Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Takeover of Florida water shuts out citizens

By Tom Swihart, special to the Times 

In Print: Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Recent state power grabs have overturned four decades of making key water management decisions at the local and regional level in Florida. When the Florida Water Resources Act became law in 1972, the governor and Legislature didn't think that all water wisdom resided in Tallahassee.

Rather, the founders of Florida's modern water management system deliberately created a system of shared water power, somewhat akin to the balance in the U.S. Constitution between the states and the federal government. The governing boards of the regional water districts were given wide discretion to address the water problems of their region but always under the "general supervision" of the state.

With neither the state nor the water management districts having all of the power, the two levels of government sometimes disagreed on the best policy. But, like the relationship between the 50 states and the federal government, it is healthier to have many voices and open disagreement than having one central authority make all major decisions out of the public eye.

Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Legislature are breaking this long-standing Florida tradition of shared water management power. They are shifting all of the big water decisions to Tallahassee. These decisions will be made behind closed doors in the capital, unlike the decisions made in public meetings by the governing boards of the regional water districts after hearing from local residents.

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