Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Water Management Districts: Scott Drains Protections

The following editorial was published in the Lakeland Ledger this morning (11.2.11).  Here's the link to the original article:
Water Management Districts: Scott Drains Protections
Published: Wednesday, November 2, 2011 at 12:01 a.m.
After seeing their budgets cut by more than $700 million collectively this year, Florida's five water management districts are embarking upon a new era of smaller budgets, reduced staffs and fewer resources. At the same time, water managers are being asked to embrace a new, more "customer friendly" culture in which developers and big utilities are seen not as adversaries but as "partners."
By the way, they also are expected to continue to oversee the state's diminishing-and-deteriorating water supply and resources as well or better than ever. A tall order, for sure.
Whether that is possible or not, the districts' downsizings are just the latest less-government, less-regulatory initiative of Gov. Rick Scott.
Polk County is served by two water-management districts, Southwest Florida, known as Swiftmud, and South Florida. The South Florida Water Management District cut its budget by 47 percent, from $1.09 billion to $571 million, and cut its staff by more than 270. Swiftmud cut its budget 44 percent, from $280 million to $160 million, and cut its staff by 135.
Often seen as imperious, bloated and bureaucratic — especially to big developers, big polluters and big utilities — the water districts were prime targets for Scott's now-infamous budget ax. However, what the governor has done goes far beyond belt-tightening.
Scott and his administration have also done away with local basin boards, frozen purchases of sensitive watersheds, killed the Florida Forever land preservation program, caused the dismissal of dozens of scientists working on the critical Everglades restoration and ordered all "major" decisions to be sent to Tallahassee for approval. Districts also were ordered to drain their reserves to a bare minimum, and slash employee benefits and top-echelon salaries.
Today, look for a portion of the aquifer that has a higher level than a generation ago. Look for a community that is not worried about where its water will come from a generation from now.
Cutting budgets and making the permitting process easier for monied interests no doubt plays well to Scott's core constituencies.
What he should concentrate on is meaningful policies that will truly protect our water supply, develop new sources of water and help clean up the more than half of Florida's waterways that are polluted.

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