Earth to Tallahassee —

Ron Cunningham has written a not-so-funny article in today’s Gainesville Sun, Sunday, Feb. 22, 2015, dealing with the way powerful people in Tallahassee view our water in Florida.  Not only not very funny, really pretty scary.

Here is the link to see the article in its original form.  Or, continue here:

Earth to Tallahassee: There is a water crisis in Florida

Published: Sunday, February 22, 2015 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, February 20, 2015 at 11:44 a.m.

 

There’s no question that 2015 will be the year Tallahassee finally takes Florida’s water crisis seriously.

Ha, ha, ha! Good one, Ron.

Now tell us the one about the farmer’s daughter and the traveling salesman.

No, all seriousness aside, I think it’s important to inject a little levity into these weighty public policy discussions about water once in a while. Otherwise, Floridians might get bored and wander off.

Leaving the politicians to do what they do best. Pander, palaver and pontificate.

Certainly Florida House Speaker Steve Crisafulli proved himself a master of the three Ps this week after an estimated 400 people rallied at the state Capitol to urge lawmakers to do the right thing by Amendment 1 — the land and water conservation initiative that was passed by an astonishing 75 percent of the voters last fall.

Listen, that sort of margin has to be a mandate for clean water and preserving the best that natural Florida still has to offer.

Right?

Wrong.

“You would be foolish to sit here and believe anybody wants us to have dirty water,” Crisafulli told FloridaPolitics.com on the day of the rally. “Obviously there are folks out there who think that’s the intention. They are sadly mistaken.”

Crisafulli insisted “we don’t have a crisis. We need to avert a crisis and make sure we’re doing what we can from a policy and budget perspective to make sure we take care of a situation before it occurs.”

No joke. He actually said that.

Earth to Mr. Speaker: Florida has a water crisis.

Virtually all of our magnificent springs are laden with algae-inducing phosphorus and suffering from diminished flows. Dolphins are dying of “mysterious” causes in the Indian River Lagoon. Every time they dump putrid water out of the giant retention pond formerly known as Lake Okeechobee it creates a toxic river all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. Summer algae blooms on the St. Johns River as predictable as afternoon thunderstorms.

And what is Tallahassee doing about it? Well, just last week the High Springs-based Ichetucknee Alliance gently reminded state officials that the Ichetucknee River was officially designated an Outstanding Florida Water in 1984, ostensibly committing the state to protect it against degradation.

Since then the spring-fed river has only gotten more degraded.

So the alliance asked the state to please “use every available tool to comply with Florida law and with state water quality and quantity standards at Ichetucknee Springs.”

Which would mean, among other things, setting realistic minimum flows and levels for the river, controlling agricultural runoff and issuing an emergency water shortage order that would require permit holders to reduce pumping.

Enforce the law. What a concept.

Under Gov. Rick Scott the Department of Environmental Protection has adopted a quite different approach to regulation: It issues press releases declaring that everything is just fine. We await the inevitable DEP press release proclaiming that the Ichetucknee is alive and well.

Meanwhile, with the legislative session looming like a red tide, lawmakers are gearing up to really protect Florida’s water.

Ha, ha, ha! Another good one, Ron.

No, seriously, one bill under consideration would transfer protection of Lake Okeechobee from the press release-happy DEP to the Department of Agriculture.

Again, this is not a joke. The agency that exists to keep agribusiness happy would be in charge of saving the lake that agribusiness has pretty much destroyed.

Not to worry, though. If lawmakers wander too far astray in their quest to dirty what’s left of Florida’s clean water, there’s a brand new water watchdog to bring them back into line.

It’s called the H2O Coalition.

And it’s committed to a “comprehensive plan for Florida’s water problems.”

Which sounds really good.

It was organized by Associated Industries of Florida. Which has spent decades lobbying against comprehensive environmental protection measures.

Feel better now?

Lawmakers and lobbyists can get away with this stuff because they understand that while voters may be bullish about protecting the environment, they are fuzzy about the details of how to do it. And not very inclined to pay attention to who is doing what about it.

This was borne out this week in the results of a survey conducted by the University of Florida’s Center for Public Issues Education. It basically found that while Floridians are overwhelmingly likely to vote for conservation issues like Amendment 1, they are measurably less willing to learn about conservation, follow news reports about it, join or donate to groups that advocate for it or practice conservation themselves if it means giving up their green lawns.

Or support candidates who support conservation.

Of course we care. Just don’t bother us with the details.

Which is why the joke’s on us.

Ron Cunningham is former editorial page editor of The Sun.

OSFR is grateful to the Gainesville Sun and Nathan Crabbe for permitting us to re-publish this article.

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