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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
Interviewee: Michael Collins
Interviewer: Brian Gridley
Date: June 11, 2002
G: This is Brian Gridley interviewing Michael Collins at the South Florida Water
Management District headquarters in West Palm Beach. The date is June 11,
2002. Mr. Collins, briefly tell me about your professional background including
education and career positions.
C: I attended a college-prep high school on Staten Island in New York. I was born
upstate. [I] went to Fordham University in the city. [I] spent some time working in
a variety of training programs in, sort of, semi-flunkey positions on Wall Street for
a number of years. [I] spent some time [in] part-time jobs, worked all over the city
in construction, bartending, cooked in restaurants, a whole bunch of other stuff in
the evenings [to] put myself through college. [I] Left New York, [and] spent a year
out in northwest [New] Jersey working on a precast, prestress concrete plant in
1973. [I] moved to the Florida Keys in 1974. [I] started working as a professional
fishing guide late in 1975 after having spent a year, just sort of bouncing around
working as a charter boat mate in commercial fishing and all that sort of stuff.
Basically, I've been a professional fishing guide ever since. I don't spend quite
as much time as I used to. Obviously, I've got a couple of other things I do now,
but for a whole bunch of those years, I was a fishing guide down in the Keys.
I spent fifteen years as president of the Florida Keys Fishing Guides
Association, from 1982 to 1997. I served and chaired the Resource Planning
and Management Committee under Critical State Concern from, 1987 or 1988
until 1990. I was a member of the Governor's Sustainable Commission from its
inception, I guess in 1993 through its finish, which I guess was 1999. I was a
member of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Citizens Advisory
Commission from 1992 to 1996, I think, and chaired it at the time that it
developed the management plan and presented it to the governor in the cabinet
in NOAA [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration]. [I] served on
Governor [Jeb] Bush's Everglades Commission. I've been a member of the Keys
Water Quality Steering Committee in a variety of different incarnations on and off
since 1972. [I] served on the task force for that [and] set up the research program
for the Keys Water Quality Protection Program. I'm sure I'm missing something,
but those are, sort of, the highlights. I came here to the Water Management
District in 1999. [I] served as chair during the time that we worked on, developed,
and passed the state authorizing and funding legislation, and worked on all of
that plus WRDA [Water Resources Development Act] 2000 which was the
authorization for Everglades restoration.
G: Based on your experiences, what do you see as the two or three most important
factors that have led to the present problems in the Everglades?
C: I think basically, it was changes [made] to the Everglades ecosystem to provide
us with the ability to develop parts of it for agriculture and human use. The
original charge that the Army Corps [of Engineers] received back in the late
1940s, was flood protection and drainage, and I think they did an excellent job on
what they were told to do. They were told to take the environment into
consideration, and I think, ultimately, they did. The Guides Association, when I
first joined it back in 1976, [were] a bunch of the old timers. There were guys
[that were] still active at that time, who had been guiding in the Keys since the
1930s. They'd started before WWII and had seen a lot of changes. In the fall of
1976, they told me, ACollege boy, we need you to go back there and tell those
idiots in the Park [Everglades National Park] that if they don't stop messing
around with the water that there's going to be some big trouble.@ [It was] not
totally clear in their minds, exactly who was responsible for what, but the biggest
authority they had to deal with was the Park, so they assumed, it was all the
[I] went back and had a meeting with a guy named Mike Suecup, who
was the head of research for Everglades Park and a guy named Jay Zeeman,
who was doing sea grass research back there. The superintendent, John Good,
set up the meeting [but] he didn't come. What the guides wanted to know was
why this thalassia, which they called turtle grass, was moving into the middle part
of the bay and into places they didn't think it belonged. What Zeeman told us,
that day out in the boat, was that thalassia was more tolerant to salt water than
other kinds of grasses that had existed in the bay. The monoculture that we
were looking at, is just about sea water. We checked the salinity, and they said it
was thirty-six parts per thousand, which they said is why it [turtle grass] is there.
Interestingly enough, the place where we were, was a place called Johnson Key
Basin, which is where the sea grass die-off started ten [or] twelve years later --
exactly, where that boat was.
I haven't seen a whole lot, in all the stuff I've done since, that contradicts
the conclusion that we reached that day, which was that a wide variety of
changes to the ecosystem had reduced fresh water flows in ways that were
producing changes to the system. Florida Bay was just part of it. The fool that I
was, I always thought, 'start now,' [and] when we really started getting serious
about this, that all we'd have to do is fix Florida Bay. And what I've discovered,
sitting in on all this stuff was that you couldn't fix Florida Bay until you fixed the
rest of it. I think most of us were, sort of, satisfied in our minds that the four
factors [are] the quantity, quality, distribution, and timing. Basically, most of the
people who have been involved in this for a long time [believed what] [Terrence]
Rock Salt [Executive Director of the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task
Force] keeps referring to-[that is, those factors are] what it's all about. [When]
You solve that, I think, the rest solves itself. That's forced by a variety of factors.
We've had a lot of development.
It took a long time before the unintended consequences got the attention
that they needed for the charge the original [Army] Corps [of Engineers'] project,
received from Congress, like I said. I went back and read it. They did exactly
what they were told to do. We just weren't careful enough at that time, in what
we told the Corps to do. It's one of the reasons that a lot of the CERP
[Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan] stuff is so detailed with so many
built-in ways of getting back checking, recover programs, and monitoring, which
is sort of an acknowledgment, up front, that a lot of this wasn't done on purpose;
it was just unintended consequences.
G: John DeGrove [ Governor's Commission for a Sustainable South Florida, 1993-
present; Secretary, Florida Department of Community Affairs, 1983-1985;
member of the board, South Florida Water Management District, 1972-1978]
once characterized it as innocent ignorance that produced the problems we see,
now. Has that been a statement that you'd agree with?
C: John and I talked about that a lot, on the Governor's Commission. I guess it was
sort of innocent ignorance, but some of it, I think, was naivete and a certain
amount of denial. Even John's life work, that Growth Management Act in 1986--
some of it was innocent ignorance; some of it was a refusal to admit that there
would be people trying to do bad things in the middle of it. And those things had
to be dealt [with], one way or another. You have to expect people to be people;
somebody's going to try to take advantage of most situations. You need to build
in the means of getting at that. We didn't really, do that. I don't think anyone fifty
[or] sixty years ago, looking at the Everglades [and] saw this [as a] huge menace
in their life. It was this natural force that destroyed people's lives, an d I don't
think any of those people ever realized that we could injure it enough that we'd
have to go to these sort of steps to protect it. Some of it was innocence. I think
some of it was just naivete in assuming that we were going to have a
responsibility for dealing with unintended consequences and enemy action, to a
G: To what extent do you see the current restoration initiative embodied in the
Comprehensive Plan and other projects, as a change from earlier management
C: It's a huge change. It involves a recognition of the fact that we're not just
responsible for what it is we're doing [and what] we intend to do, but that there's
a responsibility there for what else happens, the unintended consequences.
