David B. Struhs
Secretary, Florida Department of Environmental Protection
United States Senate Environment and Public Works Committee
September 13, 2002
I am honored to be here to represent Governor Jeb Bush and the State of Florida, your full and equal partner in restoring America’s Everglades.
I come bearing news of amazing progress. Only 18-months into a 30-year project and Florida has:
· Already acquired 75 percent of the land needed to build the authorized projects.
· Already secured funding to fully pay our half of the multi-billion dollar bill for the first decade.
· Already entered into a legally binding agreement that requires Florida to reserve water for the environment before federal dollars are released for projects.
· Already adopted a dispute resolution plan to make sure problems are resolved quickly so progress is not interrupted.
But this hearing is, appropriately, focused more on process than on progress. Here again, there is nothing conventional about Everglades restoration.
In Florida, we are learning a whole new way of doing business to better fit into established federal procedures. The federal government is learning a whole new way of doing business, where no decisions can be made without your state partner. It is interesting to say the least.
At this stage, the federal government and Florida are developing the customs and writing the rules aimed at ensuring our “full and equal” partnership is also a practical and sustainable partnership. Everyone is trying to anticipate as many future situations as possible, with questions such as:
· “How will the Corps of Engineers actually know when Florida legally reserves for the environment water resources made available by the restoration project?”
· “How will the federal resource agencies be consulted to ensure that our combined financial investments are yielding ecological restoration?”
· “How will affected parties be involved in making adaptive management decisions?”
In almost every case, the real answer to these and similar questions should be, “By picking up the phone.” How do partners in business make decisions? By talking to each other.
Our goal is to ensure that this type of collaboration takes place. But we must me mindful of two things:
First, regulations are not written for the usual scenario where everyone agrees. They are written for those exceptions where there is a difference of opinion. The corollary to this, of course, is the thorny problem of the future is the one we cannot anticipate today and for which there will be no rules in place.
Second, today’s efforts to integrate the laws, policies and institutional cultures of several different state and federal agencies should not distract us from our shared goal. Never before have so many diverse interests been so committed to a common environmental goal.
Congress deserves high marks on this score. The Water Resource Development Act of 2000 clearly lays out the expectation that agencies must collaborate in decision making. It also wisely vests ultimate responsibility, and accountability, with a single agent for each of the partners: the United States and the State of Florida.
We all recognize, from relevant and recent experience, that to do otherwise puts restoration at risk.
The procedural regulations developed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers create workable rules for how our partnership will make decisions. WRDA clearly did not anticipate some of the additional steps the Corps included in the rule. For example, requiring the concurrence of two different federal agencies on six different guidance memoranda, and memorializing a predominant role for the federal resource agencies over other interests in the RECOVER program. Yet, we can support the rule as proposed.
However, we urge that the Corps make no additional changes that would move the procedural regulations further away from the requirements of the carefully-balanced and well-considered WRDA 2000 statute.
Regarding the historic act signed by President Clinton, some who cheered the event are now exhibiting signs of buyer’s remorse. Rather than look forward, they look backward. In retrospect, they would like to “tweak” the law, or adopt rules to advance ideas that failed to make it into statute. To do so risks unraveling the coalition of diverse interests that made the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan possible.
It is important to remember that the old zero-sum game view of the world with winners and losers does not apply here. This restoration plan is different. It is holistic. It provides water first for nature and then for people, and it does so without artificially subsidizing water supplies. It is, perhaps, the world’s best example of sustainable development.
Consider the fact that the plan one would choose for restoring the Everglades would be basically the same as the plan one would choose for ensuring a long-term sustainable water supply – and vice versa. In other words, there will be plenty of water for both wildlife and people. The very same water that rehydrates the Everglades also replenishes the wellfields. To ensure that outcome, the plan is built on an enforceable legal foundation.
Here is another way to think about it: While only half of the original Everglades ecosystem remains the amount of rain that falls on South Florida has not changed. Pushing 100 percent of the water into 50 percent of the area would permanently drown the Everglades.
The restoration plan recognizes this. As water that is currently flushed out to sea via canals is recaptured, it will be reserved to ensure the right quantity, timing and distribution is achieved for the ecosystem. Forcing all of the water into the Everglades would be too much of a good thing.
Finally, suggestions that this plan subsidizes water supply and prompts growth are wrong at several levels.
First, the federal government was a full partner a generation ago in draining the Everglades. The federal government must now be a full partner in fixing the damage. This is hardly a subsidy.
Second, Florida has made the unprecedented commitment to fund half the project. Through smart money management and without raising taxes, Florida has a proven funding plan that allows growth to pay for environmental restoration, not the other way around.
Third, the restoration plan simply captures water now artificially lost to the sea and puts it back into the Everglades’ watery landscape. The plan does not subsidize the infrastructure costs necessary to provide water supply service. Those costs will, appropriately, be borne by the water consumer.
The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan passed out of this Committee will be a defining legacy of our generation. We recognize that. And as your full and equal partner, please understand Florida’s commitment to ensuring that it remains comprehensive, and that it remains about restoration. That is our common goal.