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Interviewee: Bill Leary
Interviewer: Brian Gridley
Date: May 16, 2002
G: This is Brian Gridley interviewing Bill Leary at the Council on Environmental
Quality offices in Washington, D.C. The date is May 16, 2002. Mr. Leary, 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?
L: The decision [that was] made over a hundred years ago to drain it. The fact that
the [Army] Corps of Engineers is very good at doing what it's asked to do,
including putting in thousands of miles of canals and levies and altering the
natural flow of the ecosystem, which is what the Corps is now being asked to
undo. The fact that they were very efficient and good at doing what it is they're
being asked to undo. And three, that it took a long time to get all of the various
interest groups in South Florida, and ultimately the nation, to focus on the
Everglades as an ecosystem that could be saved, should be saved.
G: John DeGrove once characterized the ecological problems in South Florida as
being the product of Ainnocent ignorance@. Would you agree with that
L: Not exactly. I'm not sure that it was innocent, not in one sense of what innocent
means. I think he means that the actions that were taken decades ago had
unintended consequences, I think he's right. But it was a deliberate decision to
control nature, to alter the natural flow of water for the benefit of the humans in
the area, in terms of controlling floods. A lot of it came as a result of human life
loss after hurricanes in the late 1940s or mid-1940s, that immediately followed
drought, both of which people sought to control. The other was the purposeful
desire to drain what was perceived to be worthless swamp to make it useable by
man and thus created the Everglades Agricultural Area [EAA] and otherwise
made it easier to develop the lower east coast and to some extent the lower west
coast as well. A lot of the harm was deliberate, but I don't think many people, at
the time, foresaw what the harm of their actions would entail. It took decades for
people to change their minds about whether it was the right decision to have
altered it in the first place.
G: To what extent does the current restoration initiative, embodied in the
Comprehensive Plan and related projects, represent a change from earlier
L: A lot of what we're doing is the essence of what the term restoration means.
When I give talks about it, I talk about there being a third new environmental
movement, and I'll go into that more with you later, but it's about restoration. It's
about putting things back. A good bit of what we're attempting to do here is
change the management of the system to putting [as] much of it back the way it
was as is humanly possible, recognizing that it's always going to have to be a
managed system. But it will be managed more directed toward restoring so
much of the natural system as remains. That's not to say that it won't continue to
be managed for flood control and water supply, but Congress recognized, and
we urged in the Water Resources Development Act of 2000, that restoration of
the ecosystem, meaning the natural system, would be the predominant purpose.
That's a change, because in the past it [was] managed primarily for flood
control and water supply. We discovered that we were losing an awful lot of
water that could be used for restoration and water supply, and still provide flood
protection. The essence of the restoration plan is to accomplish all three.
G: To the extent that change has occurred, as reflected in the current South Florida
project, are there any specific turning points or watershed events that were
critical for promoting this change?
L: The earliest I'm aware of is then Governor [Bob] Graham's [U.S. Senator from
Florida, 1987-present; Florida governor, 1979-1987] Save Our Everglades effort
that I think was [launched] around 1983. He was the first political leader, at least
in the last twenty years, to recognize that the Everglades were important and
should be restored. He has since said, and I'm not sure he said it at the get-go,
that what he sought and seeks is an Everglades that looks and functions more
like it did at the turn of the century than twenty years ago. So, his Save Our
Everglades effort was a watershed moment. Earlier than that, watershed
moments, in the sense of a significant moment in time, [there are] quite a few.
Reaching back, [the] creation of Everglades National Park over fifty years ago
[was] a very important event in the history of the saving of the system. The
C&SF [Central and Southern Florida] project  and its construction [was]
obviously a very important point in time. Since 1983, probably the settlement of
the litigation between the sugar industry and the state of Florida and the federal
government in the mid-1990s. The Water Resources Development Act in 1996
that directed that the restudy be completed and then the development of the plan
in 1999 and its authorization in the Water Resources Development Act of 2000.
Those are the big events. And of course the filing of the lawsuit that was settled.
G: What was the impact of Governor Graham's Save Our Everglades program?
Why is it a watershed event?
L: Because it was a governor of the state saying that this was going to be a priority
for the state. The state of Florida has long had a pretty strong environmental
ethic. I think the state of Florida had, for at least a couple of decades before that,
recognized the value of tourism to the state and that the environment is the
economy. Senator Graham had the vision to see that we had a system there that
we had altered, that was deteriorating, and from an environmental point of view,
that was wrong, and potentially for the economic future of the state that was
wrong. He believed that the state needed to do a serious commitment toward
acquisition of land, protection of land and attempts to save what remained of the
Everglades ecosystem. That was the first bold statement by a political leader in
the state of Florida, that it should happen and that it could happen.
G: Briefly tell me about your professional background, including education and
L: I graduated form Florida State University [with] a business degree. I then stayed
and went to law school there. I then stayed in Tallahassee and went to work for
the Florida legislature. I started working for the Florida legislature upon my
graduation in 1974. [I] worked there for fourteen years. I worked in the bill
drafting office for a number of years and then moved over to committees. Over a
series of two-year periods, I worked for the House of Representatives. When a
new Speaker would come in, [I would] move to be the staff director of a
committee to deal with that year's crisis. So, for example, one year I was at the
Regulated Industries Committee working on the Florida Lottery Law and writing
it. Next year we had a medical malpractice crisis, I was staff director of that
committee. The next year we had an automobile insurance crisis, I worked on
that. After that we had banking reform, I worked on that. I basically moved from
committee to committee depending on what the issue of the day was.
I then moved here to Washington D.C. to work for the Senate Banking
Committee for Senator Graham. He had been named to chair an investigation of
the HUD [Housing and Urban Development] scandals from the previous
administration. [I] worked on that for a brief time, went back to Florida, thought I
was going to be working on reapportionment, but when I arrived, the new
speaker, T. K. Wetherell [1980-1994, Speaker of the Florida House of
Representatives, 1991-1992], called me in his office and said that the federal
government had just sued the state of Florida regarding the Everglades. He
wanted me to be the staff director of the Natural Resources Committee, which
would have been in January of 1988. He wanted me to write legislation that
would help resolve the issues in that litigation. I hired a water attorney and we
wrote the first Everglades legislation, that was enacted that year. I stayed one
more year, got to missing D.C., came up here, worked for Karen Thurman [U.S.
Representative from Florida, 1993-2002], who had just been elected to the
House of Representatives, for a brief time. Senator Graham learned I was in
town, he had been named to chair a subcommittee on clean water and
endangered species at the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee
and asked me if I could come over and staff direct it. I did [and] I worked for him
there for two years, trying to rewrite the Clean Water Act and the Endangered
Species Act. I then left there, went to the Department of the Interior in 1992,
where I went to work for the assistant secretary for Fish and Wildlife in Parks. I
worked there until September of 1999. During the time I was working there, I
was asked again to work on Everglades issues. I started working on Everglades
issues again in 1995, so it was my fourth tour of duty on Everglades issues,
fourth perspective. In September 1999 I came here to CEQ [Council on
Environmental Quality], where I continued to work on three Everglades issues
and I've remained here since.
G: During your original stint with the Florida legislature, how involved did you get
with Everglades-related issues?
L: Just what I mentioned. I had worked on environmental issues during the period
that I worked at the bill drafting office before I started going into that series of
committees. The most significant, relevant thing that I did, what is turning out to
be relevant, is I wrote Florida's Water Law back in the early 1980s. I worked on
a variety of environmental issues, but nothing specific to Everglades. There
wasn't really anything specific to the Everglades going through the legislature for
all that time. It was then back in 1988, when I moved back to Tallahassee and
Speaker Wetherell asked me to work on Everglades issues, that I became
engaged in them. My first exposure, really, to Everglades issues was in January
G: What was your reaction when Dexter Lehtinen [U.S. Attorney, Dade County,
1988-1992] filed the lawsuit in October of 1988?
L: I wasn't aware that he'd done it. I was still here in D.C. and learned of it when I
arrived and was asked to go over to the committee and they were explaining to
me that the U.S. Attorney's Office had filed suit against the state of Florida for
violating its responsibilities under state law and the Clean Water Act to protect
federal resources. I just scrambled to understand why the federal government
had chosen to do that and what the implications were and whether legislation
was an appropriate way of attempting to resolve the issues. Most people at the
time thought it wasn't. I didn't know probably for a couple of weeks, the story of
his having filed it without necessarily getting all the clearances through the
Department of Justice, which was an intriguing anecdote, but I was busy by then
trying to do what my boss wanted.
G: Were you involved in any of the early negotiations dealing with that litigation?
L: Only from the legislative point of view. We had a number of meetings where we
invited Mr. Lehtinen and the new Secretary of DEP [Department of
Environmental Protection], Carol Browner, [administrator of the Environmental
Protection Agency, 1993-2001] and a variety of interests, environmental groups,
and others, to come in and talk to us about those issues and how they were
going to be resolved. In terms of negotiating a settlement, I was never involved
G: Did you get a sense of how involved the legislative branch in general was in that?
L: They became very involved that year. When we started meeting, most people
wanted the legislature to stay out of it. The environmental community, for the
most part, seemed satisfied that the federal government had sued the state of
Florida, and they wanted to see that play out. It had only been recently filed.
Secretary Browner was new on the job and wanted an opportunity to understand
it, negotiate it, and deal with it through the judicial branch and the administrative
branch. We couldn't find anybody, water users, developers, environmentalists,
really anybody, who felt that the issue was right for legislative involvement,
except for my boss and he wanted a legislative fix. That was why he sent me
there and we continued to plow forward, despite the fact that we didn't have any
G: What was the legislative fix that he had in mind?
L: He didn't know. That's what he wanted us to try to determine. Was there
anything about the state water law that was in some way interfering with the
ability of the state to protect the natural system in the ways being sought through
the litigation? I hired a water attorney who had some recent experience with the
development of stormwater plans. We decided to take a look at that law and see
if there was something there that we could adopt as a mechanism for the
development of seeing the whole system not as stormwater, but basically as a
flow of water issue, and see if there was some way that we couldn't set in place a
planning requirement that would be specifically designed to address the very
concerns the federal government had expressed. How we could use the Florida
water law and develop a plan that would provide adequate water for the natural
system. We held a series of meetings with people, tried to get their advice and
basically told everybody that we would have a draft available the next day. We
stayed up all night and wrote a bill, [and] handed it out the next day. It was a
fairly short bill, and most people who read it said, this isn't as bad as we thought
it would be. And, unusual to the Florida legislative process, it became law about
sixty days after that, with near unanimous votes in both Houses. It didn't change
very much. I've since been told that it didn't solve the problem, but at the time, it
was our best shot in a very brief, quick period of time. We started, as I said, in
January. The session began in probably March or April. We didn't have a lot of
time to work on it, but it was enacted pretty quickly. I then stopped focusing on
Everglades issues and the next year, while I was still at that committee, we
focused on completely different issues. It needed time to play out and by the
time it started to play out, I had left and returned to D.C.
G: Do you recall the title of the law?
L: I'm trying to remember whether it was that law or the subsequent one that picked
up the name the Marjory Stoneman Douglas [Florida environmental activist;
author of The EvergladesBRiver of Grass] Act. I think it might have been that
G: You're referencing the 1991 law, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Everglades
G: Is that the one you were involved in writing?
L: I've had my dates wrong. It would have 1990, not 1988, when I moved back
there. It would have been in January of 1991 when I started at the committee, so
that would be that law. The Senate put that title on it, as I recall, and as I learned
subsequently, [Douglas] wasn't very happy about that. But the decision was
made to give it that name and everybody thought, what a great idea to honor her
in this way. As I said, I subsequently found out that law did not do the trick at all
in terms of solving the problems. It was two or three years later that the litigation
was settled. I wasn't involved in that. The legislature then met again to craft
legislation intended to implement the settlement agreement and that became the
large, far more detailed Everglades legislation that was enacted and still, for the
most part, is law today. I wasn't involved in drafting that either.
G: Governor Lawton Chiles [Florida governor 1991-1998 (died in office); U.S.