There's a recognition up front that we're fallible, that things we design and build
are not going to react in the way that we expect them to react. That was the
biggest problem: [the] institutionalized attitude. It came out of the Corps; it was in
the agency; it was in the legislatures and Congress that, 'we will, at this fixed
point in time, make a decision and we're going to build it. And the Corps's
attitude [was that] their charge was 'regardless, we will build it.' I think, now,
there's a recognition, (and I see it everywhere), especially in the Corps, that
we're not perfect, we're not exactly great prophets, and we can't predict how the
natural system's going to react. And some of this stuff, especially in sequence,
when you're looking at sixty-seven [or] sixty-eight projects, isn't going to work the
way we intended. That's the biggest change, is the recognition that we're going
to make mistakes, but we're responsible for fixing them before they have huge
consequences. That's a huge step for government agencies to take.
G: To the extent that change has occurred, are there any turning points or
watershed events that you would point to as being critical for promoting that
C: I think [it was] the Florida Bay stuff, to me. Maybe, because I was so involved in
it, but the huge uproar that took place over the perceived destruction of Florida
Bay. Actually, it wasn't as dead as we thought it was, but it was something that
could be photographed, that could be seen on television, that was obvious and
ugly and slimy, and really got people scared and got them moving. I know
everybody points in different directions about what actually triggered this, but I
would suggest that Florida Bay was the reason that Congress sent a joint
subcommittee to the Florida Keys to do a scoping hearing on the possibility of
doing the restudy. Rock [Salt] was there; I was there; George Barley [Orlando
developer; founder, Save Our Everglades foundation] was there; Dick Ring
[superintendent of Everglades National Park] was there. I think it was like 1992
or 1993. Rock has that stuff. I, actually have a copy of the transcript, still, but I
think that meeting really triggered, in the minds of people in Congress, an
awareness of the fact that the situation had gotten out of control--that the
unintended consequences could be a lot worse than anybody had expected.
For me, that was a watershed moment. It was the first time, and I said it
at that meeting, that I got the impression anybody was really paying attention.
There had been signs for many years. You might get a transcript of that meeting
because I think I blistered the Park on probably seven or eight specific instances
of the guides going to them and pointing things out to the Park and the Park
basically [said], 'that's the way it goes.' I think they didn't really have the means,
as far as they were concerned, in dealing with some of the consequences, and I
don't think the context we deal with now, existed. The Park looked at individual
Park stuff, and the district looked at conservation areas, and it was very
fragmented. I think this problem was big enough that it was an issue that sort of
coincided with the establishment of the Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
The Citizen's Advisory Committee became very involved in publicizing and
pressing government agencies, but also, it was a time when you had a Citizen's
Advisory Committee and you also had a working group. There was a group of
agency people that got together and talked. I think that was really important to
have the Corps talking to the Water Management District, talking to NOAA,
talking to DEP [Department of Environmental Protection], [and] that Research
Planning and Management Committee (that I had chaired under Critical State
Concern). It was one of the first of those and it was pretty effective. But it made
me aware of how critical it was to have some of these people, actually have a
conversation with each other and to institutionalize the means for that
conversation. There were all these good-ole-boy conversations where a couple
of guys knew each other, but didn't have an institution that made agencies talk to
each other. I think that came out of the sanctuary, came out of the scare over
Florida Bay, [and it] led to the Governor's Sustainable Commission, which really
cemented a lot of it. It [has], sort of, been an evolutionary thing. For me, I think if
Florida Bay had not happened ... It was such a visual sort of thing; it was such
an emotional thing. It had a couple of wild men in the middle of it, like myself and
George Barley, who were willing to do whatever it took to get people to pay
G: Would you talk about some of the specific problems with the Bay as you
experienced them and how that brought you in to being an activist for
C: [In] 1987, we started to notice a lot of sea grass die-off, back in that same area
we'd gone to look at in 1976. It was huge. [There were] acres and acres of grass
just disappearing, leaving nothing behind it but muddy bottom, and that really got
the guides bent out of shape. We went to the Park and basically, the Park said,
'gee, that looks bad,' and that was about the end of it. I embarked, personally,
at the encouragement and with the support of the Guides Association, on a
whole bunch of trips on Florida Bay. I took thirty, forty members of the press--
everything from reporters for the local newspapers to Japanese film crews. I
took people from the Wall Street Journal [and] the Washington Post. Anybody
that wanted to get in the boat [to] look at it, I took. And [I took] a lot of elected
officials--just everybody I could get my hands on. I took people that were
working here at the agency. I don't remember who the contact was. (I think it
was George Kirkpatrick [Florida state senator, 1980-present], and it was through
the Area of Critical State Concern, that Research Planning and Management
Committee). [But] one day, I took the Senate Natural Resources Committee for
the State of Florida [who] came down as a group to look at it, and that was kind
of a big boost. They gave us some money to start looking at it [and] they drew
the attention of the legislature. They were very supportive. Kirkpatrick, Rick
Dantzler [unsuccessful candidate for Florida lieutenant governor (ran with Buddy
MacKay), 1998], and, I think, even Charlie Crist [Attorney General, Florida, 2002-
] was part of that group. I mean, a bunch of people that went on to do other
We spent a couple of years there really trying to get somebody to pay
attention. It was kind of frustrating. It was like sort of jumping and screaming in
the dark, but everywhere I could go, everybody I could talk to, it just sort of
became one of those missions. I got kind of discouraged. I guess it was about
1989 or so, and I went down to Belize and started shopping around, looking at
islands. I had an old Wall Street buddy of mine who was willing to put up the
money. I was just going to buy a resort down there because you could see
where [if] something didn't happen, this was all over. I was sitting on a beach
down there one day and just really started to get mad about it.
I decided I wasn't moving to Belize, that I was going to come back and we
were going to fight. There had to be a way to do it, and a bunch of things started
coming together, then. [Dante] Danny Fascell [U.S. Representative from Florida,
1955-1993], who had been involved in the original establishment of the
Everglades National Park, became convinced by Park people and Mike Finley
[superintendent, Everglades National Park, 1986-1989] and some of the rest of
those superintendents had gradually convinced him that we needed to protect
the sources of Shark River Slough. So he passed the Park Expansion Act, which
I think was a positive thing even though we haven't finished the eight and a half
square mile and the other stuff that Mod Waters demands. He was able to
convince people in Congress that [in the case of] the Keys, you needed a more
holistic approach on protection, and they started pushing through the Keys
National Marine Sanctuary Act, which, I think, really had a lot to do which putting
The idea of an integrated sort of management plan that put all the players
at the table and trusted them to help work it all out was something brand new.
Also, there was a water quality protection program mandated along with the
sanctuary. It was huge stuff. It was easier, at that point, to see where some of
this may actually work, and, then, turn around twice and you're sitting on an
advisory commission right in the management plant for the sanctuary that
highlights and makes water quality the priority issue. Then, [there was] a
governor's sustainable commission that looked at a whole bunch of things before
focusing on Everglades restoration as a real issue.
G: We were talking about some of the problems in the Florida Bay. At the time,
what did you see as being the underlying causes of those problems?
C: To me, it was always crystal clear that the underlying cause was the system that
we had for operating and moving water around the Everglades. What I didn't
understand then, [came as] kind of a real shock--I assumed that the existing
system could be operated in a way that would restore and protect Florida Bay
[and] that what I was looking at was operational decisions that had different
options that would have helped.
