Sunshine State News

January 10, 2017


SFWMD Exposes Everglades Foundation's 'South Reservoir' Bunkum

By Nancy Smith 



Who was it who said, "When liars figure, figures lie"? I have no idea, but he sure as heck could have been talking about those wily coyotes at the Everglades Foundation/Coalition/Trust.


The Coalition had to know it wouldn't take a real hydrologist more than about five minutes to drive a truck through the holes in the "three estuaries, one solution" paper it advanced at its conference this past weekend.

Actually, it took less than 24 hours.


By 9 a.m. Tuesday morning SFWMD Hydrology and Hydraulics Bureau Chief Akintunde O. Owosina's sharp response to Foundation top scientist Thomas Van Lent was flying around the Internet. 


I know it sounds preposterous, but I'm not kidding when I say the Everglades Foundation pretty much made it all up. 


Good enough to fool all of the people -- if not some of the time, at least this time. Or, so they hoped.


"The assumptions you made in the model input were obviously selected to reduce northern storage and create an outcome in favor of southern storage," wrote Owosina. "In fact, the entire article claims findings based on irresponsible science, which presents a false choice not reflective of South Florida's current water management system."


To get the conclusion they wanted, the Foundation modified the copyrighted SFWMD model code without the District's knowledge or consent. (Owosina used the word "modified." I would have said "twisted with sinister intent.")


In fact, the pirated code the Foundation was playing with was the wrong one -- "not the official version of the 'SFWMD 2x2 Model' that has been consistently used for evaluation of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) and other projects conducted by the District and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers."


Owosina called Van Lent's analysis "more an academic exercise than a realistic tool to support informed policy and decision making." And he lists five key findings "not disclosed" in Van Lent's paper to show how bogus the whole superior-south-water-storage argument is.


In summary, he said, "Your plan as modeled is not a realistic means to store and send water south. To successfully convey water from Lake Okeechobee through the Water Conservation Areas to Everglades National Park and, subsequently, to Florida Bay, you cannot:



Owosina said, "Releasing a report in this form is a misrepresentation of facts."


I read into that a scolding, and perhaps a word of caution for Senate President Joe Negron. If he is basing his $2.5 billion state commitment for a southern reservoir on the Foundation/Coalition's modeling, he really does need to challenge his assumptions.


I don't blame Negron. He is the Foundation's key to undoing an agricultural industry the Everglades triumvirate, in particular Paul Tudor Jones, vowed to bring down years ago. I believe Negron genuinely wants to be a savior, is more interested in Everglades restoration and trying to save the rivers and estuaries and the people who rely on them in the communities he serves.


While I'm at it, another strange revelation -- call it a dirty trick -- at the 32nd annual Everglades Coalition Conference over the weekend was an economics report from Michael Maloney, Ph.D., professor emeritus at Clemson University. It was apparently commissioned by the Everglades Foundation but two-thirds funded by the federal government, all to evaluate the economic benefits of a southern-versus-northern reservoir.


Suspicion alert: The report was based on Van Lent's skewed figures and unsurprisingly concludes the benefit of a southern reservoir would result in an economic surplus of more than $12 billion ... as opposed to the benefits of ... let's say ... an inconsequential northern reservoir unable even to cover costs.


Though the Everglades Foundation funded only $60,000 of the study's more than $150,000 price tag (we taxpayers coughed up the rest), we don't get to see the report until the Foundation deigns to distribute it -- "at an unspecified date," Maloney told the conference.


Please, legislators. Pay attention. Start to consider your source. Don't blow billions of taxpayer dollars on a bagful of bunkum we know our state budget can't afford.