Senator from Florida, 1971-1989] had asked Dexter Lehtinen, after the Marjory
Stoneman Douglas Act passed in 1991, to put a stay to the lawsuit, to give the
law a chance to work. Why do you think Mr. Lehtinen was so resistant to giving
that law a chance?
L: As I said, there was a lot of resistance to the legislature weighing in on the issue
at all that early in the litigation. As I recall, the litigation had been filed just
months before that. They were a long way from completing discovery and
otherwise honing the legal issues and legal arguments and I think he felt that he
had a strong case and probably felt that he ought to be free to pursue his
litigation. My guess is, that he found that legislation to be a distraction to what he
was attempting to pursue.
G: Do you think that particular law could have been effective in addressing the water
quality problem that was really at the heart of the litigation, if given a chance to
L: I'm not sure. It was, as I said, hastily put together and hastily enacted. I think it
would have taken goodwill on all sides to try to make it work, to help the planning
effort that it called for, [to] bring the parties together outside of litigation to
develop a shortened and long term plan to address those problems. It probably
could have been made to work. My guess is that it would have required some
refinement along the way to completely work, and may indeed have required the
level of detail that the legislature ultimately enacted several years later. I think, it
was seen as just a little bit too general in requiring all sides to stop the litigation
and get on about the business of working together. I think too many battle-lines
had been drawn at that point and people were seeing opportunities to succeed
through litigation that they weren't quite ready to put a stop to until they had
explored it a little bit further.
G: Did you have any involvement with the Everglades issues while working on
Senator Graham's staff in Washington?
L: Yes. For the most part, my job was handling the committee work for him on the
Clean Water Act and endangered species issues. But in addition to that, sort of
as a secondary responsibility, I helped handle environmental issues for him and
one of the environmental issues I monitored for him was [the] Everglades. My
involvement was primarily meeting with people who wanted to get his attention
on issues and providing him with memos on issues that might have been
occurring, or meetings that I had, and just keeping him up-to-speed. Not
necessarily an easy thing to do, because he knew so much about the issue and
so much more than I did, that it was rare that I was able to tell him something he
didn't already know.
G: Did you get a sense of how involved he was in trying to deal with this litigation?
Was he a part of that process?
L: I don't know.
G: How did you become involved with the Department of Interior?
L: I was invited to go to work there by the then-Assistant Secretary for Fish and
Wildlife and Parks, George Frampton [chair, Council on Environmental Quality,
1998-2001; Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Fish and Wildlife and Parks,
1993-1997], who I had met earlier at an Everglades meeting. He invited me to
come over and work for him.
G: Did you get back involved in the litigation issue process once you joined the
Department of Interior?
L: No, for two reasons. One, when I went over there, which would have been in
1994, one of the things I asked him was to not work on Florida issues. I'd been
working on Florida issues all of my career and had enjoyed [it]. At the Senate, [I]
worked] on some national issues and while at the Department of the Interior I
told him, it's a big country out there. I'd really like to work on issues other than
Florida, and there was somebody working for him who already was working on
Florida issues. In addition to that, there were people in the solicitor's office who
were working on the settlement of the litigation, so the issue was well staffed by
[the Department of] Interior by the time I got there. I wasn't asked to become
involved and would have resisted it, in any event.
G: When did you get back involved in the Everglades and how did that happen?
L: Around the fall of 1995, the person who had been handling Everglades issues left
our corridor to go be a park superintendent.
G: Who was that?
L: I can't remember her name. I'll remember it, but I just can't now. So, that left
that void. Everglades issues had become of increasing interest to George
Frampton, and he wanted to make sure that somebody was staffing him on it, so
he asked me. He said, "I know that you wanted to work on other things," and I
had been enjoying working on other things, but he said, "I'd like for you to insert
the Everglades back into the list of things you're doing," which by then I was
happy to do. The very first thing I did was meet with Secretary [Bruce] Babbitt
[Secretary of the Interior, 1993-2001] who said, "you know, on [the] Everglades
we've got the cart before the horse. We're going before Congress all the time
asking for money, and we don't have a plan." He said, "I want you to put
together a plan." So, a small group of us developed an Everglades restoration
plan for Secretary Babbitt in November and December of 1995. It was a fairly
short little plan, but it was fairly comprehensive. We gave it to Secretary Babbitt,
who then took it to the White House and they liked it so much that in January
1996, a version of it became the administration plan that Vice-President [Al] Gore
[unsuccessful Democratic presidential candidate, 2000; U.S. Vice President,
1993-2001] announced in South Florida in mid-January of 1996.
G: Is this the so-called white paper that was prepared on the Everglades?
L: I'm not sure I've ever heard of it referred to as the white paper. It's been referred
to, as often as not, as the Gore Plan because he announced it, but it was the
administration's restoration plan. It was essentially the same as the Babbitt Plan,
but there were a couple of differences. But it called for the development and
completion of a restoration plan [and] it called for four years of $100 million each
for land acquisition. It called for seven years of increased federal agency
funding. It called for completion of the Modified Water Deliveries in C-111
projects. It called for a multi-species recovery plan. It called for a
comprehensive wetlands plan. It called for increased funding for science. Over
the course of the following four or five years, it was, for the most part,
G: Did that proposal eventually become the 1996 Farm Bill?
L: No. That's another story.
G: In early 1996, the [Bill] Clinton [U.S. President, 1993-2001] administration
proposed [about] $600 million for the Everglades and also proposed a penny-per-
pound tax on sugar. The plan that you're referencing now, is that the Babbitt
Plan that became incorporated as the Gore Plan?
L: I'm trying to remember if it incorporated a penny-per-pound [tax]. I don't think it
G: What is your opinion of the Everglades Forever Act? How would you evaluate
that law which finally ended that period of protracted litigation?
L: I've never read the whole thing. It's a very unusual law, in my experience of
having written quite a few. It's incredibly detailed. It reads like a settlement
negotiation more than a statute in the sheer level of detail. It's my understanding
that was necessary and was the result of an incredible amount of intense
negotiation by all the parties, and the involvement of the Florida legislature. [It]
served its purpose of finally bringing an end to the rancor that had been
occasioned by the lawsuit in the first place. The fact that it has survived pretty
much intact all of these years is a testament to the fact that it did a good job of
representing what appears to have been a consensus view. There obviously has
been disagreement over the years, particularly over the share of the cost of
restoration being paid by the property-owners in the Everglades Agricultural
Area. There was some concern expressed about some of the time lines that
were in there, and subsequently whether they're being adhered to. But I think it
was a very ambitious, very comprehensive approach to actually beginning the
process of undoing the harm, particularly from degradation caused in the
Everglades Agricultural Area. It seems to have gone a long ways towards
solving that particular problem. [It] remains to be seen, as we get more
experience with the stormwater treatment areas, as to whether the vision that it
was predicated on is going to play out properly. In that regard, it was a
remarkable piece of legislation.
G: I realize you weren't working on Everglades issues at that time, but did you get a
sense of what the reaction was within the Department of Interior? How did they
view the passage of the Everglades Forever Act?
L: I think they were very pleased with the passage of the Everglades [Forever] Act.
They certainly were very involved in negotiating it. The Secretary of the Interior
sent one of his best attorneys, a woman by the name of Glen Key, to
Tallahassee. It's my understanding that she pretty much lived there for a couple
of months, helping negotiate and write that bill. At the end of the day, I believe
Secretary Babbitt was very pleased with the result.
G: What role, if any, does the Department of Interior have in the implementation of
L: I don't know the answer to that. I'm not familiar enough with that law. As I said,
I've never really read it. I'm not familiar with whether it has a role in that law. It's
certainly intended to benefit Interior so I suspect there must be a role for it in
there somewhere, but for the most part it calls upon the state of Florida to take
actions for the benefit of the Department of the Interior. It is the state imposing
upon itself a lot of requirements. I think the Interior's continuing ability to make
sure the state complies with it has more to do with the fact that it did not replace
the settlement agreement, that the settlement agreement remains as a separate
document and that the federal court has retained continuing oversight of the
issues. Interior is certainly involved in the periodic reporting to the federal judge
as to the state of compliance by the state of Florida, not only with the Everglades
Forever Act, but with the requirements in the settlement agreement.
G: Is the main importance, or continuing importance, of the settlement agreement
mainly to provide judicial oversight? Does the settlement agreement have any
practical applications now that you have the Everglades Forever Act?
L: That's an apparent area of disagreement between the state of Florida and federal
government. I think the state of Florida has taken the position, over time, that the
Everglades Forever Act supplanted the settlement agreement and that to the
extent [there is] any conflict, the Everglades Forever Act controls. You'd need to
check with the Department of Justice to be sure of this, but it's my understanding
that the federal government has always taken a position that the settlement
agreement remains, that they are parallel, but that in no way did the Everglades
Forever Act supplant the settlement agreement, and indeed, the federal court
chose to retain jurisdiction. It didn't have to, but it chose to retain oversight
jurisdiction of the settlement agreement as an ongoing document to be sure that
indeed the parties were complying with it. And indeed the Department of Justice
and the parties periodically go into court and advise the judge of what's going on
or raise issues with him. It remains, from the federal government's point of view,
an important document in its own right.
G: Marjory Stoneman Douglas refused to have her name put on that bill. Why do
you think many of the environmental groups along with the Miccosukee tribe
were opposed to the Everglades Forever Act?
L: You've helped correct my memory because earlier I wasn't certain if the act that I
had been involved with had been named for her. I knew that there was some
controversy associated with her name being put on a bill. It may very well be that
her name wasn't ever associated with the one that I worked on in 1991, but that
there was an effort to put her name on a subsequent one and she said no. I'm
told she said no and I'm certainly aware that there are a number of environmental
groups and others who were dissatisfied with that legislation. As I understand it,
one of the principal reasons that some groups were dissatisfied with it is [that]
they felt it inadequately required, in particular, the owners of sugar plantations in
the Everglades Agricultural Area to contribute to the restoration of the
ecosystem. They felt they had received too good a deal.
G: To what extent do you think that negative reaction of the environmental
community to this law had a lasting negative impact on the relationship between
the Interior Department's Secretary Babbitt, who was involved in negotiating in
those negotiations, and the environmental community?
L: It was a sad thing to see for the period that it lasted. There was some animosity
by some in the environmental community with Secretary Babbitt. They felt that
he had not been strong enough in the negotiation to require more of the sugar
industry. They felt that a person they considered their friend had let them down.
[End of Tape A: Side 1] I think some in the environmental community felt
disappointed in him because they felt that he would go as far as they wanted to
go, in terms of requiring a higher level of contribution by the sugar industry.
When animosity occurs between friends, sometimes the emotions can be greater
than [between] people who might be more natural enemies. In any event, they
were disappointed with him. He was disappointed in them for not recognizing
what he helped achieve with the settlement and with that legislation, in terms of
real restoration getting done, which was always very important to him. He felt that
what had occurred was adequate. It took a number of years for that rift to heal.
It finally did. I was there when it did and I was happy to see that when he went to
speak to the Everglades Coalition a couple of years ago. I think by the time he
left office, those animosities were largely gone.
G: Describe your involvement with the development and evolution of the South
Florida Restoration Task Force.
L: That had begun before George Frampton asked me to start being involved in
Everglades issues again. I can't remember what year, but Rock Salt [Executive
Director of the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force] had an early
conversation with Bruce Babbitt when Babbitt had just been named Secretary. As
I understand the story, and Rock can tell it better, someone arranged for Rock,
who was then the district engineer for the Corps, to sit next to Babbitt at a dinner,
and Rock started getting Babbitt interested in the Everglades issues. Secretary
Babbitt and George Frampton recognized that this was an issue that would be a
good one for the Department of the Interior to become involved in. They
recognized that the Corps of Engineers was obviously a key player to the effort,
but that the Corps of Engineers also was an agency that was an action agency,
as opposed to a policy agency and certainly a resource agency.
