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Politics

Charlie Crist Pushes for Everglades Restoration Plan He Scrapped in 2008

March 18, 2017 - 6:00am
Charlie Crist
Charlie Crist

U.S. Reps. Brian Mast and Charlie Crist are teaming up to demand President Donald Trump speed up the federal government’s role in restoring the Everglades, nearly a decade after Crist put the kibosh on a much-needed project to clean up one of the state’s most precious environmental commodities.

Mast and Crist spearheaded  a letter urging Trump to act on Everglades restoration, calling for the creation of an Everglades Restoration Taskforce to develop an action plan that will secure new infrastructure funding and accelerate reservoir project completion to “meet or beat” the Army’s schedule.

There is an irony in Crist’s involvement in the Everglades restoration pact.  Restoration progress was often considered one of Crist’s biggest casualties during his time as governor. See the 2014 letter from former Gov. Jeb Bush to the Miami Herald reprinted on this page.

Crist is a familiar figure in dealing with Everglades cleanup efforts. When he became governor in 2007, a project was well under way to help restore the Everglades.

Started in 2006, an already-planned reservoir -- the A1 Reservoir -- was priced at a total $800 million. It would have been nearly the size of Boca Raton and hold more water than 100,000 Olympic-size swimming pools. Its 22-mile perimeter wall would stand three stories tall. It was scheduled to be completed in 2010.

But, in May 2008, two years and $272 million into construction, work on the reservoir was abruptly halted.

The shutdown coincided with Gov. Crist’s announcement of "an even bolder and costlier Everglades restoration initiative" -- a $1.75 billion state buyout of a 180,000-acre farming empire -- the idea being that they could conserve money and recreate the historic flows of the Everglades.

Crist canceled the contracts negotiated under Gov. Bush when he moved into the governor’s mansion in 2007. Bush called Crist’s decision an example of “failed leadership.” 

The canceled plan cost Florida taxpayers $300 million. But beyond that, it put off Everglades restoration, on which many had worked hard to complete.

“It was a massive disappointment to so many leaders and residents across Florida who were committed to restoring the Everglades and who expected the state and local partners to live up to their promises,” Bush wrote in 2014. 

Years later, as a Democrat, Crist said his heart was “broken” that Gov. Rick Scott didn’t care as much about cleaning up the Everglades as he did. 

The contract was canceled nearly 10 years ago. 

Now, time, the congressmen say, is of the essence for Everglades restoration and delays could mean an uptick in costs and a colossal impact on South Florida’s waterways. 

Reservoirs, they wrote, are critical components to halting polluted water releases from Lake Okeechobee. Without CERP projects and the reservoirs, algae blooms could run rampant in South Florida, damaging the environment, threatening human health and killing precious wildlife.

But one of those reservoirs, like the one Crist canceled, might have helped. Had the A1 been built as it first was designed, it would have taken much of the damaging lake water that ravaged the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries in 2013 and 2016.

The congressmen said in their letter even just a little bit of money Trump promised for infrastructure could make a world of a difference to Florida’s environment.

“Directing just a fraction of the $1 trillion investment of which you spoke could fully fund the construction of these outstanding projects and save one of our nation’s most iconic landscapes while also yielding the economic and job benefits the American people expect and deserve,” the congressmen wrote.

The letter from Florida's congressional delegation comes as the state Legislature is considering two proposals to end the release of polluted water from Lake Okeechobee. 

One of the proposals, SB 10, sponsored by Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart via Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island,  would create a 60,000-acre reservoir south of Lake O. Another bill, sponsored by Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, would provide $1 billion to get Herbert Hoover Dike repairs done quicker and to raise water levels Temporarily, to help end the polluted releases.

Meanwhile, Crist continues to push for a new solution to a problem, telling Trump many projects are still awaiting construction -- and saying delays could threaten to ramp up project completion costs. 

“More must be done,” the letter read.

Crist does not mention his previous experience with the A1 Everglades project.

Sunshine State News contacted Crist for comment but had not received a response at the time of this story’s release.

 

 

Reach reporter Allison Nielsen by email at allison@sunshinestatenews.com or follow her on Twitter: @AllisonNielsen.

 

Comments

Show me any source or evidence that Charlie Crist cancelled any contracts on the A-1 reservoir in 2007 as you claimed he did when he came into office in 2007. The facts are that federal agencies were critical of the design of the 16,700 acre A-1 as a deep storage reservoir from the very beginning of its construction as part of Jeb Bush's Acceler8 program that used only state funding on CERP projects. The facts are that construction continued on A-1 right into 2008...But when Charlie Crist was meeting with U.S. Sugar Corp. managers who were trying to get relief from state regulations on their pollution problems in the Everglades, it was a chance remark by Charlie Crist about buying out U.S. Sugar Corp that led to a serious agreement about a buyout in early 2008. That was before the Great Recession really kicked in later in 2008 and made Florida's financial situation shaky. But that buyout agreement announcement is what stopped work on A-1 in 2008. Not any alleged cancellations of contracts in early 2007. As always, I welcome being proven wrong with good evidence.

All Crist wants is his Eikenberg massage again.

Not a Charlie Crist fan, BUT better late than never. If he and Brian Mast can have any positive influence in helping to get Federal assistance to restoring the the Everglades it will be a good thing. Let's not beat him up about what he didn't do back in 2007 and cancelling the 180,000 acre Sugar buy out and support him now in this action. Hopefully he has seen his mistakes as Governor of Florida and now can help to rectify these mistakes and direct positive Federal actions to restoring the Everglades. Backing Florida SB 10 & SR 761 would be a big help in getting these bills passed and the 60,000 acre cleaning marsh South of the lake can begin.

Crist is as fake as much of the news is today - he will say/do whatever he thinks will push him forward on the political scene.

I was originally unimpressed with "chain gang" Charlie. However, he seemed to be a good Governor, for the most part. Most of the criticism seems to be from bitter Republicans. These are the types that could find no wrong with Crist when he was a Republican officeholder. They hated Scott when ran against their choice of Republican political hack for Governor then turned against Crist when he dared to regain the office where they formerly praised him. The same people who disparaged Trump up until he won the nomination but then, and now, sing his praises. While I've never really been a Crist supporter, he's demonstrated that he's an intelligent and capable man who is more interested in practical government than ideaology. We could use more politicians like that. I'm glad that he's back in elected office.

I meant when he ATTEMPTED to regain the office...

Crist is nothing more than a political opportunist. He has proven this time and time again: running as a republican, then democrat and finally an independent His marriage it seems was also one of convenience, ending abruptly once he was elected last fall. With this latest move, he proves once again that he will jump on the band wagon of the moment when it suits him politically. Not sure what the good people of St Pete thought when they voted for him, but he is not a reliable partner if you want to work on a long term agenda. Crist and his politics are a bit like the tides, the red tides.

They call him Flip-Flop Charlie for a reason...

My gut says, if Charlie Chris is for it, it must be something we must fight against. No tax money for Everglade Restoration. When ever money is appropriated, the Democrat Scavengers swarm to take it for themselves. Want to end corruption, take the money out of Tallahassee. Appropriations = Corruption.

Tallahassee is way back in Charlie's rear view mirror. Now he is in Washington! WoW

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