So most of the early days, I really worked on trying to get people to
understand that there were these huge problems there and there was a massive
economic impact related to this. I worked hard on doing that. We were talking to
people on the Wall Street Journal and trying to sign them up, and we were very
successful there. We tried to explain economic impact and things that really
relate to issues in ways that they could understand. I tried to do that especially
with elected officials. If you got Connie Mack [U.S. Senator from Florida, 1989-
2001] in the boat, (and I did,) [and you are] trying to explain why you're creating a
sanctuary and what the deal is with Florida Bay, you need to be thinking that
Senator Mack is a banker and that there are things in the way a banker would
look at all this that he would probably understand better than I would.
Those were the ways I raised some of those issues. Until he left office, he
and I spent a lot of time together. He was tremendously supportive, but I think [it
was] also because, [it was] not just me, but other people [as well] who tried to
[present] all this stuff in terms that people can understand. It was a real shock,
and it was several years later, before it really sunk in on me that regardless of
what we did to operate the system, that the system would not produce the results
that we wanted. I was probably fairly deep into [the Governor's] Sustainable
[Commission]. It was probably 1993, 1994--somewhere in there--that at any
given time, [regarding] the three things you're supposed to balance, (flood
control, water supply, and the environment), [we were told] 'you're lucky if you
can hit two of them at any given time and almost never, can you get all three
balanced.' [This was from the] people at the District, who I had finally gotten to
know well enough that I could trust what they were saying. So that was really a
There was also a shock when I found out that basically, what that means
is that you can't just fix Florida Bay, you have to fix the rest of this stuff. That's,
kind of, how I wound up going the rest of the way down the road. My basic
understanding, when I started out that trip in 1976 was, [that] we were going,
one day, to explain to the Park that something was going wrong, and, then, the
Park would take care of it, and we'd go back to fishing. Then, ten years later in
the late 1980s, I figured, 'okay, I'm going to have to get some press attention,
get some elected officials, get everybody paying attention, but then, I'm going to
back to fishing.' It was just one step at a time as it became more and more of
something where you're not done yet, and you're never going to be done.
Ultimately, it's not going to be somebody else, that is going to do a lot of
this. If you want it to happen, you're going to have to do a lot of it, yourself. I'm
not the only one, I guess, that wound up down that road and in that trap.
G: What were some of the specific recommendations that you made, at that time?
What did you want to have happen?
C: Originally, what I wanted for the Bay, was some research. We had almost no
database. I had read everything that Art Marshall, Durbin Tabb, even Zeeman,
and all these people, had done. It was a very thin float. When you got a fishing
guide and could spend a couple of weekends and cull through the entire scientific
knowledge of Florida Bay, that was sort of an alarm. What I asked, on that first
meeting with the Senate Natural Resource Committee, [was] for some money.
They gave us some money to start a research project.
One of the things I pushed really hard early in the sanctuary process was
to setup the technical advisory committee for the sanctuary's water quality
protection program as a body that would review and make recommendations on
research. I've been very disappointed in that. That's not exactly sacred. The
Florida Bay Science Program received, I think, in excess of $100 million, and I'm
not real happy about the way the money got spent or what we got out of it. We
keep getting told, 'you need another study, and we can't reach resolution.' I think
that's some of the stuff I worked at since I came here because some of that is
what we ask our scientists to do. We need to ask them to be a little more
definitive than they are comfortable of being, by nature. But they work for us,
and they need to start doing it.
We wanted the water system changed. We wanted C-111. We
understood that opening that up all the time was having bad effects. We wanted
to stop using that to dump water. In late 1992, we had an anomaly there where
all of this stuff reached a culmination and was a combination of years of lack of
fresh water in Florida Bay, but also changes that we didn't really understand. It
was obvious that there was this huge pipeline coming out C-111 through S-197
that dumped the water just into the Bay, but that when those big releases took
place, it killed a lot of stuff. The salinity went from being hyper-saline
(somewhere up in the forty and fifty parts per thousand) to four or five parts, in
the space on twenty minutes. It just wiped everything out in front of it. What we
really started screaming for then, was a more responsible management of the
system that existed. To a certain degree, to the degree that the District could, I
think they really tried that. And, then, what we realized, was that really wasn't
going to be enough. That was the science [that] started pointing in the direction
for some of the monitoring and the other work that was done. (A.), It was really
important, what I [had] worked on really hard, early on, was getting an awareness
of the problem. Then, (B.), [it was vital] to get somebody responsible focused on
it, and I knew it was the Corps and the Water Management. Then, (C.), [I
needed] to try to start building some sort of science base. I'm a big believer, then
and now, in science-based decision making. We had huge information shortfalls
throughout the system.
Then, [the job was] trying to find the political will to get it done. I think that
is why the sustainable commission was so critical. [In] the first meeting I went to,
I had a commercial fisherman sitting next to me. We'd been at war with those
guys for as long as I'd been around. I talked to him on the phone last night, by
the way, and he's still a very good friend of mine. I performed his wedding
ceremony for his fifth wedding in December. What you learn through that is that
you can find the means to work together if you have to sit together long enough.
[Governor's] Sustainable [Commission] sat for six years. You walk enough miles
in other people's shoes that you understand some of their issues, and stop
demonizing the guy on the other side. You start realizing it is all of us; every
single one of us is responsible. We still haven't finished getting that sort of
awareness out. In public comment, I still hear all sorts of people demonizing
other people. It doesn't work; it doesn't prove anything. We're all part of the
problem; we're all going to have to be a part of the solution.
G: You talked about the difficulty of getting a response from the Park Service and
some of these different other agencies. Why was it so difficult to get them to
focus on the problems in Florida Bay?
C: There were two problems with the Park. They were always willing to talk to me.
I've been friends with the last half dozen superintendents. (A.), I don't think they
really had an understanding of what was going [on], and (B.), (I'm not saying
anything I haven't said to all of their faces), I don't think the National Park Service
deals with marine environments particularly well; they don't have a lot of them.
There's a tendency in the national parks to focus on the borders and just
assume, 'well, if we're okay around the edges and everything inside is right. ..'
[For] a lot of parks, I'm sure that's true. [For] most of the parks, I can think of it as
probably true. The problem is, in the Everglades, it's not true, and Florida Bay,
that marine environment, they really have had people that really understand it
and engage in it.
There's sort of a separation, just within the culture in the National Park
Service, in the way they look at it. And (A.), to go back to the original, I don't
really think the knowledge was there of what was really happening. There were
political problems. My understanding was, when the District first started talking, .
I can still remember sitting on the airplane in 1982 reading that they were low
on the canal stages in L-31 and C-111. I was flying to Vermont or someplace like
that in the summer time, and it hit me like a punch in the stomach. I remember
reading it and just thinking, 'my God, that's not right. That's going to cause
trouble, if we're doing it categorically. There is trouble.' I've learned since, that
there are at least some indications that Jack Moorehead, (who was the
superintendent), probably wanted to comment negatively on that, and that the
then Secretary of the Interior, James Watt, led him to believe that if he got sued
because of those comments, he'd be defending himself--that Interior wouldn't be
defending him. Things like that happened along the way. It hasn't exactly been
a straight road.
G: When did that begin to change? When did you feel that these agencies were
becoming more responsive to the concerns you're expressing?
C: .to the degree that they're responsive now? I would say during [the
Governor's] Sustainable [Commission]. I would say that having people sitting
around the table there. And we met once a month, sometimes twice, for six
years. I think (A.), they had to deal with each other more, but (B.), the real
institutional mule-headedness, lack of cooperation, and all that stuff was out for
everybody in the public and the agencies to see. It's harder to sustain some of
that sort of stupidity if it has to happen in the open. It's a lot easier to say, 'we're
too busy to meet with you,' and head back into agency headquarters or whatever
refuge you've got. But if you've got to drag out and discuss this stuff in public
once a month, it's really hard to sustain that. And that's one of the reasons I'm
such a big believer in those forums.
