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Please be fair, honest, civil, respectful.  Humor, hard hitting sarcasm, intelligence, wit, and from the heart comments are all welcome
The following are provided here because they are particularly noteworthy.
These comments were made recently to the Governing Board of the Southwest Florida Water Management District by Kevin Love, former district employee and land manager:
I’d like to share some thoughts about conservation land stewardship at the District.
It seems that being “passionate” about conservation and “conservative” about expanding use of conservation lands are terminal conditions around here lately. This has a lot of folks concerned about the direction this agency is going.
Here’s my take on being passionate and conservative about cons land stewardship. It means being convicted of the agency’s stewardship mission, having the courage of those convictions to speak up when the agency loses sight of that mission.
It means believing that that mission on the lands is embodied in these 9 words: “the restoration and protection of their natural state and condition.” And that this idea trumps all other considerations.
It means recognizing that every additional footfall, trail, road, every square foot of asphalt, every tire track, every cow… everything that is not a natural process on the landscape negatively impacts ones that are, and diminishes them.
It means understanding that these lands were not acquired as wildlife management areas for growing game animals… nor farms for growing produce… nor ranches for growing beef… nor wood lots for growing timber… nor playgrounds for our entertainment…
It means recognizing that these lands are something much more important…they are our storehouses of biological diversity, of genetic information, the last places where wild things can be wild. They are our natural endowment for the future. They are all we have and they must last us forever.
As the trustees of the people’s endowment, it is your responsibility to protect the value of our investment. Because we must live off the interest.
Which means you must make every decision affecting these lands with the greatest of caution, due care and consideration, with foresight and long range vision, guided by the application of sound science and professional judgment of those that know the lands best: your land management staff.
It means understanding that it is much easier to avoid a bad land use decision than to recover from one. And it means taking the time to recognize the bad ones before you make them.
Encourage, don’t punish those with conviction, courage and the wisdom to take a cautious approach to land use.
Kevin Love
Former Land Manager


What is happening on the SWFWMD discussion ( is nothing more than what is happening everywhere else in Government because of the massive turnover.  All the new people apparently don’t do any homework. 
Case in point, I sat at a Governor and Cabinet Meeting where the Governor and Cabinet were receiving a presentation, by a new
State Lands Director, under a new Secretary, neither of whom had been in the conservation land business (despite St. Joe history) before they got their jobs.  All of the new Governor and Cabinet members had never been around for land acquisition processes or projects selection either.
Florida Cabinet
(L-R) Pam Bondi, Attorney General
Adam Putnam, Commissioner of Ag. and Consumer Services
Rick Scott, Governor
Jeff Atwater, Chief Financial Officer
So the first words out of their mouth were “ We need to be more strategic about our acquisitions.  We should have goals for why we buy land.”  The conversation continued along that vein.  Clearly, the institutional knowledge that still exists in the agency is afraid to be passed along because “I might be fired,” if I put my nose into my superiors business.   If they had been briefed properly they would know that the statute sets out specific goals starting with protection of endangered species and rounding out with recreational access across the two million acres that have been purchased since the 1950’s, but most in the last 20 years.

The Cabinet meeting was crazy from the perspective of a veteran observer. Hearing questions from Cabinet members who clearly were not briefed sufficiently – because they don’t make the time for it.  Briefings are 15 minutes, sometimes in the car on the way from the airport to the Cabinet meeting.

None of the elected officials and their new appointees care anymore, Sonny.  The citizens of Florida just want a job.  The government employees just want to protect their own jobs.  Protecting the environment, including the water that we need is somewhere like number 8 on the list of priorities.



Funding levels and pay scales of employees who are charged with making decisions about water resource management in the State of Florida should reflect the importance of these issues to the average Floridian. 

