Tuesday, March 5, 2019

A letter for our new Governor and Legislature

Dear SWFWMDmatters
"For decades, efforts to protect and restore
Florida's waters have been significantly underfunded."
Are you as concerned and frustrated about what’s happening to Florida's natural environment as I am? Here's what you need to know about what you need to know, so you can add your voice to the growing number of folks who are demanding our new Governor and Legislature take real action this session to protect Florida’s natural future. It doesn’t matter a whit what party you belong to. I’m a Republican and my concern for natural Florida is a s strong as any. I recently published a book, “Florida! Images of Natural Florida” in which I lament how, over the last eight years, our elected leaders have systematically abandoned Florida’s 50-year concern for its natural environment.
Former U.S. Senator (and a two-term governor of Florida), Bob Graham, a Democrat, along with former State Senator and State Representative Lee Constantine, a Republican, are jointly leading the way to a critically needed new and sensible approach for Florida’s future. Together, they have published a letter in today’s newspapers that provides a simple but straightforward take on what the state needs in order to insure its natural systems and state-wide economy can survive in a future that is dark with questions about their long-term viability.
The letter is printed in-full below, but to be fully informed be sure to follow the link at the end to the website for the Florida Conservation Coalition where you’ll find “A Water Policy For Florida.”
Emilio “Sonny” Vergara
Here’s their letter:
Meeting threats to the state's water supply
Where will the road to Florida's future lead us?
Protecting and conserving Florida's water is an economic as well as environmental issue, not one defined by geography or party lines. Both of us, a Democrat from Miami Lakes and Republican from Altamonte Springs, have made protecting and restoring Florida's waters a cornerstone of our public service. Today, we redouble our efforts to safeguard Florida's most valuable resource.
Spurred by outbreaks of Red Tide and blue-green algae leading to another summer of dramatic loss in revenue and decline of water quality and quantity in Florida's springs, rivers and lakes, the Florida Conservation Coalition (FCC), a coalition of more than 80 conservation minded groups, released 'A Water Policy for Florida.' This position statement provides an overview of many of the existing threats to our waters and a pathway for their successful conservation, restoration and protection statewide.
The coalition lays out five critical steps that must be undertaken immediately by our policymakers to safeguard our waters.
An ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure. Preventing pollution at its source is the most environmentally sound and cost-effective way to meet water quality goals. We have proposed common sense solutions to prevent pollution from wastewater, agriculture, biosolids and stormwater, among other sources, in at-risk watersheds.
AGGRESSIVELY REDUCE EXISTING SOURCES OF POLLUTION. Since the vast majority of Florida's waters are already impaired by nutrients, it is not enough to just slow the growth of pollution; we must reverse the trend. Adopting a stronger state model fertilizer ordinance, requiring effective best management practices, upgrading wastewater utilities and replacing or upgrading septic tanks in areas already impaired by excessive nutrient pollution will be an expensive but necessary undertaking if we hope to restore impaired waters.
"The Legislature should pass a law that provides
significant annual funding to acquire critical natural areas
and conserve working farms and ranches."
What happens on Florida's land determines the state of its waters. Florida needs to immediately acquire lands in sensitive areas, minimize urban sprawl and require efficient landscaping in new developments. The Legislature should pass a law that provides significant annual funding to acquire critical natural areas and conserve working farms and ranches.
SECURE FLORIDA'S FUTURE WATER SUPPLY. Public investments in water supply focus on engineering solutions to expand valuable water resources, missing opportunities to reduce demand through conservation efforts. Government programs should prioritize and incentivize water conservation measures as the first means to address Florida's water supply challenges. Additionally, Florida's water management districts must do a better job of accounting for the interests of the environment and public in making water use permitting decisions.
PROVIDE ADEQUATE FUNDING FOR FLORIDA'S COMPREHENSIVE WATER POLICY. For decades, efforts to protect and restore Florida's waters have been significantly underfunded. Compared to other important state priorities, like transportation, which receives nearly $11 billion in funding each year, funding for the management and protection of our water resources is sorely lacking. Although a true cost has not yet been determined, estimates suggest funding for Florida's water quality compliance and infrastructure needs to be a minimum of $1 billion to $2 billion per year. Traditional funding sources, like water management district ad valorem tax rates, will need to be restored and new funding sources, such as a water withdrawal fee, will need to be identified if we are going to save Florida's waters.
As the 2019 legislative session begins in Tallahassee, we are hopeful that our governor and legislators understand that Florida cannot afford another year, much less decades to come, of the environmental and economic disasters that have become commonplace across Florida. As former state legislators, we know the importance of public input in the legislative process. We encourage you to contact your state senator and state representative and tell them about the rivers, lakes, springs, beaches and estuaries in your community, and why statewide water protections matter to you.
But first, visit wearefcc.org and read 'A Water Policy for Florida' (a 10-page document including a one-page summary) to arm yourself with the facts and information necessary to make a difference.
(Bob Graham is a former governor of Florida and former U.S. senator. Lee Constantine, a Seminole County commissioner, is a former state senator and former state representative. To read the Florida Conservation Coalition's 'A Water Policy for Florida,' visit the website here https:// www.wearefcc.org/waterpolicyforflorida. For more information email WeAreFCC@gmail.com.)