G: You talked about the effort to build the science base. Would you describe that in
a little bit more detail and why you think it hasn't worked as well as you would like
it to work?
C: We lobbied for and got a huge water quality protection program. [The
Department of ] Interior, NOAA, a variety of state agencies all contributed to it. I
could be wrong, but I think at one point they were allocating $30 [million], $40
million a year into that. I think there are two problems, and we've tried to fix them
here--two real major problems and a variety of subsets. One is [that] there is an
institutional problem within the science community. If somebody takes a position
that is [somewhat] forward thinking and decisive, there is a tendency within that
culture to attack them. You have to defend everything you say. That produces, in
a lot of the scientists, a certain reluctance in getting out on that limb, if they know
they have to defend it from all angles. That's part of the system. That's not
really their fault.
The other thing is, we have not, in our funding in these programs, insisted
on answers. We've allowed people to be theoretical; we've allowed people to be
somewhat less than focused on real life time-frames. It was a shock when I
came to the Water Management District in 1999 and told the science people that
I wanted their budgets and their programs to coincide with management
decisions of the governing board. That if they couldn't show me how that project
we were funding interacted with some sort of management decision in a timely
manner, I was going to be a lot less willing to fund it, and I've been beating that
drum down at Florida Bay for years. I think we wasted a huge amount of money.
I think people redid their PhD.'s, polished up their resumes, and produced very
little. One year, two years ago, I sat with that Florida Bay program [while] they
delivered, I think, sixty-two abstracts. I was already here at the board. I was
chairman of the governing board. There was something like four of them that
would never have anything to do with anything providing information for anything
I'd ever make a decision on. Who the hell are they providing information to?
What decision process? I keep saying, 'well that's how we got here; we didn't
have a base.'
But I think I've got enough time in and enough awareness of big picture
stuff that if I can't figure out how it's ever going to integrate, then there, at least,
might be a question about whether it ever does. So I think that's where we got
astray, and that's where you just need more accountability. And it was real easy
[for] the scientific community [to] ban together [saying], 'you're not a scientist,
and you don't understand.' Yes, but I've been overseeing budgets and raising
money for this garbage for fifteen years. I think I [have] a rough idea of what
we're supposed [to] get out of it. We need to change the culture a little bit.
There needs to be a little more accountability and a little bit more responsibility.
We had a Task Force meeting a couple of months ago up in Washington
discussing the science program for CERP, and it was a nightmare. It was an
eyeopener. There were people there realizing, finally, what some of the people
from CROG [Committee on Restoration of the Greater Everglades] and the
National Academy of Science were actually thinking and doing. And the way
they were looking at this, was a shock. Because it was just a certain lack of
responsibility. It was like [they were saying], 'we're going to go look at science,
or what we determine to be science, and actually, (whether they admit it or not),
we're going to review your policy decisions to see whether we agree with them,
and if it destroys the restoration or if it raises all sorts of other problems, well,
we're just doing science.' That's not science.
We need our roles a little more clearly defined. We need (A.) to get the
right kind of science. We need definitive, empirical, (not just modeling), but
empirical knowledge to base all this on, and the people producing science need
to be held to that standard. They need to be told what we want from them. We
need to give them enough money to go get it, and I think we've been good about
that. But then they also need to stay the hell out of the policy decisions. All the
decisions you make on this--science is what you base it all on, but there are
always going to be sociological and political factors in how far you go here and
how this gets done. That's just the world. Scientifically, if you were going to look
at the Everglades restoration from a purely scientific view, what [we ought to] do
is bulldoze everything here, dump it in the ocean, scatter natural species back
through it and wait 5,000 years. Everything short of that's a compromise, and it's
for decision makers to make those decisions. We've had a couple of times
[when] the scientists [tried] to highjack that process. I don't think that's
G: How would you evaluate the programs that were enacted to address the
problems in Florida Bay so far, including the Corps of Engineers C-111 project?
C: I believe the projects, as designed, are excellent. I think they'll work. The
problem is [that] they haven't been built. That's across the board. There's quite
a bit of evidence already that the 332B pump that we operated last year ... Ron
Jones has monitoring throughout the Park down into Florida Bay. We had a real
bad drought. We had some undeniably bad impacts, not real bad impacts but
impacts. We had a hypersaline situation down there; it really didn't last long. If
you look at Ron's material and have Ron explain it to you, it's pretty obvious that
the operations of that pump system actually buffered the salinity event. So I
would say I'm ready to believe that those projects will work. We just need them to
be built. We need to finish that at Mod Waters and, then, operate them and see
We have a bunch of environmentalists wandering around with national
philosophies and agendas. I don't have a philosophy, but the idea that we
shouldn't be building pumps and stuff like that to handle the Park to me is just
very naive and very stupid. It's a system that's on life support; it's always going
to be on life support. To deny that, is to just condemn it to death. You can't
allow some sort of national philosophy, (and I keep getting into it with these guys
over this), but to get in the way of what actually has to happen. It's nice to have
a philosophy. I wish I could afford one. I don't have one, anymore.
G: Would you talk about the thinking and process that led to the development of the
Keys National Marine Sanctuary?
C: Danny Fascell, I think, really was one of the driving forces. But I think it was an
awareness that you needed integrated management to get at some of these
problems. I think there was an awareness on Danny's part that they had really
left [out the Homestead part]. He said [that] to me, several times. I've talked to
him over the years. I really went and tracked everybody down [that] I could that
was there at the start. But he said, they knew when they set up the Everglades
Park, they left out the Homestead part. Then [the] upper Key Largo--they'd
actually even looked at, as part of the Park, and there was no political support for
it. There was an awareness, even at that time, that probably it wasn't going to
work exactly the way they wanted it to because they couldn't include that. I think
Danny, later in life, tried to start thinking about how to fix that. That was Mod
Waters, the Park expansion, and I think he viewed the sanctuary as just part of
all of that. [He] looked at it as the catchall into some of the impacts and how we
were going to look at it, in an integrated approach to really solving it.
I always got the impression that he understood that because this flowed
north to south-if we really started looking hard at the sanctuary and the Florida
Bay stuff, [then] we'd start having to deal with some of the real problems and
start looking for real answers. He told me to get the Park to agree to include
Florida Bay in the sanctuary. The National Park Service just refused. The Park
Service doesn't give up territory. That's not the mentality nor probably should it
be, but it would've been interesting if we'd gotten Florida Bay into the sanctuary
in a little bit more of an active way. I think it probably would've helped.
G: You used the term integrative management. Can you explain what that means?
C: Integrated management just means that, like I've said, you have to get people
making decisions in a reflection of other agency's decisions. The District and the
Corps have always worked closely together. But there's a huge resistance and
problem between the National Park Service and the Army Corps of Engineers,
and to a certain degree between the National Park Service and the Water
Management District. You need to be looking at how we all work in light of how
we all work, together. That just wasn't something that I saw when I started out,
and it's something that critical to all this stuff working. You can build any system
you want. We're going to build a pretty good one, but the operation of it, once it's
built, is still as critical as any of the rest of it. The operation needs to be in
reflection of joint responsibilities and also other people's responsibilities.