The Corps of Engineers was very good at doing what it is they were
asked by either their president or Congress to do, whether that had good or bad
environmental consequences. They saw the need for the federal family to work
with the Corps at trying to get changes made in the system that would help the
Department of the Interior and its resources. They decided to create an
interagency task force composed only of federal agencies, chaired by George
Frampton, that would meet periodically and discuss issues. [It would] serve not
only as an entity that would coordinate federal interagency policy in South
Florida, but most importantly, help guide decisions being made by the Corps of
G: Can you talk a little about your personal involvement with the Task Force?
L: After I started working on the issue again in the fall of 1996, one of my
responsibilities became working with the Task Force and Rock Salt, who was its
executive director. Rock and I ended up working very closely together because
he was responsible for putting together Task Force agendas and recommending
where and when it ought to meet. I would work with Rock on some of the policy
issues we needed to bring before the Task Force and help prepare George
[Frampton] for those Task Force meetings.
G: Could you talk a little bit about the content of what the Task Force has dealt with?
L: The Task Force, back in those days, would deal with disputes that would come
up between and among agencies in the federal family, primarily between the
Corps of Engineers and the Department of the Interior. It would deal with issues
associated with budget requests for the agencies for Everglades efforts and try to
make sure that they were coordinated. After the administration's plan was
announced in January of 1996, it was really after that, that I became most
involved with the Task Force. A lot of the Task Force efforts were about seeing
that [the] plan was implemented. We would discuss things like increases in each
agency's budget with respect to Everglades restoration to make sure that their
budget requests came in consistent with the Everglades Plan, how federal dollars
would be spent for land acquisition, even to the point of talking about particular
property opportunities to acquire, and attempting to resolve disputes that might
come up between the agencies that needed Washington-level attention that
couldn't be worked out by the working group in Florida.
G: How effective do you think the Task Force has been as a dispute-resolving
L: It depends on which version you're talking about. The original version was all
federal agencies. In that regard, and in part because of its particular
membership and the strengths that George Frampton has as an individual, as a
policymaker, as a person and as a leader, I think the Task Force did a very good
job of resolving issues that came before it. That didn't necessarily always
translate well when things went back to Florida and disputes would continue,
perhaps in part because of personality differences. But it was pretty effective at
formulating and implementing a unified administration policy. That became more
difficult when the Task Force membership was expanded to include non-federal
agencies, initially informally by inviting the state to participate. Subsequent to
that, the Water Resources Development Act of 1996 statutorily created the Task
Force and expanded its membership to include representatives of the state of
Florida, the two tribes, and local government. That expanded considerably both
the volume and opportunities to resolve conflicts and the types of conflicts. The
permutations of conflicts that suddenly became ripe for Task Force discussion
changed quite a bit.
G: Where did the idea for expanding the Task Force to include non-federal actors
L: I think there was a recognition in 1996 that if the Everglades restoration effort
was to succeed, it needed a leading entity. It needed some group where
important policy decisions could be made and guidance could be given to the two
primary partners B the state of Florida and the federal government. It became
increasingly evident that so long as the Task Force remained federal only, its
ability to lead a partnership was very limited. It needed to include the state as a
full partner in order to succeed. As we began to discuss the idea of expanding it
to include the state, very quickly we all realized that of course there were three
other important levels of government or types of government. One being the
tribes, another being regional government (the Water Management District), and
the third being local government. In the negotiation of the Water Resources
Development Act of 1996, we eventually negotiated a Task Force membership
that was enacted that had roughly equal numbers between the federal interests
and other interests.
G: When you say negotiated, who are you negotiating with?
L: Some of us were negotiating on behalf of the administration. We would be
negotiating with our counterparts in the governor's office and certainly the tribes
and different interest groups would weigh in and then, of course, the members
and staff of the congressional committees that were considering the legislation.
G: Was there any consideration given at that time to including non-governmental
actors in the Task Force?
L: No. The view was that we needed a Task Force to represent government, but
we recognized very well that we needed a non-governmental advisory group as
well as a science advisory group. We put into the legislation [something] that
basically authorized the Task Force to create or adopt advisory groups, including
those two. As I recall, the Governor's Commission for a Sustainable South
Florida already existed and I believe we specifically named them. [We did] not
necessarily create them as an advisory group, but came as close, legislatively,
[to] suggesting that they would be a good group for that purpose as we could. We
felt that the membership of that group happened to be pretty good for serving
that purpose, and if it hadn't existed, we might very well have created one.
G: How would you compare the leadership styles within the Task Force of George
Frampton to Patricia Beneke [chair, South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task
Force; assistant secretary for Water and Science, Department of the Interior]?
L: They're very different people and they're both very talented in their own way and
friends of mine. George's style, with respect to Task Force meetings, was to be
very, very well prepared. He would usually know exactly where it was he wanted
to go before the meeting began and pretty much knew, or would try to know,
what everyone's view on a given issue was in advance of the meeting. [He] was
very successful, without taking any votes, at moving the Task Force in what he
considered to be the right directions at resolving issues. He's extremely talented
at that sort of thing. As I've said before, he had the benefit of it being [head of] a
federal Task Force when he was chairing it and that made that issue a lot less
complex. Patty Beneke became chair after the Task Force had been created
legislatively, with its expanded membership. During her tenure, the Task Force
went through an awful lot of growing pains. Patty's personality is very much one
of consensus-building, which is very important for that job. Patty was of the
belief that with this new Task Force, new membership and new alliances, came
new issues that didn't have to be faced before. How does one attempt to have a
focused agenda when you have members of the Task Force who might be very
much opposed to one another on a given issue or maybe even in litigation with
one another on a given issue? She believed that it was important that the Task
Force be a forum at which full discussions could occur. She needed to deal, for
the first time, with issues that had never come up before, issues like, should
there be a vice-chair? Should the Task Force actually take votes, which it had
never done before? Things like that suddenly became a management issue for
her that her predecessor hadn't needed to deal with. She believed that there
should be opportunities for full discussions among the various governments
represented, so the Task Force meetings tended to be more of an opportunity for
discussion of issues [rather] than necessarily taking actions, or encouraging that
a particular party take action. It became less of an action-oriented group and
more of a discussion group, which changed the tenor of the Task Force and it
was just different. Their leadership styles were different, but the membership
changes dictated a different result for the Task Force over that period.
G: How much direct involvement did Secretary Babbitt have with the Task Force?
L: Not much. I believe that he entrusted the running of the Task Force to the two
individuals or the three individuals that he chose to run it while he was secretary.
G: How involved was the Task Force in the Corps restudy process?
L: When George Frampton was chairing it and it was a federal-only Task Force,
one of the things that [initial] Task Force chose to do early on, and one of the
most important things it did early on, was ask the Governor's Commission for a
Sustainable South Florida to develop a conceptual plan that the Corps of
Engineers might adopt as its base plan upon which to develop its own. That
turned out to be a very important decision that the Task Force made. A full year,
a little bit more than a year, before the Corps of Engineers began its
development of the restudy and the Comprehensive Plan, the Governor's
Commission was busy developing a conceptual plan, using the Corps of
Engineers and the Water Management District and other agencies' expertise at
helping it run models of different alternatives. They developed, under Dick
Pettigrew's [chair, Governor's Commission for a Sustainable South Florida;
Florida state senator, 1972-1974; speaker of Florida House of Representatives,
1971-1972] good leadership, a consensus plan that proved to be extraordinarily
important as the whole restudy unfolded years later. They developed a
conceptual plan [and] handed it to the Corps. The Corps did indeed take it and
used it as the fundamental basis upon which the restudy was built, refined, and
changed, of course, over time, but adhering to the fundamental principles and the
general direction that the Governor's Commission's plan adopted.
Years later, as the restudy was unfolding, the Task Force provided
opportunities for its members to be briefed on progress on the restudy,
encourage funding for it, encourage the Corps to proceed and stay on track [and]
encourage agencies to cooperate with the Corps as the restudy unfolded. [It]
became a place for issues that might crop up to be aired and discussed among
the participants. After the restudy was completed, the Task Force became an
important forum, [in] the period that either Patty Beneke or Mary Doyle [chair,
South Florida Ecosystem Task Force, 2000-2001] were the chair, where
discussions were had about future implementation of the restudy and that
G: As you look at the Task Force now, are there any shortcomings that you'd
identify with the Task Force?
L: I haven't attended a Task Force meeting now in a while, and now of course it has
its fourth chair Ann Klee [chair, South Florida Ecosystem Task Force, 2001-
present; special assistant and counselor to the Secretary of the Interior] who is
very good, very bright, very well organized. As I understand it, the Task Force
has been doing very well at taking up a good, strong agenda and being a place
where issues are discussed and actions are taken. But I don't know that of first-
hand knowledge, it's based on what others have told me, that the Task Force
seems to be working well and the participating parties seem to be enjoying the
Task Force operating. One of the unfortunate things about the Task Force is that
its membership has never been full. The federal agencies include, I believe, the
Department of Transportation and I don't believe the Department of
Transportation has ever either participated or certainly not fully participated as a
member. You have at least one federal slot that is, for the most part, inactive.
With respect to the other governments, the two local government representatives
have not, since the first year after its creation in 1996, participated, to my
knowledge. That's been unfortunate because there was a general view that local
governments needed to be full participants in the Task Force in order for their
point of view to be expressed and discussed. One of the challenges, obviously,
is that if you choose, as was the case here, a small community mayor and a
large city mayor, or whatever permutation you choose, it's still difficult for [those]
whose job it is to represent their particular community to represent all of local
government in the ecosystem. There must be hundreds of cities and towns of
varying size and their ability to represent local government is difficult and
probably contributes to their lack of participation.
G: You mentioned the importance of the Governor's Commission and the
conceptual plan that they came out with. Why was that such an important
L: It was important because, [for] an ecosystem restoration plan to succeed, [it] has
to have good, solid, bottom-up buy-in, and as much as possible
consensus, however defined, of the competing and variety of interests that are
out there. It was the opportunity for academics, environmentalists, farmers,
developers, local government, regional government, tribal government, federal
government, state government representatives, and just plain citizens,
community leaders, to come together and discuss, in a meaningful way, what
they saw as the future for South Florida in terms of Everglades restoration. It's
important to try to restore the natural system. It is also important to make sure
that the urban communities continue to be protected from floods and that farmers
continue to get enough water for irrigation and be protected from floods, that the
urban center have enough clean water for drinking water supply, that a
recognition be made, as a plan is developed for thirty years or more, that there is
going to be development. Where should that development occur, and how can it
be managed in a way that doesn't continue to stress the natural system at the
same time that you're trying to restore the natural system? What is the interplay
between habitat needs of the sixty-eight listed species and some of the
development interests? Is it important to maintain agriculture as a buffer
between the natural system and the urban environment and therefore is it
important that the agriculture community remain viable as an economic force in
the area? Those kinds of discussions that are so important could be had by
representatives of those different interests.
The Governor's Commission, if it hadn't existed, I believe we would have
needed to create one. But it did [exist] and it just so happened to be under the
leadership of a rather remarkable individual who managed, as you can imagine
over the year-plus that they undertook this process, to keep the group together,
keep the group talking, and keep working with scientists and developing models
and principles that they were able to adhere to, that met all of those needs
sufficiently. At the end of the time that they studied it, they were able to develop a
plan that they all signed on to. That became very important later on because as
their conceptual plan was taken, and the federal government did [its] best to
adhere to those principles and keep as close as possible to the conceptual plan,
as issues arose and as one group or another became unhappy with the direction
the plan might be taking, the others were able to remind that interest that they
were at the table. When the original plan had been developed and they had
signed up to it and to the extent that their position they were now taking was
contrary to that, it became a very important peer pressure to bring [and] keep
everybody in the middle, to keep everybody under the tent, and to keep
everybody together, realizing that if they didn't stay together, it wasn't going to
succeed. It did and we owe an awful lot to the work of the Governor's
Commission developing it and developing that consensus that ultimately carried
G: In general, how would you characterize the working relationship between
Secretary Babbitt and Governor Chiles as it pertained to Everglades related
L: To my knowledge they had a very solid relationship. I don't know how often they
talked. My guess is that they talked more during the period that I wasn't working
on the issue associated with the settlement of the lawsuit than after I came
onboard. The only times that I was aware, personally, of communications
between the two were involved in the Talisman acquisition.
