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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
G: This is Brian Gridley interviewing Michael Davis in his office in Fort Lauderdale,
Florida. The date is Wednesday March 6, 2002. Mr. Davis, based on your
experiences, what do you see as the two or three most important contributing
factors that have led to the present problems in the Everglades?
D: There are several things [that are], I believe, related. One, first and foremost, is
the fact that we have a topography that's not equipped to handle six-and-half
million-plus people in south Florida; that is, the coastal ridge is the high ground.
That's the place that people inhabited when they first moved in to south Florida.
[They] quickly outgrew that area and found the need to expand. They're
bounded on the east by the Atlantic Ocean, so basically most of the expansion
was to the west and into the natural system, what we knew as the Everglades,
for the most part. That population growth with the commensurate increases in
consumption of water and other resources have led the Central and Southern
Florida Project to make this area more inhabitable for south Florida, protect
people from flooding, provide a more reliable supply of fresh drinking water.
That's the principle thing that has resulted. The ecosystem damages and the
diminution of the ecosystem that we've reserved over the last sixty or so years.
G: John DeGrove [Secretary, Florida Department of Community Affairs, 1983-1985]
once characterized the ecological problems in south Florida as the product of
innocent ignorance. Would you agree with that characterization?
D: I think that's pretty accurate, for the most part. I think we've observed, not only in
south Florida, but around the country, well-intentioned projects like the Central
and Southern Florida Project that were designed in a time when contemporary
thinking would not have led us to understand fully the consequences of those
actions. In south Florida, they were facing severe flooding resulting from
hurricanes, they were not able to produce crops the way they liked in south
Florida, to provide economic growth in this part of the state. So they responded
with a plan. In one regard they were very effective. The Corps, along with the
state of Florida and others, came in and built a very effective plumbing system in
south Florida that accomplished the objectives that they set out to accomplish.
They did provide additional fresh water, they did, to a large extent, reduce or
eliminate the devastating flooding situations that they had experienced prior to
G: To what extent does the current restoration initiative, embodied in the
Comprehensive Plan and related projects, represent a change from earlier
D: It's an incredible change. It represents an understanding that you must factor in
full, natural system objectives. It recognizes the value and the inherent
importance of an ecosystem like the south Florida ecosystem and the
Everglades. For the first time, not only as a matter of policy, but as a matter of
law, [we] said that we're going to undertake a project in south Florida that
recognizes that we have to protect, we have to restore the natural system. We
no longer do those things as an afterthought. They are one of our, if not the,
primary objective of this project.
G: To the extent that change has occurred and is embodied in the current south
Florida project, are there any turning points or watershed events that you would
point to as contributing to this change?
D: I think there have been several, going back to Governor Bob Graham [U.S.
Senator from Florida, 1987-2005; Florida governor, 1979-1987] and some of his
initiatives [that] recognized we have an ecosystem that's in trouble. Some of the
programs that he put into place, [such as] the state of Florida with their land
acquisition programs, were certainly a big part. In the early 1990s, Governor
[Lawton] Chiles [Florida governor 1991-1998 (died in office); U.S. Senator from
Florida, 1971-1989] settled a lawsuit [regarding] water quality issues, particularly
phosphorus. That settlement of that case began a new partnership between the
state of Florida and the federal government to deal not only with water quality,
but to allow us to go to the next step and actually look at some physical changes
in south Florida with the CNSF Project [Central and Southern Florida Project]
that would actually restore the natural system. [To] Not only deal with water
quality, but the physical part of the ecosystem can be restored as well. Those
are two watershed events. Certainly in 1996, when President [Bill] Clinton [U.S.
President, 1993-2001] signed the Water Resources Development Act [WRDA]
that mandated the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan [CERP] and laid
out in very unequivocal terms that the natural system was the primary objective
of the CERP. That was a very important moment in the history of south Florida
restoration. [Another important event was when] the Corps of Engineers along
with the South Florida Water Management District delivering of the CERP plan
July 1, in 1999. Vice President [Al] Gore [unsuccessful Democratic presidential
candidate, 2000; U.S. Vice President, 1993-2001] delivered to Congress, [it was]
the first time in history, a vice president had personally taken a water resources
development plan to the Congress, and said, "here you have to authorize this."
That was certainly a landmark event, very important day in the history of the
Everglades. The development of this comprehensive legislation was enacted in
the Water Resources Development Act of 2000 on December 11, 2000.
President Clinton signed what is, I believe, the most comprehensive ecosystem
restoration legislation in our history. There were a lot of very innovative and
ground-breaking legal proposals that were enacted as part of that. I believe
[those] will transcend south Florida, [and] will be used as models for legislation in
other areas where we have large-scale ecosystem restoration programs as well.
Those are some of the key landmarks, over the last twenty years in particular.
G: Tell me about your educational background, including education and career
D: I have a bachelor's degree in biology and environmental science. I have a
master's degree in aquatic biology. I did some post-master's work at the
University of Tennessee. I'm a native from Nashville, Tennessee. My family still
lives there today. My father was a member of the Army Corps of Engineers for
thirty-three years as a civil engineer. I started my career in 1979 as a GS5
regulator for the Army Corps of Engineers, where I ran a regulatory field office in
Knoxville, Tennessee, covering parts of five or six states, administering the Clean
Water Act Wetlands Program that the Corps has responsibility for. In the mid-
1980s, I went to Washington, spent some time at the Corps of Engineers
headquarters on a detail, and then was ultimately hired by the Environmental
Protection Agency full-time to work at EPA's Washington Water and Wetlands
Office. I spent about a year with [the] EPA, bounced back to the Corps
headquarters. Ultimately [I] ended up over at the Pentagon and the Office of the
Assistant Secretary of the Army as the principal regulatory person there, [the]
policy advisor on regulatory issues. [I] Worked for the Deputy Assistant Secretary
[and] I left that position in 1994. I worked for the White House Council on
Environmental Quality. I was associate director for natural resources at CEQ,
where I was responsible for natural resource issues, water policy, Endangered
Species Act, ecosystem management policy, for Katie McGinty [chair, Council on
Environmental Quality, 1993-1998], who was the chair of CEQ at the time.
After that assignment at the White House, I was asked to become the
Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army, which I accepted. I spent five years in
that position at the Pentagon where I was responsible for all policy and legislative
matters for the Corps of Engineers civil works program. I was responsible for
three water resources development acts during that time including 1996, 1999,
and 2000. I provided the senior policy oversight for the Army Corps of Engineers
development of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan and served as
the Army representative on the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force
for five years. I drafted the first version of the CERP legislation and was one of
three negotiators for the Clinton administration who worked with the state and
Congress to have that legislation enacted. After that, at the request of Secretary
Bruce Babbitt [Secretary of the Interior, 1993-2001], I accepted a position to
become the Department of Interior's director of Everglades restoration and
opened up a new office in south Florida, in West Palm Beach, to provide senior
policy oversight and guidance coordination for Department of Interior agencies,
the Park Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service, and the USGS [United States
Geological Survey]. I spent about a year in that position until Secretary Gale
Norton [Secretary of the Interior, 2001-present] in November of 2001 decided to
close the office. Currently, I am the vice president of an environmental
consulting firm in Fort Lauderdale, Keith and Snars, where I am responsible for
all the environmental-related matters for the firm, as well as the government
relations practice of the firm.
G: What led to your decision to join the Corps of Engineers?
D: [In] 1978, I was completing graduate school. At the time, jobs in the biological
field were pretty scarce, unlike today where it's relatively easy to come out of
school with a biology degree and find a very good job. It was pretty difficult. I
approached several agencies at the time. I was interviewing with some private
sector firms. I had exposure to the Corps of Engineers for many years through
my father. I knew they were emerging with this environmental mission, the
implementation of [a] Section 404 program with the Clean Water Act. I had
actually applied for a job at the Corps and at EPA. In kind of an interesting twist,
on the exact same day I received notification from the EPA and Corps of
Engineers offering me a job. The EPA job was in research triangle park in North
Carolina. It was in the AIR program, which I knew absolutely nothing about and
was not particularly interested in. I decided to accept the job at the Corps. That
led me there. I knew people in the Nashville district at the Corps very well,
through my father. I thought it would be a great opportunity, at that point, to help
move an agency that was much maligned and criticized for its environmental
ethic in so many of the projects that it had undertaken over the years. I thought it
would be a good way to get on the inside and maybe help begin to change that.
G: When did you become chief of the Corps' regulatory program and how long did
you serve in that position?
D: I became chief of the Corps' regulatory program in 1995 and I was in that job for
about a year before I was offered the job as Deputy Assistant Secretary. As a
Deputy Assistant Secretary I actually had responsibility for the Corps' regulatory
program as well. I was responsible for all the policy and legislation associated
with the Corps of Engineers' program, which included the regulatory program as
G: Would you describe the Corps' role in managing national wetlands?
D: The Corps, along with the Environmental Protection Agency, are the two principle
federal agencies involved in protecting the nation's wetlands and other waters.
The Corps has, principally, an implementation role. EPA, in concert with the
Army and the Corps, have a responsibility to develop the national policy
guidance, the national policy framework under which the Corps will work or
implement the program. Both are very important. The Corps has about 1200-
1300 fine, professional regulators out there that actually do the day-to-day
implementation based on the national policy [and] national guidance developed
between the Army and the EPA.
G: What types of changes have you seen, in general terms, in Corps wetlands
policy since the time you became chief of the regulatory program?
D: I think we've made incredible progress in the 1990s in national wetlands policy. I
think we need to do more. We're not there yet. But if you look at wetlands
losses, going back to the mid 1970s, it was estimated by the Fish and Wildlife
Service that we were losing anywhere from 400,000-500,000 acres of wetlands
every year. That was in the infancy of the Clean Water Act 404 program. The
Corps, in the 1970s, didn't embrace the program. They didn't implement it in any
effective manner at the time. They were not sure what to do with the program.
That carried over into the 1980s. We began to see some changes in the 1980s.
As the program started to take effect, the losses were reduced to around 300,000
[or] 350,000 acres a year in the mid-1980s, based on the Fish and Wildlife
Service's status and trends report.
In the 1990s, we began to change policies. We implemented a very
effective mitigation about voiding impacts and about compensating for impacts.