G: How well did the model work that the sanctuary used in bringing that kind of
collaborative effort together?
C: I'll tell you how well it worked. It's held together since then; it's actually gotten
better. They did Tortugas 2000 to establish protected areas out in the Tortugas,
[and] they got full support from the commercial fisherman and everybody else. I
think it's worked very well. It still works, and it was the model that we used in the
Governor's Sustainable Commission, which held very diverse issues and very
diverse interests together through a legislative process that went through the
state legislature without a dissenting vote. That went through Congress with 90
percent plus support. I believe the model for the process is inarguable; you can't
argue with that kind of success. It's the only thing of it's kind I've ever seen.
That's one of the reasons [that] one of the last things I did as chair here, (even
though there was amazingly a lot of opposition), was to establish this Water
Resource Advisory Commission [WRAC] to maintain that sort of interaction. It
has, sort of, struggled. It's always easier to be conceptual than to implement
stuff, and the model didn't work perfectly as an advisory group just to this
agency. But it's getting better. It has actually come a long way. Board members
got real impatient. They forget that it was two years before the Governor's
Sustainable Commission produced a single document.
G: Why do you think the marine sanctuary example was so successful and what
lessons can we take from it, that might be applicable to the broader restoration
C: I think it worked because the attempt was made to put all of the stakeholders, (I
know that's a bad word now), but the people with an interest, at the table. There
was an attempt made to educate them to some sort of relatively level playing
field where, at least, there was a recognition that individual prejudices, self-
interests, and stuff like that gets in the way, and stupidity and our lack of
knowledge is probably the worse thing. They put the right people together at the
table; they spent the time to educate--and not just educate them about the
agency's agenda--but to educate them about each other's [agemda], to
understand what it is the other guy's really looking for and why he needs this and
why he doesn't want that. There was probably less interaction than there
should've been, but at the same time it was backed up by an interagency working
group that was operating on the same level as the agency level. Then, the
NOAA think tank guys went off to Washington to integrate the two--to pull them
all together. That part of it was dicey, and that part of it is always going to be a
Creating on real expectations is always a problem. The sanctuary is one
place we've gotten into a little bit of trouble. The first draft of the management
plan was horrible. They had deviated, in a massive sort of way, from [what] the
advisory council had said. What they said they were going to do without really
even bothering to try to explain it, (and I think everybody learned a lot from that--
that you can't have a transparent process), [was to] put it behind closed doors
and come out with something different. That just doesn't work. So it was a
lesson learned, I think, for everyone.
G: Earlier you mentioned George Barley. How would you characterize his
contribution to the Everglades restoration process?
C: George was a guy with a lot of energy, a lot of contacts, a lot of money, and he
showed up at a lot of [these meetings]. He'd been doing fisheries issues, and he
became engaged, probably in the late 1980s. He had a house in the Keys. He
loved to fish there; he saw what was going on. I think he sort of raised the
profile. I think he was very instrumental in raising the awareness level. He made
a lot of noise; he was a very hard guy to ignore.
G: Did you get involved at all with his effort to enact the penny per pound, sugar
C: I was on the original board that he put together for that. I resigned sometime
during that first year because it was about the same time we were getting
involved in Sustainable. When I looked at it and looked long term on it, I, after
awhile, was having a lot of trouble believing that (A.), it was going to be an
overall solution to the whole problem, but (B.), ultimately, I came to believe that it
would probably, at least potentially, destroy the whole other process that we were
engaged [in]. I was starting to really believe in Sustainable Florida, so I resigned
from the board and did not support it after that.
G: Why did you think that was going to destroy the process?
C: ... the fact that it set the stage for this massive confrontation, over-funding, a
mandated funding X amount from a certain segment of the population. You can
sit in a Porsche and blame responsibility or anything like that. I think that,
ultimately, I came to believe that we're all responsible; we all need to be part of
the solution. But the polarization that was going to take place there, would
ultimately make what we were going to do in Sustainable South Florida
impossible, and probably impossible, forever.
G: At the same time all the problems in Florida Bay were developing, there was also
the extended process of litigation, dealing with the water quality issues in the
Everglades that involved first, the federal and state governments and later, the
sugar companies. Did you feel at the time that was going on, that this process of
litigation was essentially related to what you were trying to accomplish in Florida
C: I guess. It wasn't really a total awareness. In dealing with the Park, I remember
talking to Mike Finley, who was the park superintendent when that lawsuit was
filed, [and] was one of the complainants along with the Department of Justice. [I
told him] about the stuff that we were interested in Florida Bay, and [was] trying
to convince him that they needed to pay more attention to fisheries,
management, and all that stuff. Mike [was] saying that if we solve this problem
up here, it solves all of them. I didn't really believe it at that time. I went and I
thought about it. I looked at it and looked around, and [realized] it's definitely an
essential piece to the puzzle. It really is what triggered, to a certain degree, a
whole lot of what happened afterwards. But even instinctively--just dealing with
the phosphorous problems related to the Everglades Agricultural Area--I didn't
believe it was going to solve Florida Bay's problems. And I think the science
since then, is pretty emphatic that wasn't the whole problem.
At the same time, I think there was sort of an awareness that the fact that
the political structure only operated positively towards flood control and water
supply. Basically [it] had a lot of denial about the impacts of the natural system,
[and this] was something that I was pretty much zeroed in on, early on. I think
Dexter [Lehtinen, attorney for Miccosukee Tribe] filing that lawsuit and the
settlement really triggered, at least, an awareness of the need for the huge
capital expenditures that we were going to have to fix this. I think it was a really
critical, very important part of it, but only part of it. That's the sad part. It's a lot
of money, but it's not going to fix the whole thing.
G: What is your evaluation of the Everglades Forever Act that ended that process of
C: It's kind of funny. Rick Dantzler [Florida state senator, 1990-1997] was the
sponsor in the senate, and we had met years before working on the Florida Bay
stuff. I met with him right after it passed. We sort of met mid- way; he came
down from Winter Haven. I drove up from here. I'd shoot him out up one side and
down the other because, to me, it just looked like a sell out. I didn't think it was
going to work. I have had several conversations with him since then, apologizing
because it has worked. I really think it has. I think it's a huge success story. It
was visionary in a lot of its components, but again, it was worked out as a
compromise. Nobody got everything they wanted. The bottom line is [that] it
has worked better than we were told by the scientific community it was going to
work. The things we've learned from it have been really helpful in a wide variety
of other areas. But, there was another role for it. The fact that the District had
been able to build (on time and on budget), and produce that project, was a huge
factor in convincing Congress in WRDA 2000 to support Everglades Restoration.
There was a track record there that couldn't be denied, of huge capital projects
being successful. It was a big deal to a lot of people in Congress.
G: Can you talk about some of the responsibilities that the District has had under
C: It's really simple. It has designed and constructed a variety of filter marshes to
reach a water quality standard that exists nowhere else on the face of the Earth.
That has absolutely no support in the scientific literature, anywhere. The number
that we believe, now, we have to achieve is something that nobody's even
thought of achieving anywhere else. The responsibility is to build these huge
projects and to make them work in a way that is a theoretical possibility, but I'm a
long way from being convinced today, that we have all the answers. We have a
bunch of them. David and I talked about it a little bit, but I'm fairly comfortable
that we can get there. But it's been a process where we had to start construction
before we knew what the answers were going to be. So, the design and the
construction had to leave enough options [so] that if you had to add other things
like the cell partitions we put in, (or whether even that you could), [we could].