G: Could you tell me a little bit about the process of developing the Babbitt Plan for
Everglades restoration in late 1995, early 1996, including some of the key actors
involved and the kinds of issues were being discussed and debated?
L: The Babbitt Plan was, for the most part, an internal document that was prepared
by a number of us. Obviously, important players were George Frampton, the
assistant secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks, Bonnie Cohen
[undersecretary for management, U.S. State Department, 1997-2001; assistant
U.S. secretary of the Interior, 1993-1997; senior vice-president, National Trust for
Historic Preservation, 1989-1993], the assistant secretary for Policy and Budget,
Glen Key, the solicitor who had been a lead negotiator for [the Department of]
Interior in the development of the Everglades Forever Act. Myself and one or two
others at the Department took a lot of the ideas the Secretary Babbitt expressed
to us he was looking for. We talked to others, such as Rock Salt, in attempting to
develop the major component parts.
The major component parts for Secretary Babbitt were that you would
develop a plan upon which budget decisions would be made, rather than the
other way around, that there be an important land acquisition component [and]
that there be an important cost-share. That plan was the first proposal of a 50-50
[percent] cost-share, for example, between the federal government and the state
of Florida. He also believed that there should be a cost-share on the sugar
industry, but he wasn't sure exactly how that should be described, so his plan
didn't specify a particular mechanism for it. He believed that there should be a
third party to pay eight percent, and the remainder, [the vast majority], would be
split 50-50 between the federal government and the state of Florida. Those were
the main component parts that he sought, including a multi-species recovery
effort and an enhanced coordination among the federal family. He called for the
Task Force being institutionalized. Those were the major components of the
plan. As the plan was taken to the rest of the federal family for possible
development as an administration plan, we sat down with representatives of the
major other federal agencies, NOAA [National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration] and, EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] and the [Army]
Corps [of Englineers] and [Department of] Justice being the primary other players
and talked to them about some additional items that could be included in an
administration plan. It was at that time that we added a number of other
proposals to it and that's what ultimately became the administration plan.
G: How did the White House get involved in this? At what point did that occur?
L: CEQ was an important entity as well as OMB [Office of Management and
Budget] in the development of that plan because CEQ was performing, as it
always does, a coordinating function for the federal family and the development
of administration initiatives. It's one of its responsibilities. OMB, of course,
became involved because we were going to be recommending significant
adjustments in the budgets of a variety of federal agencies, so their involvement
in those discussions became very key. Their acquiescence and support for
increased funding for all the federal agencies as part of that plan was very key.
G: Did the Vice-President get actively involved in this prior to announcing the plan?
L: I'm sure he must have and I'm sure that he was briefed by White House staff and
his own staff. I didn't ever brief him and I don't know exactly who did and when,
but I'm sure they must have.
G: What was the reaction from Congress to the administration proposal?
L: I believe that the Florida delegation was very pleased to see the administration
make the Everglades such a high priority. We found a great deal of support on
[Capitol] Hill for the very budget increases that we were seeking. It was
particularly true, with respect to the Interior's budget where most of the funds
were being sought, that the Interior appropriations committees were very
supportive of the increases being sought by that agency including, particularly,
funds for land acquisition.
G: Did the administration's plan actually become enacted into law?
L: No. The administration's plan was more of a statement of action items. It
became a checklist for the affected federal agencies to pay attention to, so when
it called for four years of $100 million of funding for each of four years, Interior
included in their budget request that amount of money. When it called for
percent increases in agency budgets, those agencies would seek a percent
increase in their budget each year for Everglades issues. It was more difficult to
follow in some agencies than others. Interior actually had budget line-items
associated with Everglades efforts. EPA would see increases in particular
programs, but without specific mention of Everglades. For example, in the
implementation of the budget numbers that it received for those programs, EPA
would make the decision administratively to expend certain funds in the
G: Early in 1996, the Clinton administration called for the establishment of a penny-
per-pound tax on sugar to raise funds for Everglades land acquisition. What
happened to that administration proposal?
L: I don't believe the administration ever did adopt that proposal. I think there was
an awful lot of discussion of that proposal. I can't recall, and I may be mis-
remembering, if the administration ever actually adopted it. I can't recall how that
issue was handled in the administration plan. It may have been mentioned in the
administration plan, but it never proceeded, for a variety of reasons. One was
that, for the most part, it was perceived as a state initiative. Insofar as it was
seen by a number of people, it would be perhaps a state tax. Therefore, other
than providing support, had the state chosen to go in that direction, there was
little role for the federal government in its enactment. In the state of Florida, it
turned out the support for such a tax was not there, so it didn't move forward. At
some point, subsequently, an effort was made to amend the Florida Constitution
to impose it and that failed. At the same time, a different initiative passed that
imposed some level of responsibility upon polluters to pay, but I don't believe it's
ever been implemented and, as I understand it, would require legislation. The
bottom-line is when the voters of Florida voted it down, it was a pretty strong
signal to a lot of people that perhaps that was an idea that didn't have political
support where it was most needed.
G: How involved were you in the development of the 1996 Farm Bill?
L: None. Not in its development.
G: Could you talk about the importance of that bill?
L: The importance of that bill, with respect to the Everglades, is one provision. As I
understand it, a decision was made at some point by some members of the
Florida delegation to get included in the Farm Bill $200 million of funds to be
used by the Department of the Interior to acquire lands associated with
Everglades restoration. There was also a second, lesser-known provision that
was added to that, [which] was an experiment that would create a different fund.
That initial $200 million had a time period, I believe a four-year time period, for it
to be spent. It was unusual in a number of ways. One way it was unusual is that
it could be spent over a number of years, instead of just one year. The second
fund didn't have a time limit on it. It was designed to encourage any funds
received by any federal agency for the sale of surplus federal property to be first
offered to the Secretary of the Interior for deposit into a separate Everglades
restoration fund to be used for Everglades restoration activities. That fund never
really realized a great balance. I don't think it ever got more than five to $10
million because of the difficulties associated with getting federal agencies the
surplus property and the fact that often the sale of property would already have
the money directed someplace else or that it would be transferred to a university
or something like that. In any event, not a lot of money was ever put into that
fund. The $200 million, however, because a very important amount of money. It
certainly was helpful to the administration's ability to have adequate funds for
land acquisition as it felt it needed. It also was not viewed by the administration
or many others as half of the $400 million that was included in the administration
plan for $100 million over a four-year period; rather many saw it as additive to it.
Indeed the administration continued to seek each year approximately $100
million, even though it had those $200 million available to it. Those funds
became very important, because they provided the Secretary of Interior with a
great deal of flexibility in its expenditure and provided the Secretary with a great
deal of opportunity to acquire some very important land in South Florida. [End
Tape A: Side 2]
G: In terms of spending money for land acquisition, could you tell me which people
in the Department of Interior were responsible for making those choices and how
those decisions were made?
L: I was given a lot of that responsibility, which I kind of enjoyed. I made
recommendations, but all decisions about how to expend the funds were made
by George Frampton, Bonnie Cohen, and Bruce Babbitt within the Department. I
worked with the solicitor's office in the development of any grants that we made
with those funds. Secretary Babbitt made a decision early on that he believed
that those funds should be matched to maximize their use. One of the first things
we did was negotiate. While we were free to provide those funds to anyone, the
expectation became that we would work out agreements primarily with the South
Florida Water Management District as the local sponsor and the entity in South
Florida who had an active land-acquisition program in place. We felt that if we
could match up our funds with them, we could do $400 million worth of good in
South Florida. We negotiated, early in September of that year, an MOA with the
Corps of Engineers, the South Florida Water Management District, the state of
Florida and Interior, whereby we agreed on how those funds would be expended,
including that they would be matched on a dollar-for-dollar basis unless waived
by the Secretary of the Interior. That became an important phrase because,
again, we wanted flexibility to expend the funds, take advantage of opportunities
that presented themselves, but we also knew that the South Florida Water
Management district had a good land-acquisition program. They had identified
quite a few needs for land acquisition, so we worked very closely with them in
particular on looking for opportunities to expend the funds in the best way
possible. We looked at lands that they considered to be the highest priority and
those included lands in the east coast buffer, which was the very narrow north-
south strip separating what remained of the Everglades from urban development
on the east coast. Those lands were under particular development pressure and
we needed to acquire as much of that land as possible for future Corps projects.
We were also looking for opportunities to buy land on the west side of the state
because there were important needs over there and we wanted to strike as much
of a balance as we possibly could in the ecosystem. And then of course, we
were always looking for opportunities to buy land in the Everglades Agricultural
Area because that was very important, we knew, to meet the storage needs that
the Corps restudy was demonstrating needed to be had.
G: In December 1997, Vice-President Gore announced at the Everglades National
Park fiftieth anniversary that they'd reached agreement in purchasing the
Talisman landholding. Would you describe your involvement in the process of
events that led to the Vice-President's announcement?
L: The Talisman property was well known, prior to the Farm Bill enactment, as an
opportunity. The owner of those properties wanted to sell, wanted to get out of
the business in the Everglades Agricultural Area and it was a substantial
property. For meeting storage needs, we knew several things. One was, we
knew that the Everglades Agricultural Area was a key location for storage, not
only because of its strategic location in the ecosystem, being near the top, but
because of the interaction between storage opportunities and the stormwater
treatment areas that ideally would abut them. We also knew that in order to get
the large storage acreage that the restudy and the conceptual plan called for, we
would need to get large contiguous blocks and that was difficult to do if you were
focusing on small checkerboard pieces. The Talisman property offered
everything everyone was seeking, so its acquisition was important and always
recognized as important. It was particularly important as well to the
environmental community, which wanted to see less land in sugar production. It
was always there as an opportunity, and as we expended the funds, we always
knew that Talisman was there and that when an opportunity came to acquire it, it
would be nice to have enough money to do so. As we expended funds out of the
Farm Bill, as we provided the state with $40 million in one grant or $20 million in
another or $10 million in another, we were always mindful of how much money
was still in the account.
At some point in time we were approached by representatives of Talisman
[who said] they were interested in selling and/or trading land. Secretary Babbitt
expressed a great deal of interest in it, talked to me about it, talked to George
about it. We agreed that it was going to be a particularly complex transaction
and Secretary Babbitt made the decision to ask an old friend and former official
at the Department of the Interior who was retired at the time, named Buff
Boland, if he would come in and be the lead negotiator for it. My role became
one of policy coordinator on the acquisition between the various parties, in terms
of what we were attempting to get out of it, working with [Capitol] Hill and others
in terms of briefings and that sort of thing. But the actual day-to-day negotiation
with the owners of the property and, more particularly, the other interests who
became involved in the very complex transaction as we started looking for
opportunities to swap lands, was led by Buff Boland. He was aided by probably
one of the most talented Interior solicitors, his name is Barry Roth, at the
The transaction was very complex because the Talisman properties
consisted of one large L-shaped block of land and a number of satellite
properties scattered mostly to the northeast of the big block, which was right
smack in the lower middle of the Everglades Agricultural Area. We were seeking
a large contiguous block of land for storage, so the satellite properties didn't
particularly suit those purposes. It immediately became obvious to us that we
needed to try to acquire the Talisman properties, but simultaneously negotiate
trades with other property owners in the Everglades Agricultural Area that owned
the property we did want, contiguous to the large piece, or immediately south of
the large piece, such that we would have the big block of property abutting the
stormwater treatment areas that we sought. We needed to engage in some very,
very complex negotiations: trading, putting a value on the Talisman property that
was acceptable to all parties, putting a value on the satellite properties, and then
figuring out how to enter into the land exchanges that we needed in order to get
the footprint that we sought at the end of the day.
G: Had you already decided, before the sugar companies started their litigation, that
you wanted to engage in a land swap?
L: No. That litigation began back in late 1980s [or] early 1990s.
