CRC Proposal #46, Land Acquisition Trust Fund, ~Clarifying Language in the Constitution for Citizen Initiative, Amendment 1, of 2014
I will present proposal #46 to the CRC Legislative Committee this Wednesday. You can support this proposal, or express your thoughts on the issue by writing the members of the Legislative Committee: https://www.flcrc.gov/Committees/LE/, or by attending the meeting and speaking briefly during public comment. The Chair is Jose Felix Diaz.
In summary, it is to clarify language so that funds do not include agency salaries, risk management costs, the purchase of vehicles, etc…and clearly states that “no less than one-third of doc-stamp revenue must be deposited into the Florida Forever Trust Fund.”
CRC - 2017P 46By Commissioner Thurlow-Lippisch
1 A proposal to amend
2 Section 28 of Article X of the State Constitution to
3 revise the manner of the distribution of funds that
4 are deposited into the Land Acquisition Trust Fund
5 from a portion of the net revenues derived from the
6 excise tax on documents.
8 Be It Proposed by the Constitution Revision Commission of
11 Section 28 of Article X of the State Constitution is
12 amended to read:
13 ARTICLE X
15 SECTION 28. Land Acquisition Trust Fund.—
16 (a) Effective on July 1 of the year following passage of
17 this amendment by the voters, and for a period of 20 years after
18 that effective date, the Land Acquisition Trust Fund shall
19 receive no less than 33 percent of net revenues derived from the
20 existing excise tax on documents, as defined in the statutes in
21 effect on January 1, 2012, as amended from time to time, or any
22 successor or replacement tax, after the Department of Revenue
23 first deducts a service charge to pay the costs of the
24 collection and enforcement of the excise tax on documents.
25 (b) Funds in the Land Acquisition Trust Fund shall be
26 expended only for the following purposes:
27 (1) No less than one-third of the revenue must be deposited
28 into the Florida Forever Trust Fund, as defined by the statutes
29 in effect on January 1, 2017.
30 (2) The remainder must be expended as provided by law, to
31 finance or refinance: the acquisition and improvement of land,
32 water areas, and related property interests, including
33 conservation easements, and natural resources for conservation
34 lands including wetlands, forests, and fish and wildlife
35 habitat; wildlife management areas; lands that protect water
36 resources and drinking water sources, including lands protecting
37 the water quality and quantity of rivers, lakes, streams,
38 springsheds, and lands providing recharge for groundwater and
39 aquifer systems; lands in the Everglades Agricultural Area and
40 the Everglades Protection Area, as defined in Article II,
41 Section 7(b); beaches and shores; outdoor recreation lands,
42 including recreational trails, parks, and urban open space;
43 rural landscapes; working farms and ranches; historic or
44 geologic sites; together with management, restoration of natural
45 systems, and the enhancement of public access or recreational
46 enjoyment of conservation lands.
47 (3)(2) To pay the debt service on bonds issued pursuant to
48 Article VII, Section 11(e) as may be required.
49 (c) The moneys deposited into the Land Acquisition Trust
50 Fund, as defined by the statutes in effect on January 1, 2012,
51 shall not be or become commingled with the general revenue fund
52 of the state.
Dear Fellow Commissioners, and Citizens of the Great State of Florida:
As many of you know, I firmly believe our quality of life as citizens and our state’s economic vitality greatly relies on the protection and preservation of our environment.
As we begin our important work of examining proposals in committee, I wanted to share additional information about the following five proposals I have sponsored to protect Florida’s natural treasures for future generations.
1) Proposal 23: At the basis of my environmental protection argument, I believe above all Floridians should have a constitutional right to a clean and healthful environment. Read more about this proposal at the following link: https://t.co/JZiYwr0kMf. I also recently authored an OpEd on this topic in TCPalm at the following link: http://bit.ly/2zSqrl9.
2) Proposal 24: I propose an elected “Commissioner of Environmental Protection” who will have supervision regarding matters pertaining to environmental protection that the Department of Environmental Protection and the Water Management Districts are authorized to implement and administer. Read more about this proposal at the following link: https://t.co/D5lEgRFxNe.
3) Proposal 46: This proposal would help clarify how funds are deposited into the Land Acquisition Trust Fund. Read more about this proposal at the following link: https://t.co/x37BxRu2sj.
4) Proposal 48: This proposal would give the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission authority to establish rules limiting impacts to habitat, and wildlife corridors, in the same way they currently establish limits on impacts to individual animals. Read more about this proposal at the following link: https://t.co/5Gh4BfPfIY.
5) Proposal 91: This proposal would prohibit oil and gas drilling in Florida territorial waters. Read more about this proposal at the following link: https://t.co/IkCCIdd4Wj.
