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 Foundation Comes Back with a Tantrum

The Everglades Foundation desperately needs to star in its own movie every time the cameras roll. This isn’t an insult, it’s just an observation. Like a diva, this environmental overseer is used to being treated with kid gloves whenever it makes an appearance. It’s used to being cheered. Adored. 

So, when the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) called it out Monday in a pragmatic letter that outlined Foundation scientist/engineer Tom Van Lent’s “south reservoir” errors, the Foundation’s reaction was indignation. It pitched a fit.

Van Lent didn’t apologize. He didn’t admit his scientists used a sledgehammer to tweak the truth. All he did is cry that the foundation was attacked — and how dare the Water Management District.

“Clearly, your agency … is using this primarily as an attack piece, as evidenced by the nearly complete lack of specific technical information and considering this was supposed to be an engineer-to-engineer letter,” head scientist Thomas Van Lent responded to SFWMD chief hydrologist Akintunde O. Owosina. Read Van Lent’s letter dated Thursday in answer to Owosina’s Monday letter.

In his conclusion, Van Lent said this: “In summary, I respectfully disagree with your offered critique, finding it baseless. Moreover, I condemn your use of a letter completely devoid of technical specifics as a technique of intimidation. I will not remain silent and instead will increase my efforts to hold the SFWMD to a reasonable scientific standard in their public statements. … As one of the most powerful public agencies in Florida, the publicly-funded resources of the agency are better applied to educating the public on the pressing water issues facing the state.”

That’s what kills me.

The Everglades Foundation wants SFWMD — besieged by baloney — whose mission is “to protect South Florida’s water resources by balancing and improving flood control, water supply, water quality and natural systems,” to shut up, keep its collective head down and ignore the steady stream of misinformation. 

Why would they do that? It would be unconscionable to do that. Bad information repeated often enough becomes accepted truth. Please. SFWMD is the lead agency of many charged with seeing through the completion of the Central Everglades Restoration Plan, the costliest and most complex environmental restoration ever attempted. 

It seems to me the District is indeed pursuing its mission. See an example of its effort to put the brakes on B.S. in the chart reproduced at the bottom of this commentary. 

It took only minutes after the release of Van Lent’s letter for the District to issue a statement. They kept it mercifully short:

“The scientists and engineers of the South Florida Water Management District welcomed Dr. Tom Van Lent’s letter clarifying that his modeling and published article about Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) storage were, in fact, merely an academic exercise which does not account for numerous real world challenges or obligations. Enthusiastic advocates should be cautioned about repeating the piece’s conclusion that an EAA reservoir would reduce the volume of harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee to the estuaries by nearly 50 percent, while northern storage reduces the volume of discharges by only 6 percent. It is sufficient to say that Dr. Van Lent’s “one solution” modeling is based on undisclosed assumptions and incomplete science.

“For an independent, objective look at the science behind storage around Lake Okeechobee,” the statement reads, “please see the University of Florida Water Institute’s Dr. Wendy Graham’s Jan. 11, 2017 testimony before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Environment and Natural Resources and the Independent Technical Review by the University of Florida Water Institute.”

It’s good advice. Have a look at Graham’s testimony here. You will find her quickly. She is the first presenter in a two-hour meeting.

Dig Deep to Re-elect Charlie

One of my New Year’s resolutions was to lay off Charlie Crist. Give the guy a break, Nancy, he’s a new congressman, a freshman in the minority party, given a particularly small office after coming in 50th in the office-draw pool. I promised myself I’d try hard to be nice.

Alas. Barely a week had passed before I got an email from Michael Hepburn, one of Charlie’s Pinellas County constituents, who received a begging letter from “Charlie Crist for Congress.” Included the swell photo of the man himself with wife Carole at his swearing-in ceremony.

“Michael, will you chip in $10 to help us get our reelection campaign off to a strong start?” asks Charlie.

Hepburn shot back to his congressman, “This is some serious bull! It hasn’t even been 10 days and you are already asking for money and talking about re-election. 

“What have you done to even think that someone should be supporting your re-election campaign when you haven’t even accomplished anything in your first term that JUST STARTED! 

“I am highly disappointed in this and just in case, if you did not know — you are doing the exact thing that many people thought they were getting away from.

“You’re just like the other politicians.”

No, not quite like all the other politicians. I don’t know about you, but no congressman from Florida I can recall ever missed his/her first vote on the House floor. Charlie did.

(Sorry, Charlie. That resolution probably always was doomed.)

Reach Nancy Smith at [email protected] or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith 


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