G: I'm talking specifically about a lawsuit filed by the Florida Crystals Corporation
and the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative to stop the Talisman land sale.
L: I'm sorry. I misunderstood what litigation you were talking about. Yes. We had
long since decided that the only means of obtaining the ideal footprint was to
engage in these kinds of trades. If we had been unable to do so, not that we
would not have acquired the property, because it was an opportunity to get
probably the largest block of property located pretty close to where it needed to
be that we could obtain, but we would have ended up owning some property that
would have, for storage purposes, been of lesser value to us. We might have
needed to hang on to it for a period of time until we were able to negotiate some
exchanges of property. In our judgment, the ideal situation was to engage in
them as one big package and that's ultimately what we succeeded in doing.
G: How important was the involvement of Governor Chiles in reaching a final
settlement to the Talisman issue?
L: That is a tragic story. Governor Chiles was very important us. As we were
negotiating with the sugar companies, they were difficult negotiations and we felt
that we were on the right path and we were down to negotiating price and value
and that sort of thing. We were concerned about how that was going, as was
Governor Chiles, who also believed that the acquisition was important.
Understand that this wasn't a 100 percent federal purchase, we were cost
sharing with the state of Florida on the acquisition. That was where we became
very creative and we used that phrase that I referred to, that a 50 percent match
would be required except for a waiver by the Secretary [of Interior]. We were
able to be creative in the use of state funds, because the state funds, unlike the
Farm Bill funds, had restrictions upon how it could be expended and we needed
to be mindful of those restrictions. I don't recall them specifically anymore, but it
required us to structure the deal in a way that the state funds were applied to
certain properties and the federal funds were applied to others. That was just
another level of complexity. In any event, the governor became very important.
He had a great desire that the acquisition occur on his watch and he was nearing
the end of his term of office. He traveled to D.C. the day before he died and met
with George Frampton and myself a couple of others. Buff and I briefed him on a
new proposal that we had talked to his staff about that we thought was a
reasonable offer to make to the landowners. The governor liked it. We proposed
to travel to Florida to offer it to the landowners that Sunday, two days later, and
we were already referring to it as the Chiles Plan. The next morning we got the
call that he had died. It was an extraordinary moment. We were so looking
forward to having his leadership in moving that deal forward and his active
involvement in making phone calls and meeting with people and trying to bring
that deal to closure, and we had lost him. We traveled to Florida anyway on
Sunday, made the offer, and ultimately a version of that succeeded.
G: How involved were you in the development of the Water Resources Development
Act of 1996, which established the restudy process formally and formally
established the Restoration Task Force?
L: A fair amount. For the administration, it was a multi-agency effort. I'd say it was
probably led, certainly in its early development, by Michael Davis [associate
director for natural resources, Council on Environmental Quality, 1994], who was
the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Civil Works. [He] had a great deal of
experience with the development of the Water Resources Development Acts and
while he was there, he put together the administration's Water Resources
Development Act, including the Everglades piece. I worked on it with him along
with a couple of other people who worked for different agencies. A team of us
negotiated with the state and others [about] the membership of the Task Force
and the business of including the reference to the Governor's Commission and
the duties of the Task Force. We negotiated with the state at 50-50 cost-share,
which was an easier negotiation than it was with [Capitol] Hill because it was
unprecedented. We negotiated the date by which the restudy would be
completed, which was very ambitious. Not only was it a study of unprecedented
scope and complexity, but we probably lopped a year-and-a-half off of what the
Corps thought was a reasonable time to complete it. But we all wanted to see it
done and we chose the date of July of 1999, and they met it.
G: How would you evaluate the restudy process that led to the development of the
Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan?
L: In my judgment, [it was] the Corps' finest moment. It was extraordinary. The
Corps had the wisdom or the luck of having some its best and brightest in the
Jacksonville District. Very, very able, capable men and women working on it with
good strong support from their political leadership. It was a process that was
open and transparent and [it was] difficult to do an incredible number of model
runs and listen to public input, often conflicting public input, always being told [it
was] not good enough, try again, under an incredible time pressure and it was
remarkable. It was a very impressive piece of work to watch. I didn't attend
many of their public sessions, but I certainly heard about them and every time I
asked different interest groups if they felt their voice was being heard, they
always said that they were impressed by how open the process was to the
public. And that was very impressive, given how difficult it was.
G: What were the primary issues that concerned the leadership within the Interior
Department during the development of the Comprehensive Plan?
L: That their mission was so very different from the Corps. Y Interior's interests
were predominantly those of the Park Service, but very closely followed by the
interests of the Fish and Wildlife Service. From the federal point of view, they
were, in essence, the Corps' client. They were the resources, they owned the
federal resources that were the natural resources to be protected, roughly half of
what remained of the Everglades, the other half [was] owned by the state. You
had one of our most endangered parks in the National Park system, the
Everglades National Park there, almost one of the most visited. One of the top
parks in the system. You had Biscayne National Park, Big Cypress National
Preserve, a dozen or so National Wildlife Refuges, and then outside Interior, you
had the Marine Sanctuary. [There were] sixty-eight federally listed species that
the Fish and Wildlife Service had to be concerned about. Their interests in the
success of the restudy was manifest. It was extraordinary and it was why we
recommended and Congress enacted a Task Force whose permanent chair was
the Secretary of the Interior. It was a recognition that Interior's interests were
great in the success and that Interior's mission was more constant. Their
responsibility is to protect resources for future generations, so the constancy of
that worked well with the permanency of the chairmanship, as an aside. But
those interests were not, as you can imagine, necessarily consistent with the
interests of the state of Florida, the agriculture community, the environmental
community, of anybody else. They were always pushing the Corps to alter the
restudy or [do] a model run to maximize benefits to the resources under the
management and concern of the Department of the Interior. Sometimes that
forced the Corps of Engineers to make choices between addressing those
concerns and the concerns of others, and that made for some tension between
the two agencies on a number of occasions.
G: Do you feel like the interests of the Interior Department along with its
subagencies were given adequate consideration by the Corps during the restudy
L: Absolutely. I think the Interior Department did a very good job of protecting its
interests and advocating its interests throughout the process. It was led by some
very able people, both in Florida and in Washington. I think they did a very good
job of trying to make sure that their interests were addressed.
G: When the Corps of Engineers released the initial draft of the restudy plan in
October of 1998, the Park Service issued a forty-four page critique that strongly
criticized parts of the restudy plan. To what extent did these criticisms from the
Park Service also reflect the views of the leadership within the Interior
L: I think they were very consistent with the desire of the leadership of the
Department of the Interior that Interior's interests be protected. I think that report
or analysis surprised a lot of people, probably including people within the Interior
Department. I know it surprised me. I thought, by the time the Corps had issued
its draft, it had indeed done a pretty good job of protecting and looking out for
and addressing Interior's interests. The sentence in that report that stood out for
everybody was along the lines of, this is not restoration, or words to that effect,
and I think it extremely disappointed the Corps of Engineers and caught me by
surprise. I did not anticipate such a strong statement indicating that the draft is
not good enough. Many of us inquired as to what they meant. Why not? Where
was it deficient? What we learned, or at least what I learned and what stuck in
my mind, was that one of the principal goals here was to try to restore the natural
flow of water into Everglades National Park. [It should do] as much as could be
done to replicate the way it used to be, recognizing that was impossible, that too
much land that used to be part of that flow was either being developed or had
been cut off artificially or interrupted by infrastructure or that a substantial amount
of the Everglades no longer existed. But so far as possible, the goal was to try to
restore the type of flow, meaning the sheet-flow versus pulse, and the amount of
flow at the times that they would flow in a natural model. You get the timing right,
the quality right, the quantity right, and the distribution right. What I was told was
that the plan only got about sixty percent of what the natural-systems model
predicted and, in their judgment, sixty percent was not restoration. But, they
said, if they could just get some more water and an amount of water that they
thought could be calculated, they might be able to get that up as high as ninety
percent, and that was real restoration. That would rejuvenate the habitat within
the park and start making the park look the way it used to look. That led to
discussions about what that amount of water [would] be and how you would get it
and [whether] it could be had and [whether] you could actually take that number
from sixty percent to ninety percent and address that concern. Those discussions
took place following that report.
G: Were you part of those discussions?
L: Some of them.
G: Could you describe how the process of those negotiations unfolded?
L: I wasn't involved in posing the question to the Corps, but the question that was
posed to the Corps [was], is it possible to determine what amount of additional
water would be required to significantly increase that percentage? The Corps
came back and briefed a number of us that indeed [about] 400,000 acre-feet of
additional water would achieve ninety percent and that over a period of time of
looking, [they] found that there was an additional 400,000 acre-feet to be had.
Primarily, it involved some urban stormwater runoff near the top of the system,
near the top east of the lake. They determined the amount, that it was possible
to eke out an additional 400,000 acre-feet, but the issue was how to get it from
where it was to where it needed to be and to get it clean enough to meet the
needs. We were up against the deadline of June 1999 to get the final restudy to
Congress. We realized that this was going to be very complicated. There were
issues of whether the canals had the capacity to move those quantities of water.
There were concerns about whether it would cause flooding if you tried to move it
and who would be harmed by that. There was concern about cleaning it up B
where and how would you do that? There was a recognition that indeed, if all of
those concerns could be met, it would be a good thing to add that amount of
water, because it would have such a dramatic restorative impact upon the park.
After all, meeting the needs of the park had been a feature goal of the whole
restoration effort from the get-go, including back in 1983 when Governor Graham
called for Save Our Everglades. But we couldn't figure out how to answer all
those questions and the Chief's Report reflected that the Corps would endeavor
to capture and deliver that amount of water, but there was a recognition that
further study was going to be required, associated with it.
G: Why do you think the Chief's Report became so controversial?
L: Because a number of groups saw that and said, wait a minute, this looks like
here at the tail end, the Department of the Interior has put their thumb on the
scale and obtained acquiescence by the Corps of Engineers in a fundamental
change to the plan. We weren't part of those discussions and therefore we're
crying foul here, and by the way, if you try to deliver this amount of water, it might
cause flooding on the state-owned lands and that could create harm and we sure
wouldn't like that. Primarily, the complaint was a process complaint. The whole
process of developing the plan had been run very well by the Corps of
Engineers, it had been a good transparent process, people felt that they had
been participating in it, and here they saw a situation where they felt this wasn't
fair to them. The Department of the Interior had complained that it wasn't good
enough and here's what they needed and the Corps of Engineers had
determined that it might be possible. After further study, they'd know that it might
be possible to meet that additional need.
G: Is that a fair criticism?
L: I could argue it both ways. My best argument that the Corps did the right thing in
attempting to address Interior's need is twofold. One, is [that] the plan ultimately
was the administration's plan that it was presenting to Congress. It was
appropriate for the administration to try to work out a plan that met the needs of
the administration, including the Department of the Interior and the Corps of
Engineers B that's what the effort was, to try to do that. In addition, it was
appropriate for the administration to be interested in trying to maximize benefits
for Everglades National Park, for all the reasons that I'd stated before,
recognizing that, as a partnership, we needed to be mindful of other needs as
well. I believe we were, because in the discussion of whether it was possible to
deliver those acres to Interior, we all recognized that it might not be, and it might
not be without harming other interests and that would have to be taken into
account. Somehow, if it could be done, it would have to be done working through
those problems with other parties. But again, a lot of it was the exigencies of the
time. From the other point of view, yes, given that so much that had gone into
the development of the plan had been a consensus building exercise, I could
understand why some felt that this wasn't quite fair.
G: What people were involved in negotiating what became the Chief's Report?