The ongoing debate over the deterioration of our environment should not be about politics. Rather, it should be grounded in the welfare of our natural resources, our wildlife, and the citizens of our great state.
It is an honor to serve as a CRC commissioner. Please contact me if you would like more information or have questions and thank you.
Commissioner, & Chair, General Provisions
Constitution Revision Commission 2017/18
These proposals will be, or have been referred to a committee, or multiple committees. If they “get through committee,” and are supported later in early 2018 during the final public hearings, they will be voted on by the full CRC to go, or not to go, on the 2018 ballot. You can support or communicate concerns regarding these proposals by going to the CRC website above and writing the commissioners. If you are really determined you can go to the Committee tab and look at what each committee has before it and narrow it down when you write commissioners. You really have to check the website daily to follow. Anything you can do is appreciated; we are a better state when we all make an effort to be part of the process.
If you are like me, sometimes you read the headlines and ask yourself, “what is going on here?” Florida Forever? Amendment 1? Senate Bill 10? House Bill 761? And today? Representative Matt Caldwell, probably running to replace Adam Putnam’s cabinet position in the Dept. of Agriculture, (certainly friendly with the wishes of US Sugar Corporation) proposing “more land funding” for Florida Forever? Hmmmmm? What does that mean? Is there a trap here? What’s the right thing? What’s going on anyway? How does all this work?
In order to try to answer some these questions, one has to take some time and study history….
In 1963, through the will of the people, the Florida Legislature began the Land Acquisition Trust Fund; in 1972 the Florida Legislature passed the Land Conservation Act for Environmentally Endangered Lands; in 1979 there was a major scandal as the Executive Director of the Department of Natural Resources was convicted of taking kickbacks from a land acquisition transaction and thus emerged the Conservation and Recreation Lands Program with “broader administration and oversight of land acquisition activity; ” “CARL” as it came to be known, expanded in 1981 with Governor Bob Graham’s “Save Our Rivers” and “Save Our Coasts” programs; all the while the citizens of Florida demanded such; Governor Bob Martinez continued the tradition by appointing a “Commission on Florida’s Future” that spawned the 1990 “phenomenal success” of the Preservation 2000 Act; the successor to Preservation 2000, through Governors Lawton Chiles and Jeb Bush was a name we all know and recognize, “Florida Forever.”
Florida was on a roll supporting the wishes of the citizens to preserve the state’s natural beauty before it was plowed down for more agriculture and development. Florida’s population was increasing exponentially…
So…..things are going “well.” The economy was growing. Florida was growing and the monies for land acquisition programs had evolved over the years to “tax the development that was causing a loss of open space in Florida.” Thus ironically the destruction of the state became the source of funds for conserving it. (Doc-stamp tax on the deed for real estate transactions ….) So when real estate was selling there were funds, when not there were not…
Fast forward to 2008. Some call it the Financial Crisis, some call it the Great Recession. Any of us who worked and lived through it, called it scary. During this time real estate values fell drastically. My husband and I in Sewall’s Point, Martin County, lost 40% of the market value of our home almost overnight. In St Lucie County it was as high as 65%.
So even though at this time in 2008 right before/during the giant crash, the state legislature “promised” funding to Florida Forever at former levels, but they did not give it as they couldn’t. So instead they raided trust funds like Florida Forever to “keep the State’s doors open….” and funding for Florida Forever stopped flowing with the drought of Doc Stamp monies.
After a long dry spell, as the economy slowly improved, and people realized things were bad, but that it would not be a repeat of the Great Depression of the late 1920s and 30s, some confidence returned and once again the people of Florida rose up and spoke out to their political leaders about what was important to them.
By 2014, Amendment 1 (Florida Land and Water Legacy) was put on the ballot and eventually the Florida Constitution by a citizens’ initiative with a whopping 75% plus approval calling for 33% of doc stamp money towards land and water conservation. Palm Beach County, the land of the Everglades Agricultural Area and more commissioners gone to jail for land fraud than all the rest, was one of the highest voting blocks. The message was clear. “We are back on our feet, we want to protect Florida, fund land acquisition as before!”
The state legislature did not do this, the numbers go up and down, but never near pre 2008, and never close to 33% of doc stamp money as the intention of the initiative, so now there is a law suit by the Florida Wildlife Federation and others to force implementation thereof. Continually, the legislature cries “separation of powers” and their right to interpret as “they know best….”
It is understandable that the recession has made us all more mindful, but this doesn’t mean we should forget about the environment, especially the St Lucie River, Indian River Lagoon.
Matt Caldwell? Yes, give more money to Florida Forever. But what is really behind your bill?
Joe Negron? He’s the real deal.
When I was a kid, one of my favorite commercials was Chiffon margarine. The message was that Chiffon tasted so much like butter it could even fool Mother Nature. When she found out she was mad and called on her powers with the animals surrounding her saying: “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature….”
