12-4-17, ca. 2:45 pm, photos: Ed Lippisch & Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch
The Army Corp of Engineers has lessened but not stopped Lake O discharges that started September 20th, 2017 just prior to Hurricane Irma. Perhaps as the discharges have gone on at such a high rate for a comparatively long time, the plume has had a chance to extend its territory. In yesterday’s photos, the dark, filthy plume is reaching clearly south beyond the exclusive Town of Jupiter Island.
Yesterday was a beautiful day, but the river and ocean waters of our entire region were ugly, possibly contaminated. How are we to enjoy our property and lives here?
When viewing the aerials below, please note the blue, sapphire-colored water just on the edge of the discharge plume. Yes, of course all estuaries put forth darkened fresh water after a rain event, and Ed and I could see this occurring just south at Jupiter Inlet. Nonetheless, the black, gigantic plume that we repeatedly endure for the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon due to discharges from Lake Okeechobee is an aberration.
Please let’s all support Joe Negron and the public’s work to build the EAA Reservoir; clean & send the water south!
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.
Last Thursday on November 16, the ACOE reported they will reduce the amount of water they are releasing from Lake Okeechobee. The Corp had been releasing at a high rate, on and off, since September 20th. New targets are 2800 cfs east and 6500 cfs west.
Photos below were taken yesterday, 11-19-17 by my husband, Ed Lippisch. We will continue to document the discharges from Lake O, and area canals.
As Thanksgiving approaches, we are thankful the discharges are lessened and that the SFWMD and the public are working hard to plan the EAA Reservoir Senator Negron fought for… We the people of Martin County, will not be satisfied until these discharge stop. The river has its hands full with unfiltered discharges draining agriculture and developed lands from C-23, C-24, C-25 and C-44. All must be addressed.
“And where the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish. For this water goes there that the waters of the sea may become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes…” Ezekiel
Everyone has heard the story….Florida voted 75% in favor the 2014’s citizen’s initiative, “Amendment 1,” and once it was in the constitution, the hard-earned constitutional amendment was “ignored” or “reinterpreted” by the state legislature…
In 2015 the Tampa Bay Times wrote: “Few betrayals of the public trust have played out so openly and brazenly as the Florida Legislature’s fraudulent effort to implement Amendment 1, the land-buying measure that three-fourths of voters overwhelmingly approved five months ago. This should be a banner year for protecting the state’s endangered lands. Instead, Amendment 1 is becoming a bait-and-switch that would take Florida back — not forward — in saving its natural resources.” (http://www.tampabay.com/opinion/editorials/editorial-legislators-ignore-voter-intent-on-amendment-1/2227235)
As a commissioner for the Constitution Revision Commission for 2017/18, (http://flcrc.gov) I have sponsored proposal #46 to help fix this issue. Brought to my attention by long time Martin County Native Plant Society member, Mrs Joan Baush, and crafted together with policy advisor, Sue Mullins, and environmental legend, Clay Henderson, this proposal follows at least seven others submitted to the CRC on the subject, not to mention the numerous requests of multiple speakers during the Constitutional Revision Commissions’ statewide public hearings.
The purpose of proposal #46 (originally public proposal #700705) is to “clarify that a percentage of doc-stamp tax revenues will be devoted to the purchase and care of scientifically selected and publicly supported land and water areas for the purposes of conservation.” An explanation, and the proposal are below. To support, please write members of the Legislative Committee, where this will first be heard: http://flcrc.gov/Committees/LE/
The CRC comes around only every 20 years, and is one of five ways Florida can amend its constitution; thus the time is now! Let’s get this clarified!
Land Acquisition Trust Fund Amendment
Section 28, Article X
This proposed Amendment to S. 28, ART. X is to clarify that a percentage of doc stamp tax revenues will be devoted to the purchase and care of scientifically selected and publicly supported land and water areas for the purposes of conservation.
On November 4, 2014, Florida voters approved the Florida Land and Water Conservation Amendment 1 by 75%.
But the 2015 Legislature determined that the broadness of the measure already allowed them to spend the earmarked revenue of a wide array of programs through the Land Acquisition Trust Fund—some not at all environmental in substance—as well as supplant existing agency operations funding with the “new” Amendment 1 dollars.
The measure was designed to dedicate 33 percent of net revenue from the existing excise tax on documents to the Land Acquisition Trust Fund, where it was assumed its namesake Land Acquisition Trust Fund would denote the purpose and intent of the amendment to acquire and manage environmentally sensitive land.
