The South Florida Water Management District’s board of governors got an earful from the public last week after sneaking through a deal to lease the EAA reservoir property to a sugarcane company. So the district responded to critical emails from the people who fund its operations more or less the way it always has under Rick Scott’s administration: It blocked them.
Mail sent from Now Or Neverglades supporters protesting the lease (and the district’s plan to ditch Everglades water quality requirements) never reached inboxes at the district. Instead of delivery confirmations, Now Or Neverglades Coalition administrators got this notification:
A custom mail flow rule created by an admin at sfwmdoffice.onmicrosoft.com has blocked your message.
How many requests from taxpayers to reconsider the deal and comply with water quality standards reached SFWMD before the agency started blocking messages? No one knows.
And it doesn’t matter; SFWMD was going to ignore those public requests anyway, just as they ignored requests by congressman Brian Mast and Governor-elect Ron DeSantis to hold off on cutting a favorable lease deal with a sugarcane company until the incoming administration had a chance to weigh in.
What does matter is that SFWMD is a government agency, funded by the public to manage a public resource for public benefit--so it’s accountable to the public for its actions. Ignoring public feedback is unacceptable, but actively blocking it approaches criminal.
Rick Scott appointed the SFWMD Board of Governors the messages were meant for. Under his appointees the district allowed a US Sugar lobbyist to rewrite water quality guidelines, limited Florida’s flood control and discharge reduction options by awarding no-bid leases on public land to sugarcane growers, let the industry shrink an EAA reservoir plan to the point where scientists question its usefulness, allowed a string of toxic algae disasters to threaten human health on both coasts while the Everglades and Florida Bay collapsed, and used it all to push an untested high-priced/high-risk deep-injection scheme that jeopardizes our underground water supply. This agency’s leadership is failing--and ignoring--every citizen who isn’t associated with the billionaire sugarcane families funding Rick Scott’s political career.
Governor-elect Ron DeSantis has an opportunity to fix this. Next month every member of the SFWMD Board of Governors should be investigated for conflict of interest and ethics violations, and potentially removed and replaced by qualified, ethical, representative nominees who will manage Florida’s water in the public interest.
You can help make this happen--even before Rick Scott leaves office--by emailing the governor-elect at firstname.lastname@example.org and sending a message like this (feel free to put any of it in your own words):
Dear Governor-elect DeSantis:
I write to ask for your help. Decisions made by the South Florida Water Management District--an agency you can directly influence--have jeopardized my health, destroyed public resources, and shifted a private industry’s costs onto taxpayers. Please investigate SFWMD’s leadership.
This year’s toxic Lake Okeechobee discharges were caused by policies that speculatively reserve water for irrigation--mainly for the sugarcane industry--exposing our communities to toxins, undermining coastal economies, and killing Florida estuaries. In addition to aiding the sugarcane industry at public expense, SFWMD has blocked public input and comment on its decisions, most recently last week when it refused to deliver email to its Board of Governors criticizing the agency’s unannounced lease of public land for sugarcane production and its plans to stop complying with Everglades water quality rules.
Please make SFWMD more accountable to taxpayers and more representative of the stakeholders its policies affect.
Will you review the performance of each member of the SFWMD’s board of governors, and initiate the replacement of those involved in decisions and behavior that harm or ignore the public--ideally with qualified, ethical people from the communities most affected by water management policy?
I will be deeply grateful for your commitment and actions to redirect SFWMD’s leadership to manage this precious resource for the benefit, health, and prosperity of all Floridians.
As always, thank you for everything you and your fellow Bullsugar supporters do to hold Florida’s government accountable to the people it was created to serve.