I say the same.
Stop fooling around state legislature and give us the butter. #SupportJoeNegron #SenateBill10
Sometimes you just need to take a break! I will be “blog-breaking” to spend time with my husband; I will return 7-15-15.
In review, before I stop blogging, thus far 2015 has not been a particularly rewarding year for river advocates— mostly because of the state legislature’s tumultuous session, their interpretation of Amendment 1, and their refusal to consider the purchase of the US Sugar’s option lands in the Everglades Agricultural Area.
To top it off, the ACOE began releasing from Lake Okeechobee into the St Lucie River very early this year, starting January 16th and continuing until just recently–the end of May. There may be more coming this rainy season….
The ACOE and the SFWMD decided to “dump” because the lake was “too high” to be safe for the Herbert Hoover’s Dike and its surrounding farms and communities. This is “understandable,” but at great expense to our SLR/IRL economy and ecosystem.
Ironically, ample water supply is now a concern for “users,” such as agriculture, with Lake Okeechobee down to 12.20 feet and rapidly evaporating….((http://w3.saj.usace.army.mil/h2o/currentLL.shtml))You may have heard that Miami is already in a drought…on top of this, the Caloosahatchee needs some lake water right now to keep its salinities from going too high but they are not getting it…
It always seems more likely that South Florida will have a hurricane, and that Lake O could fill up quickly with 3-4 feet in one week, too much to dump fast, so the agencies prefer the lake lower during summer’s rainy season… There is that chance though—that it won’t rain, and dry conditions will parch our state as occurred in 2006/2007.
Wouldn’t that be something? After all that water being released? South Florida going into a drought? The farm fields dying? The ecosystem and its animals in danger? And people not having enough water?
It may seem an odd thought, but it is one that is not the “stuff of science fiction”— that one day, in the future, after an extended drought or a climatic shift, people could be fighting over the billions of gallons of fresh water that is wasted to the Atlantic Ocean through the C-44 basin, the St Lucie River, and Caloosahatchee during storm events…
We need to prepare for this. We must not give up our advocacy. We must keep more of this precious water on the land and going south for the Everglades.
On a positive-personal note regarding the year thus far….
You may have noticed—-
I am enjoying collaborating with my family. To have my mother’s history and most recently my brother’s “flying time capsule maps” to share is very rewarding. I have linked some of Todd time capsule flights below. They have been very popular!
Todd is six years younger than me as you can see from the photo above. My sister, Jenny, is four years younger. Growing up, Todd and Jenny were more together, and I was kind of “old.” I was out of Martin County High School where as they attended during the same time. Now, the years seems fewer in between…. 🙂
In closing, thank you very much for reading my blog; I wish you a good couple of weeks enjoying the Indian River Region, and I’ll see you soon!
Above: Google Earth/Historic Maps Overlay Flights shared on my blog, created by my brother Todd Thurlow, (http://thurlowpa.com) These flights using Topo and other historic maps combined with today’s Google Earth images flashing between “yesterday and today” give tremendous insight into the water and land changes due to drainage for agriculture and development that have occurred in our region. JTL
I likened it to watching someone step on a roach. It was terrible. With the a motion from Kevin Powers, the South Florida Water Management District just squashed it.
Last Thursday, on May 14th 2015, the SFWMD, with absolutely no mercy at all, killed the option land contract to purchase 46,800 acres from US Sugar Corporation. This option land purchase has been the greatest hope for local environmentalists, the River Warriors, the Everglades Foundation, and many others to lay ground for a future that would not discharge so much fresh, polluted, water from Lake Okeechobee into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.
The hope was that a reservoir could be built on this land to then store, clean and convey water south to the Everglades.
Well, it’s dead. No use bemoaning the situation. Let’s brush ourselves off and keep going. Even though the SFWMD killed this option, there are still others.
The best thing to do now is to “read up” and get smart about at what is “on the books” because a reservoir in the EAA is on the books as part of the Central Everglades Restoration Plan known as CERP. It may not be as good as the 46,800 acre option, but it would be something… And we must enlist Senator Joe Negron as he is our only Indian guide. ((http://www.flsenate.gov/Senators/s32)) To include a land purchase for this reservoir, whether it be in the Everglades Agricultural Area or not, through bonding of Amendment 1 monies is our war plan.
Negron’s idea is to crank up talking to scientists and experts on the best property currently available to build a reservoir. We need about 50 to 60,000 acres, as set out in the 2000 CERP…
The dysfunctional 2015 Florida State Legislature is not a great horse to bet on, but we have no other choice. Let’s saddle up and move on.
I must begin by saying that my recent blogging has been somewhat “uncomfortable” for me, as I was raised to act like a “lady,” and recently I feel more like a fighter pilot.