We issued a regulation that tightened up on the ditching and draining of
wetlands. We issued a variety of other policies and rules that actually did
continue to tighten up on the program. We began to change the Corps'
nationwide general permit program. As a result of those changes, the annual
losses now are between 70,000 and 90,000 acres a year. A big part of that is
because of the evolution of the Corps' implementation of the regulatory program.
It would be unfair to completely credit the Corps with that, because many states
have also come on-line with wetlands programs. I think it is fair to give the Corps
a fair amount of credit. Some would suggest it took too long and that it was a
twenty-year change in the way the Corps thinks. To some extent, they were
pushed along by litigation or pushed along by the leadership. But the fact is that
we have made substantial progress in the last twenty years. We've gone from
about 500,000 acres a year down to about 70,000-90,000 acres a year in
national losses with wetlands. I think that is a big success. We've made major
If you look at the nationwide permit program. In the 1970s, when the
general permit program was first authorized and implemented by the Corps, you
could essentially fill or eliminate isolated waters of any size, [such as] small
streams, without any review by the Corps. We reduced that to ten acres in the
1980s, now we're down to a half-acre. We've gone, in twenty years, from
allowing virtually any size isolated water or stream to be destroyed, down to a
half-acre limit with a lot of additional controls over that half-acre, and review. In
the past, the Corps virtually didn't review any of these things in these areas.
Now, they essentially see all of these things. It's a big step in the right direction
and I think we have made progress. The universe is big out there, however.
There's a lot of wetlands. There's a lot of activities going on. The Corps is
limited, like most regulatory agencies, with the number of staff they have and the
number of actions they can actually take on, the amount of time they can spend
on any one action. There are limitations, still.
G: What do you see as the driving force that led to the types of changes that you
were just describing to me?
D: I think there were several forces. Certainly the environmental community [was]
pushing on the Corps, both in a political sense pushing, [and] a litigation sense
pushing. There's some important litigation over the years that led to important
changes in the program. For example, the North Carolina Wildlife Federation
suing the Corps over a major ditching project in the Wilmington district led to a
settlement, [and] that led to a regulation that we call the Tullic rule. At the time at
least, [it] virtually eliminated unauthorized draining and ditching of wetlands.
Unfortunately, the courts didn't agree with that and they essentially eviscerated
that rule. Congress needs to take that up and deal with that issue. Those are
the types of changes.
Also the leadership in the Corps has changed. You've seen, over the last
decade, a change in the senior leadership and management within the Corps, at
least in many parts of the country and to a large extent in Corps headquarters,
particularly over at the Pentagon. The way the structure works is [that] the
Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works is responsible for the Corps of
Engineers. Under him is the Chief of Engineers, the three-star general, and then
you have the thirty-eight field offices out there, the districts, under them. You
also have eight divisions between the districts and the headquarters. The
leadership in the Assistant Secretary's office changed. In the Clinton
administration the attitude was [that] the Corps was an incredible resource for the
nation. You need to harness the engineering and planning capability of the
Corps of Engineers and use that to help in the realm of environmental
restoration, in flood protection, water resources in general. The nation needs it.
Water is a huge issue in this country. It's emerging every day as a larger issue.
The Corps is uniquely positioned, if you harness the talent of the Corps to help
the nation solve those problems. A major policy change and new leadership at
the time in the 1990s were pushing for this. We also saw a lot of excited and
talented people coming to the Corps: new planners, new engineers, new
biologists. [They] wanted to work for the Corps [and] saw the opportunity, saw it
as a potentially a great place to work. That, coupled with the senior policy folks,
is what really started the Corps to change a bit.
G: In your experience, did you encounter any resistance to these changes within the
D: Resistance might actually be mild in some cases. Yes, we did. There were
resistance not only within the Corps, but external to the Corps. We'll start with
the Corps. There were some in the Corps who believed that the Corps' mission
was simply navigation and flood protection, what they called flood control; we try
not to use the word flood control. We found out that we basically can't control
rivers. We might protect people from flooding, however. They thought that the
mission was exclusively flood protection and navigation. There was some
resistance; I think they feared this change. They didn't grow up in a Corps that
dealt with environmental issues. They were basically given a task of building a
flood protection project and they were going to build it and they didn't look
outside that box.
We came in with a different attitude in the mid-1990s and the attitude was
that the Corps, for over 200 years, had really been problem-solvers. It would be
unfair to the Corps and others to try to narrow the mission down to these couple
of things that people had a tendency to want to do. If you step back and look at
it, the Corps, [for] over 200 years, [had] become problem-solvers. Throughout
the evolution of our nation, the Corps has been there every step of the way.
Each time when Congress, or society through Congress, had asked the Corps to
come in and solve a problem, they really stepped up to the plate and did it.
Whether it was flooding in lower Mississippi or flooding and water supply in south
Florida, or the Panama Canal, there are just scores of things that you could talk
about that the Corps has stepped up and done. They've solved problems. What
we try to instill in the Corps is that we're going to continue that problem-solving
tradition of the Corps, but the problems are different today. In many regards, the
problems are environmental-oriented problems. You can take the discipline
that's instilled [as] part of the Corps culture, take the planning capability that they
have, which virtually doesn't exist in any other agency, take the ability to do a
good analysis, and harness that and use it for other purposes today, to deal with
the problems of this century. That was our thesis and that caused some fear
among some in the Corps.
It caused some fear in the Congress, who also viewed the Corps in a very
parochial way. I want my port project or navigation project or flood protection
project and I don't want the Corps doing anything else. There are, however,
many in the Congress who agree with us, that there are other problems to be
solved and that the Corps is a good agency to do that and actually support us in
clarifying the mission of the Corps. Where that goes, ultimately, I don't know.
The seeds we planted for five or so years in the 1990s, hopefully will grow.
Hopefully, they're germinating right now. We'll get through this difficult time for
the Corps. The Corps has lost some friends, not only in the Congress, but
they've also lost some friends within this current administration. The Corps'
budget overall was cut about eleven percent this year in the President's request.
The Corps has to deal with that. Part of that, I believe, is [that] the Corps needs
to be willing to continue to make these changes, to continue to evolve, and really
look at their mission as problem solvers and not get characterized as navigation
or flood protection or anything else.
G: Do you think the Corps has been unfairly branded by some groups as an anti-
D: I think they have been unfairly branded. I think at times they've been their own
worst enemy, however. It is grossly unfair to criticize the Corps in a national
perspective as being bad for the environment. I'm talking about today. I don't
know about the 1960s where maybe nationally, you could have said that and had
more credibility. Today, I would suggest it would be very unfair to make some
blanket or broad statement like that. There are a lot of very fine people working
for the Corps today. 32,000 or 33,000 or 34,000 people who work for the Corps
are very talented, very dedicated, and very much environmentalists or
environmental-oriented in their thinking. It would be unfair. There are people like
Stu Appelbaum [chief, Ecosystem Restoration Section, U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers, Jacksonville District] who represent the way many in the new Corps
are thinking. They're open, they're inclusive, they want to listen to people, they
want to bring in a lot of new ideas, they don't believe they have the market on all
the answers. There are a lot of people like that out there. There are also still
some pockets of resistance [from people] in the Corps [who] are relatively
narrow-minded in their thinking. They carried over that kind of culture from the
1950s and 1960s and 1970s. They believe that their mission is very narrowly
focused on a few things and they don't believe that environmental stuff is the
priority or an equal part of the Corps' mission portfolio.
When I was the Deputy Assistant Secretary, we wrote the first strategic
plan for the Corps of Engineers. This was in 1997. We did a very bold thing in
that strategic plan. We had five goals. One of them, I think it was number two,
said we have elevated our environmental mission in the Corps to a level equal to
our engineering mission. Many Corps districts embraced that with open arms.
There were a few that did not. Part of the problem the Corps faces, [and]
continues to face, is the constant push from the Congress to implement certain
projects. There are a lot of projects out there that the Corps had formulated in
the 1960s and 1970s using contemporary thinking of the time, without an
understanding of the ecological consequences that we now have. These plans
have been sitting on [the] shelf for years. There's still pressure to pull those
projects off the shelf, marginally update them, then implement them. That's
something that the Corps is criticized a lot for. In many cases, appropriately so,
in my opinion.
There are projects in the Mississippi Valley that were conceived at a time
when arguably, we didn't understand the ecosystem impacts. We do understand
today but we're still going forward with some of those projects. I think that's what
engenders most of the criticism from the environmental community. Because of
those projects, they're unable to see the good and other things that are going on
throughout the Corps. I know that when I was involved with the Corps as a
Deputy Assistant Secretary, we were doing more environmental restoration than
any agency in the world. We got virtually no credit for that. We took the Corps'
budget, which is typically about four billion to four-and-a-half billion dollars a year,
from a point where we were spending about two percent of that money on
environmental programs and projects, to a point where we were spending about
twenty-five percent on environmental programs and projects. I'm not sure what it
is today. I know under President [George W.] Bush's [U.S. President, 2001-
present] administration, I would guess that it hasn't dropped below twenty
percent. I'm not sure, but I would guess it hasn't.
G: In terms of wetlands policy and management, what is the relationship between
the district Corps offices, like the Jacksonville District, and the central Corps
headquarters in Washington, D.C.?
D: We take it one step above that. The Assistant Secretary's office is responsible,
along with the EPA, for developing the policy and direction of the program.
Corps headquarters is responsible for implementing that on a national basis. To
take that direction, develop implementing guidance, and get it out to the thirty-
eight Corps districts, provide them training to advocate for and distribute the
budget to these thirty-eight districts. The districts are responsible for the day-to-
day, on-the-ground implementation. There are a set of regulations, there are a
set of guidance documents. While this is certainly by no stretch a cookbook-type
program, it never will be and never should be, the districts are responsible for
understanding that guidance, understanding those regulations, and then, on a
day-to-day basis, implementing that. [There are] hundreds of thousands of
regulatory actions every year across the country. The district regulators are the
ones on the ground actually doing it. Very few actual permit or enforcement-type
cases actually ever come up to the Washington level or the secretary level.
There are some, a handful a year, half-a-dozen or so a year, that become very
controversial. That's out of 100,000 or so, so very few actually come up. Most of
those are handled down at the Corps district level.
G: The general guidelines are established at the Washington level, the specific
implementation of those guidelines is handled at the district level?