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

A good-news story

This is a good-news story.

American Bald Eagle
Lake Apopka
2018-10-08 (298)

Last Monday, 2018-10-08, Gary Kuhl and I made a trip to Lake Apopka located 15 miles north of Orlando.  It’s the third largest lake in Florida, about 30,000 acres, and is the head waters for the Ocklawaha Chain of lakes. I was hesitant at first because this huge, beautiful body of water was for years reputed to be one of Florida’s most polluted lakes.

Fed by a natural spring, rainfall and stormwater runoff, water from Lake Apopka flows through the Apopka-Beauclair Canal and into Lakes Beauclair and Dora. From Lake Dora, water flows into Lake Eustis, then into Lake Griffin and then northward into the Ocklawaha River, which flows into the St. Johns River” (Wikipedia).

This grand flow that starts north of Orlando is also joined west of Ocala by the crystal-clear waters of Silver River and ends up exiting the state at Jacksonville. It’s an extraordinary hydrologic system and an exquisite underpinning segment of north-central Florida’s water make-up.

Decades of abuse and lack of understanding of their impacts by local communities and farmers, however, who ditched, diked and drained 18,000-20,000 acres of marshlands along the north shore, caused the lake, for lack of a better way to describe it, to die.

Glossy Ibis
Lake Apopka
2018-10-08 (199)
Here, Wikipedia recounts one example of the disastrous abuse the lake suffered: “In July 1980, Tower Chemical Company (TCC), a local pesticide manufacturer, improperly disposed of significant amounts of DDE, a known endocrine disruptor, along with other toxic chemicals. As a result, these chemicals spilled into Lake Apopka, and the US Environmental Protection Agency was alerted. TCC shut down their operations in December 1980. In 1981, an EPA investigation began and the site was decommissioned and designated as a Superfund clean-up site. Despite their efforts, some of the chemicals seeped into the Florida(n) aquifer and have proliferated into some of Central Florida's interconnected lakes and waterways. This chemical has caused health problems in much of the lake's wildlife population, and has caused infertility and other sexual disorders in several species, including alligators.”

Florida Marsh Hen
Lake Apopka
2018-10-08 (267)
In addition, with the massive loss of wetlands which deprived the lake of its natural ability to absorb and process nutrients, combined with hundreds of thousands of tons of added nutrients and pesticides discharged from the surrounding farming operations, the lake eventually succumbed. Its enormous natural bounty was decimated along with its world-class reputation as a bass fishing mecca and dozens of fish camps and other dependent operations. The lake was left as a disastrous pea-green soup of dangerously fouled water and dying wildlife

In 1984, I left as director of the St. Johns River Water Management District after over five years redesigning the way the U.S. Corps of Engineers had intended to ditch, dike and drain 2,000 square miles of the Upper St. Johns River drainage basin and divert its flows south toward the Everglades. It was a bruising exercise but one that resulted in a showcase system where today environmentalists, developers, farmers and governmental interests have been brought together in support of common goals.

Great Blue Heron
Lake Apopka
2018-10-08 (158)
As I was leaving the district, I told the incoming director, Henry Dean, the next greatest challenge for him and the district would be Lake Apopka.  Over the next 17 years, to his credit, he built the upper St. Johns Project as redesigned and took on the challenge of Lake Apopka.

Little Blue Heron
Lake Apopka
2018-10-08 (298)
Today, the District’s efforts are comfortingly apparent for the lake. The farming operations have been displaced through the mechanisms and wisdom of funding from Florida Forever funds designed for just such problems. Farms were purchased and thousands of acres of fertilized and pesticide-laden fields are being converted back to the freshwater marsh ecosystems systems that originally flourished as the lake’s kidneys. As we drove along the “Wildlife Drive”, formerly part of the agricultural diking system, the beginnings of new a marsh ecosystem was apparent, and wildlife was abundant.