Politics sometimes makes “being a lady” a difficult goal, so I do apologize to anyone, such as my mother, who may be offended by my relentless “fighting” blog posts recently regarding the importance of state purchase of the 46,800 acres of option lands for sale by US Sugar Corporation.
As a warning, mom and others, today’s blog post will be more of the same, as a “type of war” has started.
—-A war of information. A war to influence our governor and legislature….a war over how to use Florida’s Amendment 1 monies….a war to save the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, Caloosahatchee, Everglades, and drinking water for South Florida, or just to keep the “status-quo…”
In order to explain this, I will share what has happened over the past few days…
On Wednesday, February 18th, Eric Draper, the Executive Director of Florida Audubon, (http://fl.audubon.org) was quoted in a “Sunshine State News” piece as saying (regarding the flow way south) “—it will never happen, it’s pie in the sky…”
Knowing Mr Draper and knowing that words in news articles often are twisted for effect, I wrote Audubon immediately asking about the situation. Mr Draper replied with an apologetic email and a letter he had written that day to Governor Scott in support of purchasing the option lands. See below:
In my effort to promote the idea of an EAA reservoir and distinguish that from the hard to explain Plan Six I unwittingly played into a storyline not my own. I found the story confusing and somewhat unrelated to what I was trying to say. Nevertheless, I am sure that folks are disappointed to hear me discount the flow way and that was not my word or intent. As an 30 year advocate for the Everglades and Lake Okeechobee I feel strongly about moving water south. Audubon will continue to work on getting the US Sugar land purchased for the purpose of establishing a CERP reservoir.
I apologize to both of you and to all the supporters of the idea of Plan Six and a flow way.
Eric Draper Executive Director
I believe Mr Draper did not mean for his words as they were reported. Speaking with the media is sometimes tricky business and anyone who speaks to them long enough will feel that he or she has been “misquoted.” Mr Draper’s work is one of the main reasons Amendment 1 passed in the first place, and you can see by his letter above to Governor Scott he supports buying the option lands.
OK, one bomb down…Two to go….
So then on Saturday, Feb 21st, I get an email from my Florida League of Cities colleague, Teresa Heitman, who is a councilwoman for the City of Naples. She simply forwarded me an email she had received from US Sugar Corporation. You can click on the image below to read it, but basically it says: “Send the Water South?” “Not so fast”…and gives three articles supporting why the option lands should not be purchased, why the “enviros”are nuts, and one of the articles quoted is the one quoting Eric Draper that I mentioned above!
As an aside, and as an elected official myself, I must say that I find it in poor taste that this email was sent from US Sugar Corporation directly to an elected official. Maybe Council- woman Heitman is on a “mailing list” for US Sugar, but this seems doubtful to me.
How many other elected officials were sent this email and why is US Sugar sending it out?
On the other hand, it kind of made me feel good when I saw it–like they were threatened by the grassroots river movement here along the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon and the Everglades in general. Kind of ironic to think that US Sugar would need to influence elected officials with direct emails; seems like they already do that with everything else they do like spending millions of dollars on lobbying politicians…….sending this “tiny” email makes them look kind of desperate….
—obviously we have more influence than we realize….
Also, the thought of a “David and Goliath” fight is very appealing to me, as in that story, as we all know, David wins…
Below is part of the email from US Sugar, just so you can see it. I also made sure the hyperlinks worked in case you want to read the “email bombs” being sent out.
Buy the land? Send the water south? Not so fast…
In case you missed it, please find below highlights from a few recent articles discussing the constraints, risks and concerns with purchasing the U.S. Sugar land option to create a flow-way to send water south to the Everglades:
You can access the articles in their entirety by clicking on the hyperlinked titles. 1. Officials to enviros: Buying land, moving lake water south has risks
By: Christine Stapleton, Palm Beach Post February 12, 2015
The 60-second TV spot starts airing 2-22-15 and sponsored by the Everglades Trust (http://www.evergladestrust.org) is running on cable and broadcast stations in Tampa Bay, Orlando, Fort Myers, West Palm Beach and Tallahassee.
The scrip reads:
“Decades of uncontrolled pollution in the Everglades and Lake Okeechobee is endangering our health, killing our wildlife and threatening our drinking water.
Four years ago, the sugar industry signed a binding written contract to sell us land to clean up their pollution, and for a reservoir to protect our water.
It’s been called the most critical piece of land ever for Everglades restoration. Last November, 75% of Floridians voted YES to Amendment 1, making vital land purchases for the Everglades a part of the Florida Constitution.
Now, it’s up to the Governor to back it and the Legislature to fund it.
Call the Governor, call your legislator, and tell them to buy the land. Build the reservoir. And save Florida’s drinking water. Now, while there’s still time.
