Friday, May 29, 2015

You Can Lead a Horse to Water, but--------- says former SWFWMD Director, Gary Kuhl

My memory is not what it was a few years back. But does ANYONE ever remember 75% of the voters in Florida agreeing on anything. And yet they did, about six months ago on what would seem a “no brainer” idea to strongly support. It was Amendment 1. It began through the petition process and was on the ballot in November 2014. Its purpose is to use a portion of State real estate transaction fees to fund Florida land and water conservation efforts. It pinpointed funding for acquisition of those few remaining lands in Florida important in preserving our water and natural resources. No new taxes are involved.
Gary Kuhl
Former SWFWMD Director
Former Hernando County Administrator
Former Citrus County Administrator
Wildlife Photographer
 Amendment 1 was an idea initially embraced by hundreds of Floridians willing to spend their time and money to promote preserving some of “old” Florida and her natural resources. And then 4.2 million Floridians voted for it.
Golly day, our own governor only received 49% of the vote. This idea and this amendment were clearly not partisan----not Democratic, not Republican, not Tea Party, not Libertarian, not conservative, not liberal and not “extremist”. The people who voted for this amendment were from all across the spectrum. And it is because most people recognize the common sense value of protecting vital lands and water resources to insure Florida’s long term economy and well-being.
Not everyone finds interest nor sees the beauty of Florida’s springs, lakes, rivers, wetlands and white sandy beaches. Nor do some seem to mind actually watching the degradation of these wonders before their very own eyes. We all know our governor and some of our legislators seem pleased to announce that they are not scientists. But yes the data is there, and it is very easy to see the downfall of Indian River Lagoon, the St. John’s River, Silver Springs, Apalachicola Bay and Lake Okeechobee, to name a few, without benefit of scientists or data.
Take a look at photographs of Indian River Lagoon, many of our springs, lakes and rivers before our collective impact.   And now today take a hard look at these waters after years of dumping fertilizer, pesticides, untreated storm water runoff, sewage and animal waste into our surface and groundwater. A kid with a third grade education can see the changes---and they are not good.
Tri-Colored Heron
Kissimmee, Florida
2014-04-24 (351)
So if you don’t care about the beauty of these world class places and natural resources in Florida, do you care about where your drinking water will come from and how much it will cost? How about our economy—do you think people will continue to come to Florida to see dead wildlife floating in Indian River Lagoon, or nasty, noxious algae growing in our springs, lakes and rivers? Will they come to see cattle grazing in our State Parks?
So why would Florida’s Republican controlled legislature not receive, with open arms, a positive funding source requiring no new taxes, to protect Florida’s natural treasures?! I mean they are elected by the people aren’t they? There are likely several reasons.
1)      Many of our legislators hang out with folks who own or manage large sugar and agricultural interests in south Florida. This seems to be a big reason for rejection of some projects that could have a positive impact on Florida’s long term water supply. Trips to King Ranch to hunt deer courtesy of “Big Sugar”, followed by huge campaign donations to key elected State officials and the Republican AND Democratic parties, apparently are enough to influence votes. And then there are those helicopter rides by Alico, an agricultural company, to convince legislators to spend over a hundred million dollars for “water farms” on their properties. Large campaign contributions to key legislators followed the ride. Would someone please do a PhD dissertation comparing voting records of individual legislators to campaign donation sources?

2)      Then there are those in the legislature who apparently so resent 4.2 million voters who, gosh can you believe this, know more about Florida’s future water needs than they do. Not only are they willing to do nothing but they are very willing to divert monies intended by Amendment 1 for land acquisition, to funding current State staff salaries and operations. This then frees up “regular” State funds for their pet projects. This is a crock of you know what.  And it just further shows the arrogance of many state elected officials that choose to poke a finger in the eyes of millions of their constituents.

3)      One of the most talked about potential land purchases through Amendment 1 was negotiated by former Governor Crist with large sugar interests near Lake Okeechobee. A portion of this 46,000+ acre parcel was thought to provide some significant solutions for treating polluted waters prior to damaging discharges into major rivers in the area and ultimately, estuaries on both Florida coasts. Can you picture anything proposed by Crist to be pursued by a Republican controlled governor’s office and legislature? I mean that darn Crist decided Republicans were not his cup of tea. Can you believe he publicly shook hands with our current President? Of course the Governor Scott appointed South Florida Water Management District Governing Board says this idea will not work despite studies from the University of Florida that say otherwise. Oh and then there is that huge development now planned by the sugar folks to be constructed on a portion of the same land parcel. Hmmmm.
This State is totally controlled by the Republican Party. What an opportunity to do good things for our State and its people with, you would think, one party in control to set the agenda and then make it happen. All that can be seen right now in this State is a total lack of leadership, an agenda that further adds to many of our problems and very few solutions even under consideration. Will this group come together in the Special Legislative Session beginning June 1 or will it be more “big money talks” politics? Will our legislators do good things for our State, home of many world class springs, rivers, beaches, estuaries, wetlands and lakes--------or not?  It’s time to put what’s right on the table and then get it done.
Respectfully submitted: Gary Kuhl, May 21, 2015


  1. It's a measure of how under the radar this move was that there has been so little hue and cry.Are we so apathetic, or simply uninformed that we don't notice when we are being 'gamed'? I'm not sure of all the reasons for this move but I'm sure they are not for the benefit of the citizens. Just as local EPA activities involving approval of continued dumping by Mosaic into the Hillsborough River go mostly unchallenged, follow the money.