Will this time be different for Florida’s environment?

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An aerial photo shows blue-green algae enveloping an area along the St. Lucie River in Stuart in 2016. [GREG LOVETT/GATEHOUSE FLORIDA/FILE]

 

This is the same story, well said.  Disheartening.  If we had no hope, we would quit trying.

Read the complete article here in the Gainesville Sun.

Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life: once taken, it cannot be brought back-


 

 

Will this time be different for Florida’s environment?

By Terry Brant

Special to The Sun
Oct. 27, 2019

There’s a direct human handprint on the current environmental crises in Florida.

The land and flow of water have been changed greatly by agriculture, canals, dikes, levees and development that has exploded as the state’s population grew.

Of course money, developers, phosphate mining, agriculture, excessive water pumping, political lobbying and campaign contributions are all woven throughout the basic problems.

As I read the news of the day, it was déjà vu. Another blue-green algae crises, more calls for studies, red tide, dead fish and polluted waters. And another governor and a few legislators promising to fix a problem that has only grown worse.

Our springs are still endangered and half our rivers are polluted, some in recovery or below minimum flow levels. Half the Everglades is gone, drinking water wells have salt intrusion and Lake Okeechobee is still polluted with nutrients on steroids.

South Florida is losing its water wells as sea water intrudes into the Biscayne Aquifer. Salt water has migrated six miles inland in Broward, and excessive pumping in other coastal areas is causing saltwater intrusion into municipal wells.

Our tourist economy, beaches, fishing, swimming and recreation are being affected. Between 1970 and 1995, withdrawals from the aquifer increased more than 50% as pumping increased.

Flows and springs fell and have never recovered.

Once upon a time, Florida even had a growth management agency, until developers teamed up with former Gov. Rick Scott to gut the Department of Community Affairs.

That gave developers the green light, regardless of water conditions, sprawl or quality-of-life issues.

It is a well-known fact that our water management districts seldom reject water permits, even in water-poor areas, water-caution areas and places with endangered springs, rivers and lakes in recovery. Not surprisingly, ‘protections’ and recovery have been largely illusory as the deterioration continues….

Big sugar and agriculture both have been powerful for decades in the legislature and Congress. Industry-friendly politicians, mindful of PAC and campaign donations, have a long record of creating or blocking laws to benefit their bottom line.

You have to wonder if the current rhetoric is going to hold up, when big sugar, water utilities and agriculture lobbyists come calling.

Agriculture produces the most water pollution and regulation has fallen to the state legislatures.

In Florida, this has thus far has been implemented through voluntary or incentive-based programs to encourage farmers to use self-policing Best Management Practices (BMPs) in their farming operations to control nutrient pollution.

But BMPs are not working and tougher mandatory regulations are essential to have any hope of compliance and effectiveness.

Adequate funding and implementation of a robust Florida Forever land acquisition plan is also essential.

It is the most effective and least expensive solution, over time, to address Florida’s most serious environmental problems.

Every time, sugar and agriculture lobbyists swing their big stick, their influence always trumps that of scientists, the public, voters and environmentalists when it comes to policy. The water management districts, Department of Environmental Protection and Legislature almost never fail to align themselves with weaker plans and lax enforcement.

Self-policing BMPs are naturally always going to be favored by industry interests, but water quality is just going to keep getting worse.

If Gov. DeSantis and the Florida Legislature are really serious, they need to have dedication, resolve and strong backbones in order to create an effective Florida Forever and regulatory program — not one that is smoke and mirrors, taking orders from polluters, lobbyists or contributors.

Terry Brant is legislative chairman on the Santa Fe Lake Dwellers Association in Melrose.


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1 Comment

  1. The northeast Florida of my childhood was yet open-range cow-country and piney-woods. It was also a land of barefoot children, threadbare parents and slat-board shanties. Money
    was scarce–farming, saw-milling, turpentine, scrub cattle, fishing, trapping, and alligator
    hunting provided the proverbial living for most. The first wave of developers had their big dreams dashed in the 1920’s, but post-WWII prosperity provided a different reality for the
    second wave yet flooding the state with people. Blame who or what you will, but people
    (the voting public) demanding the amenities of life are the “squeaking wheel” of politics.

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