Jac VerSteeg: Rick Scott puts Band-Aid on environmental wounds

Band-Aid environment

A politician is a guy who shoots you in the gut and then campaigns by bragging about the Band-Aid he put on the wound.

The latest example: Just days after The Palm Beach Post’s John Kennedy documented how Gov. Rick Scott‘s environmental policies had led to an explosion of huge developments in Palm Beach County and across the state, Scott showed up in the county to tout his environmental achievements.

Scott came to Florida Atlantic University’s Pine Jog Environmental Education Center for a ceremonial signing of the Legacy Florida bill, which will provide up to $200 million a year for Everglades restoration, up to $50 million a year for Florida springs and $5 million for Lake Apopka.

As it was intended to do, the ceremonial trip garnered much praise for the governor. Typical is the statement from FAU President John Kelly, who wrote: “I applaud Gov. Scott and the Legislature for making our environment a top priority. Legacy Florida will go a long way in ensuring the future health of the Everglades and our state’s other natural treasures.”

Earmarking $200 million a year to restore the Everglades is a good thing. But the long-term damage Scott and the Legislature have done to Florida by gutting growth management offsets or outweighs that benefit.

Consider the article by The Post’s Kennedy. It documents the decline in state regulation — including elimination of the Department of Community Affairs — and the resulting, massive developments coming to Palm Beach County.

Those include the addition of 14,000 homes in the county’s unincorporated western areas. Kennedy quotes Palm Beach County Commissioner Paulette Burdick — a former school board member — who is appalled by the sprawl.

Burdick said the demise of effective state-level regulation “just kicked the door in.” In the end, she said, “the impact of all this development ultimately is going to be picked up by the taxpayers. They’re the ones who will have to pay for the needed roads, the schools and improving the bad water we’re left with.”

The building boom spurred by the decline in regulation is not confined to Palm Beach County. And that boom has had environmental consequences. As Kennedy notes in his article, “the building turnaround has come against the backdrop of a series of environmental failures that have endangered waterways across the state.”

One of those major environmental failures involves the discharge of polluted water from Lake Okeechobee to prevent flooding in South Florida. That water causes terrible environmental problems for the Indian River Lagoon to the east and the Caloosahatchee River to the west.

Sun Sentinel reporter Andy Reid notes the Everglades restoration plan Scott touted in Palm Beach County included moving more water south to the Everglades to avoid some of those disastrous discharges.

However, Reid wrote, “the governor has balked at environmental groups’ renewed call to prioritize building another reservoir south of the lake.”

Environmental groups including Audubon Florida and the Everglades Foundation say reservoirs to store water are the only real answer.

If they’re correct, the Everglades funding Scott touted during his recent trip to Palm Beach County, while very welcome, is a half-way solution.

Meanwhile, Scott’s complicity in gutting the state’s environmental protections is creating new problems, including new damage to Florida’s water supply. And that damage will be statewide.

Gov. Scott was in West Palm Beach to tout his Band-Aid. He hopes you pay no attention to the gaping wound.

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Jac Wilder VerSteeg is a columnist for The South Florida Sun Sentinel and former deputy editorial page editor for The Palm Beach Post.

Jac VerSteeg


5 comments

  • Daisy Eloise Applewhite

    June 9, 2016 at 10:11 am

    Best solution is reservoirs north of Lake Okeechobee. Store it and treat it, control the volume before it flows south and gets discharged east and west.

    • David A. Urich

      June 9, 2016 at 10:37 am

      Daisy – no treatment plans in place! And the TX water must go SOUTH for Everglades/Fla Bay!

  • David A. Urich

    June 9, 2016 at 10:34 am

    Legacy Fla is just about 1/3 of money set aside from Amendment 1 by 76% of voters!

  • Brad Turek

    June 9, 2016 at 4:15 pm

    We have no one other to thank than our Governor for brown turbid water , pollution, algae, and massive fish kills throughout our South Florida waterways supporting a massive drop in tourist dollars. He is happily spending the money elsewhere that 75% of Floridians voted to make a constitutional amendment to help clean up the pollution from the sugar industry that now flows directly into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Rivers. Amendment One funds should have immediately been used to purchase land south of the lake to help facilitate water storage and cleaning for flow to the South preventing this disaster. Not Good. Tourism is our biggest industry. I think our climate change denying Governor doesn’t seem to care for two reasons: The sugar industry, which will soon “self monitor” their own pollution, helped elect him and his mansion on the beach in Naples is far enough south where the toilet water is out of sight. Maybe some dead fish will float on his beach and backyard reminding him of his neglect and poor decisions. Remember the pollution and dead fish when you get your high property tax bill as Rick doles out your tax dollars as incentives to businesses and other corporate welfare recipients who will most likely help him run for Senator or appoint him for some position where he can screw things up elsewhere. Incentives and corporate handouts that have not proven to produce any jobs here! What we need is another “Cornhole Rally for Tax Cuts” promoting the myth that lowering taxes will magically create employment in Florida

    • Cassandra Jackson

      June 13, 2016 at 9:05 am

      But the sugar land south of the lake wasn’t purchased. Tax payer dollars would be saved by using the 120,000 acres of publicly owned land just sitting south of Lake Okeechobee for water storage and treatment.

Comments are closed.


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