have line item veto power over the water management district budgets, haven’t we transformed the water management district taxes into state ad valorem taxes and violated the Constitutional prohibition.  Thus, the legislation authorizing the line item veto authority by the Governor and Cabinet is probably unconstitutional and needs to be challenged.”
In the article, Vinyard is said to have gone on about how he just wants to establish some consistency among the water management districts’ regulations and that he’s not allowing any further environmental land purchases because he wants to take a “time out.”
I would second that.  He needs to take a time out and analyze far more carefully what he’s doing than he has before now.  Folks are talking about it.  Nobody knows, including Vinyard, what he’s doing or what we’re going to have when he’s through.
Jeb Bush was smitten with the Idea from Clyde’s, that we ought to take the public’s water and sell it to private companies, when he first arrived in town.  But Jebber Doo deep-sixed the thought when the match he was holding lit off a maelstrom of anger.  His boy, David Struhs (Secretary of DEP), floated an idea that the state could identify how much excess was in a river and sell it to the highest bidder. 
Jeb also met with representatives of Enron, or he didn’t, depending on who you believe, who came nosing around to see if the state was serious about selling its water like so much witch hazel.  Thankfully, after the fire it turned out the state wasn’t really interested after all, and nobody would admit they even knew what Enron was talking about.
And more recently, aren’t they reading the newspapers (!) because if they were they would know former congressman and now Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Adam Putnam, put it rather succinctly. Again according to the St. Petersburg Times, Buzz, published 1-19-11:
Under no circumstances, Putnam said, should the state consider sale or transfer of water use rights from one region of Florida to another. "It would put us on the brink of a civil war," Putnam said.
Enough said.  The idea is a bad one.  Vinyard ought to flush it back where it came from.


  1. hernandonewssource.comSeptember 5, 2011 at 5:33 PM

    Those who (willfully?) forget the past are condemned to repeat it...but then maybe they think no one is paying attention or that they can convince enough that those who are paying attention---the media---are biased.

  2. Good observations - I agree. Winston Churchill said "The farther back you look, the farther forward you see". I know I am preaching to the choir but for the life of me I don't know why these new politicians/appointees don't seem to want to educate themselves. I do believe it is a generational thing and a lack of understanding or wanting to understand what worked and what didn't historically. Being an old land guy I call it "due diligence". A "common sense" approach to complex issues seems foreign these days.

  3. Thanks for your insight, Sonny. The least they could do is go to the library and research water wars. I know there is plenty on the subject.

  4. Hey Sonny,

    I happened to stumble across your blog today....and glad that I've raised some good points...I know it's frustrating to see an organization that you (and others) have put their sweat and blood into, constantly being demoralized and berated...It's especially hard to see that organization being lumped into a group that typically has a bad representation (water management districts). I know I haven't walked completely in your shoes, but I do take pride in SWFWMD and the accomplishments made by today's staff as well as the staff from the past (with a dash of Governing Board input). SWFWMD is NOT like any other WMD in Florida. As you know, I went from being one of the most critical - to one of the biggest supporters - during my time served on the GB. I don't believe this came from some sort of enlightenment that staff was able to bestow upon me. I believe that we accomplished this through hard work, open communication, honesty and integrity. After serving my 4 years on the GB, I came away with nothing but RESPECT for SWFWMD's staff. To this day, I am very defensive about SWFWMD (and proud of them as well). When I'm at an ag. meeting or in Tallahassee and hear growers/citizens complain about water districts in general, the first thing I want to know is what WMD they are talking about. 97% of the time, it's not SWFWMD...Normally it's SFWMD (with good cause!), and 10 to 15% St. Johns. As you also know, I did a lot of growing up while on the GB. Unfortunately, I know the ugly side of politics you're speaking about. But I don't let that taint my experience of having served the people in our District. To this day, the favorite Board I have ever been on was the Peace River Basin Board (PRBB). I think we accomplished more, discussed more, and had true appreciation and respect for one anther. It wasn't the "inland" counties' water (although you know it is really ours) vs. the urban dwellers. We were a team. We counted on one another and "listened" to one another....we discussed (at length)...weighed our options...and then made our decisions. I believe we kept politics out of the PRB, much to the credit of the volunteers that served during that time. I consider myself fortunate to have served under your leadership on SWFWMD, as well as serving under Dave Moore's. I personally don't think it's fair that SWFWMD was treated the same as SFWMD (budget cuts, etc.). I don't think it was fair that Dave felt compelled to resign as E.D. However I do know that Dave left as you did, with his head held high. Dave left SWFWMD with his integrity and honor intact...and the respect and appreciation of not only his peers, but of those that benefited from his knowledge and dedication to the water resources in Florida! As for, "Local Sources First!!!"....Those are fighting words from the past...and hopefully they'll stay the past. Take care old friend...I just wish Ed Chance were around to read your blog...I can see the smile on his face now and the twinkle in his eyes. Pam Fentress (Highlands Co. SWFWMD GB member, appointed by Gov. Bush 2000-2004....No Party Affiliation then, nor now, nor since I registered to vote in 1990. Keep politics out of water policy!)