It was gratifying to actually see and experience at least one significant success by those who spent their careers – decades - identifying and addressing Florida’s growing water-related problems and finding ways to revert such damage or prevent it from becoming a continuing inevitability into the future.

The health of Florida’s natural systems is directly related to the health of the state’s future economic well-being.  It is a false premise that protection of Florida’s natural systems and the legal mechanisms it entails are antithetical to free enterprise and the spirit of entrepreneurial viability.

These are a few photos that bear witness.
Red-Winged Blackbird
Lake Apopka
2018-10-08 (45)


Friday, September 14, 2018

Morning thoughts - 2018-09-19: Fla. Chamber wants more of the same


Florida Chamber of Commerce - Outlining Goals for Florida in 2030

The Tampa Bay Times reported this morning that the Florida Chamber of Commerce has put together its "business competitiveness goals for Florida 2030.  It's worth noting that high on the list (3rd of 7) is this concern: "Florida's environmental permitting and land use processes (are) among the most complex in the nation."

Thus, we can expect to see the Fla. Chamber continuing to support the defunding and defanging of the state's environmental laws and agencies which has been devastated over the last 8 years under Rick Scott's regime through the next decade. And, along with it, the continuing decline, exploitation and loss of Florida's sensitive and unique natural systems to the greed of powerful special interests like mining, power, land developers, etc., and the lobbyists and consultants who serve them.  This is their plan for the next 10 years, as if we haven't had enough environmental disasters for the last eight.

Consider the above in context with the pressures our state's natural systems are under even today from the following realities: 1) Florida is the 3rd most populated in the country - over 20 million; 2) Florida is the 3rd fastest growing in the country - about 365,000 new residents per year, or 1000 per day, or one city the size of Tampa per year; 3) Florida is visited each year by a record number of visitors - over 100 million each year, or about one third of the nation's total population (330 million) per year.

There shouldn't be any wonder why Florida absolutely must have some of the most complex environmentally protective laws and rules in the country if the very reason all those people want to come here in the first place is going to be around for a few more generations, much less forever. Florida has some of the most sensitive, beautiful and complex natural ecosystems in the country.  Why else would all those folks want to visit?  If we let them be exploited to extinction we will have destroyed our bounty of golden eggs right along with the very goose that laid them.  How bright is that?

All the more reason for you to get to the polls in November and stop the pillage of our great state by electing people who will make the right decisions on behalf of Florida and its future, instead of the power of the party and the interests of special interests.  Haven't we had enough of that?

Gillum, the FBI and a boat

Also today, the TBT has a front page item about the continuing saga concerning rumors of an FBI investigation of Andrew Gillum for alleged public corruption. A close read of the article will lead one to believe it looks like a whole lot of smoke being blown at an issue that has no fire.  The FBI says he's not the target of an investigation and are warning those looking at it not to conclude there have been any unlawful transgressions.

The article is all about the significance of Gillum's photo in the boat with some undercover FBI agents.  Even though the FBI says he's not a target, no charges have been filed and people should be careful not to read anything miscreant into it, the article notes the DeSantis crowd will likely huff loudly and treat it as a great cloud of evil hanging over Gillum's head. So when you hear of it know for what it is, the fodder of prevaricators coming from an opponent's camp who after years in Washington won't discuss his positions on relevant issues because he needs to do more study and research.  What?

By the way, be sure to read Bart Bibler's response to those who think Gillum's a socialist HERE


Thursday, September 13, 2018

Andrew Gillum is being labeled a socialist - but he is not: Bart Bibler

I received the following in an email from Bart Bibler, a former employee of DEP who in was reportedly fired by the Scott administration for using the words "climate change" or "global warming" during a department meeting.  DEP officials later denied the allegation.  (See the St. Petersburg Times report HERE.)

His words here are relevant and worth your time.  It supports Andrew Gillum for Governor and I agree.  And, remember, I'm a Republican.     -Sandspur


Andrew Gillum is being labeled as a Socialist – but he is not.  Although he is endorsed by Bernie Sanders, he endorsed Hillary Clinton (a moderate Democrat) in the 2016 election.


Labeling is an old Republican tactic. Tie it into Venezuela; he’ll give everything away; the next step is Communism; etc.

Instead, he is trying to move us away from Extreme Capitalism, toward Cooperative Capitalism.

A Capitalism that cares about everyone, that cares about the environment, that recognizes that there are responsibilities, and not just rights.  That understands that we must work together to find solutions to gun safety, to address the climate change and water quality crises, to provide health care access and a living wage, to provide quality public education for all, to create job opportunities for all, to reform our criminal justice system and restore dignity, productivity, and voting rights, and so much more.