So I think that this is a war of sorts. Between US Sugar and the Everglades Trust. For most readers of my blog interested in saving the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, our ideology is that of the Everglades Trust….
In closing, when you have some extra time, please write to Governor Scott below, and sign the petition above, asking to support the purchase of option lands. And feel good about the influence you are already having in the war to save the Indian River Lagoon!
It’s been a long time since I was in a car full of kids for eight hours!
Three members of the River Kidz, River Mom, Nic Mader, and I took off from Martin County yesterday to make certain these kids had a voice—and an experience of a lifetime.
Today starting a 11:30 the steps of the Florida capitol will be filled with hundreds of people from across our state for Florida’s Clean Water and Amendment 1 Rally. Multiple organization will take part with the Sierra Club leading the way. Founding member, John Muir, must be smiling in his California grave, at the thought of Americans continuing to fight for the beauty and wonder of nature and it’s most precious resource, clean water!
It was awesome. The kids truly get it and are fulfilling their created mission statement: “to speak out, get involved and raise awareness, because we believe kids should have a voice in the future of our rivers.”
We talked about the state of our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon; Amendment 1 and how it works; we talked about the goal for a land purchase in the Everglades Agricultural Area; we talked about the power and history of the sugar industry and then we stopped at Diary Queen and got a “blizzard!” I had an lemon-lime slush….
Caught in traffic for a solid two and a half hours outside of Gainesville, Naia, Kiele, and Olivia made the best of it while Nic and I wondered if we were going to run out gas!
Arriving at our hotel room at 8:00 PM, after showing the girls the Capitol and the campus of FSU, (Nic and I are both Gators!) we had dinner at Ruby Tuesdays. I told Nic we had to go somewhere where I could get a beer!
Nic and I were exhausted. The kids ate by themselves in a separate booth. I looked at Nic saying: Nic, you are a really good mom. She is. She was incredible yesterday pulling snacks out of secret compartments and having the patience of a saint……She smiled. ” Jacqui, they’ll remember this this rest of their lives and most important, it will help save our river….”
I come from a historic agricultural background, on both sides of my family, so I feel like I can criticize it.
My Thurlow great-great grandparents grew thistles in New York, and my Henderson great-grandparents, from a long farming line, settled in Madison, Florida. My grandfather, Russell Henderson, was a well-respected soli-scientist and taught in the Agriculture Department at the University of Florida, even getting a mural painted including him by citrus legend, Ben Hill Griffen…
I ate boiled peanuts while learning about different crops and cows during my summer vacations as a kid while visiting Gainesville. I understand the connection and importance of agriculture to the success of both my family and to our country.
Nonetheless, as a product of the Florida Indian River Lagoon region since 1965, I have chosen to focus my energies on “natural preservation.” This is often at odds with agriculture and development’s values.
Again, I respect agriculture; it feeds us….
I just think some aspects of the industry have gone “too far,” and are too coddled by our state, especially regarding the pollution and water resources destruction caused by their now “agribusiness giant-ness.”
Nonetheless, agriculture has a stronghold on our state government beyond comprehension, beyond tourism, or “quality of life or quality for tourists.” Agriculture/sugar brags that agriculture “feeds the world,” not just the state. I guess this is good, but why should my state and local area be “raped and polluted” to feed the world?
No where is this more evident than the in Everglades Agricultural Area where the sugar industry “reigns king.” As of late, the sugar industry is not supporting the purchase of option lands that are FOR SALE. They have been able to convince the governor, and so far the state legislature, that is it unwise to purchase these option lands to start creating an EAA reservoir to store, clean and convey more water south to the Everglades to begin the journey of saving the Everglades as well as the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon and also the Caloosahatchee River. These estuaries and the people and businesses that live along them sufferer from the 1920 redirection of Lake Okeechobee’s waters east and west for the creation of the Everglades Agricultural Area or EAA.
Honestly, I am not sure why sugar is so against this land purchase. Their land is for sale! Is because they are making money now and not going broke as they were in 2008 when the option lands deal was legally arranged? Or they do just want to hold out for more money on those lands in the future? In any case, they are doing everything they can NOT to allow the option land purchase to occur as part of the 2015 legislatures’ ability to use Amendment 1 monies while the “environmentalist” community begs….and lake O is getting higher every day.
We all know that the sugar industry gives millions of dollars a years to government officials to secure their interests. This is important, but it is not most important.
What is important for all of us to realize is that the influence of the sugar industry and agriculture in general is much deeper than money. It is blood. And this why our fight for the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon requires new blood. A revolution of sorts. Don’t get scared by these words. Nothing is more “American.”