G: During your time as the chief of the regulatory program, how much direct
involvement, if any, did you have with the Everglades restoration process?
D: Very little actually, very little. [When] I was the chief of the regulatory program,
we were focused principally on Washington. It was a time when several pieces
of legislation [were] introduced to totally change, in a drastic way, the wetlands
program. To substantially scale back, roll back wetlands protection, to change
the definition of wetlands, to legislate how we would do mitigation. I spent most
of my time actually focusing on the Congress. As part of the Clinton
administration, even though I was in a career position, the Clinton administration
was fighting that legislation and I was helping lead that effort to help avoid that
legislation. We did, none of that was enacted, fortunately. In regards to the
Everglades, we had very little involvement, at the time, in Everglades. There
were some issues about growth and permitting in the southwest which continue
today. There were a couple of mitigation banking questions that came up down
here that we helped resolve. For the most part, we didn't have a lot of
involvement with the Jacksonville District in the context of the Everglades.
G: What were the years that you worked for the Council of Environmental Quality?
G: And what were you involved with during that time?
D: I was the associate director for natural resources. I worked on natural resource
policy. It was a very broad portfolio. It included water resources, wetlands
policy, ecosystem management policy, northwest salmon issues, a little bit on
northwest forest plan, floodplain policy. I think those are the main things.
G: Were you not involved with Everglades issues at that time?
D: I was involved some, just beginning to get involved. At the time, Everglades was
on the administration screen and there are some things going on, the Vice
President was starting to get involved. That was just before we were starting to
draft the Water Resources Development Act. That was a year before we started
drafting the Water Resources Development Act in 1996. It led to CERP as we
know it today. Things weren't quite as active as they became. There were some
things going on. It would be unfair to say there weren't things going on. There
were. But they weren't quite as active as they became in 1995 and 1996.
G: When did you become Deputy Assistant Secretary?
D: April of 1996.
G: You were a civilian official in the Corps. How would you characterize the
relationship between the civilian officials in the Corps, particularly in your position
as Deputy Assistant Secretary for policy and legislation, and the career military
leadership in the Corps?
D: It was very much personality driven. It was very good with many of the career
officers, generals, and colonels who worked in the Corps. Unfortunately, it was
not particularly good with the Chief of Engineers at the time. It was not just a
relationship issue between me, the Deputy Assistant Secretary Michael Davis,
and the Chief of Engineers. It was a more philosophical problem that the Chief of
Engineers had with everybody in the Secretary's office. Quite frankly, he didn't
believe that he worked for the civilian leadership of the Army. That created a lot
of tension. There was no secret. It was unfortunately played out on the front
pages of The Washington Post. It was an unhealthy atmosphere that created a
tension between the Secretary's office, those of us in the Pentagon, and those at
the Corps headquarters. To some extent, it had a chilling effect. The more junior
officers or the people who work for the three-star general were afraid to talk to us
at times. There were ways to do that and we got around it some. I think the
relationships are much better now with the new Chief of Engineers, that's my
understanding. That tension has been broken and once again it's opened up to
much more of a spirit of communication and working together, which is the way it
should be, with a recognition of what our constitution says, that civilians control
the military. I think that recognition is there now. It was lacking for awhile.
G: What is the division of labor between your office and the Chief of Engineers'
D: The Secretary's office is responsible for policy. That can be programmatic policy,
it can be budgetary policy, they're responsible for formulating the president's
budget request for the Corps. The Corps provides input into the policy and the
budget request. Ultimately, the Secretary's office is responsible on behalf of the
president for making policy determinations. They decide what legislative
proposals are supported, either budgetary legislation or policy legislation. The
final answer comes out of that office. It's informed by input from the Corps. They
have the technical capability to do that. The Secretary's office is small. You're
talking twenty or twenty-five people total for an agency that has 35,000 people.
The Corps then is responsible, the Chief of Engineers is responsible, not unlike
the regulatory example I gave you, for taking that policy and guidance and
implementing it. So they're the implementors.
G: Did the disagreement between the Chief of Engineers office and your office
impact what you were trying to accomplish in terms of Everglades restoration?
D: It didn't impact what we were trying to accomplish. It made it more difficult to get
there. We got where we wanted to be. The Everglades is a little different model
than is normally used for policy and legislation development. The Everglades
restoration was a top priority for the Clinton-Gore administration. As part of the
political office working for the Clinton-Gore administration, we were asked to be
responsible for that, at least the Corps' part of it. The law itself created the South
Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force, [of] which I was the Army member.
The district engineer in Jacksonville was the Army's representative on the
working group. As a legal matter, I had to have a very close working relationship
with my working group member who was a Corps colonel over at the Jacksonville
district and I was the policy level task force representative. We had that
automatic connection there, as a matter of law, through the task force.
The Chief of Engineers at times tried to throw up roadblocks to force this
sequential layering approach [where] everything going out of Jacksonville had to
go to Atlanta, then go to Washington headquarters, and then over to the
Pentagon. They'd be substantially filtered and changed before it got over to us at
the Pentagon. That was not an efficient or an effective way to do business or do
government. When you're on a fast track, when you mandated upon yourself a
three-year window to do this plan, to get it done, to get it done consistent with the
administration's objectives and policies, you couldn't really have the inefficiencies
of all those layers where there is no value added in most cases. We had to
bypass those layers, and that created some tension because the Chief at the
time was very much a military, rigid, chain-of-command-oriented person who
philosophically, as I said, didn't really believe that he worked for the Secretary
anyway. That created some tension, but it didn't ultimately affect the outcome.
We made it work, it was just more painful than it had to be.
G: The Chief at the time, was that Joe Ballard [Commanding General, U.S. Army
Corps of Engineers, 1996-2000]?
D: Yes, it was Lieutenant General Ballard.
G: We've talked about some of the changes with wetland policy. Are there any
other changes in the Corps of Engineers as an organization that you would
identify that occurred during your time there?
D: I think [there have been] some very positive changes. We've seen more women
and minorities begin to move up through the ranks in the Corps. We've seen a
lot of new, talented, energetic folks begin to come into the Corps at entry levels
as well. That bodes well for the future if the Corps can retain them and train
them. That's exciting to us. It's exciting to me today as a friend of the Corps and
someone who is very interested in the Corps being successful. I think there's a
great value to the nation of having the Corps of Engineers. If they evolve and
change and continue to be problem-solvers the way they have in the past and
solve contemporary problems, I think there's great value. Those are some of the
things that did occur and, I believe today, even continue to occur. They'll serve
the Corps well.
G: Would you describe your involvement with the Everglades restudy process?
D: As Deputy Assistant Secretary, I was responsible for providing policy guidance
and direction to the Corps, particularly the Jacksonville district, on how the plan
was formulated. My first involvement was in 1996 when we finished writing the
Water Resources Development Act of 1996 that authorized the development of
the CERP. There were debates about how law would be structured to
emphasize certain things. Clearly, the law was enacted in a way that
emphasized restoration of the natural system while providing for other water-
related needs of the regions. Those words became very important. I was
involved in the negotiation discussions of that in early 1996. As the plan was
started, I was involved in providing guidance to the Jacksonville district on how
the plan would be formulated. I spent many hours in south Florida meeting with
all interest groups, stakeholders, to try to understand better their perspectives,
their concerns, the things that they felt were very important.
I represented the Army on the task force, as I've mentioned a couple of
times. I was actively involved in the task force and did not miss a single task
force meeting in the five or six years that I was the Army's representative. I took
it very seriously because I viewed the task force as a body that could, and
ultimately did, help guide the development of the CERP and make sure that it
was delivered on time. It's easy now to look back and say, the Corps spent three
years developing this plan that you submitted to Congress on the day you said
you would. That's no inconsequential task. When we were writing the legislation
in 1996, I first asked the Corps, how long are you going to need? They said, we
want 2001, 2002 maybe. I said, no, you're not going to get that. The
environmental community was pressing on me to make it 1998, only two years. I
said, you're not going to get that either. We compromised on 1999. At the time, I
think the Corps said, oh no, how are we going to do this? Typically, these
studies do take a long time. They can take six or so years [for] something like
this. I don't think it has to. In that regard, we kind of set the example. We did
the study for the world's largest ecosystem restoration project, 4,000 pages, and
we did it in three years. That's something out there for the rest of the Corps to
pay attention to, I believe.
G: What was the process of formulating [the] WRDA 1996 like? Who was involved
and what were some of the issues of disagreement?
D: What [the WRDA] 1996 did was [to] mandate the Corps to take the restudy that
they had already started and of take it to the next level. It said, we're going to do
this Comprehensive Plan and, [number] one, you're going to do it by July 1, of
1999. There's going to be an endpoint here. Two, it was much more unequivocal
about the purpose of the plan and what the plan was designed to address. That
is restoration, protection of the natural system. It made it clear that there would
be no debates about the primary purpose. There should be no debates. It also
dealt with some crediting issues and how we deal with the state, our non-federal
sponsor, in terms of how we provide credit. The tendency was to try to apply all
the same rules that the Corps uses nationally, to this situation. In fact, what you
have here is an incredibly talented non-federal sponsor. You have South Florida
Water Management District, 1700 or so people who have a lot of talent.
[End of Side 1, Tape A.]
We recognize that because of the particular circumstances of the
Everglades Project, we had a very talented sponsor in the South Florida Water
Management District. It was appropriate to make some adjustments to the
normal policy and even to the law that proscribed very rigid controls and
guidelines on how the Corps formed a relationship with a non-federal sponsor. If
you look nationally, non-federal sponsors are across the board and in many
cases, they simply provide money, a share of the total cost of the project. They
really don't have the in-house technical capability or resources to participate in
that manner. It's different for the South Florida Water Management District.
They're much larger than the Jacksonville district of the Corps. They have that
capability and talent. There was a recognition by us that if we were going to
undertake this very ambitious project, we needed to take advantage of those
talents. We just didn't need it for all of us in the Army Corps of Engineers, there
really needed to be an arrangement and partnership. That required some
adjustments to the law. That was one of the things we started in 1996. The
1996 act was incredibly important, but in terms of pages and words it was
relatively modest. It basically just said, get busy with this, finish this plan, here
are some policy parameters on the plan. Here are a few changes on how you're
going to provide credit and reimbursement to the non-federal sponsor.
G: You mentioned adjustments to normal policy procedures. What are some of the
procedures that you're talking about?
