This column is a vehicle for a number of items in a bits-and-pieces, strictly opinion, sometimes irreverent format. Look for "Just Sayin'" to run once a week in this spot.
Everglades Trust Temper Tantrum
Has the Everglades Trust lost its mind?
Why would an environmental organization that purports to care deeply about the damaging Lake Okeechobee releases throw a temper tantrum when the South Florida Water Management District comes up with a way to reduce releases by 60 percent?
Sixty percent. That's the best, most hopeful number yet in the fight against blue-green algae in the estuaries. The SFWMD, remember, is the lead agency in Everglades restoration. See the District's Wednesday news release here.
Even more encouraging, the District's best alternative involves a 250,000-acre-foot above-ground northern reservoir -- yes, northern reservoir -- alongside 110 Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) wells. When combined with already authorized components, the District says, these recoverable water storage options reduce the total discharge volume to the estuaries by more than 60 percent.
Isn't this good news? Come on, guys. Isn't it?
Wouldn't you think the Trust/Foundation/Coalition would express at least a note of cautious optimism?
Think about it: No need to dislodge farming communities and cost jobs south of the lake. No need to take land out of production. No need to expend $4.2 billion on a 60,000-acre reservoir in the Everglades Agricultural Area.
But, no. No such generous spirit. On Friday, less than 48 hours after the SFWMD's engineers and scientists published the latest detailed modeling of proposed water storage alternatives as part of the ongoing Lake Okeehobee Watershed Planning Project, the Everglades Trust turned out a bombastic response under the headline, "Everglades Trust responds to latest PR stunt from SFWMD."
The Trust was cheesed off with the District's modeling success. I mean, major angry. Why? Jealousy, maybe?
The Trust questioned SFWMD's timing ("the District trumpeted preliminary modeling results in a planning process that is merely 9 months into a 3-year study"), its rush to issue some good news for a change ("SFWMD's focus on propaganda has overtaken its scientific integrity"), and the value of SFWMD's scientists and engineers who have been working on Everglades restoration daily and directly ("While most stakeholders agree that northern storage should be investigated, SFWMD's sales pitch flies in the face of real science and the opinion of hundreds of credible and independent scientists.")
Really? I hope the Everglades Trust isn't talking about the 207 scientists who signed the "go south" petition. Because I've been meaning to mention this so-called stable of experts. Oh, I think most of them have legit credentials. I mostly question their commitment to the Trust/Foundation/Coalition's science.
In the first place, the only thing they were signing was a single, fairly generic sentence: “As a scientist working in the Everglades, it is my scientific opinion that increased storage and treatment of freshwater south of Lake Okeechobee, and additional flow from the lake southward, is essential to restoring the Everglades, Florida Bay, and the Caloosahatchee and St.Lucie estuaries.”
"... increased storage and treatment of freshwater south of Lake Okeechobee, and additional flow from the lake southward ..." Excuse me, but isn't that obvious? Isn't that already part of CERP and CEPP? No wonder they got 207 scientists to sign. Or did they?
I say this because in the second place, after some investigation, I found about 30 of these 207 names are university students; more than a dozen have no credentials at all that I could find; and many of the rest are either Everglades Foundation staff scientists or those from the many environmental organizations they fund/control, or they're consultants -- or they otherwise work for companies hired by the Everglades Foundation.
Some of them work at universities thousands of miles from the Everglades, although Alexa Lamm, Ph.D., a University of Florida science professor, told me there are many qualified scientists from western states working in the field in Florida.
And from what I could tell, many of the scientists on the petition got a phone call or a note out of the blue one day and were asked/told to sign. None of those I talked with said they were so keen to sign they had sought out the Trust/Foundation/Coalition all by themselves. See the 207 scientists and the petition they signed in the attachment shown in blue at the bottom of the page.
"Sometimes scientists get caught in compromising situations," Professor Lamm told me. "It's even happened to me."
At any rate, the Everglades Trust ended its tirade against the District's good news with, "We all need to demand that real science, not special interests, determine how our tax dollars are best spent to restore the Everglades."
I agree. Yes, we do. So, wouldn't you think the Trust folks would want to give the SFWMD the benefit of the doubt before flying off the handle? Wouldn't they want to express a little hope for the sake of beleaguered Treasure Coast and Lee County residents?
Well, they didn't. So, less than an hour later -- quickest turnaround of a response I've ever seen -- the District staff released "A Challenge for The Everglades Trust: We Showed Florida Our Science - Now Show Yours."
This is what it said:
"Have you recently received an email regarding South Florida water storage options from The Everglades Trust? Are you wondering who they are? They are a political/lobbying outfit, pure and simple.
"Click here to read all about the Trust and their motives
"The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) Governing Board operates in the Sunshine, its scientists and engineers post their findings and results for peer review and public scrutiny. The work of SFWMD engineers and scientists is real, factual and open to all -- Click here to view most recent modeling -- while the Everglades Trust practices the dark art of politics.
"The Trust seems to favor challenges -- Click to read Trust's initial email attack -- so it's time for the Trust to come out of the shadows and reveal any real science supporting cash-infused political arguments."
Come on, Everglades Trust. This isn't about you. Get up off the floor, throw a little cold water in your face, grab your 207 scientists and go look at the Water Management District's model. In fact, when you do, I'd like to go with you.
Will Rick Scott Show His Thanks?
After Friday's House vote to cripple Visit Florida and send Enterprise Florida across the Rainbow Bridge, I had a phone conversation with a pair of Tallahassee lobbyists. They think Gov. Rick Scott will express his appreciation with cash -- straight into Adam Putnam's gubernatorial campaign.
"(The governor) is going to want to bury Corcoran after this, and what better way than by making a big, fat donation to Florida Grown," said one of the lobbyists.
The second lobbyist agreed, "If Corcoran runs, he'll be running against two fierce opponents."
Neither Putnam nor Corcoran have formally announced for the 2018 governor's race, but Putnam has $6.84 million cash on hand, according to the state Division of Elections website. Some $2.25 million of it came into his Florida Grown PAC during February.
Reach Nancy Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith