Friday, March 23, 2012

Last WMD ED leaves; Will somebody please turn out the lights?

Douglas Barr
Executive Director
Northwest Florida
Water Management District
The Florida Current has reported that Doug Barr, the last of the five water management district executive directors employed before the purchase of the governor’s seat by CEO Rick Scott, has been forced out.

Doug’s an old horse, a good man and will be alright.

But consider this:

All the ED’s have now been replaced with people who have no previous experience with water management except perhaps on the periphery.  Including even Melissa Meeker who was on the SFWMD Board (briefly), was a water policy person inside DEP (briefly), and a water consultant of sorts (probably briefly).  At the end of the day, she had never had to fight, mano-a-mano, any of the historic resource wars or managed a single, significant water management issue in the face of an angry public, complex sciences, decades of evolved water law or the blood of back-stabbing politics that pervade every minute of a water manager’s day, until she received the political appointment from a political guy.
Her only apparent currency was the advice she gave as a transition team member to a totally naive disenfranchised hospital trader who was even less informed about water hydraulics, water law, water science, and water policy than she.  She was clearly chosen because of her politics, not for her institutional knowledge.
Rick Scott
Given the fact that governing board members have all been completely muzzled or replaced, the senior management of all of the districts have now been replaced, and hundreds of senior scientists, engineers, and lawyers have been fired, there are now no historical reference points for managers to call upon when facing the same problems that were resolved ten or even five years ago.  Thus, many very troubling mistakes of the past will inevitably occur again and the hard lessons learned from them will have to be relearned all over again. This time, however, solutions will be far more difficult if not impossible.

And, given the blatantly unconstitutional attempts by JD Alexander to transfer total control of water management and its funding to Tallahassee these past two legislative sessions, it is clear that the dismantling of over fifty years of carefully evolved resource management protocols is not over, e.g., Alan Hays is still in the Senate.

Add on top of this the fact that the vast majority of the members of the legislature are factually and historically ignorant of resource management complexities (witness the legislation of the past two years) and what it will require to stay on top of Florida’s uniquely dangerous resource problems in a recovering economic environment, and the fact that the Governor is less informed about it all than your average eighth grader…

I, for one, fear greatly that the State of Florida’s economic future and the unique natural ecology to which it is inextricably bound is in immense jeopardy ... and you should, too.


  1. I served on the Alafia Basin Board for 8 years and remember fighting back an effort to eliminate the Basin Boards. At the time, we operated in the sunshine, had reasonable members of the Legislature who were motivated by a true devoting and understanding of the issues and above all, we had a Governor ( Bob Graham) who was a real public servant.
    We now have a tainted scoundrel as Governor, a Legislature controlled by ignorant ideologues and a voting populace who must take the blame for inserting these fools into positions of power.
    Shame on all who fell for the 70 million dollar purchase of power and who subscribe to the blind mantra of the teabaggers.

  2. A perfect storm of: Term limits, greed for donor income, anti-govt. movements and pure ignorance or caring about how/why our unique water management system was created appears to have coalesced and we lack elected leaders to oppose the obvious harm and stupidity.

    No one has done a better job of pointing out these changes and the harm they bring to a sophisticated resource management system than you

    Keep it up.

    I fear for the many large natural systems we have protected over the past 30 years. We did have reasonable expectations that the supporting surface and ground waters of these places would continue to exist. That has all changed

    ... without our continued WMD protection of MFL and instream flow rights like we included into the original Chapter 17-40 we could lose all this protection via large regional well fields political push. Or the inter regional water transport lines we feared back in early Gov Graham days.

    We need to vote in Floridians who actually grew up here and care about loss of our special places, lakes lakes,
    springs and rivers

    Thanks for what you do to get the message out

  3. I'm afraid we are already in darkness. The agencies designed to safeguard and preserve Florida, and our resources, have been systematically dismantled to allow the J.D. Alexanders of the State to take over. What will surely follow will be rape, plunder and pillage.

    We need to unify here and find an able-bodied candidate to run against Scott in the next election. Someone with a handle on the issues and who is charismatic, intelligent, and appeals to the majority (the political poster child). My thinking is not tea party here and definitely not Rubio. Someone with guts who will identify Scott's errors and their magnitude, and lay a groundwork to right the wrongs, e.g. WMDs, Basin Boards, DCA, etc., etc., etc. (good grief!). It will take four years simply to undo the damage this maniacal maniac has done in only one year in office.