D: One, for example, is a very good policy [that is] in place that [says] you wouldn't
give credit to a non-federal sponsor for anything that happened before a project
cooperation agreement was signed. A PCA, (project cooperation agreement), is
essentially a contract between the federal government and a non-federal sponsor
and lays out the rules of the partnership or the arrangement, cost sharing, who
does what. The basic policy is that things that occur before that contract is
signed, the non-federal sponsor would not get credit for. The reason is that you
would have somebody say, twenty years ago, "I did this. I want to get credit for
it." You're in this perpetual debate about what they've done and haven't done.
By having it in the PCA, it's very clear. If you do this, you'll get credit for it.
That's the normal policy and it serves us well and I think it serves the taxpayers
very well and it's a good policy. Down here, however, there was a recognition
that there were some very credible expenditures that had occurred by the water
management district. For example, they had bought land, not necessarily in the
context of CERP because CERP didn't exist, but they certainly had bought land
that can be used by CERP. Why wouldn't they get credit if the Secretary of the
Army determines that yes, it adds value to CERP? Even though it was done
before a PCA was signed, you can look back and give them credit. Those are
the types of adjustments that we made.
G: What were the greatest obstacles that had to be overcome in moving forward
with the restudy process?
D: One was to get the Corps' mind around the time frame, they had three years.
That's not the norm. As I mentioned, these things would typically take five to six
years and the Corps would take the full amount of that five to six years. First, we
had to get them thinking in a three-year window. But thinking in a three-year
window of not eliminating any important components of a study like this. That
was not an option. You had to compress it and keep all the important parts of a
study, not throw anything out just because you had a shorter opportunity to do it.
Getting all the necessary interest groups, stakeholders together, creating a
format where all these varied interests could come together and understand what
is a very complicated process, our ecosystem. Create a framework so people
could come together, understand it, understand what the options were,
understand what was in it for them, what the risks were, and make some real-
time decisions so we could move to the next step.
The Corps, I think, did an incredibly good job of creating an atmosphere of
openness, inclusiveness. Nobody was excluded. They did an incredibly good
job of inviting people in, reaching out to people. Both in a larger group setting,
but more importantly perhaps, going out individually with stakeholders and talking
to them, being very open, which has not always been the culture of the Corps.
The Corps' culture, and perhaps it's kind of the old engineer mentality, is 'give us
a mission and get out of our way.' We'll do a good job. They generally have
done a pretty good job. Times have changed now. The rules of engagement are
different in this century. The public demands and expects a more open and
inclusive process, one that reflects implementation of our of our environmental
laws that we didn't have twenty, thirty years ago. I think the Jacksonville district
has done a very good job [and] could be a model and is a model for many other
Corps districts around the country. A lot of the Corps districts are very
interested in this. They're coming down and inviting Jacksonville to go out and
make presentations on how they did it. I think that was a very important thing,
they brought people in early on. It was never [a] behind closed-doors, secret
government club mentality down here. People knew that they didn't always get
their way, but I think they felt comfortable [that] they were being listened to, and
had venues and opportunities for presenting their perspectives.
G: Why did you think the open process was so important?
D: It was important because this was an incredibly ambitious and expensive
proposition. By any accounting method, this is going to be an expensive project.
When you start talking about spending eight billion dollars of the taxpayers'
money, half of which comes from the taxpayers of Florida and half from the
taxpayers at large throughout this country, there's a lot of competition for those
limited dollars, both in the state and nationally. One way to help overcome that,
not the competition, but one way to help overcome the daunting nature and the
size and expense of this thing is to have consensus, to have a variety of
constituents and interest groups working together to promote something. I think
most of us recognized early on that if we had any chance of selling this, we had
to have the broadest possible consensus, the broadest possible coalition of
interests, to help sell that. That becomes reflected in, for example, the Florida
delegation in Congress. When you build that coalition at the constituent level, it's
easy for the Florida delegation to get behind it. It becomes less politically risky
for them. It becomes, politically, a positive. That's exactly what happened. We
managed to listen very carefully to the interest groups, tried to address the
concerns they had. I think we did a really good job. We got most of the basic
concerns out of the way. There are still people who have issues, there always will
[be]. We got enough of a consensus; we had a coalition [of] the environmental
groups, the sugar industry, the water utilities groups, the agencies, generally
saying good things about this plan at the end of the day. That was incredibly
important. It was incredibly important, not only [for] getting it done on time, but
perhaps even more importantly, it was vital to our chances of writing the
legislation and getting the legislation enacted that actually authorized this thing.
It took it from a plan on a shelf, a nice solid technical conceptual plan, to a reality
when we passed that legislation in December, 2000.
G: Why did you think the three-year deadline was important?
D: I think we had to seize the momentum. We had an administration, the Clinton-
Gore administration, who had made this a priority, felt that this ecosystem was
something that had to be protected, had to be restored. Most of us wanted to
take advantage of that while we had an administration that was sympathetic. In
1996, there was no way of predicting who was going to be in leadership positions
in 2000. It was a timing thing. Plus, we have an ecosystem that's dying. We
needed, as quickly as possible, [without] diminishing good analysis and studying,
to move on with implementation. We could have said, you can take ten years to
do this plan. Any agency, not just the Corps, would probably take ten years to do
the plan. I do not believe that it would have been any better if we'd taken ten
years. Yes, we could have answered some additional questions, we could have
studied more. We could have perhaps done some pilot projects. But at the end
of the day, twenty years from now, twenty-five [or] thirty years from now, I don't
believe the ecosystem would have been better off. I think it would have been
worse off because what we've designed is a plan where we can get started and
make adjustments as we go, versus waiting ten years to get started.
G: In 1994, a federal interagency ecosystem management task force conducted
interviews with a variety of groups involved with Everglades management. One
of the criticisms that came up in those interviews was that the Corps project
decision-making focused too heavily on cost-benefit calculations under the
principles and guidelines. What are the principles and guidelines and how do
they affect decision-making during the restudy process?
D: The principle and guidelines are long-standing rules for all water resources
development projects. They apply to the Corps of Engineers, the Bureau of
Reclamation, the TVA [Tennessee Valley Authority], Department of Agriculture,
any agency that does water resources projects. As a practical matter, the Corps
is virtually the only one doing these projects today, so they really apply to the
Corps. They were formulated in the early 1980s under the first Reagan
administration. They're the rules. Basically, they say the benefits of a water
resource project have to exceed the costs. That sounds like it makes a lot of
sense. That works very well in a lot of cases where you're dealing with things
like navigation or flood protection projects. If you're going to build a flood
protection project and it's going to cost you ten million dollars, but you're only
going to save the community and the federal tax payers five million dollars, then
that's probably not a good investment. What the principles and guidelines really
say, is that you have to have a benefit-cost ratio that is at least at unity, it's at
least one to one. Hopefully, more than that. That's a good policy, but what we
found is that it doesn't work well when you're dealing with environmental
restoration issues, which are far more difficult to quantify in terms of dollars. In
fact, we struggled with that. Ecologists have struggled with that for years and
[have] been reluctant to really try to do it in any great detail. If you applied a very
rigid set of principles and guidelines to environmental restoration projects, you
probably would never build one. You probably couldn't. We made it clear in
1996, and restated it in 2000 in the Water Resources Development Act, that you
did not have to apply the traditional principles and guidelines benefit-cost ratio
test to the Everglades restoration project. We basically said the project is
justified as long as it's cost effective. As a matter of law, we said in 1996 that it's
G: Was this actually in the WRDA 1996 law that was passed?
D: Yes. And restated again in WRDA 2000, yes.
G: How important for the restudy process was the creation of the Governor's
Commission for a Sustainable South Florida by Lawton Chiles in 1994?
D: Incredibly important. It provided the foundation upon which CERP was
developed. What it really did, in my opinion, was [that] it brought a bunch of
people together from Florida who were local leaders in south Florida. Both
political leaders, nonprofit leaders, industry leaders, and others, and allowed
them to begin to make some fundamental, threshold decisions about how south
Florida should proceed with restoration. The alternative would have been to
have the federal government swoop in and make those kind of threshold
fundamental decisions. People would be very skeptical of that. This was more
of a bottoms-up kind of approach that gave the Corps that foundation to build on.
The Corps was involved with the Governor's commission. They were ex-officio
members, I believe. They were kind of sitting in the back of the room, so they
were watching. That, as a political matter, as a tactical matter, really was very
valuable in that it really created a solid foundation for the Corps to build on. I
don't know that they could have done that without that.
G: How did the Corps use the conceptual plan that came out of the Governor's
D: They used it throughout the process of formulating the CERP. They would
constantly go back to it. If you look in the CERP, there's several pages in italics
that's actually citing the conceptual plan. They used that as guidance, they used
that as a reflection of consensus in certain areas. They also used it to help them
understand better, certain areas where there was not consensus and areas that
they needed to do additional work on.
G: How important was the creation of the federal South Florida Restoration Task
Force and its working group in 1993?
D: I think Secretary Babbitt should be given a lot of credit for putting together the
federal task force. It created the first framework for the federal agencies to
coordinate and get together on Everglades restoration. Not only in the context of
Everglades, but generally in the context of about any project or program of this
size. Without some organizing framework, and it can be as simple as a chart,
agencies have a tendency to do their own thing. They all have very specifically
mandated, legislated missions that they may narrowly interpret [or] sometimes
they broadly interpret. They also have their own budgets. They have what they
believe to be their own priorities. The forces of divisiveness will play on that.
They will pull agencies in all different directions so there is no coordination. They
don't naturally coordinate. What we've seen just with some very simple ideas,
like creating this federal task force, is a venue, our framework for working
We've seen the same situation with a group called Coastal America.
Same idea, [that] is to bring the regional agencies together at the federal level
and take stock of their priorities and see what's going on. As a result of this, we
have been very efficient around the country in doing some very good restoration
projects where we take advantage of the Marine Corps to help blow up a dam in
North Carolina or the Corps helping the Navy or the Corps helping the
Transportation Department. A nice, synergistic relationship. But without this
organizational framework like Coastal America or the task force, it's risky to
believe that these things would happen. It sounds funny, but they simply don't
happen. I've watched and been part of federal agencies for twenty-three years.