Because the drafters of Amendment 1 used the Land Acquisition Trust Fund as the receiving account (thinking it would be obvious the intent for the use of funds), without specifying an amount strictly dedicated to land acquisition, they allowed for all expenditures provided in s.375.041, F.S. governing use of funds for the LATF, which at the time, allowed for virtually anything the Legislature wanted to fund.
Once the measure passed by an overwhelming 75% of the Florida electorate, supporters assumed that at least $300 million annually would be devoted to the Florida Forever program. The amount, over 20 years, was thought to finish the job of securing the lands necessary to protect our natural resources, drinking water, habitat and industries such as agriculture and tourism.
That did not happen (see below.).
What this Amendment Does
The intent of this new Land Acquisition Trust Fund Amendment to S. 28, ART. X is to clarify that a percentage of doc stamp tax revenues will be deposited into the Florida Forever Trust Fund to purchase and care for scientifically selected and publicly supported land and water areas for the purposes of conservation.
The proposal simply amends language passed in 2014 as the Land and Water Legacy Amendment 1 by depositing the earmarked funds in an appropriate Trust Fund and clarifying the purposes for use of those funds.
A specified amount, no less than one third of the revenue deposited into the Land Acquisition Trust Fund, is earmarked for deposit into the Florida Forever Trust Fund as it existed in law on January 1, 2017.
This language recognizes that the LATF and other doc stamp-funded accounts should continue to have a suitable amount of revenue to support existing programs such as Springs and Everglades protection, beaches, and local government water projects.
More specificity has been provided in the new amendment by striking the phrase “and improvement” to ensure that Florida Forever funds are spent per the science-based regimen contained within statute (s. 259.105, F.S.), and by adding the phrase “natural” to the type of resources authorized for expenditure.
This Florida Forever Amendment will fix the issue to provide funding to accomplish a majority of Florida’s conservation work through dedicating a set amount each year (depending on revenue, from $175 to $300 million) to be spent according to current statute governing the proven, science-based, willing-seller Florida Forever program.
Implementation of Original Amendment 1
In 2014, a broad coalition of environmental, business and civic leaders proposed the Florida Water and Land Conservation Initiative, which became Amendment 1 to the Florida Constitution. The intent was to recapture the annual amount of funds devoted to land conservation by earmarking a third of the revenue from the doc stamp tax and depositing it into the Land Acquisition TF for the purposes of buying, managing and restoring environmental lands. The measure passed by 75% of voters.
But the Legislature interpreted and appropriated Amendment 1 spending to include agency salaries, IT, risk management insurance, agency vehicles and other non-conservation uses.
The statute has also since been amended to accommodate implementation, per legislative judgement of Amendment 1, to include dedicated funds for Everglades restoration, Springs protection and spending on a broad array of programs and agency expenses.
Florida had a long and distinguished history of scientifically targeting and purchasing the right lands for conservation and recreation purposes since the 1970s, throughout both Republican (Martinez, Bush, Crist) and Democratic (Graham, Chiles) administrations.
Those lands today provide most of the natural resources to support our drinking water supplies, food crops, economic activities and attractive recreational destinations.
The annual funds devoted to Florida Forever had been $300 million, usually issued in bonds paid back by revenue from the documentary stamp tax. Creators of the land programs specifically used the doc stamp tax for its revenue source in order to tie land acquisition to sales in real estate, since all land sales in Florida were assessed a documentary stamp tax.
In 2008, the Legislature discontinued funding for the state’s land conservation program, Florida Forever, citing a poor economy.
Once the economic recovery took hold in Florida, where the state economy in 2013 led the nation in job growth and overall recovery (per University of Central Florida economist Sean Snaith in his first quarter economic forecast on March 25, 2014), it was assumed that the state conservation program funds would be replenished.
Since 2010, the Legislature has declined to fund the non-regulatory approach to environmental protection through land acquisition. Funding for the Florida Forever program has not been reinstated.
The Florida Forever program is hugely successful and is the most often-copied land conservation program in the country. It is based on a scientific analysis of which lands in Florida hold the most natural resource value—those that help cleanse water or purify air, create habitat for fish and wildlife, create corridors for the movement of native plants and animals across the landscape and support the water and wildlife necessary to keep our agricultural, tourism and quality of life intact.
Under its conservation programs, the state has protected almost 5 million of its 37.5 million acres. Together with federal conservation lands, almost 9 million acres is in some form of public management, although thousands of those acres belong to the state corrections and management services agencies, military bases and universities, and are not managed for conservation.