Let’s study the history of sugar and the state of Florida’s pact:
In a 1911 Washington DC publication, of the 62nd Congress, document no. 89, entitled:
“Everglades of Florida.” —-Acts, Reports, and other Papers, State and National, Relating to the Everglades of the State of Florida and Their Reclamation,”
—we see that even in is the first documents of the publication produced in 1845, the year of Florida’s statehood, there was a resolution “recommending the adoption of measures for reclaiming the Everglade land in that state.” (By 1847 in a letter from Washington DC’s Honorable James D Westcott, Jr. to the Secretary of the Treasury and shared with the Florida legislature….)
It reads in response to the idea of draining the lands south of Lake Okeechobee…
“What would be the value of the now subaqueous lands, reclaimed by such work, I will not pretend to say….all of those (military men) who have resided in this vicinity, and who have repeatedly informed my that many of these lands would be the best sugar and richest lands in the United States.”
This publication reprinted as SOUTH FLORIDA IN PERIL, can be purchased at Florida Classic Library in Hobe Sound. (http://www.floridaclassicslibrary.com) It documents the early days of the 130 year tie between the federal, and state government as they all organized together with the agriculture industry to create the state of Florida, a sugar haven, that reached its true peak in the 1960 and 1970, with the exclusion of Cuba’s goods…
Here we are today, almost fifty years later and Cuba is perhaps reopening…and our state water issues in south Florida are out of control.
Anyway, the book goes on for 203 pages documenting the state and federal governments’ support for agriculture in the Everglades and “how rich they would all become…”
That they were successful, I am happy; however; they OVER DID it, over-drained it, and refuse to see their own destruction, and their unfair advantage.
Blood is thicker than water….but “blood can’t be blood” without water…time for a change.
Hello again. Before I start, it is necessary quickly to review…:)
In yesterday’s blog, we discussed that when the South Florida Water Management District and the Army Corp of Engineers write or discuss “approved,” and “authorized,” projects, this does not mean they are “working on those projects” as the federal and state monies for those projects, like CERP and CEPP, may not have been “appropriated.” —Meaning the state and federal government has not given the agencies money to do the projects even though they have been “approved.” (http://www.evergladesplan.org/about/about_cerp_brief.aspx)
That’s a mouthful!
So basically, stakeholders are sitting around fighting about something that may never happen or might happen in 100 years.
Don’t get me wrong, the ACOE and SFWMD are working on projects, but not all of the 60 plus that are part of the Central Everglades Restoration Project/CERP. Rather, the agencies work and stop, work and stop, work and stop, waiting and hoping for more money to be APPROPRIATED for some of the projects, or maybe just one of the projects they are working on, before elections start up again, and the government officials change their minds!
Terrible isn’t it?
This is not the issue with Florida’s Amendment 1 monies. These monies will be here this year in 2015, and although it is not the 12 billion plus needed to accomplish CERP quoted in 2007, it is substantial monies, perhaps 700 million this year after debts, and billions over time? Amounts will depend on the real estate industry as monies come from “doc stamps on the deed:”
According to Scripps Newspapers, “The measure requires the state to set aside 33 percent of the money it raises through real-estate documentary stamp taxes to protect Florida’s environmentally sensitive areas for the next 20 years.”
These state of Florida monies, will be real and will be doled out each year by our hungry, varied, and ever-changing legislature….
It will be great to have the money, but this will be a bloody fight for the Florida legislature.
Picture throwing a steak into a gathering of starved pit bulls. This is about the scenario…
Nonetheless, our elected legislative “pit bulls “have a responsibility to listen to their contingency while they are fighting, and this is why it is absolutely necessary that we all weigh in on issues of the polluted St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon and its surrounding canals; Lake Okeechobee; the purchase of US Sugar option lands for a reservoir to store, clean and convey water; and eventual type of “flow-way” south to the Everglades…
Let’s be good students and quickly review the language of Amendment 1 so we know who our competition is and how to outsmart them; I know it is always kind of boring to read this sort of language, and it is somewhat long, but read it; know it; use it to your benefit!