There's a host of reasons why you won't go to those meetings or why you won't
naturally get together unless there is something forcing you to. I think Secretary
Babbitt had a great idea, the need to coordinate not only the policy, but the
budget, for how we're going to proceed with Everglades restoration. That led to,
in 1996, the enactment of the Water Resources Development Act that actually
legally mandated [and] created the task force and expanded it from just federal
agencies to states and tribes and local governments. It went from that in 1994 to
1996 to where the task force is today.
G: What's the relationship between the main task force body and the working
D: I can tell you what it's supposed to be. I can't tell you what it is today. The task
force is designed to deal with larger, policy issues. The big stuff. The working
group is support staff for the task force. If the task force has a question, needs
some work, they can task the work group to go off and deal with that issue and
come back with recommendations. We've seen that, in the science arena.
We've seen it on several issues over the years where we would say, we need an
answer on this, what do you think? Go back and create a subgroup and come
back to us and give us your advice. I think that's how it's working today, although
my sense is, over the last couple of years, that perhaps the working group has
been more trying to drive the task force than the task force driving the working
group. The working group has been out doing a lot of stuff, perhaps without the
necessary guidance of the task force. Hopefully, that's going to change, [and]
this current task force will provide that guidance and leadership and tell the
working group what they want to have done.
G: How effective do you think the task force has been in bringing about the type of
cooperation and coordination you were saying it was designed to do?
D: I think for the most part, it's been very effective. Again, it's created a venue, an
opportunity for discussion at the policy level. There's lots of meeting and lots of
discussion that goes on throughout the day, every day virtually, in south Florida,
about Everglades restoration. Most of those meetings are at the staff level. The
task force allowed people at the deputy assistant secretary level, mayor level, to
come together and get briefed on those issues and have meaningful dialogue
about those issues. Overall, it served the effort very well. I think the task force,
by its very design, has to be very careful about what it takes on, because these
are very busy executives, high level people and a variety of different agencies
and they don't have time, for the most part, to make Everglades restoration a full-
time job. They need to be careful about picking a few big issues that they can
really affect and shape. If they try to do too much, they probably won't do any of
it very well.
G: When the initial draft of the restudy plan was released in October 1998, it
received significant criticism from the National Park Service and some prominent
scientists and environmentalists. What was your reaction and the reaction within
the Corps to these criticisms?
D: I was concerned about the criticism. I thought for the most part they were
premature and unfair because it was a draft and had not gone through complete
reviews. Certainly, there was no indication on the part of the Army that this was
the final product, that it would not be changed. In fact, some of the critical
comments had already been addressed and the comments were no longer
accurate. Some of the issues had been taken care of. There were some valid
points raised in some of the criticism by the park and others that I think we
ultimately addressed. We took care of them and I think that's why, today, the
Park [Service] will tell you this is a pretty good plan. We listened to them very
carefully and we agreed that they had some issues that needed to be taken care
of. The bottom line is, in my opinion, if you're restoring the south Florida
ecosystem and you haven't successfully restored Everglades National Park, then
you're not successful. The converse of that is that you can't just restore
Everglades National Park and tell people in good faith you've restored the
ecosystem either because it's much bigger than the park. It's an ecosystem,
you've got to do the whole thing. I do believe that the suggestion that the plan
was not a restoration plan was very unfair. The [criticism] that I recall played out
in The New York Times and other major newspapers around the country, was
that this was a water supply plan for south Florida, [which] was very unfair. The
suggestion that the Corps was trying to aid and abet growth in south Florida in a
very sneaky way, disguising a water supply plan as a restoration plan, was
incredibly unfair. It was not that. It was not the objective of the Corps, it was not
the objective of the Army in any way. I think the plan stands on its own today
and demonstrates that. Based on the October draft, the headlines [were] that
this was nothing more than a water supply plan, which is blatantly false and
G: What did the Corps do to try and respond to some of those criticisms?
D: We had several meetings, many in my office in the Pentagon, to try to craft a
response because we were very concerned. We knew what was being said was
not true. We sat down with the Park Service and the state of Florida and others
to deal with the valid technical issues they had, about getting more water into the
park, for example. I think we agreed that yes, there is a possibility that you're
going to need more water in the park than the draft had suggested. We're going
to study that, we commit to doing additional studies to determine exactly how
much water the park needs. We dealt with the substantive technical issues.
With the perception that this is a water supply plan, we tried to do a better
job of articulating what the plan really is. One of the things that we did at my
insistence was to really do some calculation about how much of the benefits are
going to the natural system. As a result of that discussion and then some follow
up modeling, follow up analysis, we determined that eighty percent of this water
that's captured goes to the natural system. Twenty percent goes to water supply.
It's important to remember that the law in 1996 says that the purpose of the plan
is to restore and protect the south Florida ecosystem, while providing for other
water-related needs of the region. It says, including water supply. The law itself
required the Corps to look at water supply as a component of the CERP. It
wasn't something the Corps made up and decided it was a nice thing to do. It
actually was a mandate in the law. It was an important mandate because it did
help hold together the coalition that included the agricultural] community and the
water utility community. That was important. If you read the press accounts of
the draft, you would be left with the impression that ninety percent of this is about
more water for water supply. It wasn't. Eighty percent of this water that is
captured actually will go to the natural system and twenty percent to agriculturee.
That, more than anything else, began to dispel the myth that this was a water
supply program. I made the argument several times to people that nobody
outside of the state of Florida in the federal government, in Congress, cares
about water supply in south Florida. We're not interested, we don't do it, the
Corps doesn't do water supply projects. There's some water supply benefits that
come from the CERP. Upon further analysis, we even determined that for the
most part, that twenty percent of the new water that comes from the CERP that
goes to agriculture and urban water supply, actually comes with virtually no
additional cost. If the law had said you only do an environmental restoration
project, you are prohibited from providing any water supply, the scientists and
engineers tell me they would have essentially formulated the same project. The
twenty percent actually comes at virtually no cost. It's just available because of
the way the whole thing is put together. It's provided. If you look at the sixty-
eight components of the CERP, sixty-eight projects, only one of them is
exclusively water supply and only nine or ten of those sixty-eight have anything to
do with water supply. The rest are exclusively environmental restoration. It was
unfair to say this was a water supply project. That 80-20 number was a
watershed event when we came up with that. We didn't make it up, I didn't tell
them I want it to be 80-20. I said, I want you to go off and do the analysis and tell
me what it is. I had my fingers crossed it wasn't going to come back 50-50 or
something [worse]. It didn't. These guys came back and said it's 80-20. The
water management district followed up with some modeling and found that's
really close. That was a big help.
G: A lot got made out of that eighty percent number. Was there ever a promise
made or is there anything in the legislation that says eighty percent of the
benefits or eighty percent of the water must go to the natural system?
D: Nothing in the legislation. The law requires that the CERP be implemented and if
you implement the CERP, that's what's going to happen. We do have legal
requirements now that are part of the WRDA 2000 Everglades proposal that
requires the water for the natural system to be reserved and protected. Fence it
off, if you will, under state law. We said that this plan is clearly for natural system
restoration and we expect those benefits to one, be achieved for the natural
system and two, to be maintained for the life of this project for the natural system.
As a matter of law, they have to be set aside. That's the structure we created in
2000 and that's what the state will have to do. As the Corps and water
management district formulate each of the component parts of the CERP, there's
going to be an identification of the amount of water that goes to the natural
system from that particular component part or that feature. Once that's identified,
the state has to reserve [it] under state law so that water is protected for the
G: What was the Chief's report and why was it so controversial?
D: The Chief's report is a document that is developed for virtually every water
resource project that the Corps of Engineers undertakes. Essentially, it [is] the
chief of engineers', the commander of the Corps' recommendation on a particular
project. It goes to Congress, it goes to the Secretary's office for their
consideration as decisions are made about whether or not to authorize a project.
It's something that's done for virtually every water resources project. Typically,
they're very short documents, two or three pages that basically either support or
don't support a particular project. Most of the time they support it. They accept
the recommendations of the Corps district report. The Corps districts generate a
restudy and a report that comes up through the Corps division office up to the
Corps headquarters where that's reviewed. The Chief's report is the top cover of
that, it says, I concur with this or I concur with it with these conditions, or I do not
concur. Generally, as I said, it's a concurrence. This is a very short document,
two or three pages. Most of the issues are worked out before the Chief's report
G: Why was the Chief's report in this specific instance such a controversial issue?
D: That's a good question. I actually was a little surprised and puzzled by that
myself. There was, I believe, some perception that at the last minute, things
were changed ,or the Comprehensive Plan, or the restudy document was
somehow modified or affected by the Chief's report in ways that would be
inappropriate, or fundamentally change the Comprehensive Plan. That did not
occur. Reflecting the prerogative of the Chief of Engineers and the Secretary's
office to have an affect on what a project looks like, certain things were clarified
in the Chief's report. One thing that was clarified was a commitment to study
how much additional water needed to be provided to Everglades National Park.
You mentioned earlier that the criticism of the draft plan was that not enough
water was actually being provided to Everglades National Park. While time did
not allow for detailed analysis to occur in the context of the CERP and still meet
the January deadline, a commitment was made to go back and do additional
evaluations to determine how much water, if any, was needed for the park, up to
245,000 acre feet. That was reflected in the Chief's report as a commitment to
do that. There was also language in the Chief's report regarding assurances to
make a statement that it's very important to ensure that the benefits to the natural
system are actually realized and maintained. There was a statement in the
Chief's report to that effect. Ultimately, that was embraced and put into the law,
which was enacted. That concept, the words were slightly different. The
objective and the concept was ultimately embraced in the law. Those were some
things that were done.
There were some who made an issue about the fact that this Chief's
report was thirty pages instead of the traditional two or three pages. Most of the
thirty pages were simply reciting or summarizing the report. There was a lot of
information in this 4,000 page report and people felt like they ought to have a
more detailed Chief's report to go through what's in the report. Most of it was
actually reciting verbatim what was in the report or in the summary section of the
report. There were a couple of additional things that were added. There's
nothing inappropriate about that. It reflects the legal prerogatives of the Chief of
Engineers and the Secretary of the Army to make changes to a project.
