News-Press

September 28, 2016

 

History piling up on non-action of water policies

By John Cassani

 

http://www.news-press.com/story/opinion/2016/09/28/history-piling-up-non-action-water-policies/91222340/

 

This year’s barrage of propaganda involving every conceivable factor in response to yet another water crisis has left many wondering what can be done to finally fix the problem in a reasonable time frame.

Frustration over this discourse, that has embarrassingly attracted national media attention, is understandable. A look back at previous attempts to address Florida’s ongoing water crises reveals a common outcome.

In 1987, the Florida Legislature created the Surface Water Improvement and Management Program to address non-point pollution but impairment of Florida’s waters has only become more widespread. In 1997, the people of Florida approved Constitutional Amendment 5, also known as the “polluter pays amendment,” requiring the polluter to pay the majority of the pollution they create. Long story short it was never implemented as intended by the voting public. Ironically, the majority of pollution cleanup cost was externalized from polluters to the public.

In 2000, our representatives in Florida passed the Lake Okeechobee Protection Act. Some 16 years later, the lake is now heavily polluted with phosphorus and nitrogen and stricken with toxic algae blooms.

In 2007, the legislature created the Northern Everglades and Estuaries Protection Program and was hailed as the solution to the declining condition of the lake and the estuaries. The program has fizzled from lack of adequate funding and many would consider the problem only got worse.

In 2008, the South Florida Water Management District passed the Lake Okeechobee Water Availability Rule intended to make more water available during drought conditions to declining public waters like the Caloosahatchee. The result was that even more water was allocated to consumptive uses making the situation again worse.

The simple fact is identifying the common outcome of all these fine sounding projects and others alike was the lack of political will to adequately fund, implement and enforce them. How could this happen with so much at stake? Massive special interest campaign contributions to willing legislators is part of the problem but the fact that the electorate keeps putting the same politicians back in office, year after year is the more fundamental cause.

The problem is now made worse in that a single political party dominates both the executive and legislative branch of Florida government. Without the checks and balances created by an opposition party, the equitable representation of the people has been largely lost.

It’s a common joke that the most secure job in Florida is as an incumbent politician. Will you be laughing again this November with the same lineup of incumbents dominated by the same political party?