But it had to be constantly monitored, and we had to adjust real world, real time,
to changes and disappointments and all that. They've over-achieved, massively.
They're 100 percent better than anybody expected them to be. That's the kind of
thing that Congress looked at [when] we were offering to do or proposing to do,
in CERP and WRDA 2000. It wasn't theoretical. We actually had, on the ground,
experience. We could say, 'we've done it.' A lot of people in Congress came
and looked at it. A lot of people in Congress read over the consolidated report
summaries and all that stuff, so it was a big part of it [and] still is.
G: The Department of Environmental Protection recently endorsed the ten parts per
billion standard for phosphorous. If that standard ultimately gets adopted, how
confident are you that standard can be met by the 2006 deadline?
C: I don't know. Am I totally confident? No, because we have cells within some of
these STAs [Storm Water Treatment Areas] getting close to that standard. It was
actually at it, in one case, but have they been up and running long enough? And
is it across the board enough that we're confident that we're there, now? The
answer is "no." I think we're close. I think a lot of it's going to depend on the
compliance methodologies--what we're going to be asked to do in terms of
compliance. You can set up compliance methodologies in such a way that you'll
never meet them. You can set them up in a way that you never really achieve
anything, or you can set them up so that you have to continually improve on
them. We're trying to get to the latter one, I think. I think we can get there. I
think there have been problems within the agency. I haven't been totally
comfortable with our program, there. I think there have been territorial problems
within the agencies that have kept us from getting to the best stuff. I think there
have been some problems in procurements that we didn't always get what we
were supposed to get out of some of our contractors. That's life, that's the way
the world works. Am I totally confident? No. Am I hopeful? Yes.
G: What happens if the 2006 deadline isn't met?
C: I think we're going to have to [go] back to DEP [Department of Environmental
Protection] on our hands and knees and be able to demonstrate to them, 'please,
guys, big brother' [that] (A.), they were close, (B.), we're working towards it in a
way that will produce the result in a predictable rate of time, and that there's
constant improvement going on. And that we're going to get there. I don't think
anything short of that is going to work. Hopefully, that's not going to happen. I'm
hopeful that [in] 2006 we'll have what we need. Like I said, we do have cells
within the STA, getting pretty close to, or right at, where we need to be. The
problem is [that] we found places such as Lake Okeechobee and the
Kissimmee, [that] have been impacted [for] so long that if you were to pick a
particular plot the size of this room, (let's say fifteen by twelve [feet]), and monitor
it, it might be over ten parts per billion even if you put distilled water in it for fifty
years. So you need to take some of that into account: that there are, retained in
the soils, large amounts of these nutrients in some places. At the same time, you
want to guarantee that what's coming in, is clean enough to start repairing that.
Everybody wants to come up with end of the pipe technologies and assume that
is all you need to do, and it's just not really going to be that simple or that easy.
G: Earlier you talked about the importance of the Governor's Commission for
Sustainable South Florida. How did you become involved with that commission?
C: I turned them down twice, and, then, somebody told me that I really needed to do
it. I guess I was on the original list because at the time I was chairman of the
Keys National Marine Sanctuary and had been involved. Everybody knew me
already. They knew I'd been involved in this stuff for years. The sanctuary was
a big hit in terms of time to me [and] personal commitment. It cost me money
and effort [and] in the middle of that, I wasn't 100 percent sure I was ready for
another one. Then, I think Jim Harvey called me up and said, 'you know they
called me. They said you're stonewalling them, and they want me to talk to you
to see if you'll agree to sit on it'. So, that's pretty much how it happened.
G: What were things like in the early days of the Commission as the various people
were just getting to know one another?
C: [Richard] Dick Pettigrew [chair, Governor's Commission for a Sustainable South
Florida] really set up a process. He had in his mind, a vision of how this would
work and work well, and his patience was staggering. We did not really get to
interact with each other a lot. A lot of it was briefings; a lot of it was fairly staged
and controlled sort of meetings that had me chomping at the bit for breakout
sessions and all that. He kept saying, 'no, not yet, not yet,' and it was an
unbelievably masterful, visionary sort of view of how to bring people together, but
it took a lot of time. I've gotten a huge amount of heat from some of the board
members for not producing results earlier, and the formula I'm sticking to is
exactly his. It has worked. I'm not interested in changing it, so you need to build
a level playing field and keep people away from each other in terms of
confrontation until they're actually debating issues [and] not screaming at each
other over emotional stuff.
G: Why do you think the Commission was so successful? How was it able to build
the type of consensus that led to say the conceptual plan?
C: It was a good plan that Pettigrew put together, and there was a lot of luck. It was
the right time and the right place, and there were a group of personalities
involved that we were very fortunate to have engaged in the process. It was
people that were not exactly the group that started. I'll bring you through the
transition. Nelson Fairbanks, (who, at the time [was] the president of U.S.
Sugar), was on the commission at the start, and he was extremely hesitant to
engage in a lot of this stuff with good cause. He'd already been dragged into
court in a way that nobody ever expected to see. Nobody else, quite frankly, has
ever been dragged into a court [in this manner]. He was extremely hesitant, and,
then, finally backed out because he was afraid that the group was going to
commit to something that he would be liable for, legally.
The guy they sent [in his place] was an executive vice- president--a guy
named Malcolm ABubba@ Wade [senior vice-president, U.S. Sugar Corporation]
who was an accountant, a Florida boy, and the whole bit, but a different kind of
individual. Nelson was a good guy, but, after a little while, Bubba started to
become a real big believer in the process. He could see things happening that
were good things, and he actually, became one of the biggest proponents. That
was just a luck shot that somebody like that would come out of it. I think Rock
Salt was really a critical factor. He's just such a calming, 'keep everybody from
killing each other- [person]', and he understands the bureaucracy like nobody but
a career bureaucrat can. So I think he was a very positive factor. I just think
there were personalities involved there-that luck of the draw, roll the dice sort of
thing-that, I think, wound up being very conducive to actually, reaching some sort
G: What were some of the major issues that the commission had to deal with before
it could get to the conceptual plan?
C: Many of the major issues were just trust issues. There was a question of even
getting to the point where you can discuss things in terms of language. The
single biggest issue through the whole thing, and it's still the biggest issue, is a
question of assurances. It was a question of assuring existing water users that
we were not interrupting their supplies while we were doing this, and assurances
to the Congress, the legislature, and the people putting up the money, that we
were actually going to [be] able to produce the results that we were talking about-
-that we actually could restore it without damaging existing users. That was
really the big issue. The rest of it, for me, was just sort of peripheral stuff, [such
as] finding funny ways for agencies to accomplish some of the goals and
changing some of the institutional structures and attitudes within the Corps. We
received an awful lot of help from Corps people in Jacksonville and Corps people
in Washington, changing things that, quite frankly, had been done the same way
for 100 years. That was a huge sort of thing. It was very difficult, but people
within the Corps really accomplished it.
G: Earlier you mentioned how you believed that penny a pound [tax] would be a
divisive issue that could untrack this process. In 1996, of course, there was the
actual constitutional amendment to enact the penny a pound tax. Did, what the
Governor's Commission was trying to accomplish, filter into those discussions?