Otherwise, the administration and the Secretary would be forced to simply
accept, carte blanche, anything the Corps sends up. If you have no ability to
overlay policy perspective or budgetary perspectives over a project, then there's
no role for the Secretary or the Chief of Engineers. The changes or the Chief's
report simply reflect those prerogatives. There's nothing inappropriate about it or
really unusual about it. Some people try to make the argument, unsuccessfully I
believe, that there was something inappropriate and there simply wasn't.
G: Lead me through the process of developing the Water Resources Development
Act and then trying to get congressional approval for that legislation.
D: We actually began the process in September or October of 1999. [It began]
principally internally, with discussion within the executive branch of the federal
government, between the Army and Interior, EPA, Council on Environmental
Quality, OMB [Office of Management and Budget] and others about the concepts
behind what the legislation could look like. We knew that the Everglades piece of
the legislation would be a part of a broader Water Resources Development Act.
The strategy that we had put together [was] that we were going to make it part of
WRDA 2000. This was part of the normal formulation process of a water
resources bill. Because the Everglades was such a big part of it, in some ways
different, [was] going to require a lot more effort, we separated it out. We
developed the Everglades piece on one track, while we were developing the
other components of WRDA 2000, the non-Everglades components, on another
track. Eventually, they came together and were part of one submission to
Congress. We started in September, October time frame, outlining some things
[that] would be the basic component parts of the legislation. We began to have
discussions with the state of Florida right at the beginning of the year on their
thoughts on this. Secretary [David] Struhs [Secretary of Florida Department of
the Environmental Protection, 1999-present] was in my office in the Pentagon.
Representatives of the water management district were in my office. On trips
down here, we talked to a variety of people about some of the issues, the
important pieces of the legislation. As a result of that, within the executive
administration, we drafted an Everglades bill that was then inserted into the
Army's water resources bill. I believe it was in late March, early April of 2000, the
Assistant Secretary of the Army, on behalf of the President, submitted to
Congress a legislative proposal for a Water Resources Development Act of 2000.
That included an Everglades title. That was the first draft, the administration's
proposal. That begins the normal legislative development process.
We had congressional hearings. There was a congressional hearing
before that in Naples, Florida. Chairman [Bob] Smith [U.S. Senator from New
Hampshire, 1990-present; chairman, Senate Committee on Environment and
Public Works, 1999-2001; U.S. Representative from New Hampshire, 1985-1990]
of the Senate Environmental Public Works Committee held a hearing in Naples in
January of 2000, before we had submitted our bill. It was a general hearing, in
part to introduce himself. He had just taken over chairmanship of the committee
from the late John Chafee [U.S. Senator from Rhode Island, 1976-1999 (died in
office 10/99)]. After we submitted our bill in late March, early April, that began a
set of specific hearings about the Water Resources Development Act of 2000,
including the Everglades. We testified before Congress, on several occasions, to
defend the legislation.
After the hearings, we engaged in pretty intensive negotiations on the
legislation on the Senate side. This all started on the Senate side and the
Senate decided to allow three people from the Senate, three people from the
state of Florida, and three people from the executive branch to be the principal
negotiators and those working on the bill. I was one of the three for the Clinton-
Gore administration, along with Mary Doyle from Department of Interior and Bill
Leary from CEQ. We worked together on the negotiations on behalf of the
executive branch of the federal government. We worked with the Senate and the
state, revised the legislation. The Senate also brought in the environmental
community to listen to them. We were generally in those meetings. They
brought in other interests like the utilities and the agriculture interests and we
listened to them as we developed the legislation and actually much of it was
drafted and tweaked right there in the Senate hearing room in Washington with
the ag guys and environmental] guys sitting there with us as we wrote pieces to
try to accommodate interests. The administration's bill was tweaked and
adjusted, then passed in the Senate in September of 2000. Finally passed then.
The House, which had virtually taken no action on the Water Resources
Development Act of 2000 or the Everglades at that point, started to pick it up.
They took the Senate WRDA bill, including the Senate Everglades bill, and then
engaged in their own discussions, hearings, in the House. Had some issues
which in context of the Everglades, were relatively minor issues. They basically
accepted the Senate bill. On the last day of that session of Congress, [they]
passed the bill out of the House, which then went to the President's desk. He
signed it December 11.
G: You mentioned that Mary Doyle and Bill Leary were on the administration's team.
Who represented the Senate and the state in those discussions about the
D: It was Bill, Mary, and myself on the administration team. For the state, it was
principally Secretary Struhs, DEP [Department of Environmental Protection],
Ernie Barnett, who works for David, and Kathy Copeland, from the Water
Management District, was engaged in many of the discussions with us. From
time to time, their three alternated. Our three [representatives remained]
constant. We also had help from EPA from time to time in some of our
discussions. The state's three [representatives] changed from time to time. The
joint council, John Camaro from the Water Management District was involved
some. Leslie Palmer, who worked for DEP, was involved. Those are the
principal players. Most of it went through David Struhs.
G: Once the restudy plan had been submitted to Congress, what were the greatest
obstacles that had to be overcome to get the plan approved as part of WRDA
D: There were several. One was the sheer size and cost of the project, convincing
Congress, particularly those that were not part of the Florida delegation of the
Congress, that this was a national priority. We wrote the legislation in a way that
we felt ... Actually as the drafter of the first version of the legislation, I felt
strongly we needed to do a couple of things. We needed to resolve a couple of
issues. We needed to establish for all-time that restoring the Everglades is a
national priority. We can't have this as an annual debate, whether it's a national
priority or in the national interest. Let's have a debate now, make a decision on
that. We also need to establish that the CERP is generally the right roadmap for
doing it. We don't need to question every day, every moment, whether the
CERP is the right way to go. We need to embrace it. It is inherently flexible and
allows for changes and adjustments as we go. We wrote that into the bill. Both of
those things happened.
[End of Tape A, Side 2.]
One of the things that we did and we've been relatively successful in doing
is to convince people that this is a national resource or international resource. A
symbolic thing we did was try to get people to start talking about America's
Everglades, instead of Florida's Everglades. This actually was a result of a
brainstorming session that five or six of us had in a hotel in Boca Raton one
spring, the spring of 1999. We published a document, Rescuing a National
Treasure or Restoring America's Everglades. It was a summary document of the
plan. Now we have Senator Graham and others who talk about America's
Everglades. [It] was very important to begin to have people understand that this
is like the Grand Canyon, this is like the redwood forest, this is like the other
great treasures we have in this country that people believe we, as a society in
this country, have ownership of. They don't belong to one state or one region of
the country. The Everglades had fallen into that because it was always Florida's
Everglades. The question was, if it's Florida's Everglades, why doesn't Florida
take care of their Everglades. We tried to get people to think differently that
these are in fact America's Everglades. I think we began to do that. That was
one of the challenges we had.
Another challenge we had was to begin to have people become confident
that we knew what we were talking about. So often you hear about programs in
the government, not just the federal government, but all levels of government,
that are wasting money, just dumping money down a black hole and you never
see the benefits. Just to keep engineers, and scientists, and others employed for
a long time. This project is such a long-term project [that] most of us probably
will not even be living when the thing is finished. Certainly fair to say that most
members of Congress who authorized [it] won't be living. You really have to
grapple with how much confidence you have. Do these guys know what they're
talking about? This is a huge, huge investment and we don't have a lot of money
to go around. There's a lot of priorities, nationally, that the money could be spent
on. You have to instill confidence that we know what we're talking about and
we've got a good plan, we've got a good strategy here. We had some work to do
because [some] people were skeptical. Not as much in Florida, but outside
Florida those who were not familiar with the Everglades, and the plan, and how it
was developed. We had to really sell that to them. We did that and ultimately we
were very successful because we got the legislation. We had to overcome the
perception by some that was probably left over from some of the criticisms of the
draft plan, that this was a water supply project. I recall testifying on several
occasions where I went through the benefits and how the benefits really do, for
the most part, flow into the natural system, and left us with this 80-20 number
that we have. I explained to members of the committee why that was a valid
answer and why it was, in fact, a restoration plan and not a water supply plan.
There were a couple of things that we had to overcome.
G: To what extent, if any, did state sovereignty issues come into play during the
negotiations of the language of WRDA 2000?
D: They were an issue. I think they were appropriately resolved and reconciled at
the end of the day. The state was concerned that you not have, in the form of a
federal law, something that is going to federalize state water law and not allow
them to implement state water law. We never, at the federal level, had a desire
to do that. I don't know of anybody at the federal level who said we want to take
over implementation of Florida water law and implement that at the federal level
and have control over that. We said, the federal investment here is based
exclusively on the benefits to the natural system and we need to make sure that
those benefits actually make it to the natural system and stay there and that
they're maintained. That's the federal interest. We crafted the law in a way that
recognized state's rights, but also recognized the federal rights and the federal
investment here to protect that federal investment. We reconciled those things in
a very effective manner. The natural system benefits are protected in the long-
term, but at the same time, the federal government doesn't have an
unnecessarily heavy hand in the state of Florida in terms of water rights.
G: How important was it, in terms of getting passage for WRDA 2000, the fact that
the state of Florida had already passed legislation to commit money to the
D: I think it was very important. Here you have an arrangement with the non-federal
sponsor to pay half of it. Not all states would be equipped to follow through with
a commitment to fund it. It's a lot of money, a couple hundred million a year right
now. The fact that the governor had come up with a proposal and was able to
put the money on the table was very important. It demonstrated to the federal
government and the Congress that the state was serious about this. It continues
to be very important that the state of Florida not only puts money on the table but
puts in on the table in a way that's sustainable for the life of this project, for the
commitment that they've made. That they can follow through with it.
G: Any point during the legislative process did you ever have the feeling that you
wouldn't be successful?
D: There were times when we were going through the development of the bill, really
at the end, that we thought we might run out of time. I had a lot of confidence
that we had a good plan. We had drafted solid legislation that had been tweaked
by the Senate and [we had] dialogues with the Senate and other stakeholders.
We had good legislation that made a lot of sense. To the extent we were
concerned, it was that there were some tangential issues that came up that could
have killed the bill, [that were] not substantive to the Everglades. For example,
the application of the Davis-Bacon law [requires contractors of federal
construction projects pay their employees a minimum wage determined by the
U.S. Secretary of Labor to be the prevailing rate for similar work in a geographic
region] on paying prevailing wages came up in the context of the water resources
bill of 2000. The Democrats in the House said, we are not going to let the water
resources bill, including the Everglades bill, go through unless the Davis-Bacon
law applies, so when you hire construction contractors, you're required to pay
them prevailing wages. The Republicans don't like the law, so they fought
against that. In the end, we helped broker a compromise to solve the problem.
