Monday, July 15, 2013

Why is Carlos “Bully” Beruff a member of the SWFWMD governing board?

Is Carlos “Bully” Beruff a member of the SWFWMD governing board only to serve his own interests?
30 years ago, the state of Florida realized that indiscriminant dredging of canals and filling of coastal wetlands was going to dramatically change the globally-recognized character of the state if not constrained and, in most cases, prevented.
Hernando Beach in Hernando County and the giant development known as Marco Island in Collier County are just two of thousands of such projects that characterize the vast damage that can result to natural coastal marshes and riverine systems.  Both were created by digging canals through pristine marshes and placing the “spoil” alongside to create home sites, and both were eventually stopped due to gross environmental law violations.
Florida's coastal marshes may be in danger again
Since the Warren S. Henderson Wetlands Protection Act, passed by the Florida Legislature in 1984, this type of damaging activity has been constrained to the point that thousands of square miles of Florida marshlands have been left as is, just as they existed before Spanish explorers discovered the beauty of natural Florida hundreds of years ago.
Legislators and governors from both parties learned this important lesson 30 years ago which has proved that today’s tourist economy is, first and foremost, dependent upon its clean waters, its wide natural vistas and its abundant communities of native plants and wildlife.  It is not dependent upon endless construction of condos, malls, and dredged canals because clearly, without the first, there would be no second.  As Lee Constantine likes to say, nobody ever came to Florida on vacation just to visit its malls.
Now all those lessons are being challenged and it appears more and more that we are being doomed to having to learn them all over again.
Carlos Beruff is a Scott appointee to the SWFWMD governing board, developer, powerful political manipulator from Manatee County and current chair of the governing board.  Like Scott, he seems hell-bent on reversing these important lessons and continuing the destruction of natural Florida that was so wisely and carefully prevented for the last 30 years.  Getting himself appointed to the district's board of governors was clearly not because it is something he believes in.  It was likely because it will make him and his developer-partners and lawyers millions and millions of dollars, the future of the state be damned.
The Bradenton Times recently published an editorial about Beruff and his latest project on Sarasota Bay to build condos, a 4-star hotel with a convention center and a marina.  Residents of a historic fishing village in Manatee County, called Cortez, are concerned how it will impact their community which was first settled back in the 1880’s.
Beruff is going to have problems trying to construct such a massive project.
Here’s what Wikipedia says about Sarasota Bay:
... the largest and deepest coastal bay between Tampa Bay and Charlotte Harbor, is one of twenty-eight estuaries in the country that have been named by the U.S. Congress as an estuary of national significance. The bay lies between barrier islands called keys, that separate the body of water from the Gulf of Mexico and the Florida mainland. Longboat Key, Lido Key, Siesta Key, and Casey Key are the major keys that delineate the main bay and its smaller portions.
But entertaining such environmentally destructive projects is not unusual for CEO Scott’s knowledge of or concern for Florida’s natural or historic heritage.  Nor is it unusual for Beruff.  In fact, if he gets any resistance from the agency he chairs or DEP.  The next thing we’ll see is:
-        Beruff will bring considerable political heat from the friendly development community and republican party in Manatee County upon local legislators and his “friend” CEO Scott;
-        Lobbyists will begin to propose changes to current laws to not only allow it but to demand it just as the Carlyl Group did for the Highlands Ranch Mitigation Bank (See: SWFWMD Matters: Highlands Ranch Mit Bank permit; Has Bersok ...; SWFWMD Matters: Florida is in for a dark, destructive time; SWFWMD Matters: Fear and Loathing in Florida's Water ...)
-        Beruff will declare his private property rights are being violated;
-        He will threaten lawsuits to destroy the agency rules that are interfering with his quest, and;
-        He will adamantly deny that his being the current chair of SWFWMD and the fact that he was instrumental in decimating the agency's regulatory and enforcement capabilities by firing dozens if not hundreds of scientists, has anything to do with his private sector ambitions.
This is who Beruff is.  It is his reputation.  It is the way he operates. 
It is just more underhanded and low behavior so typical of the appointments and hires made by CEO Scott and his henchmen at DEP. 
Please read the Bradenton Times editorial HERE.

Friday, July 12, 2013

What’s the most important thing you can do today to protect Florida’s environment?

Water and Land Conservation Amendment

Please go to the Florida Conservation Coalition website ( and learn how you can sign the petition.   Read their explanation and support this effort to place a critically needed amendment to Florida's constitution on the ballot for voter approval that will provide badly needed funding for environmental programs.
Or you can go directly to the Florida Conservation Coalition Partners with the Legacy Campaign website  and sign up to receive the petition.  Original signatures are required so simply fill out the form and they will email  
you the petition.  Then sign and mail.
They need 550,000 more signatures in the next 5 months.
Please do this.  It's important.


Thursday, July 11, 2013

Guillory, Take Beruff with you!

Blake Guillory
The only thing better than Blake Guillory getting the job at SFWMD and leaving SWFWMD would be if he took Carlos Beruff with him.  Between the two of them, the long term damage they have done to water management in southwest Florida is incalculable.   
Any staffer of SWFWMD of the last two years will tell you (if they are certain their anonymity will be protected) it has been Beruff who has been the most demanding and ruthless in dismantling the district's ability to do the job it is prescribed by law to do.  And, of course, it has been Guillory who has rolled into Tampa every Monday morning from Jupiter to carry out Beruff's and CEO Scott's dirty work. Guillory, who never actually established residency in SWFWMD during his tour as ED, would then pack it up every Friday and troop back to his home in Jupiter. 

Carlos Beruff
Now he's vying for the job at SFWMD where he has had consulting experience.  Good for him.  Good for SWFWMD.  Bad for the SFWMD.  Guess he just wants to shorten his commute because it’s being said he won't be getting an increase in pay despite the tougher row he will have to hoe there.  Sort of makes one ask, what is his real motive for all this destruction and job hopping? 
Beruff has a long history of having tiffs with regulatory bodies, demonstrated by the projects he has proposed as a successful developer and the permits he has fought over  He has clearly earned his reputation of having no regard for Florida's delicate natural systems.  He brought that attitude with him to SWFWMD and at Scott's direction proceeded to weaken, disrupt and destroy a truly effective and much needed water management system that was developed by governors and legislators from both parties over the last 50 years.  Now Scott and the army of Beruffs he has entrenched at every water management district in Florida have determined, insanely, all of that was wrong.
It is the likes of Beruff and the unthinking execution of ill-advised public policy promulgated by a totally uninformed and inexperienced multi-millionaire governor who has brought environmental protection in Florida to its knees.   
It isn't likely to happen, of course, but nothing could be better than if Beruff were to go away like Guillory seems about to do.   
It can't be bad if they both bail because no replacement for either of them could possibly be more disastrous for water management in southwest Florida.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Scott and Legislators look the other way as Florida decays

Around the state, communities that have natural freshwater springs flowing in their back yards like Brooksville (Weeki Wachee Springs), Crystal River (Crystal Springs), Dunnellon (Rainbow Springs), Ocala (Silver Springs), Orlando (Wekiva Springs), are becoming alarmed at the continuing deterioration of these extraordinary natural features.
Yet the political leadership of this state, primarily Republicans, has determined that such phenomena are of little importance and that what is more important is allowing the pollution that’s killing these springs to continue under the false guise that regulation kills jobs. 
This terribly misguided hands-off attitude is being purchased by special interests, powerful members of the Florida Chamber of Commerce and others from out of state who have major business investments in Florida.  These are private and corporate interests who stand to lose big if their polluting operations become constrained by regulations that would end or even slow the pollution.
They use Florida’s lax campaign laws that allow back-channel funneling of unlimited political contributions for candidates willing to sacrifice Florida’s future for money to get re-elected and maintain control of its political infrastructure. 
If a review were to be undertaken of where such money comes from and where it winds up, one would likely see how favorable self-serving laws become purchased by these huge payments which can add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars from single contributors.  Such a review would also shine a light on how these dollars benefit individual legislators and the powerful lobbyists who nurture them, as well as those who signed the check.  
Unfortunately, Florida’s legislators continue to make tracking big money difficult if not impossible because doing so would not serve their own political interests.
David Guest is Florida Managing Attorney for Earthjustice, a national public interest law firm.  Saying these factions dislike Guest because he has spent a career standing up for natural Florida and fighting those who would despoil it, would be an understatement.  He is relentless, unblinking in the face of enormous power, and moneyed interests know if he gets his teeth into one of their issues it will hurt them.
Here’s what he has written about this matter.  The pollution problem, as he lucidly points out, is not limited to just our unique natural springs but has spread like a terrible disease to all of Florida’s waters – lakes, rivers, springs, and even its coastal waters.
Voters need to open their eyes, move beyond irrational partisan doctrine, and do the right thing for Florida.  The Tallahassee machinery that continues to allow, even foster, this approaching calamity needs to be dismantled.  So much is at risk.
 Here is Guest’s letter:

