Swiftmud and Other Florida Water Management Districts Facing Drought and Realities of 2011 Severe Budget Cutbacks: The Sound of the Other Shoe Dropping
Sure, it's ironic, but the reality is that Florida, despite being surrounded by water on almost every side, is a peninsula that must carefully protect and control water provided for human consumption as well as farming, etc. That takes hard work and lots of money; however, how much money is budgeted to these efforts changes over time.
Major Money Cuts for Florida Water Management Districts in 2012
Last year, we began monitoring the State of Florida budget cuts approved by Governor Rick Scott over the Florida Water Management system as current economic conditions forced lots of items to be slashed off the state budget. Once the state coffers were offering less money, the Florida Water Management Districts were forced to take a hard look at their internal budgets, cutting back - in some cases, making drastic cuts.
For more, read our June 2011 post entitled "Big Florida Water Management Districts Changes Signed into Law by Governor Scott Yesterday."
2012 and Florida Experiencing Record-Making Drought
Add to this hit to the Water Management Districts the drought that has slammed Florida statewide this year and things are very stressful for those involved in water management in our area. In fact, experts are reporting that 2012 was the 11th driest winter for the 16 counties covered by the Southwest Florida Water Management District, nicknamed "Swiftmud" since they started keeping track of Florida weather patterns (in 1915).
Swiftmud Serves a Huge Area in South Florida
The Southwest Florida Water Management District (Swiftmud) was created in 1961 as a 6000 square mile flood control project in response to the massive damage created by Hurricane Donna. Over time, Swiftmud grew as the Water Resources Act was passed in 1972, and a statewide water management system evolved, designed to manage and to protect Florida's natural water resources.
Swiftmud: Is It a Water Management District in Trouble?
Today's harsh realities of less water to meet growing need coupled with a lot less money to do the job means that lots of concern is being raised about Swiftmud. In this week's Herald Tribune, a long article discusses the situation, which involves Swiftmud's shoestring budget resulting in permanent harm to restoration and increasing the likelihood of expensive environmental cleanups.
Included as examples of concern in the reporting by Kate Skinner, entitled, "Water district cuts may undo decade of work" are:
- expansion of Peace River regional water supply facility
- spending regarding construction of a desalination plant on Tampa Bay to provide more drinking water
- and budget plans for several projects, e.g., expansion of the nearly 500-acre Robinson Preserve (Manatee County); the Dona Bay restoration (Sarasota County); and both stormwater runoff improvements and conservation land restoration throughout the District.
Meanwhile, an interesting article also appeared this week over in the Tampa Bay Times: seems that an piece by Lee Logan appearing in both the Times and the Miami Herald asks, "Ron Oakley: Can he take credit for Swiftmud budget cuts?" and points to Oakley's own political mailer, where it states:
"Ron Oakley voted to reduce the Water Management District's budget by 58 percent in the four years he served on the board. His conservative leadership protected local taxpayers over government bureaucrats."
According to Mr. Logan, while Oakley's did vote on the 2011 budget cuts, most of the cutbacks happened when he was leaving office, so Logan doesn't give as much credit to Oakley as he does to the Tallahassee politicians overall.
One wonders who will be taking credit for the Swiftmud budget cuts in upcoming years....
Florida water management districts are having to do with a lot less money and we're going to be hearing more and more about bad things happening because Swiftmud and the other Districts aren't meeting current and future needs .... It's just starting.