    Let me know your choice for nominee.

    I'll be there,

  4. Brilliant. You called Meeker out for what she is - a political hack. You said it like it is. No one could have told the true story better than this. We are fortunate to have someone with the courage and conviction that you do. Deep thanks..

  5. I am very troubled, very very worried. Do you think there are enough members of the pubic that can be energized to fight back these morons?

  6. I absorb every one of your emails in awe of your ability to express your thoughts so well. And I envy your mind and talent... you are always right on target. And even though I was registered as a Republican and consider myself a conservative financial Republican and a social liberal Republican, I did not vote for the power mad current governor who had to buy the seat. So now I am registered as "NO Party Affiliation" and wish there (was) a real 3rd party between the two extremes. The big answer continues to be---"follow the money". Keep writing ...

  7. Well said....thank you! Now what do we do..?

  8. There is much work ahead. First, we must stop being afraid – afraid to speak, afraid to take action. Remember, fear is the mindkiller. Right now, we can start reviewing legislation – what was just done, what was already in place and what impedes our ability to fix it. One thing we need to do is to re-write the government in the sunshine law. It is a farce, and the only way the average citizen or even the press can figure out what is going on is if someone leaks a document, or reveals its presence, so you can specifically request it. There are ways to prevent this kind of obvious and deliberate opaqueness, but no will (of course not) on the part of legislators. Another thing we can do is make sure we can impeach our Governor if we see fit. And how about this: IDENTIFY YOURSELVES! If you work at the WMD still, why not clue us in: SWFWMD 1, SWFWMD 2, etc., or Former SWFWMD 1, Former SWFWMD 2, etc.
    What happened at the water management districts generally, and at the Southwest Florida Water Management specifically, is important because the purpose and mission of the water management districts is to manage YOUR water resources and natural systems. When the people that routinely put themselves at risk to ensure compliance with the laws and regulations that protected these resources are fired, the message to the remaining staff is pretty clear: do not ask questions and do exactly as you are told, or you will be next. And this comes at a time when water supply and water quality issues are becoming increasingly important, and when our planet is headed towards a crisis of unimaginable proportion. The Rick Scott administration and our elected legislators are not just ignoring climate change, but are openly hostile to it. What we need in our agencies, if we are to have a chance at salvaging life as we know it, are courageous, bold leaders who are not afraid to challenge political agendas. The human capital within government agencies is consequently enormously important, and more must be done to stop and undo the political purges that occurred. Steps need to be taken first prevent legislators and other political sorts from intervening in water management functions. Although certainly resource management involves scientific and political interplays, it is not appropriate to achieve political agendas by behind-the-scene manipulations of agency staff.
    Finally we need to make sure that what they thought they had won, they will now lose. When they want to ignore climate change when establishing MFLs, we will insist that climate change be incorporated into the models. When enormously expensive SWIM projects are being conducted to restore natural habitat, we need to start insisting instead on coastal retreat mechanisms that protect the marine resource AFTER the sea levels rise. When they think they will continue to clear and destroy our wetlands and forests – we will insist that they mitigate not just the conventional function and type, and the carbon released, but also explain how they will account for and mitigate the external costs of development. Finally, when they want to pump our wetlands dry and divert our water to over-extended watersheds, we will tell them absolutely and unconditionally no.
    A new model is needed for resource management in the state. The DEP, the FFWCC, the WMDs – all failed. Forestry is less controversial, or that agency also would also have failed its mission. All these agencies need to be dissolved, and new sustainable resource management agencies formed. These agencies would be structured similarly to WMDs, but different mechanisms found for appointing ED and new structure for governing boards. We cannot manage our resources in isolation any longer. We need to manage them holistically in order to protect all the elements, functions and services they provide.

  9. You need to reinvest yourself here. So much positive work has been done on water issues statewide. I hope we can stay on track.

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  11. Thank God for Governor Scott. He came in and cleaned up a bunch of bloated non functioning bureaucracies. If you were ever on my end trying to deal with those arrogant non accountable people you would have a different opinion.

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