C: Yes, to a certain degree. I think, because Sustainable had been there for awhile,
it had less of an impact than it would have, [otherwise]. I think the fact that
neither Dexter Lehtinen [U.S. Attorney, Dade County, 1988-1992; general
counsel for the Miccosukee tribe] nor myself supported it, was a shock to a lot of
people. George Barley [Orlando developer; founder, Save Our Everglades
foundation] was bitterly disappointed and went to his grave mad at me. But
Dexter had filed the original lawsuit, but somebody like me had been raising hell
on this for so long, [they] were unwilling to support it. I think at least the ad guys
were willing to accept the fact that we could still keep talking. I think it hit us, but
probably not as hard as it could have, otherwise.
G: How would you characterize the significance of the conceptual plan? What was
C: (A.), it was a plan that was produced on consensus where you had agreement
among a wide diversity of users. Something like that would send shockwaves all
over the place. That [it] could exist, I think, was a big shock to a lot of people.
But (B.), it had enough meat in it. It had been worked on long enough, hard
enough, and had enough specificity in it that people could see how it would work
and could buy into it. But, lastly that it could be sold, not just to us, but to
Congress as something that's 'okay, this is how it's going to look in its broadest
sense; this is what it's going to feel like; this is what we're trying to accomplish;
how about you let us go to the next step.' It was a critical component.
G: You also served on Governor Jeb Bush's Governor's Commission for the
Everglades. How would you compare and contrast the two Governor's
C: Sustainable was working on setting up a plan. We were charged with reviewing
the restudy, working on the yellow book, and a group of recommendations.
Governor Bush's Everglades Commission was kind of in no-man's land as far as
that. The plan had already been put together. The implementation really wasn't
started yet, but, at the same time, we were working on it. So, it became a forum
in some ways, where a lot of boogie men got out and wandered around. It wasn't
quite as tightly controlled as Dick Pettigrew had been in terms of formulation and
bringing everybody up to speed. Kirk Keiser, the chairman, had come out of the
legislature, and he was a lot more comfortable with the idea of, basically, a free-
for-all. We had a vote at one of the first meetings on a critical issue where, I
guarantee you, at least half the people voting on the affirmative had no idea what
they'd voted on. They had just voted because their buddy had told them to vote
on it. I don't think that worked quite as well, but some of it was just a question of
timing and circumstances. It wasn't a specific target or a goal in front of us on
G: Jeb Bush's Commission, of course, has been phased out now. Is there a need
for that type of commission?
C: Yes, but I think it didn't need to be a governor's commission, anymore. Once you
get past CERP, what it needed to be is what it is--and that is an advisory
commission to the Water Management District and the Federal Task Force, the
Ecosystem Restoration Task Force, and WRAC does both of those. So, yes,
there's a need for that, and that's the group that fulfills it.
G: How would you characterize the contribution of the Federal South Florida
Restoration Task Force?
C: Growing. It's a growing contribution. [In] the earlier stages of it I think most of the
agency people on it, (Patty Beneke and Mary Doyle [are] both friends of mine),
but they really didn't want to deal with confrontational issues. I can remember
Patty Beneke refusing to hold a meeting because she knew that Dexter Lehtinen
was getting ready to run amuck on something, and I can understand that. But on
the other hand, I think you need to deal with those issues. I think the contribution
is growing. Now that we have a plan and we're into implementation, I think the
current chair, Ann Klee [chair, South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force,
2001-present], has a very clear, very good vision of where it needs to go and
how it needs to work. The role is growing. It probably didn't have as big a role
when we were in the legislative stage and working out funding and all that, but as
you start building this stuff and implementing it, there needs to be a very close
coordination and communication among all the players in that group.
G: You've actually served on the Task Force, is that correct?
C: Yes. I served on it as chairman on the governing board, and I have a seat at the
table. I'm not really a member of the group, but I have a seat at the table as the
chair of the WRAC, which is now the advisory group to the task force.
G: What do you think the Task Force role should be, as we move into the future?
C: I think it needs to be a forum that deals with interagency problems as they come
up--gets them on table, out in front, gets them discussed, and does a certain
amount of anticipation of issues, and oversees the coordination and the science
and all that sort of stuff.
G: Would you describe the events that led to your appointment to the South Florida
Water Management District's governing board?
C: I just did. Dexter actually, believe it or not, took me to a fund-raiser. [He] asked
me to come. The tribe had bought a couple of tickets. They didn't use them all,
and they asked me to come. It was then, ex-president Bush. This was probably
1998 sometime, and now Governor Bush [and] a bunch of other people from
Miami [were participating]. It was sort of a private group ...
I knew President Bush had been part of the fishing groups [that went ] to
the Keys. I was one of the guides on many occasions, there. Generally, he
would fish with a guy named George Hummel who's a very close friend of his for
many, many years and a great old time guide in the Keys, [as well as a]
legendary fisherman. Then, the rest of us would take different people in the
party. I got stuck with the [U.S.] Secret Service a lot of the time, which was okay.
They were nice guys, but after awhile you start thinking about being on the boat
with the guy that's supposed to take the bullet, and that's not a real pleasant sort
of thought. It was kind of fun. I remember one time a guy got on with this big
duffle bag. He put it down on the deck and it went 'clank-clank-clank', and I said,
'do you want me to put that in the hatch?' He said, 'no.' I sat there and I thought
about what was in the duffle bag for awhile.
Anyway, I went to this fund-raiser. I had met Jeb [Bush] many years ago,
but just casually and probably about the time he first came to Miami down in the
Keys with his parents. [We] really hadn't done a whole lot of interacting along the
way. But anyway I went to this fund-raiser and the guy who had been the host
for the President in the Keys was an old family friend of theirs and a dear friend
of mine. [He] was going through a cancer battle. When I called him up, he had
just gotten home from the hospital. I called him up, and he was able to talk and
just walked over. I told the President about it. He said, 'my God, that's horrible.'
They were just starting lunch, and I walked over with the cell phone and said,
'excuse me, Mr. President,' and just handed it to him. He knew right away what
was going on, so I stood there for a minute. Jeb just sort of turned around,
looked at me, and said, 'what was that all about?' So, I told him, and he just sort
of kind of gave me a little quizzical look. The President, sort of, referred to
fishing in the Keys, how important it was, and started talking about Everglades
restoration and all that stuff. The governor started looking at me a little funny and
came over afterwards and said, 'we need to get together and talk.' We talked a
bunch, and we went fishing a bunch.
When he got elected I had people tell me that if I wanted to keep working
on what I was working on and take it the rest of the way to where it needed to be,
that whoever was going to be the head of the Water Management District was
probably the one person in [who would be] the critical position, along with the
Secretary of DEP. But maybe even more so, here to work on it. I just applied
for a position on the board. The governor called and said he was going to put me
on the board. [He also said] that he was going to support me to chair it and try to
hold the coalition. I said, 'what do you want me to do?' I was expecting like
fourteen pages of whatever. He said, 'well, I'd like you to hold the coalition
together that's held together for this amount of time,' and he said, 'I understand
there's some problems down at the agency and I'd like you to commit to doing
the best you can to trying to fix them.' That was about it; [he] hung up [the
telephone]. Not much into micro-management, our governor. He's a good guy.
G: How difficult was it for you to make the transition from being an activist lobbying
governmental agencies, to then being a decision maker for the Water
C: I'm not sure I've done it yet. It's very difficult. Rock Salt keeps laughing at me.