We were literally running out of days. This passed the House on the last day of
the session of that Congress. They left, they went home. Had they not done it
that day, it would have been the next session of that Congress coming in and
picking up at the beginning of it. Who knows what could have happened. To the
extent we had concerns, it was not a lack of confidence on the issue, the
Everglades. It was more [about] the process. Were we going to have time?
Were these tangential issues [going to] come in and really throw us off track?
Homestead Air Force base [is] another one that came in. Although it related to
the Everglades, [it was] not totally germane to the CERP itself. [We] had some
members concerned how the federal government was going to deal with
Homestead. Those things ultimately worked out and we got them resolved. That
scared us more than anything.
G: Are there any specific individuals you would identify as having played a
particularly critical role in getting approval of the Comprehensive Plan in
D: I would start with President Clinton and Vice President Gore. It was no secret
that this was a priority for that administration. They invested, I believe, the
political capital to make it happen. They made it a priority and allowed those of
us who work for them to push hard for this. The three of us who were basically
representing the administration. I think Governor Jeb Bush [Florida governor,
1999-present], played an important role. He made it a priority within the state.
He made it no secret to the Florida delegation and others, the Republican
leadership in the Congress, that this was important to him, important to the state
of Florida. I think that clearly played a role. [As for] organizations, I don't want to
single out names because there's a lot of people in each of these organizations,
but the ability of organizations like Audubon and the sugar guys to work together
for a moment, to create this coalition, allowed us to walk together in a very
powerful force. They said, look, we've got people together to support this. That
was very important because we didn't have a lot of time to deal with a lot of
issues. As I said, we were running out of time. Had somebody brought up
additional issues, [it] could have simply delayed this until the clock ran out. That
could have been a big problem. Who knows what would have happened the next
year. We really can't say what would have happened the next year had we been
forced to pick this up again and lost the momentum that we had. Those are very
important players. People at the state level, the staff, were helpful. There was a
lot of people working hard to really pull this together. When I say a lot, I'm really
talking about fifteen or twenty people, the core group of people, those of us who
did the heavy lifting to pull this together, staff on the Senate, Environment and
Public Works [Committee].
Senator [Bob] Smith became a huge ally and force for Everglades
restoration. It surprised us actually, I'll be quite honest. John Chafee was an
incredibly important chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works
Committee for years. [He was a] Republican from Rhode Island, [a] very
environmentally inclined chairman [who] pushed a very green agenda. When he
died and we were informed that Bob Smith from New Hampshire was going to
become the chairman, we thought that probably ends any chance we have of
getting Everglades restoration enacted in this Congress. Chairman Smith was
known to be incredibly conservative. [He] left the Republicans because they
weren't conservative and far enough out the right for his taste. For a while, [he]
decided to run for President, [and] ultimately came back to the Republican party
and was offered the chairmanship to come back. We were surprised in a very
pleasant way that Bob Smith became a true friend of the Everglades. I believe,
and I spoke to the chairman several times as we were going through this, that he
meant it, I really do. While there were some political gains that he would get in
New Hampshire for pushing the Everglades, [there were] probably not enough to
cause him to do what he did. I think it was personal, I think he did have a
connection with south Florida. He vacationed here a lot. He brought his family
here. He talks about the excitement on his son's face the first time he saw an
alligator. Those impressions that had been left with him that were important. I
think he appreciated the diminution in the quality of the resource in the twenty or
so years that he had been coming to south Florida. He stepped up and took the
leadership role and actually became a very credible leader. Probably to the
surprise of some of his Republican colleagues, he made it a little hard for them to
be critical of Everglades restoration. Bob Graham is another hero here. Bob
Graham is on the authorizing committee, Senate Environment and Public Works.
He's also an incredibly knowledgeable person about Everglades restoration. It
was rare that I would go in to brief him, although that's what I was tasked to do.
[I was supposed to] go in and talk to him and brief him about Everglades
restoration and where we were. Most of the time, before it was over, he was
briefing me about Everglades restoration. The Bobs, Bob Smith and Bob
Graham, are two champions on the Senate side that really stepped up to the
plate. The timing could not have been better.
G: Some critics have suggested that the Comprehensive Plan is overly dependent
on unproven technologies, such as aquifer storage and recovery. How do you
respond to that criticism?
D: I think it's inaccurate to say that aquifer storage and recovery [ASR] is an
unproven technology. The fact is that ASR is in place in the state of Florida right
now and generally working pretty well. The fact is that ASR has been used
successfully in other parts of the country and the world. So the concept is not
unproven. The scale at which ASR is proposed in the CERP is, to some extent,
unproven. We're talking about 330 ASR wells that are relatively close together.
That hasn't really been attempted in other places. We recognize that. With ASR
and other areas where there are uncertainties about the technology, we
proposed six pilot projects to test our theories. [Those tests would] either validate
our assumptions that they will work or to give us direction and guidance on how
to make it work or to tell us that we need to change courses completely for those
technologies, that they simply won't work or at least won't work where it's
feasible in terms of cost. I think it's actually a credit to the Comprehensive Plan
that [we recognize that we don't have all the answers]. [That is] unlike past efforts
of this nature, where we have been either naive or arrogant or both, and suggest
that we have all the answers, and just blindly march down this path and damn it,
stay out of our way. Twenty years from now we would not have all the answers.
We could wait for twenty years or thirty years until we think we would. But we
won't. In the meantime, the Everglades would continue to die, probably past a
threshold beyond which we can't return in terms of recovery.
The beauty of the plan is that we took a different approach, we admit it.
This is a conceptual plan, the concepts are pretty straightforward. There are
some uncertainties, both in terms of the technology, there's also some
uncertainty in how the system will respond to certain hydrologic changes. We
know that. This plan is a work in progress. We're going to make adjustments as
we go. That honesty and recognition up front that that was the case actually
helped us with the Congress. Particularly Bob Smith. He really was moved by
that whole concept of adaptive assessment and the fact that we were willing to
admit that we didn't have all the answers and that we ought not to proscribe in a
very rigid fashion an answer or an approach when we don't have all the answers.
I think the criticism is, in part, unfair. It's not all unhealthy. It keeps us honest,
keeps us moving in terms of trying to gather all the information we need to make
good decisions. It's inaccurate, in [regards to] ASR and some other things, to
say it's unproven. Because it has been proven, perhaps not exactly the way
we're talking about it. I think for the most part, history will prove that we were
G: If the ASR technology proves not to be feasible on the scale we're talking about,
can the Comprehensive Plan still be successful?
D: Sure, we'll have to make up water some other ways. There are ways to do it.
More surface storage is one obvious response in the form of a contingency plan.
Surface water storage comes at a cost. It's different than ASR in terms of land
base required, the inefficiencies of surface water storage in a subtropical climate,
where you lose a lot to ET evapotranspirationn?]. It can be made up and would
be made up. I find it difficult to believe that ASR, in some form, will not work. I
believe it will make up some component part of the overall circuit, at the end of
the day. Whether it makes it up with 330 wells, the way we proposed it, or if
maybe it's 200 or maybe it's 400, I don't know at this point, nobody does. The
bottom line that should give people great comfort is [that] there are ways to make
it up if you have to. It'll have a cost to it, either a fiscal cost or efficiency cost, but
it can be made up.
G: How will we know if the restoration efforts that are part of the Comprehensive
Plan are successful?
D: That could be answered at a lot of different levels. Certainly, forty years from
now, if we begin to enjoy the magnificent wading bird populations that we once
did in south Florida that none of us have ever experienced because they were
basically gone before we began to live here, that will be one yardstick or
barometer. Maybe the ultimate one is the [population of] birds and the fish and
[that] the water is cleaner. There are very specific measurements we'll be
making to know in more specific fashion whether or not we're actually achieving
success. There are hundreds of performance measures that are being
developed that will be measured along the way over the next twenty or so years.
There are detailed monitoring plans and protocols that are being developed right
now that will allow us to establish the right baselines to measure against, so we'll
know what type of improvement we're getting. If we're getting improvement at
all. Like the adaptive assessment concepts, part of the genius of this plan is that
we don't have all the answers. One, we've had the courage to recognize that,
and two, we have the ability to come up with a strategy to have an understanding
of when and where we need to make adjustments. We're writing the rules. The
notion of adaptive management, adaptive assessment, has been bantered
around for years. When you really start peeling back the outer layers, there's not
a lot of information out there. We have searched other parts of the globe and the
country to try to find somebody who has actually done this. They haven't. We're
writing the rules down here and that's another important component of what
we're doing in south Florida. Not only inherently for the south Florida ecosystem,
but what we're learning here will be and is being transported to other parts of the
country and the world. If we can pull it off down here, there's great hope that we
can pull it off in far less complicated systems in other parts of the globe.
G: After the enactment of WRDA 2000, you left the Corps and joined the
Department of the Interior. Why did you do that?
D: It was a very personal decision, actually. As the Deputy Assistant Secretary of
the Army I had a national portfolio. I worked on projects around the country, and
even the world, to some extent. Had a great job. I actually became incredibly
passionate about Everglades restoration for some of the reasons we've just
touched upon. I spent virtually all of my twenty-three year career in water
resources, particularly focusing on wetlands science. There was no greater
opportunity that I can think of than to be part of and party to developing this plan,
helping write the legislation to do the world's largest ecosystem restoration
project, which happens to be a wetlands system. I believed, and I continue to
believe, that the first two to five years of implementation, which is the phase that
we've just now entered, are the most fragile time of Everglades restoration. We
have developed a very solid plan, the CERP. We have developed and enacted
the most comprehensive ecosystem restoration legislation in the history of this
country. Two phases of three are really completed. The third phase [comes]
now, which is the hard phase, and that's actually doing something. Doing it with
the recognition that we don't have all the answers and [that] we're going to have
to make changes as we go. Being agile is not something that agencies are
always good at. We have a plan to be agile.
