Thursday, May 14, 2009

Sunshine State Water Wars (Part Two)

There is disturbing news in today's High Springs Herald:  The Florida Legislature, in its ultimate wisdom (sorry, my sarcastic streak is showing!), has unanimously passed a bill that conceivably could give developers and the water bottling industry exactly what they want—control of Florida's water supply.

The bill takes away the authority for making decisions about state consumptive use permits (think trucks hauling water away from your favorite local river or spring) and environmental resource permits from multi-member boards that are required to hold public meetings, and gives the authority to only one person—the executive director of the governing water management district. In effect, this bill completely cuts the taxpaying public out of the dialogue about water use.

But wait, there's more. The bill (Senate Bill 2080) mandates that consumptive use and environmental resource permits will only be considered by the water district's governing board if the executive director DENIES a permit.

In other words (and, yet again) the deck is stacked in favor of the folks who would—little by little, year after year, in small increments that over a number of years could wreak havoc on Florida's rivers and streams and springs—pipe all our water away for their own monetary gain.

People who think this law is a bad idea have until this coming Saturday, May 16, to call the governor's office and urge Governor Crist to veto this bill. The phone number is 850-488-7146.

The bill started life in Florida's House of Representatives as House Bill 2080. Here is the email I sent to Governor Crist earlier this week about that bill, believing that old platitude that you can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar:

"Dear Governor (and possibly soon-to-be Senator) Crist,

Please provide us with some much-needed leadership on Florida's complicated water issues; please either veto or do not sign HB 2080.

HB 2080, as I understand it, will make it more difficult (if not impossible) for Florida's citizens (who are not business owners or members of water management district governing boards) to have input into how our water is used.

The main problem with Florida's water issues, as I see it, is that as a state we have not yet decided whether water is a RESOURCE that is needed by everyone, or a COMMODITY that should be sold to the highest bidder.

I don't think anyone who lives in Florida--business owner or not--wants to live in a state with dried-up springs, unhealthy rivers, and bad water. It does seem, however, that as a state we are taking many actions that will, cumulatively and eventually, lead us in that direction.

Florida desperately needs a leader who will articulate a vision for the conservation and preservation of our rivers and springs, so that our children and grandchildren won't wake up one day and bemoan what they have lost.

Please be brave enough and visionary enough to take a strong stand in favor of Florida's one-of-a-kind water resources. Your leadership on this issue could one day assure you an honored place in our history books. Thank you."

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