The number one driver of Florida’s economy is tourism, and a significant number of those tourists come to Florida for water-based activities such as boating, fishing, swimming or wildlife viewing.  Even those tourists who come to Florida for its theme parks and golf courses are likely to be turned off by the experience of algal blooms and fish kills that still occur in our state.  Water supply and flood control issues are even more important impacts to the average Floridian than water quality – it’s hard to enjoy our quality of life if lakes and rivers are reduced to stagnant pools or our neighborhoods flood with every rain event.
And yet we often treat public employees who work in the field of water management as if the most important criteria for employment is what level of salary they will accept.  As someone who has had a variety of jobs, including federal government, state government, private sector non-profit and private sector for-profit (as well as being self-employed) I can attest that state employees, at least at the higher technical levels in science and engineering, make significantly less money than they would in the private sector.  The benefits for public employees are much better than in the private sector, that is true, but private sector salaries for top-level scientists and engineers can be 25 to 50 percent higher than their public sector colleagues.
Why is this important?  Because the decisions that are made by water resource managers are wide-ranging, and can have enormous financial consequences. 
There has been a substantial reduction in the number of PhD –level scientists and engineers from the South, Southwest, and St. Johns River Water Management Districts over the past few years, in part because the Districts' have become more bureaucratic over time, and in part because the financial rewards of private sector work are disproportionately higher. 
And this is not entirely good for the taxpayers of the State of Florida; outsourcing more work to consultants, while good for me, must be done in such a manner so that remaining staff at public agencies remain high caliber enough to tell when a consultant is blowing money on unnecessary models and inappropriate restoration schemes, for example.  In my experience alone, I have found that public agencies throughout the state have spent tens of millions of dollars on water quality restoration projects that have not resulted in the predicted changes in water quality.  Local governments have been asked to spend tens of millions  of dollars more on projects to meet water quality goals and pollutant load reduction targets that are easily shown to be seriously flawed.  Similar issues exist for the fields of flood protection and water supply, although not as often.
So why does this happen, why are flawed models and inappropriate targets used to develop problematic restoration goals and project designs?  Perhaps two things – a shift such that public employees in the field of water resource management have been pushed to spend more time on contract management, budget tracking and report reading, with a reduction in the amount of time they can spend on training and performing technical work themselves. 
At state-wide conferences, it is rarer and rarer to see WMD staff in attendance, even when the agenda includes topics that have enormous financial implications to taxpayers.  Instead, the pressure is to farm out nearly all technical work – from water quality monitoring to modeling to restoration project development. 
What scientist or engineer went to graduate school so that they could spend their career processing invoices and reading other peoples studies?  Under such conditions, and if the opportunity arises, more and more highly trained staff are leaving their lower-paying, less interesting jobs in the public sector.  And that’s not good – we need to maintain the high quality staff that remain – often out of a sense of doing a greater public good – so that they remain skilled enough to make informed decisions on important matters such as flood control, water supply, water quality and natural systems.
As someone in the private sector, my best and most rewarding projects are when I work with intelligent, creative and engaged project managers.  Many of them still exist in the public sector, and thank goodness for that. But pay those people as if  you consider them equivalent to the guy behind the desk at DMV and you’ll  end up with that same level of service and expertise.
Dave Tomasko, Ph.D.


Re: A Second Look at SWFWMD's New Dawn

I’m glad you gave more thought to Mr. Guillory’s actions, however bold even heartless they may seem.  I have always worked in “at will” positions.  I think that is what most folks forget.  EVERY one of the positions at the District are “at will” unless you can demonstrate you are in a protected class.  At any given time, absent some form of discrimination, a manager can come in and tell an employee he/she is relieved of duty and is gone. No reason necessary really.  And you above all recognize when a new team is needed.
I have to take exception though at your characterization of Mr. Guillory’s responsibility.  His responsibility is to carry out, on a day to day basis, the policies and decision of the GOVERNING BOARD.  Mr. Guillory needs to engage the Board, not be afraid of it, not separating them from the staff, not disallowing issues from getting to the Board, including permitting issues.  When I first worked for the SWFWMD in the dark ages of the very early ‘90s, the Governing Board meetings were 2 days long.  But as years went by it seemed to be a badge of honor to whiddle down the time the Board met. As each year past, the Board had less time to seriously consider, hold workshops and decide issues that used the taxpayers’ money for the good of 16 counties.  Mr. Guillory should seek to restore that relationship with the Board, in my opinion. 
I wish him well.  I hope he recognizes that for those of us that have spent most of our lives in public service that the decision to do so runs much deeper than “benefits” as is always slung around.  There is deep and abiding beliefs and values held by those of us in that service, as you well know and continue to demonstrate.  I hope Mr. Guillory recognizes that and although he may not find exactly the team he desires in the District now, there are those, yourself included, on the outside of the District with knowledge that he could consider in his administration.  For he too is now, a government worker, as is our governor.
Thanks again for this opportunity to discuss these issues and your leadership in providing such.