L: It was primarily discussions internal to the Corps of Engineers and the assistant
secretary's office, but certainly Interior was seeking a way in which the
agreement that had been reached between them and the Corps could be
expressed as part of the package that went forward. The mechanism that the
Corps of Engineers chose, rather than go in and have to adjust the plan itself,
which would have been difficult, given the amount of time we had to get [it]
published, was that a chief's report always accompanied a project. The
determination was made between the assistant secretary's office and the Corps
of Engineers that [it] was an appropriate place to add that feature. It wasn't the
only provision that was in the Chief's Report. What's forgotten by people who
focus on that one particular paragraph is that it was a very lengthy document that
contained an awful lot of additional items like that and commitments made
perfecting the plan that apparently were not as controversial and therefore were
not focused upon. It became, obviously, an important paragraph in a lengthy
G: The Chief's Report, of course, was not included in the final legislation passed by
Congress. Does the Comprehensive Plan, as enacted, provide adequate water
guarantees to the park?
L: I guess you'd have to ask the park that. They may still be of the view that it does
not. It may very well be that subsequent model runs and negotiations between
the Corps and Interior since I've been paying attention to it B I just don't have the
time to pay attention to it so much anymore B have resulted in modifications that,
in the park's view, better provide the water levels that they need. Conversely, it
may be that they are still hopeful that as the restudy unfolds that there'll be ways
of capturing additional water and sending it their way. I don't know the answer to
your question, you'd need to ask them that.
G: Would you take me through the step-by-step process of developing what became
the Water Resources Development Act of 2000?
L: If there was a point person, it was Michael Davis, working with the Jacksonville
District on the development of the legislation intended to authorize the restudy.
Because the Everglades was unique, their judgment was that the Everglades
provisions needed to contain provisions that were unprecedented in process,
documentation, and scope. For example, ordinarily Congress does not authorize
a project until certain design-level documents have been prepared that allow
Congress to understand the project pretty clearly, what it's going to do and what
it's going to cost. For the Everglades in the 1996 WRDA [Water Resources
Development Act], we had been able to convince Congress to allow us to try a
programmatic approach for a certain dollar level of project to allow them to all be
authorized, even though those documents had not yet been completed. In 1996,
Congress allowed the Corps to do that for a certain level of small projects. We
took that thought and carried it forward into WRDA 2000. The decision was
made to try to get Congress to authorize an initial suite of projects without
completion of those documents, to authorize a certain type of projects that were
of a lesser dollar amount, and adopt a new process to authorize the overall
project, then authorize a suite of projects and a process by which projects would
be developed and presented to Congress for further specific authorization.
The assistant secretary's office at Civil Works came up with this idea of
creating programmatic regulations that would be the umbrella process by which
projects would be evaluated and implemented. Then there would be project
implementation reports, a new document that had never been created before that
was some version of a design document, but not quite at that level, [which] would
then be presented to Congress. That would be good enough for Congress to
authorize that project, once they completed that report. There would be
subsequent reports with greater detail as that unfolded. That was a creative new
way of dealing with such a huge project that would provide for accountability to
the Corps and to the local sponsor, yet allow this project to move forward. As
Senator Graham recognized, the authorization of this project was a lot like open-
heart surgery or brain surgery B once you crack the patient open, you better plan
on completing it. That thought helped to carry forward the recognition that we
needed to do this a different way, that we were going into major surgery here and
we needed an efficient way of keeping the commitment over a long period of
time. We negotiated with the state [on] some issues associated with cost-share
and some of the more difficult provisions to negotiate. It had to do with
assurances, which is a whole other subject, an important subject, and negotiating
whether water-quality projects would be subject to the same 50-50 cost-share,
and the process by which [End of Tape B: Side 3] projects would be prioritized.
Most importantly, however, came the issue of a statement of the
overarching purpose of the restoration effort. That became a very contentious
issue because, on the one hand, you had the view that the reason the federal
government, most particularly Congress, was signing up to a substantial amount
of money, was that it was out to protect and restore the federal interest, which
was predominantly represented by the Department of the Interior. Therefore, for
Congress to be persuaded to put that much of the national taxpayers' money into
this effort, the predominant reason for doing it ought to be protection of the
natural system. The counter view was [that] we're all in this together and the
needs of the urban and agricultural community are just as important as the
natural system. We ought not to say that one is more important than the other,
lest they feared that somehow they might never get their project completed or
that somehow taking care of the needs of the park might result in some of their
lands being flooded or something like that.
It all came down to this issue of assurances, which goes all the way back
to everything I was saying about the Governor's Commission. The Governor's
Commission wisely understood that issue early on and made some very clear
statements about it. It reminds me of one of the geniuses of Jim Webb, which is
another story, but they recognized that if all the interests in South Florida could
not be assured that they would not be harmed by this project, the ability of
moving this project forward was going to be very, very difficult indeed. People
wanted different types of assurances. Property-owners who enjoyed a level of
flood protection wanted to know that they were going to continue to have that.
Farmers who enjoyed a certain amount of water for irrigation wanted to know that
they were going to continue to have that, even if the source of it may change.
Urban communities wanted to make sure that they were going to have enough
drinking water or that their stormwater was going to be taken care of or that they
weren't going to be flooded. The advocates for the natural system wanted to be
sure of two things. They wanted to be sure that the natural system's needs were
indeed going to be addressed and they pointed to a history in South Florida of
their needs not being addressed, which was why we were in the mess we were
in. They wanted those needs to be paramount, that it was the reason we were
doing this. The engine for restoration, the engine by which the urban community
was going to get more water, the engine by which agriculture was going to get
more water, was that we were selling it as restoration of the natural system and
we ought to recognize that and stop fooling around. It was the predominant
reason, and there were arguments along those lines as why that view prevailed.
A sub-text of assurances was the federal interest versus the state interest.
The sub-text was that what I referred to in negotiations, for simplicity's sake, was
[that] what we were really doing in South Florida was, we're going down there
and building a big bathtub and it was going to be built half by the state of Florida
and half by the federal government. Only one of those had the ability to drain it
before it was filled and that was the state. The state, through its water law, which
I was familiar with, had the ability, through permitting to let the water out of the
bathtub, to allow the water to go to permeatease rather than the natural
system and that indeed they might allow too much water to go away before we
captured it and made it available to the natural system, so it wouldn't be there.
That made people nervous. We entered into very delicate negotiations with the
state of Florida to try to figure out how we, the federal government, could be
assured that they would manage and implement their state law in such a way
that, at the time the projects were built over the next twenty or thirty years, the
water that was promised by the plan to the natural system would be available
when that project was built and ready to go.
How would we be assured of that? The state's response was, well, it will;
we have as much an interest in protecting the natural system as you do, the state
water law has a provision in there for the reservation of water for the natural
system. We will implement the law, we're required to implement the law to
protect the natural system and we will. You don't need to put it into law, it's
already there. Our response was, yes, the state water law does allow you to
reserve water for the natural system, but you've had that law in place for twenty
years and you've never done it, so we're not persuaded by that. How are we
doing to get there? We argued for a clear statement of assurances and a clear
statement that the overarching objective of Everglades restoration was protection
of the natural system. We made it very clear that was our strong position and
started trying to figure out how we [were] going to enter into some kind of
understanding with the state of Florida that they will protect the federal interest.
We started kicking around the idea of an agreement and ultimately that became
a negotiation with the committees, an agreement between the President of the
United States and the Governor of Florida. It was an agreement with an
obligation on the Governor to commit that in its implementation of state water
law, it would assure that water required to meet the needs of the natural system
would be made available in the implementation of the project. There was an
awful lot of negotiation and back-and-forth on that language. Some feel it
achieved what it was intended to achieve and some people didn't. A lot of people
were nervous until we actually wrote the agreement and got it signed, and I think
an awful lot of people who were dubious of that agreement were pleased with the
outcome of that agreement. Those were among the most difficult provisions to
negotiate as we negotiated the Water Resources Development Act. My role was
one of the administration's negotiating team.
G: By that time, you were with the Council on Environmental Quality. You
mentioned Michael Davis, who were some of the other specific individuals who
were involved in those negotiations?
L: Mary Doyle, the chair of the Task Force. Do you want to know who in the
administration was involved?
G: All of the different players who were involved, the key players.
L: Gary Guzy, who was the general counsel for EPA [1998-2001]. That foursome
was the day-to-day negotiators. I don't mean to imply that we didn't have people
to report to, we did, our respective bosses. We were the day-to-day negotiators
of language on [Capitol] Hill. Most of the negotiation occurred on the Senate
side, the vast majority of the bill was written on the Senate side. Very key to it
was [the] staff of Senator Graham, [the] staff of Senator [Connie] Mack [U.S.
Senator, 1989-2001 ;U.S. Representative, 1983-1989], staff of the chairman of
the committee that became Senator [Bob] Smith's [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]
staff, Tom Gibson, Stephanie Dagle. I'm drawing a blank right now on the staff
members for Graham and Mack, but they were very key. For the state of Florida,
Ernie Barnett [director of ecosystem projects, Florida Department of
Environmental Protection], and I'm drawing a blank on the woman's name, were
the lead negotiators, and Kathy Copeland with the [South Florida] Water
Management District. Those were the primary people who represented
At a number of discussions, we would have people representing tribes,
the sugar industry and the environmental community come in. These were
meetings that were primarily hosted by staff of the Senate Environment and
Public Works Committee and they would invite us to it. They would invite
whoever they wanted to invite to the meetings and we would negotiate,
depending on who was there. Fundamentally, I would brief my boss on where
we were, what the issues were. He'd give me guidance and I'd go in and
negotiate as hard as we could on behalf of the administration.
G: I believe WRDA [Water Resources Development Act] 2000 was the last
legislative act that particular Congress that was passed. Was there any point in
the process when you didn't think that you were going to succeed in getting this
L: I never did. Water Resources Development acts are often and historically one of
the last acts passed, so there was nothing unusual about that. Water Resources
Development acts were very popular acts on [Capitol] Hill, because they are
basically the work plan for the Corps of Engineers, but they provide an awful lot
of projects for an awful lot of areas in the country. They're very popular in terms
of meeting the needs throughout the country, but they usually need a driver to
get through, and this one had the Everglades. There was no question in
anybody's mind that the Everglades was the driving force for WRDA 2000.
Everybody knew that. But there was a growing sense that Everglades was going
to happen. I always believed that it was. It was remarkable, when you think
about it, that so many members of Congress who don't represent South Florida
would authorize that level of funding and commitment to the state of Florida. Yet
many people, many interests did a really good job, particularly the national
environmental community, [who] did a really good job of selling Everglades
restoration not as Florida's Everglades, but as America's Everglades. We
adopted that theme ourselves. Maybe I was overly optimistic, but you asked me
if I ever thought it wasn't going to happen, no. I believed from the moment the
bill was introduced that it was going to get enacted that year and did everything I
could to help make that happen. We had an awful lot of problems and tough
negotiations along the way, but I also ultimately believed that everybody who was
negotiating it knew that it was in their interest that it be enacted. I believed, at
the end of the day, that everybody would recognize that they needed to
compromise in order to achieve that goal. And they did.
G: Are there any specific individuals that you would identify as having played a
particularly critical role in getting approval for this plan from Congress?
L: Absolutely. Senator Graham, Senator Mack, Senator Smith, Clay Shaw [U.S.
Representative from Florida, 1981-present], a good number of members of the
Florida delegation. The key players, more than others, were Bill Young [U.S.
Representative from Florida, 1971-present], Porter Goss [U.S. Representative
from Florida, 1989-present], Mark Foley [U.S. Representative from Florida, 1995-
present], Peter Deutsch [U.S. Representative from Florida, 1993-present]. I don't
mean to suggest that the other members of the Florida delegation didn't care,
they were all very supportive, I'm sure, in their way and in their conversations
with other members, pushed very hard for it. But in terms of the ones I had any
contact with and knew were actively engaged in helping it happen, they were the
key members. In the Environment and Public Works committee, another Senator
who was very important was George Voinovich [U.S. Senator from Ohio, 1998-
present]. In the House, Ralph Regula [U.S. Representative from Ohio, 1973-
present], who had always been a strong supporter of Everglades restoration, was
also very important to helping this get enacted and [other] members of Congress
that I am going to forget, but many. There are many heroes on the Hill. Within
the administration, the President and the Vice-President were strong supporters
of this, made it known that this was important to them. Secretary Babbitt, Carol
Browner, Janet Reno [U.S. Attorney General, 1993-2001], it was extraordinary to
have in positions that many Floridians and that many people who recognized the
importance of the Everglades. [There was] a lot of support at OMB as well. The
state of Florida, Governor Chiles and then Governor [Jeb] Bush [Florida
governor, 1999-present]. Governor Bush, within sixty days of being elected,
attended the Everglades Coalition and showed up. [This] was one of his first
events that he went to [as governor]. He said that, just as his predecessors, the
Everglades was going to be a priority for him and it was, and he came through
with every commitment he made.