The state has identified an additional 2.2 million acres that should be conserved in some form from conversion to more intensive uses. That doesn’t always necessitate outright full-fee purchase of the property, but could be accomplished using a combination of purchase and conservation easements across large corridors of working lands such as ranches to provide habitat and water resource protection.
Dozens of speakers addressing the Constitution Revision Commission during its public hearings voiced their frustration and disappointment with the Legislature’s use of Amendment 1 funds, and appealed for a fix to the issue to accommodate their intent to fund the land acquisition program.
This new Land Acquisition Trust Fund Amendment is likely to pass by at least 75% of the electorate, even with paid opposition. Previous polls taken by the Florida Chamber have shown 78% support statewide, despite opposition from various anti-conservation groups.
Virtually all news outlets endorsed 2014 Amendment 1 and are already writing of their support for a fix that will finally codify the will of Florida voters.
Some counties, including Broward, Palm Beach and St. Lucie, voted more than 80% in support of Amendment 1. Even inland rural counties supported the measure by a vote of at least 40% in support (see map at beginning of this post.)
*This proposal was schedule to go before the Legislative Committee on 11-29-17 but has been postponed. Chances are it will go through in December. It must clear Legislative and General Provisions. You can write members of these committees to support or express concerns at any time: http://flcrc.gov/Committees
A new day could dawn for Florida, should Constitution Revision Commission proposal #24 go on the 2018 ballot. This ballot initiative would allow the electorate to vote for a “Commissioner of Environmental Protection.”
I sponsored this idea, an idea brought to the CRC’s attention by two speakers during the public hearing process, as well as by public proposal #700012, submitted by Mr. Gamez.
Formally expressed Proposal #24 reads:
“A proposal to amend Sections 3 and 4 of Article IV and create a new section in Article XII of the State Constitution to establish the office of Commissioner of Environmental Protection as a statewide elected officer, to provide duties of the commissioner, and to include the commissioner as a member of the Cabinet.”
Why do I support this idea? Because it is my job as a commissioner to get some of the thousands of public ideas before the CRC, and because I believe the “time is now” for the Environment to have a seat at the table with other cabinet positions.
Yes, environmental protection of natural resources must rise to the top of state priorities just as the state’s oldest and number two economic driver, agriculture, has. Our Natural Resources must be represented in the Florida Cabinet. This year, the Florida Chamber reports that Florida’s population, now at 20,000,000 will reach 26,000,000 by 2030, in just twelve years! It is tourism that is Florida’s number one economic driver. Much of this success is based on the beauty and quality of our beaches, rivers, and springs, and natural lands. We all know, growing incidences of algae blooms in lakes, springs, and rivers, some in areas of natural lands, is not good for tourism.
Let’s look at Florida government’s present hierarchy having to do with natural resources and discuss why it should be changed. The state’s present organizational chart shows a Commissioner of Agriculture as a cabinet position just under and to the right the Governor; a Fish and Wildlife Commission, and a Department of Environmental Protection, as executive agencies under the executive branch of the Governor; and the Water Management Districts in the lowest tier as local government. Interestingly, the Water Management Districts are attached by a dotted line to the Department of Environmental Protection noting at “unique relationship.” This is qualified by the following sentence: “Water management districts have individual governing boards but the Department of Environmental Protection may exercise general supervisory authority over water management districts (s. 373.026(7), Florida Statutes).”
The Fish and Wildlife Commission much more independent, but the Water Management Districts are not. Because Water Management Districts levy taxes from citizens as a special district one must be cognizant so that they not become “arm of the state.” But what would be even worse would be if the Water Management Districts were not answering to the people they tax…
It is time to have a “lead agency.” An agency that can answer to the people.
Let’s discuss leadership. Right now there is no clear environmental protection leader. For instance, in my opinion, for a citizen trying to get answers about why our environment is falling apart the Water Management Districts are pointing in one direction; the Department of Water Quality for the Commissioner of Agriculture’s Best Management Practices is pointing in another; and because the present Department of Environmental Protection is at the whim of politics of every new administration; they are weak, and afraid to lead. With every new governor the pendulum swings. The DEP is unable to fulfill its mission as the state’s lead agency of environmental protection.
And all the while our environment keeps falling apart…
On a personal note, for years, here in South Florida, I complained about the demise of our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon and surrounding environment and pushed for more action on behalf of the South Florida Water Management District. After years of head nods, I was finally told by a Governing Board member that the District’s number one priority is not water quality, but flood control and that I should be speaking to DEP.
“Why didn’t you tell me that earlier,” I exclaimed.