Amendment 1 added a Section 28 to Article X of the Florida Constitution:
SECTION 28. Land Acquisition Trust Fund. — a) Effective on July 1 of the year following passage of this amendment by the voters, and for a period of 20 years after that effective date, the Land Acquisition Trust Fund shall receive no less than 33 percent of net revenues derived from the existing excise tax on documents, as defined in the statutes in effect on January 1, 2012, as amended from time to time, or any successor or replacement tax, after the Department of Revenue first deducts a service charge to pay the costs of the collection and enforcement of the excise tax on documents. b) Funds in the Land Acquisition Trust Fund shall be expended only for the following purposes: 1) As provided by law, to finance or refinance: the acquisition and improvement of land, water areas, and related property interests, including conservation easements, and resources for conservation lands including wetlands, forests, and fish and wildlife habitat; wildlife management areas; lands that protect water resources and drinking water sources, including lands protecting the water quality and quantity of rivers, lakes, streams, springsheds, and lands providing recharge for groundwater and aquifer systems; lands in the Everglades Agricultural Area and the Everglades Protection Area, as defined in Article II, Section 7(b); beaches and shores; outdoor recreation lands, including recreational trails, parks, and urban open space; rural landscapes; working farms and ranches; historic or geologic sites; together with management, restoration of natural systems, and the enhancement of public access or recreational enjoyment of conservation lands. 2) To pay the debt service on bonds issued pursuant to Article VII, Section 11(e). c) The moneys deposited into the Land Acquisition Trust Fund, as defined by the statutes in effect on January 1, 2012, shall not be or become commingled with the General Revenue Fund of the state.
Did you read it? Did you see it? It says right there in the legal language: lands in the Everglades Agricultural Area and the Everglades Protection Area….
Pretend you are a legislator: “Fix Lake Okeechobee and the estuaries, or beach re-nourishment?” Get it?
So let’s compete! $$$$ Contact the Florida Senate. They have set up a web site to take our Amendment 1 requests. Just click and fill out below. Thank you for supporting our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon!
–officially agree to or accept as satisfactory: “the budget was approved by Congress” synonyms: accept · agree to · consent to
—-devote (money or assets) to a special purpose: “Congress finally did appropriate money to the Everglades C-111 project after 15 years…” synonyms: allocate · assign · allot · earmark · set aside · devote
Sometimes, when I finally “get” something, I cannot believe it took me so long to understand. This has certainly been the case over the past six years when it comes to money, and projects, to help save the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon as part of the Central Everglades Restoration Project— known as CERP. (http://www.evergladesplan.org/about/about_cerp_brief.aspx)
Although the projects for CERP were “expected” to take 30 years, 15 years has passed, and not one of the projects is fully completed. The kids that made the poster above may be grandparents by the time a couple of the dozens or so projects, that are necessary to fix the Everglades SLR/IRL, are completed.
Today, I thought I’d share this post just in case you are a bit confused by this long time line, like me.
I think another aspect of difficulty in “understanding” all of this is that many projects are written about, and talked about, in the press,and by the state and federal agencies, as if they are “under way,” when they are really not, or its just government officials arguing over projects that may never be.
As all things in life, understanding this “mess,” may help us to overcome it.
So, there are two words you will often hear: 1.”approval” and 2. “appropriate.”
Just because something is “approved,” does not mean it is “appropriated,” because in the world of government, “appropriate” means GETTING THE MONEY TO DO THE WORK, and “approval” just means a bunch of people at one point agreed something is a good idea.
Just like in a small town, a commission may agree the town needs new street lights, and advertise this in their newsletter, but the commission may never, over time, actually do what is necessary for the staff to buy the lights and get them installed–like giving the staff the money. This is complicated by election cycles every two, to four, to six years! New people may not agree with the previous monetary decisions that were “approved.”
Let’s apply this to the US and State Government:
In the year 2000, the US Congress “approved,” the Central Everglades Restoration Project to help fix the messed-up south Florida Everglades system that was created mostly in the 1950s and 60s after a big flood in 1947. Stakeholders celebrated at the time, that the “over drainage,” dying estuaries, and the drying up of the Everglades would be fixed, but this situation is still not fixed enough to make a huge difference….Also, all the people that were in Congress in 2000 are mostly gone, and there are different priorities now.
Nonetheless, today, the Army Corp of Engineers/South Florida Water Management’s shared website on CERP reads:
“The Plan was approved (by Congress) in the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2000. It includes more than 60 elements, will take more than 30 years to construct and the current estimate in Oct 2007 dollars is $9.5 billion for projects ($11.9 overall including PLA and AAM).”
OK if you read this, you would think this might mean it was “approved” so it is going to, or is being done. This is not the case because the money needed to construct and complete these projects has not been APPROPRIATED (set aside.)
The streetlights were never purchased and put up!
The scenario becomes even more complex in some instances as the State of Florida may be bound by contract to also give money or “cost share.” And if the US Congress has not given their “approved” part yet, the State can’t really get going and give its part. Sometimes the State moves ahead anyway……
Anyway, so everybody is grumpy, and fighting, and it’s a big mess.
So the bigger question is after 15 years:
Even though we all have our hopes up that the US Congress will APPROPRIATE the money for the CERP project to help fix the Everglades and St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, and people worked very hard to achieve this we must think…
—-If we are true to ourselves, viewing history, we see a situation, like a bad relationship, where someone promises you something, but never gives it to you…you keep hoping but it never happens….
—-Finally, after many years, you start to realize that although you have a “promise,” YOU ARE NEVER GOING TO GET IT!