I felt that if we could get off the ground running and get some momentum
the first two to five years, not that we're going to have anything restored because
we're not really going to start seeing hydrologic changes and ecological changes
for ten or twelve years, but to get these projects moving forward. [If] we could get
that momentum, I thought we could carry through to the next twenty or twenty-
five years. If we stumble in the first few years and this thing got way off track,
particularly if the economy changed and we went from surpluses to deficits,
which unfortunately we have now, and the competition for dollars becomes far
more challenging, it could easily unravel. [The plan could] either be scaled back
substantially or [to] have people, in the worst case, lose interest in it altogether. I
made a decision to leave Washington, where I'd spent fourteen years and had a
great job at the Pentagon, to come down here to try to be part of nurturing and
moving this thing through what is still a very fragile time. That's what led me to
move to south Florida and work on Everglades full time. As Deputy Assistant
Secretary, I could have spent full time on the Everglades, [but] I couldn't because
I had a portfolio that included all these other national and core legislative and
policy issues, including the r the wetlands program. The job that I
took for Interior, a new position, was to be a full-time senior executive for the
government. [I would] be down here to help coordinate, help deal with policy
issues, to help be an advocate for the budget for the federal government. To
give the state a voice at the senior level on the ground. It really tried an
experiment in government, to get a policy-level, senior person in the government
out of Washington and put him on the ground so the community has access to
G: Those were the primary purposes of the Everglades restoration office?
G: Why do you think the [George W.] Bush administration decided to eliminate this
D: I think it was both external and internal politics. Internal to Department of the
Interior and external to elements in south Florida or the state of Florida. I think,
internally, a couple of things were in play. I don't believe Secretary Norton and
some of her senior advisors ever really trusted me. They viewed me as a Clinton
administration hold-over. Internally, also I don't believe that some in the
Bureaus of the Department, like Everglades National Park, to some extent the
Fish and Wildlife Service, ever really embraced the idea of having a senior
person in their backyard. If your boss, or somebody that is managing what
you're doing, is in Washington, that's one thing. 1200 miles distance makes it a
little easier. When they plop down in your backyard and you can have access to
them in an hour or so and you're watching what they're doing, I think it made
them a little nervous. The problem we had was within the Department of Interior.
The agencies weren't particularly well-coordinated. They were often in conflict
with each other and competing with each other. You had credible issues
between the Park Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Corps, between
the Park Service and the state. It got to a point where it was unhealthy and it
actually threatened to harm the overall effort. Part of the effort was to come
down and coordinate this activity, speak with one voice for the Department of
Interior agencies and try to make sure that the Interior agencies were getting
along and being represented effectively with the other agencies. I don't think
everybody in the Department fully embraced that idea. It's traditional turf battles
Outside, I think some in the state were threatened that you now had this
guy on the ground in Florida that actually knew something about Everglades
restoration and in particular, knew something about the legislation, having been
one of the authors of the legislation and been there every day debating it. I
understood very clearly what the intent was. I pushed pretty hard on the state
and others that we had to protect the natural system interests to make this
successful. I'm not sure they wanted to hear that the way it was presented to
them. But it was factual and it was accurate and consistent with the law. I think
that was part of it. It could be summarized in a quote, [which] came from Dexter
Lehtinen [U.S. Attorney, Dade County, 1988-1992; Florida state senator, 1987-
1988; Florida state representative, 1981-1987]. Dexter never embraced the idea
of having somebody down here from Interior. He doesn't like the Department of
Interior very much. He really doesn't like the Everglades National Park. Dexter
made a comment to me. He said, the reason I don't like you being down here is
because you give Interior an advantage that I don't want them to have. I think
that sums it up. That's pretty much why the state didn't like it as well. They had
somebody down here that could stand up to them and go toe-to-toe with them on
the policy and the legislative issues. We were not in a position of rewriting
history and rewriting the law as we go about implementing this plan.
G: Were you given an opportunity to serve in another position related to the
D: I was not. I was told that I would be reassigned in another senior executive
position, which was unspecified.
G: Why do you think the decision was made not to take advantage of the knowledge
and skills you had? Why did they push you out of Everglades-related activities?
D: That's a question that Senator Graham asked for many weeks and asked very
hard. I don't think he was ever effectively answered. I really don't know, other
than the internal politics, external politics that I mentioned. The threat, perhaps,
that I presented to some because I had the knowledge and information is power
in the political or policy game. When people sit around a table and begin to
espouse what the law says, I was in a very good position to either validate what
they said or say, no wait a minute, I was there when this was written, I actually
helped write those words. I understand what the law said, what the intent was.
Some didn't like that because they wanted to have their own interpretation of
what the law said.
G: Is that why you decided to leave the Department of the Interior?
D: After a lot of thought and careful evaluation, I decided to leave the federal
government after twenty-three years. I did not believe that I could serve
President Bush's administration, in any meaningful capacity in the senior roles. I
was at the highest level you can achieve in the federal government as a career
person. I worked directly for political appointees. There's nowhere to go in terms
of up. By it's very nature, it's a very political position. I did not foresee any
opportunities to serve in a meaningful capacity. There was a very good chance I
could have drawn a pretty good salary, continued to get paid and be on the
federal payroll and basically spend three years not using the talents and skills
that I have. I simply couldn't come to grips with doing that from what I believe
public service is all about, what I owe the taxpayers every day when I go to work.
I began to look for opportunities and had several opportunities in the private
sector very quickly. Including the vice president of Keith and Snars.
G: What do you see as the most important future obstacles to the successful
implementation of the Comprehensive Plan?
D: I believe that there is a real risk right now that the interest groups are going to
fracture and each begin to try to play their own political card independently
versus in a coalition fashion that we've been successful using in the past.
Because of a general lack of trust that exists in south Florida, the environmental
communities believe that somehow the Corps is not going to implement this
project in a way that represents a natural system interest. The utilities [and] ag
interests believe that the Corps is going to implement it in a way that is exclusive
to the natural system and they're not going to get any water, [or] worse, they're
going to be taken off the water that they have now. I call it seeing ghosts. There
are a lot of people down here that see ghosts. A healthy level of skepticism
should exist. But I think it's very quickly approaching an unhealthy level where
people are beginning to go back into their respective camps, [which] we saw five,
six, or seven years ago. They're going to fight it out individually, versus trying to
reach some consensus and try to understand that there is no perfect solution, but
we have the best solution that you're going to get. I think there's a real risk. I
see that occurring right now. People are not sitting at the table together nearly
as much as they used to.
I think there is a risk that if we don't show some continued movement and
success over the next few years, if we don't get many of these studies underway,
the detail studies, if we don't start moving towards construction on schedule, we
will fall into the criticisms that [we] are just in a perpetual study mode. [That we]
can't seem to go to the next step, can't actually start building things that will
effect changes in hydrology, which ultimately affect changes in the ecosystem. If
we get bogged down and get off track too much, there's a risk. Each year when
we try to get annual appropriations, something else is going to become a higher
priority. Something else, where they don't have those issues, will be funded at
the expense of the Everglades.
The third thing that is incredibly important is the ongoing effort by the
Corps to promulgate these programmatic regulations. I think [that] is vital.
Hopefully, at the end of this year, when the Corps is supposed to issue final
rules, these will be substantive and meaningful. We invented the idea of
programmatic regs. I am the person that originally invented the idea. There are
so many moving parts to this effort. While you have the legislation as a
framework, it's a broad framework. You don't write legislation to be so
prescriptive that it diminishes all your flexibility. You never do, if you really are
good at writing legislation. I don't think we did that here, intentionally. What we
did recognize was that there are a lot of moving parts, this is a very long-term
proposition, twenty-five to forty years, that you need more detailed rules than you
would want to put in a piece of legislation. The way to do that, our idea, was
through these programmatic rules, programmatic regulations. You promulgate
these rules and you look at them every five years or so to make adjustments as
you learn more. Otherwise, you run the risk of all these different moving parts
going off in different directions and being developed in different ways.
Individuals, humans, are going to be doing this stuff. They're individuals and
they're probably going to be different individuals because there are so many of
these things going. You run the risk of inconsistency. You run the risk of losing
the big picture, programmatic perspective that this all ties together. The CERP is
really not a plan so much, it's a program with sixty-eight different components.
Without these programmatic regs, you run the risk of losing that continuity or that
programmatic perspective. One of the most important things the Corps has to do
is come up with meaningful rules. I'm hopeful that they will.
G: Do you think the programmatic regulations, as written now, are not specific
enough or don't do that?
D: I do not believe that the draft is specific enough. I do not believe it's consistent
with the intent that we had when we wrote the law. To simply defer all the hard
issues and heavy lifting to these protocols later, I think, is taking the easy way out
right now. Some of this stuff is hard, it's intellectually going to take a lot of
thinking, a lot of careful evaluation. But you need to do it now, up-front, versus
on an ad-hoc, individual, feature-by-feature basis where you have inconsistent
results. Yes, it's hard, but let's do it now and get it right. I don't believe the first
draft hit the target.
G: Final question. What are the most important lessons that you have personally
learned from your experiences with Everglades issues?
D: We've learned a lot of lessons because, to a large extent, we've written the rules
for ecosystem restoration through this project. We're making it up in the form of
the plan and the legislation so we're the ones that are doing some of the original
thinking and work here. The primary one is [to] never underestimate the power
of communication and constant contact with people. Making assumptions that
people understand what you're doing and why you're doing it is a very risky
proposition. Getting caught up, like all of us do, in the day-to-day busy schedules
that we have can lead us to not be as effective communicators as we need to be.
The Chief's report is a good example. I was involved in the development of the
Chief's report. It was a very important document and what we did was
appropriate, clearly it was legal and consistent with the way projects are
developed. I also believe that had I and a few others been more effective in
communicating what we were doing at the time, we probably could have avoided
some of the controversy about the Chief's report. We were caught up in a
crunch. The velocity of this was fast. A lot of things [were] happening and we
were moving quickly. We probably could have been more effective in reaching
out and saying, here's what we're doing [and] why we're doing it B explaining to
people what we were doing. I can not emphasize more how I believe it to be
both appropriate and the right thing to do. I think history has proven that, both in
the litigation that was dropped and the fact that the Congress didn't do anything,
didn't make any changes to the Chief's report. There is a provision in the law,
but it didn't really have any effect on anything. It had no effect. It basically said
what we were going to do. I think that's the lesson that I've learned. You can't
really assume that you've done enough to reach out to people. In spite of our
intensive efforts, you've got to keep at it.
[End of Interview.]