June 26, 2013
A few miles from Florida's state Capitol, a lake has broken out with toxic algae that causes skin rashes and liver damage in humans and kills wildlife. I wish I could tell you this was an isolated case.
David Guest
The fact is, hundreds of manatees, dolphins, birds, and fish have been washing up dead on both the east and west coasts. Those waters are fouled by sewage, manure, fertilizer, and sewage — pollution that fuels algae outbreaks.
How bad is it? Take a look:
In Southeast Florida's Indian River Lagoon, algae outbreaks are causing what Discovery News calls a "mass murder mystery" — a dead manatee floats up about every two weeks. The tally there since last summer is over 111 manatees, along with more than 46 dead dolphins and 300 pelicans.
In Orlando, the spring-fed Wekiva River is covered by slimy algae and residents are warned to stay away from Lake Harris and Little Lake Harris, which have turned murky brown from another algae outbreak.
There's a persistent algae outbreak off the popular tourist mecca of Sanibel Island, and a water treatment plant on Southwest Florida's Caloosahatchee River that's supposed to serve 30,000 people shut down; the algae makes the water unusable — even dangerous — for drinking.
In Jacksonville, residents are seeing signs that the "Green Monster" massive algae outbreak is coming back on the St. Johns River. The Green Monster covered almost 100 miles of the St Johns with slime in 2005 and 2009, causing public health warnings, fish kills, and turning water pea-soup green.
A scientist doing an aerial survey for manatees along the river recently told the Florida Times-Union that he and his pilot suffered "respiratory distress" just flying 500 feet over the algae outbreak.
We are in this predicament because, to put it plainly, Florida's government is gutting common-sense rules that would help stop algae outbreaks.
Outdated septic tanks cause algae outbreaks, but the Legislature gutted septic tank regulations. Polluter lobbyists drafted the state's rules on sewage and manure pollution, the Scott Administration adopted the weak language and the Legislature approved it. When some lawmakers proposed an amendment for the state to collect reports of skin rashes and health effects from this pollution, the Legislature overwhelmingly voted it down.
Scott's Administration has also fired attorneys and staffers who dared to enforce laws at the state's Department of Environmental Protection. Enforcement cases against polluters have plummeted.
Powerful agricultural corporations – many of them out-of-state - are now polluting Florida waters without consequence. The "rules" around agricultural runoff are particularly galling because they are – really! - on the honor system.
A big polluter like an industrial plant would be fined if it piled up a bunch of toxic stuff that washed into a river. But that's not true for Florida agricultural operations. Florida allows them voluntary goals called "best management practices." All the corporation has to do it say it is implementing a plan to control pollution, and it is exempt from monitoring!
It's as if a big trucking company were allowed to blow through speed traps so long as it submitted a "speed-limit compliance plan" to the Highway Patrol.
Fishermen watching the massive die-offs along the Indian River Lagoon – considered the most diverse estuary in North America - have little hope of help from Florida's leaders. The Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute got the Legislature to approve $2 million this year for a study of the lagoon's water chemistry. Scott vetoed it.
David Guest