Re: SWFWMD to Allow Chasshowitzka River to be Reduced ...
Chassahowitzka is my favorite vacation spot. In my opinion the most beautiful areas in Florida are from Homassassa to Cedar Key. The rich diversity and clear rivers are nature’s gifts that I must see often. So, that’s why I am saddened and repulsed by what the SWFWMD plans to let happen to the flow of the Chazz. It seems an 11% reduction would “significantly” change the characteristics of the river system and would indeed do some form of “harm”. I think that a few things should be put in to perspective; first, the words “harm” and “significant” should be clearly defined and examples or real world situations should be used. Harm to me in my back yard might be a different level of actual damage than harm to you in your back yard. Next, the science that is used (as the blog clearly states) isn’t complete. How can you get the big picture when you’re only looking at a few constituent parts? All of the little things make a difference in the big picture; therefore need to be counted. Finally, why don’t the policy makers ever listen to the locals? Who knows the state and health of a natural system better than the ones who fish, camp, boat, live, breathe, and work in the system every day? I’m sure that the locals and the scientists who care about these things could prove why this should not be allowed, but it seems once again bureaucracy is taking its’ toll. A sad day for us, for the manatees, a sad day for all.
Bill Bettis



Re: Surplusing Environmental Lands

Sonny, as you know I wrote my Dissertation on Save Our Rivers.  There are not many stronger advocates for public land acquisition than I am.
That being said, I do know that every Save our Rivers, Preservation 2000, or Florida Forever Purchase cannot be defended as 100% critical. 
When we bought the 76,000 acres along the Apalachicola and Choctawhatchee Rivers not all of it was flood plain or contained unique water management properties.  It was part of the deal, take it or leave it.  We took it.
So, yes there are some lands that were part of purchases which do not contribute to the purpose for which they were purchased. BUT, who has the expertise to sort them out? 
What we need to do is to have the Water Management Institute, or similar group, evaluate significant purchases and send a proposal to the Legislature to recommend those WMD Lands which could be surplused. This could be done using a GIS Multi-overlay Composite Scoring technique.  
The question is who determines which lands to surplus, who buys them and for what purpose.  This is a major deal which represents over $10 Billion in lands since 1980. Where do we sign up to run the program? 
J. William McCartney, Ph.D.
Former Exec. Dir., Northwest Florida Water Management District




This is like a reccurring  nightmare that just keeps repeating itself over and over similar to a Dracula movie except we never seem to have the wood stake when we need it.

Back in the eighties when I was on the BOCC I remember doing battle with Charles “Chuck” Rainy (RIP). It seems that Pinellas had designs on Hernando County through West Coast Water Supply Authority, which he dominated.  Anyway, we discovered plans that showed the feasibility of well fields in Hernando along our small western power line easement. We immediately went about securing that land and built a linear well field to supply the county. Mr. Rainy had some choice words for me but I told him over my dead body were they going to take our water.
Of course the St. Petersburg Times castigated me for being an obstacle to regional cooperation. Remember that was when they were sucking Pasco County dry and lakes and ponds along with wetlands were drying up.
We then had to contend with the G-1 issue raised by the environmental attorney Tom Reese and fight that battle as he wanted Hernando to be the bathtub of water for Pinellas County.
The new DEP Secretary better read up on the history of the water wars before he finds himself and the Governor involved in more than a minor skirmish but rather a major conflagration.
(Len Tria, former commissioner, Hernando County Board of County Commissioners)

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!)