(Or that it is unlikely anyway, or that you will be dead if you ever get it….)
Not a fun realization, but such is life…so do you stay in the relationship or break it off? Or maybe just become less dependent?
So here we are…..and there is some light now…
Although the state of Florida cannot afford to fix the Everglades all by itself; it is too expensive, in the billions and billions of dollars. With the advent of Amendment 1 passing by 75%, there may be some ability for Florida to do this.
After the horrendous “Lost Summer of 2013,” and public outcry, more water has been sent south to the Everglades by the Army Corp of Engineers and South Florida Water Management District in 2014/15 than in the past ten years. But we are still drowning…
With this in mind, the Everglades Coalition’s 30th Annual Conference (http://evergladescoalition.org) was a whirlwind; its theme “Send it South: Water for America’s Everglades.”
Let’s begin, by looking at some water/land maps and think about the big picture.
The image below is a “simplified chronology of water management changes,” and shows the canals and structures that waste water to the ocean destroying our precious estuaries. This map was shared by Robert Johnson during the coalition meeting. It made a big impression on me, because it gives historical perspective, is simple, and is clear.
The red lines are canals that drain lake Okeechobee. We know them well: the Caloosahatchee (C-43); the Miami: the North New River: the Hillsboro: the West Palm Beach; and our own St Lucie (C-44). The grey shows the Herbert Hoover Dike built around Lake Okeechobee in the 1930s after the terrible hurricanes of the late 1920s; the Eastern Protective Levee is also in grey, on the far right, and basically is like a giant underground wall between the Everglades and eastern coastal development; the Everglades Agricultural Area Levee System, which I think is the grey line depicting a structure built south and almost around the Everglades Agricultural area; the Water Conservation Area Levees (WCAs-areas where water slowly travels south after being cleaned in Storm Water Treatment Areas (STAs) above them) are the grey lines around the WCAs; and last on this chart, the South Dade Conveyance System…
There are other canals as well. Thousands of miles of them….
These canals make our lives a living hell along the Indian River Lagoon, and must be re-plumed, but we must note that they also have allowed South Florida to rise above the poverty of our ancestors, and to develop some of the world’s most “productive” sugar and vegetable farms. Too bad they had to build their riches south of Lake Okeechobee blocking the flow of the lake! Also, much of this drainage system has allowed development of the east coast of south Florida, inside the Everglades’ boundary which is in yellow on the map above and red below.
The red line, shows were development has “crept into the Everglades.” This is obviously a problem for sending water south. Therefore, whatever is created to “send more water south,” must be created so as to avoid destroying lives or property.
So narrowing this down to “our” needs, how does one build a way to send more water south? And aren’t we already doing that? Let’s look at the projects being built first before we conclude our goals for more storage.
There are many projects on the books to help with sending water south: some include CERP (http://www.evergladesplan.org/about/about_cerp_brief.aspx) and CEPP…(http://www.evergladesplan.org/docs/fs_cepp_jan_2013.pdf), in fact parts of the Tamiami Trail are being raised right now, but according to many experts at the coalition, one thing is missing, enormous amounts of LAND. Land would help these projects come into being. There must be land to hold some of the tremendous amounts of water, and to clean it. Also realistically, the above projects will take generations to complete. Land purchase or no land purchase.
One thing is for sure, more land south of the lake would help the situation tremendously. As even a five year old can see, lack of lands south of the lake is the true disconnect. But where is there that much land and what are our options?
Below is a map of “Option 1,” and “Option 2”, lands in the Everglades Agricultural Area, lands that US Sugar agreed to sell in 2008. These lands remain for sale.
Perhaps US Sugar rather not sell these lands anymore. In 2008 they were going broke, but today, ironically after an infusion of cash from the South Florida Water Management District that was given to buy the paired down 26,800 acres purchased, and since the economy has improved since, US Sugar is thriving again.
But a “contract is a contract,” and thus there remains a contract allowing for the state of Florida to buy the option lands.
Would purchasing these slow everyone down even more, taking moneys and energy away from other projects?
Hmmmm? Maybe, but according to some very seasoned River/Everglades Warriors, it is worth it.
At the Everglades Coalition meeting Nathaniel Reed, Maggie Hurchalla, Mary Barely, former governor Bob Graham, and Mark Perry gave the group a “call to action” to purchase these option lands. It is a lofty goal and one that would change the game forever.
But there is not much time, and the legislature is in committee meetings “now.” (January through Feburary) and convenes (starts) March 3, 2015, and then ends in May! A rabbit race!
There is not a second to spare.
So long story short, there may be options as far a purchasing the sugar lands, but there is no option when it comes to advocating for such. Should this be your goal, you must start today! Start writing and calling below and thank you for being a part of history!