The South Florida Water Management District and its leadership were
very strong and key players in this. [The] Miccosukee Tribe's Dexter Lehtinen
was a very strong advocate for his client's position, but also for Everglades
restoration and ultimately he helped with his friends on the Hill, particularly on the
House side, to make sure that it got through. Bob Dawson [president, founder,
Dawson & Associates consulting firm; associate director, Office of Management
and Budget; Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works; Deputy Assistant
Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, 1981-1985] was retained by the sugar
industry and ended up representing an awful lot of interests beyond them. He
was a very effective representative of their interests, not only in the negotiations,
but most particularly in getting the bill enacted. The environmental community
had many, many heroes. They pulled out all the stops, national and Florida.
Mary Barley [environmentalist; chair, Save Our Everglades; chair, Everglades
Foundation, 1995-present] and Charles Lee [senior vice president, Audubon of
Florida] and Tom Adams and the list just goes on and on for environmentalists
who made this their national priority, and they delivered their constituencies and
they delivered votes. The effort had many heroes. It was extraordinary. It was
one of the highlights of my life, I think. Rock Salt and Terry Rice [former
Jacksonville District Engineer, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers] and Dick Ring
[superintendent of Everglades National Park] and so many others. Seeing that
diverse group repeatedly, I made so many trips to Florida and got to know so
many of them well and developed so many friendships, to see them all come
together, put their disagreements ultimately behind and help make it happen,
was wonderful. It was just magical. I've seen an awful lot come and go up on
the Hill. It's very, very hard to get substantial legislation enacted in Congress, as
it should be. I never doubted it was going to happen.
G: As the implementation of the Comprehensive Plan moves forward, how should
we evaluate its success or failure?
L: A lot of that has to do with this issue of interim goals. Ultimately, the
Corps and the Water Management District are going to have to deliver on the
promises that everybody signed up to in this plan. They've designed a very
complex system and everybody recognizes that it is going to take a long time to
be implemented. Everybody recognizes, although I'm not sure everybody quite
realizes yet, the spikes that are coming, that it's going to cost a lot of money.
Right now we're kind of going along at a certain level of funding for the Corps of
Engineers, but in about two or three years, that is going to go way up. Is
Congress going to be able to authorize several hundred million dollars instead of
several tens of millions of dollars for the Corps of Engineers for this one project,
when it might ordinarily authorize that amount of funding for the Corps of
Engineers nationwide? Will the state of Florida be able to continue to provide a
level of funding that it has been providing, particularly faced with the economic
pressures that it's been under? It's finding it increasingly hard to do that. Will it
maintain the political will to do it? Can it afford to keep up? Right now it's ahead
of us, they're spending more money than we are. But when push comes to
shove, will they be able to keep funding it? Will it stay on budget, on time? Cost
will go up over time, $7.8 billion is almost certain to be inadequate. Will the
incredible interest in this project that had the development of the plan and the
enactment of legislation as its focal point be able to remain when you don't have
that? When you're down to implementing particular pieces of it in any
given year, it's difficult to have that clear goal that you're trying to achieve in a
fixed amount of time. Will it be possible to retain the support and the imagination
of the public? What will happen the first time some important constituency is
unhappy with the way things are going? [If] it's not happening fast enough, the
wrong project is being built first, [if] a project is going to flood the habitat of an
endangered species. What are we going to do when B we know it already B to
build this one particular project is going to harm a federally-listed species, and we
know its going to happen? Whether its Fish and Wildlife Service or an
environmental group, are they going to go into federal court and stop that project
because it would harm that species, even though we know that we have to build
the project in order to restore the whole ecosystem? How are we going to deal
with that? If ASR [aquifer storage and recover] fails, what are we going to do?
Are we going to have to go out and buy an awful lot more land because we're
going to have to store that water somewhere to meet the goals of the system,
and if [ASR] doesn't work, we're going to have to buy a lot of land. Where are we
going to find it? Where are we going to find the money to buy it? There are a lot
of challenges ahead of us. Are we going to be able to satisfy everybody that
we're on the right pace to use the Talisman property? Are we going to shut
sugar down before we really need to, in order to satisfy some group who thinks
we ought to shut them down sooner? Are we going to be able to do this project
and do those things that we're going to discover need to be done that are outside
the project? For example, where are we going to find the money and the will to
restore and protect Lake Okeechobee? It's not part of the project, but it's a huge
problem. And some of the other lakes. How are we going to deal with the
challenges to that great lake? What are we going to do to work with local
government on the west side of the state to try to avoid a repeat of the problems
in the east side of the state when they want to encourage further development
and a strong economy for that part of the state? Many of us know that if they're
not careful, we'll see the exact harm occurring over there that we saw on the east
side. How are we going to do that?
G: How confident are you that the answers to the questions are going to be
positive? That the money is going to be there, that the commitment is going to
be there, that cooperation will continue rather than disputes in the court?
L: I remain confident, I'm fundamentally an optimistic person, but the administration
changed a little over a year ago and I am grateful and excited to be working for
the new administration. One of things that I briefed people here on was the
Everglades, and the new administration put new leaders to be involved in
Everglades restoration. President [George W.] Bush [U.S. President, 2001-
present; Texas governor, 1995-2001] said Everglades was going to be a priority.
Secretary [Gale] Norton [Secretary of the Interior, 2001-present] has made it a
priority. The Army Corps of Engineers leadership has made it a priority. It is as
much a priority of this administration as it was of the last. That's terrific for the
future of the Everglades, that you can have a transition of government and yet
protection of this ecosystem remains a constant. We saw a transition in the
governor's office and a seamless transition in terms of political leadership and
support. Those challenges are great and real and we're going to have to work
with the Fish and Wildlife Service in being creative in dealing with the problems of
listed species, and I'm working with them to try to get them to take a multi-
species approach for two reasons.
One is [that] it has to be done in South Florida or this project will fail.
They have to be able to find the flexibility in the act to make those tradeoffs.
Even more importantly, on a national level, if we can succeed at finding that
flexibility and those tradeoffs in South Florida where we will have the recognition
that it needs to occur, and the buy-in by everybody that it needs to occur, if we
can do it in South Florida and figure out how to do those kinds of tradeoffs in
South Florida and succeed with it, then we can take those lessons and apply
them elsewhere in the country where the stresses are even greater. In Southern
California, the Pacific Northwest, and elsewhere, we can find those creative ways
of accommodating competing interests and competing needs of listed species
and implement that act in a more reasonable fashion. I don't know how we'll
address the problem of ASR failing. I have to remain optimistic that it won't fail,
that we have enough experience at a smaller scale, that we'll be able to figure it
out. I have to trust the engineers that are bright enough to figure out how to
make it work, and I just have to remain hopeful that it will. If that fails, we've got
a serious problem. I think there's been enough buy-in to Everglades restoration
that it will sustain, that it will continue to enjoy the support of Congress and the
Florida legislature to fund it on a yearly basis. There probably are going to be
years where they don't fully fund it, where the spike is just too great or the
economy is just too bad and they just can't do it, and the project will take longer
to implement than we'd like. It wouldn't surprise me at all if that is the case.
Most Corps projects take longer to implement than one expects. But ultimately
will we get there? I'm pretty confident that we will.
G: One current controversy that seems to be speaking to some of the concerns that
you're echoing here is that of the Eight-and-a-Half-Square-Mile-Area. Why has
that been such a controversial issue and does the fact that it has taken so long to
resolve, is that an ominous sign as we move forward?
L: It's a good example of reason to be cautious in my optimism. That's a very
complex and sad issue. It has become unfortunately polarized and the
government is as responsible for allowing that issue to fester and become difficult
as anyone. The Eight-and-a-Half-Square-Mile-Area is the result of some bad
government decisions made decades ago, when the decision was made to
authorize people to build and make a life for themselves on the west side of the
lake in an area that is low. There is disagreement as to how low it is and how
frequently it flooded naturally. I'll take the side, for the moment, of the advocates
of the residents that its relatively high ground, Florida being what it is, and that
they weren't part of the natural flow of the water into the park and therefore
should be allowed to stay and the park is being unreasonable in wanting them
out. The decision was made to allow them to move there. Many of them were
immigrants to the country, many of whom lost their homes where they were and
came to America believing and hoping in a brighter future for themselves and a
different way that the government treated them. I'm very sympathetic with that.
Nonetheless, the park was also of the very strong view that allowing them to stay
required the Corps of Engineers to manipulate the water in order to provide them
a level of flood protection that was harmful to the park. It [allowed] water that
was flowing into the park to seep out of the park and therefore had to be pumped
back in at great additional expense. Why should the park support $4 billion in
federal funding when a part of it is an additional expense in order to address an
actual harm to the park? From the park's point of view, that just didn't make
The more reasonable thing to do would be to move the people so you
didn't have the flood issue. The ones who were closest to being flooded, offer
them an appropriate amount of funds, get them to move so that the water could
flow more naturally without concern about whether it was going to flood them.
This was recognized as a problem decades ago. In the late 1980s, Congress
couldn't resolve the issue completely, so it called for the park to be expanded,
but to provide a certain level of protection of the residents of the Eight-and-a-
Half-Square-Mile-Area. They have always suffered flooding, particularly when a
storm comes through. I read newspapers from the 1930s and 1940s that could
have been newspaper articles from the 1990s. Same flooding problems, same
complaints that somehow the water was being manipulated in a way to flood
them. It's a long-standing problem, a very difficult problem, and the Miccosukee
tribe saw a synergy between their interests and the interests of the Eight-and-a-
Half-Square-Mile-Area and became advocates for many of the residents of the
Eight-and-a-Half-Square-Mile-Area. It was complicated by the plight of the Cape
Sable seaside sparrow, whose habitat was within the boundaries of the park,
immediately to the west of the Eight-and-a-Half-Square-Mile-Area. In the Park
Service's and Fish and Wildlife Service's judgment, in order to adequately protect
one of the most endangered birds on the endangered species list, you needed to
move water into the area that would cause flooding to the Eight-and-a-Half-
Square-Mile-Area and that was another reason to address those concerns. It's
an extraordinarily complex problem.
I've met with the residents of the Eight-and-a-Half-Square-Mile-Area.
They are some of the greatest people you'd ever meet. I'd rather spend the
afternoon with them than any bureaucrat. They're extraordinary people, hard-
working people, [I] feel for them. But it's difficult to fully meet their needs and
fully meet the needs of the park and the natural system. It's not impossible and
that's been the struggle. The worst by-product of the inability of the governments
and the citizens to resolve that problem is that it has held up the Modified Water
Deliveries Project to an unconscionable pace. It is the heart of the system. One
of the things Terry Rice taught me years ago [was] that the Modified Water
Deliveries is the most important project down there. It's the very heart of the
system, it should have been built years ago, it should have been up and running
years ago, and he's absolutely right. But until we fully resolve the Eight-and-a-
Half-Square-Mile-Area, the Modified Water Deliveries Project cannot be
completed and thus restoration is going to be further delayed. It is [one] reason
to question the pace of Everglades restoration. If we can't resolve a very human
and very difficult issue like that, how are we going to get there? The answer is
that there's been enough focus on it now, by enough people who recognize
everything I've just said and who hopefully are more talented at resolving it and
recognizing that it is a small but important piece of a much bigger project and it's
just going to have to be resolved. It will become, in the future, the example that
everybody cites. If they want to be depressing, they'll cite it as, you think that
was a problem, wait until you see this one. For those that want to proceed
quickly, they'll say, we can't let it become the next Eight-and-a-Half-Square-Mile-
Area and I hope that, as it gets resolved, it will be more the latter.