Rick Scott and Donald Trump are the poster children of Extreme Capitalism, both buying their positions with money made from unscrupulous business and exploitation, and willing to do anything to win.  They have destroyed any semblance of trust; the concept that a deal is a bond.  And Ron DeSantis is their clone and proxy.  Their policies are for the wealthy, because they are wealthy and they are the party of business over people and the environment, the party for the richest one percent.  They are both personally getting wealthier due to the policies that they have put in place, for their businesses that they continue to benefit from.  For their donors, they have dismantled our growth management, energy management, and environmental protection agencies.  They have eliminated access to healthcare for millions here in Florida, and sabotaged the public hospitals and health insurance system. They’ve privatized our prisons, which are packed with black non-violent offenders. They have encouraged the shifting of public funds to private charter schools, while public schools and teacher wages are eroded, and additional testing and gun safety requirements are added to their burden.  And women’s rights or LGBTQ rights – forget about it.


Andrew Gillum is a man who has overcome family challenges, economic challenges, and racial challenges.  Instead of becoming angry, mean and greedy, he became driven to lead positive change.  He did that through education and elected public service.  He has moved our great city forward on a number of important issues: discussion and improvement of race relations; enhancement of community policing and body cameras; reduction of our carbon emissions and construction of a 120-acre, 20 megawatt solar farm; challenging state laws enacted for the NRA restricting local gun control ordinances; declaring that Tallahassee would accept and welcome immigrants; promoting entrepreneurialism, job creation and jobs for felons that have served their time; funding major improvements in our infrastructure, including stormwater, advanced wastewater treatment and septic tank-to-sewer projects to improve water quality; restoration of Gulf Coast Amtrak Passenger Rail Service; etc.


I am proud to have Andrew Gillum representing our city, while leading the way for positive change for all of Florida and the nation.  Make no mistake about it, this is a Climate Change Crisis Showdown.  This is a Gun Control Showdown.  This is a Race Relations Showdown.  This is a Religious Diversity and Tolerance Showdown.  This is a Public Education Showdown.  This is a Women’s Rights and LGBTQ Rights Showdown. This is a Toxic Algae, Land Conservation and Environmental Protection Showdown.

But overall - this is a Showdown of Extreme Capitalism versus Cooperative Capitalism.


The eyes of the world are on us. 


Bart Bibler, Tallahassee

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Florida Conservation Voters - New hope for Florida's natural environment

Recently, I received an email from a new organization called Florida Conservation Voters. If you love Florida, you might want to take a moment to think about what it says, but first let me share my thoughts.
For several years, about 8 now, it has become clear that our political representation in Tallahassee has turned away from concern and care for what makes our great state what it is, its natural systems. Without its natural systems in robust good health, Florida's economy, which is so dependent upon a quality experience for the 100-plus million visitors that come to enjoy them each year, is doomed. Anyone who has lived here more than just few years can quickly recount examples of how much better our lakes, our forests, our coasts, our wildlife, our rivers - the list is endless - used to be. 
On many occasions and political levels, I have lamented the fact that the state's natural environment, specifically its protection and restoration, has no real political voice. Yes, there are environmental groups like Audubon, Sierra Club and a host of other very prominent and effective conservation voices out there but most if not all of them raise money to exist and to pay for their ability to raise questions and educate about environmental issues of concern. None of these organizations, however, to my knowledge are lawfully authorized to be able to raise and spend money to contribute to a campaign or advocate the election or defeat of a specific politician as special interests and their lobbyists do. This has been a huge weakness, in my opinion, in the ability of the environmental community to be able to get the attention of elected officials the way special interests have. Simply and sadly put, money speaks.
The email I received from Florida Conservation Voters raises new hope that this weakness is being overcome and I for one am going to support it all I can. Whether you are a D, R, or I, please visit their website at http://www.fcvoters.org/ and support them. Your children and theirs will thank you. Here's the email:
From: Jonathan Webber <contact@fcvoters.org>
Date: October 20, 2016 at 12:22:57 PM EDT
Dear Sonny,
For too long, Tallahassee politicians have been allowed to vote against our environment at the Capitol, then claim to be environmental heroes during election time. It is our job (this means you, too!) to make sure our elected officials know that Florida’s environment is more than just a campaign talking point. No matter your party or district, Florida’s parks, waterways, and conservation lands matter to the future of our state.
Together, we are building a new movement in Florida – where conservation doesn’t have a party.
Jonathan Webber
Deputy Director
Florida Conservation Voters