Charlie's Answer on Water: He's Not Even Tepid
Around the State
If only Charlie Crist knew more about water. Just once I'd like to hear him throw away the campaign talking points and show me he understands Everglades restoration strategies. I think I'd feel better about him.
Charlie took to Facebook Wednesday to answer Floridians' questions. I'll go easy on him because it had to be an exhaustive exercise no matter how much help he had on the answers. But on one issue -- water -- draining Lake Okeechobee water into rivers, he produced one of his non-answer answers to a most important environmental question, one that deserved a thoughtful, truthful, bs-less reply.
It shouldn't go unnoticed or unaddressed.
"Alex van Duijn. Hey, Charlie! What are your thoughts about the draining of water from Okeechobee into the Calusahatchee (sic.) River? Do you have a solution to this problem?
"Charlie Crist. It's a nightmare.This was happening when I ran for governor before. After I won in 06, appointed members to the Water Management District that committed to stopping it. Amazingly, both the Calusahatchee (sic.) and St. Lucie rivers started to clean up quickly. We can do it again. And if elected, I will. Thank you."
I've heard Charlie say this before, which is why I bring it up now. At the Associated Press editors' briefing at the start of the 2014 legislative session, Charlie made his first appearance before the Capitol press corps in nearly four years. During the question-and-answer exchange, reporter Gray Rohrer of the Florida Independent asked Charlie what specific plan he had to manage Okeechobee, to help prevent another devastating summer of lake releases.
Charlie then told a story of spending much of his honeymoon on the phone with Water Management District members, people he knew he could trust. "And It was bad out there, but I called my water management team and together ... walking us through that terrible crisis. ... they got us over it."
Now, I'm not saying Charlie's pants are on fire, but he and Carole were married in December 2008, the dry season -- and their honeymoon immediately followed the wedding. Neither meteorologists nor Farmer's Almanac could offer evidence of a damaging rain event in the fall or winter of 2008. In fact, the lake was still lower than normal from the record drought year of 2007.
Though Charlie didn't give his Facebook answer the same cute little honeymoon touch he gave editors earlier in the year, he did seem to be saying -- again -- that his Water Management District appointees were better than Gov. Rick Scott's. Apparently Scott's can't handle a crisis. But if Charlie's appointees are calling the shots for the next four years instead of Scott's, well, happy days are here again for the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers.
Believe none of it, folks. As good as the Water Management District board members and staff are/were under either governor, they don't, or didn't, get to manage the lake discharges. That's the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' job.
Back to Facebook Q&A's. Alex van Duijn asked Charlie for his solution. Sorry, but I honestly don't think he has one, and instead plans to delegate finding a water solution.
Alex didn't ask me, but this is how I see the ultimate solution:
We take a lesson from history, go back to the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP). It's all about timing, flow and distribution.
Real storage is needed north of the lake -- repeat, north of the lake -- to help attenuate flow.
More important, the local basin projects will help the estuaries dramatically. That means we have to build and fund the C-43 and C-44 reservoir. It was Charlie who deep-sixed Accerler8 in favor of his new shiny dime -- the purchase of U.S. Sugar property that mostly dissolved as the economy tanked.
The A-1 reservoir was deep storage that would also help. That’s gone forever as part of Everglades restoration strategies.
The system needs to be looked at holistically -- not from the perspective of one estuary or the other. Or water supply vs. water quality. Trade-offs will need to be made, but they need to be thoughtful. CERP promised to capture water loss to tide (preventing damaging releases), enlarge the water pie so one user group (ag, urban or natural systems) didn’t need to compete with the other, and distribute flow in a more natural way through decompartmentalization.
The state had undertaken and fast-tracked all these steps under Gov. Jeb Bush.
If Charlie is looking to claim a solution, he's got one. He's had it all along.
Reach Nancy Smith at email@example.com or at 228-282-2423.