G: At times, the National Park Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service have been
in disagreement with one another over restoration goals and which priority should
be given; the management of the snail kite is an example. When you were with
the Interior, how did Secretary Babbitt, yourself, and other leaders in the Interior
Department deal with these intra-agency conflicts?
L: They're sometimes the most interesting, but in some fashion, the most
controllable, because they do have a common boss. Ultimately, you have to
listen to both sides. You have to believe that there's almost always a
compromise to be achieved and there usually is. Sometimes it just takes fresh
eyes or a fresh mind to look at the problem. Sometimes the people who are
disagreeing, who you think would think alike, a Fish and Wildlife Service biologist
and a Park Service hydrologist, whatever the disagreements are, they're either
too close to it or have got too much history and they just can't get there. You
bring them in and you sit down and talk to them and find an answer because you
get them to believe that you're trying to reach the common goal that your
common boss has.
G: In general, how would you characterize the working relationship between the
Interior leadership in Washington, people like yourself and Secretary Babbitt, and
the field staff in Florida, a person like Superintendent Dick Ring?
L: I consider all of them to be friends and colleagues and very, very talented at their
job and their role, but they did have different jobs and different roles. The
superintendent of Everglades National Park's primary responsibility was
Everglades National Park. He recognized, however, that responsibility extended
outside the boundaries of the park in order to adequately protect it. The
Secretary of the Department [of Interior] has a much larger responsibility. He
needs to see beyond the interests of a particular park and see what a decision on
behalf of that park might have on the way he answers a similar question for
another park superintendent someplace else. [In] his relationship with his
counterpart in another agency like EPA, there might be a disagreement and he
has to take a look at a much broader view of a given issue and therefore may
see the issue that affects Everglades National Park is important, but not in the
same way as important, because of its place in a larger policy. Their relationship
was very good and frank and they knew each other and picked up the phone to
call one another to a remarkable extent and knew each other's first names. They
disagreed, but ultimately, as you might expect, within the Department of the
Interior, the will of the Secretary of the Interior generally prevails. [End of Tape B:
G: Some critics have suggested that the Park Services and the Fish and Wildlife
Service have not always been team players, often putting the interest of
Everglades National Park or specific endangered species, respectively, ahead of
broader restoration goals. How do you respond to that criticism?
L: From certain points of view, I understand the criticism. But I also understand the
view of the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Park Service. It is not the job of a
resident of downtown Miami or a farmer or an environmentalist or the Water
Management District to manage Everglades National Park. It's not their job to try
to protect a federally-listed species from going extinct. It is the job of the
superintendent of Everglades National Park to do that. It is the job of the
supervisor of the Fish and Wildlife Service office down there and the biologists
down there to do that. And that's important to remember. That's what the
citizens of this country pay them to do, and they do it well and they should do it
well or they shouldn't be there. On the other hand, they shouldn't be blind to the
fact that if they only look at that issue, they are not good neighbors and don't
recognize that the world is more complex than that. They need to recognize that
if we only look at those interests, we harm others, or we can harm others and we
ought not do that.
What you hope you have in those jobs, just as you hope you have in
those jobs [at] the State Department or Department of Environmental Protection,
mature individuals who can do their job and recognize that there are trade-offs
and that they can't always have it their way. No matter what they do, someone is
going to believe that they went too far one way or the other, I understand that. I
also understand that the people we've had in those job have recognized that they
have broader responsibility than that. They participate in these multi-party efforts
and sometimes, if they go too far, their bosses are asked to intervene. Those
discussions have occurred over time and sometimes compromises have been
reached. That sort of criticism doesn't concern me. What would concern me is if
we were hearing that there's no one looking out for those interests enough. That
would concern me.
G: How active have you continued to be in Everglades issues under the Bush
L: As active as I can be. I've been given a very, very broad portfolio by this
administration. Among them are large ecosystem efforts around the country, so
I've been working on the Great Lakes and coastal Louisiana and San Francisco
Bay, in addition to watershed efforts around the country and river systems and
that sort of thing. A month does not go by that somebody calls or comes by on
behalf of a resource somewhere and [asks], either because they know I was
involved in it or it just happens that [it] is the way the Everglades is being
characterized, how do we succeed the way the Everglades succeeded? By that
[they] just mean, how do we get that much money ourselves or how do we
protect our resource, how do we work together the way [you] seemed to work
together, how did you guys pull that off? I spend a fair amount of my time
basically taking lessons learned from Everglades and trying to help people see
where they may or may not fit, and they often don't. There are vast differences
between other areas of the country and the Everglades. Beyond that, I engage
on behalf of this administration, as best I can, at key decision points. For
example, with respect to the agreement between the President and the
Governor's office, I reviewed it. I was one of many in the administration, on
behalf of my new boss, who reviewed it and made comments and offered my
expertise and memory of what we intended in the last administration and what
Congress intended that agreement to be. Similarly, I'm currently reviewing the
programmatic regulations for the same reason.
I get calls every so often from one group or another, I've attended one or
two Task Force meetings, I told people that I will always be involved in the
Everglades efforts, one way or the other, in one capacity or another, for the rest
of my life. I am very, very fortunate that this administration is supportive of the
effort and wants me to be involved in it. It's a wonderful opportunity to stay
involved in something I care that much about. But I am not at all involved as
much as I was before, but I don't need to be. It's in good hands by a new team
of people and, by all accounts, it's in excellent hands. I remain optimistic.
G: What do you think are the main lessons that you can take from the Everglades
case that can be applied to some of the other ecosystem management initiatives
that you're dealing with?
L: You need to have clones of a few people. You need a Dick Pettigrew. The
Everglades was lucky in many ways. It's fortunate, compared to other places,
that it all occurs in one state. You just don't have inter-jurisdictional conflicts in
that way. The system was already manipulated a lot and managed by one entity,
primarily the Corps of Engineers, and that entity had the expertise to undo a lot of
its stuff. Lessons learned are, [to] build a strong consensus [with] a very
inclusive process, by which all of the interests can feel that they were involved at
the get-go with the plan, and that they understood the consequences of failure
and that they understood the consequences of success. [I] have enjoyed
bipartisan leadership. Everglades efforts were remarkably free of politics. It was
fortunate to have at the key moment, for example, a Republican senator and a
Democratic senator who could go to the leadership of their respective parties.
[We] enjoyed success with Democratic governors, Republican governors, and
Democratic presidents and Republican presidents. It's important to have an
agency in charge, [and] as few agencies as possible actually doing the
implementation. Other ecosystems don't have a Corps of Engineers. They have
multiple agencies, but no one agency has the authority and the ability to take all
of the actions necessary to get the results you want. If you can succeed in
narrowing it down like that, and then getting other agencies to advise it, which
was the model that the Task Force was started out to be, your chances of
success greatly increase. You have to gather the public imagination, and that
ultimately was what America's Everglades was about, you have to convince
people that this is important. That's not always easy to do.
The Great Lakes has an important slogan called, "restore the greatness."
It's a good rallying mechanism, but they have too many different groups trying to
lead and there are so many jurisdictions, that it's very, very complex. You need
to try to find people who are very good at compromise and keeping people
together in key positions. I mentioned Dick Pettigrew a number of times, he was
key to that citizen's group coming together. People like Rock Salt are invaluable
to an effort like this. The man is extraordinary at taking two different points of
view and listening to them and then telling them both what he just heard in a way
that has suddenly diffused the animosity between the two, and then help them
understand how there's really a lot more in common that they're talking about
than they think, and helping them understanding that. Time and time again, key
people like that in key positions who gain trust of divergent groups, you have to
have that or you can't succeed. There are others, but I think those are among
the significant lessons.
G: You mentioned the programmatic regulations that the Corps of Engineers
recently released in draft form. What is your evaluation of the programmatic
regulations as they are now, and are they what you envisioned when you were
writing the WRDA 2000 legislation?
L: As I mentioned, I'm literally in the process of reviewing them. I haven't yet done
it and part of it is that I'm just not as focused as I need to be. I need to focus on
those because that's the next important item here. The people I've talked to who
have been working with it have made a number of significant changes to the draft
that was released in January for public comment that, I'm told, go a long, long
way toward addressing the main concerns with them. I'm encouraged by that. I
trust those who have told me that, that [it's] true. While undoubtedly this version
will not fully meet the needs of those who are the most critical of that draft, I hope
they recognize that there have been important changes made in their direction
such that it is adequate again to move forward. There is nothing about this entire
process that ever has been or ever will be perfect to everyone and [have] people
recognize that, as they tend to do. You don't let the perfect be the enemy of the
G: Final question; looking toward the future, what should be the most important
goals and priorities of the restoration project?
L: It should achieve, for everyone, what we collectively believed in the year 2000 it
would achieve, however people choose to interpret that. They'll need to interpret
it on into the future and many of us aren't going to be around. I may not be alive
when it's fully implemented, and others will have forgotten or moved or stopped
caring, but I hope that records, like the one you're keeping, will allow people thirty
years from now to have a better understanding of what we wanted it to mean at
the time it was conceived, such that they'll be able to judge whether it did it. I
hope you get as good and broad a sense of what people wanted as you can get,
if for no other reason than hope that somebody will listen to these tapes years
from now and say, yeah, you know, they succeeded or boy, were those people
G: End interview.
Bill Leary, Council on Environmental Quality, opens the interview with his interpretation of the
factors that led to present problems in the Everglades (page 1). He details the watershed events
that led to more restoration efforts and CERP while outlining his work history on pages 2-3. In
response to the Dexter Lehtinen lawsuit against the state of Florida, Leary discusses the
legislatures involvement and the ineffective attempt to solve the problems through the formation
of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Everglades Protection Act (pages 4-5).
To continue he mentions the Gore PlanBthe legislation he wrote for Bruce Babbit after returning
to work on Everglades issues from Washington (pages 6-7). Next Leary reacts to the Everglades
Forever Act and gives the Department of Interior=s reaction. He also details the misgivings the
Miccosukee tribe and environmental groups had against the lenient treatment of sugar growers
and the tension between the Department of Interior and environmental groups (pages 8-9).
Then Leary details his involvement in the South Florida Restoration Task force. He notes the
effectiveness of it before and after it was expanded to include non-federal agencies, the reasons
for the expansion, its leadership, and its shortcomings (pages 10-13). He discusses the Task
Force= s involvement in the Corps restudy process and the importance that the Governor= s
Commission and the conceptual plan provided in building a consensus on pages 13-14.
Leary explains the Babbit Plan for Everglades restoration (which was designed for budget
decisions) and the governments response to it (pages 15-16). He also discusses the 1996 Farm
Bill. On page 17 he goes over the provisions of the bill and how the Department of Interior chose
lands for acquisition. Leary gives his opinion of why the Talisman landholding was necessary to
acquire and the process of and people involved in reaching a final settlement on pages 18-19.
From the Talisman issue Leary moves on to evaluate the restudy process by the Corps of
Engineers. He specifically discusses the issues the Department of Interior was concerned with
during the study and the Park Service=s reaction to the initial study draft (pages 20-22). Leary
also covers the controversy and possible justifications of the paragraph in the Chief= s Report
that addressed the Department of Interior= s request for additional water (pages 22-23).
On pages 24-26 Leary covers the process of developing what became the Water Development
Act of 2000 and of gaining the assurance that state government would reserve enough water for
restoring the natural system. Then Leary outlines the importance of the Everglades as a driver for
the passage of the bill and all the people who cooperated to make it happen (pages 26-28).
Next Leary gives criteria for evaluating the Comprehensive Plan=s successes and failures (pages
28-30). One major issue that could affect restoration is the Eight-and-a-Half-Square-Mile-Area
(pages 30-31). Inter-agency conflicts, especially between the National Park Service and the Fish
and Wildlife Service, is another concern (pages 32-33). Leary discusses the practicality of using
the methods of success in the Everglades in other ecosystem management initiatives on pages
33-34. Leary concludes with his take on the most important goal of the restoration project (page