When I contacted Department of Environmental Protection their response was lackadaisical noting that many entities of the state oversee water quality and environmental issues. For instance, Best Management Practices for Agriculture, and the complicated DEP Basin Management Action Plans/Total Maximal Daily Loads in coordination with the Water Management Districts, and all local governments including cities, counties, villages…
“But who is in charge?” I asked? “The St Lucie River has been labeled “impaired” by your agency since 2002. Why was it allowed to get that bad in the first place and why is it continuing to get worse?”
Again I asked, ” Who is in charge?”
There was silence…
I thought to myself, “No wonder the Department of Environmental Protection is sometimes referred to as the agency of “Don’t Expect Protection.” No wonder every year more of the state’s waters are reported as “impaired.” No wonder D.E.P., Agriculture, and the Water Districts collude to extend the Basin Management Action Plan deadlines instead of getting more serious about the detrimental ramifications of non-point pollution for the people.
Enough is enough. The time is now to give voters the opportunity to vote for a Commissioner of Environmental Protection and finally have a seat at the table.
The commissioner of environmental protection shall have
63 supervision of matters pertaining to environmental protection
64 that the Department of Environmental Protection or its successor
65 agency and water management districts are required or authorized
66 by law to implement and administer.
Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch is a commissioner on the 2017/18 Constitution Revision Commissioner; *this proposal will go before the Executive Committee sometime in December or January. If it gets through that committee it will have to make it through both General Provisions and Ethics and Elections. You can support or voice concerns about this proposal by first writing the Executive here: https://flcrc.gov/Committees/EX/
In 1998 the Constitutional Revision Commission proposed a rewrite of Article IV, Section IV of the Florida Constitution that reduced the Florida Cabinet from six elected officials to three. Effective January 7, 2003, the Florida Cabinet consists of the Attorney General, the Chief Financial Officer and the Commissioner of Agriculture. The Cabinet offices of Secretary of State and Commissioner of Education became appointed offices and their respective agencies became the responsibility of the Governor. The revised constitution also created a new State Board of Education with seven members appointed by the Governor to oversee the Department of Education. The Cabinet offices of Treasurer and Comptroller were merged into the new position of Chief Financial Officer who serves as agency head for the newly created Department of Financial Services.
It is amazing to realize how much of the Florida Constitution ensures protections of the environment, and yet we see the continued degradation of the natural resources of our state. It’s time we learn our constitution by heart, make sure it’s followed, and take action to see if something need be added.
Today, I am going to list the areas of the constitution that have to do with the environment for easy reference. You can click the links below to see the full amendments.
In 1968, “ardent environmentalist” and respected state representative, John Robert Middlemas, of Panama City, insisted that words of support for environmental policy were placed in the historic constitutional revision that same year.
In his honor, I ask that all fellow environmentalists review below, and ask oneself how to make these words take on a new sense of urgency as our springs, rivers, and natural lands need our voice. At the end of this article, and after reviewing our state constitution, if so inspired, please feel free to enter your own constitutional proposal or improve one that’s simply being ignored.
The CRC is considering September 22nd as the deadline for public proposals so please submit soon!
As an aside, it is my honor to serve as the Chair of the CRC’s General Provisions Committee, which is charged with examining Article II of the Florida Constitution. If you have comments or thoughts regarding Article II (or other provisions relating to the environment), please email me at Jacqui.Lippisch@flcrc.gov.
Here is the list of current environmental provisions in the Florida Constitution:
General Provisions (Article II): Section 7, Natural Resources & Scenic Beauty/Everglades Agricultural Area
Miscellaneous (Article X): Section 11, sovereignty lands; Section 16, limiting marine net fishing; Section 17, Everglades Trust Fund; Section 18, disposition of conservation lands; Section 28, Land Acquisition Trust Fund, (Florida Water and Land Conservation Initiative, 2014.)
To enter your own proposal or idea regarding the environment:
Go to gov/Proposals/Submit to create a free account and submit your proposed change to the Florida constitution. The online tool allows you to create your proposal using legal language by redacting or adding language. Remember to keep it simple and clear.
Using the same program, submit your proposal to the Constitution Revision Commission and sign up for the alert emails. Commissioners will review proposals and determine which proposals should be placed on Florida’s 2018 General Election ballot.
*Proposals can also be emailed to the commission at firstname.lastname@example.org, or sent in the mail to: Constitution Revision Commission, The Capitol, 400 S. Monroe St., Tallahassee, FL 32399. Thank you so much for conserving and protecting the great state of Florida!