Every time he runs into me in one of these situations, he just sits back and
laughs at me. I know just what he's doing. I spent years just sitting there
chewing people up one side and down the other--pushing them, prodding them,
and all that. Now, I'm in a position where you turn around and there's nobody
else sitting behind you. My approach is pretty much the same. I think the people
here would tell you I still push; I still prod; I'm still trying to get things changed.
I'm not much for sitting around. I never came anywhere to just sort of sit and
watch. So, as long as I'm around I'm going to be trying to make it better. But in
some ways, it's been very difficult. This isn't easy.
G: Is it difficult to embrace that kind of a style in a public agency?
C: It was very difficult at the start. They hated me; they were putting pictures of me
in urinals. They were not happy when I showed up. I would just say that I think
that's changed--not for everyone--but for a very large number of people. I would
hope that there's at least some understanding that what I'm really focused on, is
making it better. I'm not here just to criticize. I'm here to try to make it better and
that I'm not really a particularly compromising individual on big picture stuff.
Sitting on the governing board, there's an assumption that you're really not part
of the rank and file of the agency. So, it's a little bit easier, I think, for most of
those guys to put up with this, 'it's just another crazy governing board member.'
It would've been harder if I'd wound up some place like DEP--within one of those
agencies, EPA, the Park, or something like that. I probably would not have been
very successful at that; I don't think I have the patience.
G: What is the relationship in terms of responsibilities between the governing board
and the permanent staff members at the District?
C: [The] governing board sets policy. The staff is responsible for implementing it.
Because of the timing and all the legislative work that was going on, there were
policy initiatives, directives, and stuff like that, that were big picture things, so I
was really busy. They gave me an outlet for all that stuff. We had personnel
problems at the agency. It's not exactly a secret that at the top, there have been
problems for many years. We tried to solve it, I think unsuccessfully. I don't think
anybody can argue that we were not particularly successful. I probably got more
engaged at a different level than I was comfortable with, or anybody was, but
there really wasn't much in the way of an alternative, at that time. I think we've
got really good, executive staff, now. I'm a lot less engaged than I was on that
G: Let me define it more specifically in terms of the implementation of the restoration
programs. What types of decisions would the governing board be involved in
making? Maybe, you could give some examples of that.
C: I think the governing board is making decisions on funding issues, on land
acquisition issues, on priorities within the budget. The staff writes the budget, but
we give them the priorities. How much money are we spending up front on
what? I think the governing board, ultimately, will be tremendously involved in
the implementation of the 10PPB--making decisions on how things go forward
and how we approach all of the competing problems there. We set the priorities;
we set board based direction for the agency-long-range, big picture stuff. At the
same time, we approve the budget and, at least since I've been here, we interact
with staff for a long time on the budget. We get into some fairly particular detail
G: One of the first decisions that the governing board made with you as a member,
was to fire Sam Poole from his position as executive director. I think you were
just referencing this. Why was that decision made?
C: It was made for several reasons. There was sort of a recognition that the agency
understand who's a good guy. I cannot say a bad word about Sam Poole. I'd
known him for many years. As a person, he's really a class act and a wonderful
individual. But direction-wise, the agency wasn't really particularly well focused.
Budget-wise, I think the agency really had never come to grips with the 1988
lawsuit. Nothing really had changed; they were acting cash rich. There was a
certain lack of focus on things like EFA and CERP. It was very hard for me,
looking at the agency, revealing this after I found out where I was headed--to
figure how the agency was currently being led [would require] being able to laser
in on the focus for all this stuff.
Sam sent some very clear messages. He wasn't really interested in
cooperating with us or working with us. Several things involving initiatives at the
legislature started and the [agency was] asked not to do. They went the other
way. The decision on the eight and a half square mile area ... A board, walking
out the door to say, 'we'll buy the whole thing even though we didn't have
statutory authority or a legal funding source to do it,' [and] leaving something like
that on the doorstep is ... I would like to have done that a little more pleasantly.
I'm sorry that two old friends like Sam and myself couldn't have worked it out
better, but we couldn't. We needed new direction. The agency was going to
have to become leaner. I knew, full well, we were going to have to come up with
half the money, assuming we were going to be successful, the rest of the way.
There was always an assumption that the agency would have to do it. Not just
Sam, but a whole bunch of the people around him, were not real comfortable with
the idea of cutting things within the agency. At the same time, you could look at
some of the programs and say what the hell are they there for? We wandered
away from the core mission of the agency, and it was going to have to be a
different philosophy for us to be successful, particularly on CERP.
G: Let me ask you about the controversy with the eight and a half, square mile area.
You once said that this has become a civil war in South Florida. Why has it
been so difficult to resolve this issue?
C: The problem was how to wrap your head around the idea that particular enclave
is as close as it is, to one of the critical sources of supply for Everglades
National Park and Florida Bay in terms of water. And [how does one] deal with
coming up with a decision [when] the former board said, 'condemn it; get them
all, out of there.' There was an undeniable need, as far as I was concerned, to
improve the original Corps plan, which was an excellent plan when it was written,
but didn't take into account CERP or any of the other things. The original plan
was [to] bring water to the Park without really analyzing how much was going to
be needed. What we found out, since then, was (to maintain the kind of water
and maintain the head that the Florida Bay and other parks needed), that the
levee was in the wrong place, basically. It became a civil war because, instead
of dealing with the issue, the Park and the Corps had gotten into some
personality disputes and wrapped it up for some eight years. It was just a battle
among people who, basically, really when you looked at it, were probably on the
same side--that believed a lot of the same things that just couldn't resolve itself.
We tried. We spent a year putting together the science to find out to the
best of our ability, realistically, where the levee was eventually going to have to
wind up, anyway. But, [we also tried to] provide the science to tell us that, in an
exact enough way that we minimize[d] the impact on the other people out there.
I know I've heard a whole bunch of philosophies about how you shouldn't do
condemnation; you shouldn't do this; you shouldn't do that. But realistically, as
you heard David and me discussing, the federal government is doing this, the
Interior [Department]. It's a critical issue for the Park; they understand it.
They've been willing to fund a lot of the improvements, and I think we've got the
line drawn on the place that impacts the absolute minimum number of people.
G: Can you talk, in a little bit more detail, about that process of negotiation that led
to what is, in essence, the current compromise right now, with protecting the 90
percent of the people, condemning the other 10 percent?
C: I knew, just from what I'd seen in the CERP plans that Mod Waters, C-111, [that]
there was a reason why they were listed as preconditions. We had to get them
done. But I also knew that, ultimately for Florida Bay, there was science building,
(some of Jerry Loren's stuff, some of the Ron Jones material), that said that
transverse [Ever]glades area was important. So, we spent a year putting
together alternatives based on science, stuff that had just come out of the rest of
the CERP process. It's almost to like one street to the next. I'm pretty sure it is to
the street. We're going to have to be where that levee had to be, whether or not
there was science to support the previous board's assertion that you had to get
all of those people out. What we reviewed told us (A.), the science said it needs
to be where it is, but (B.), there wasn't a compelling environmental reason for
putting it anywhere else. Taking those people out would not, based on all the
information brought to us, in a significant way improve the environmental benefits
of the project. At that point, it started to sort of crystalize in my mind and some
other people's, (I know in David's), that there probably was a compromise here. I
think a lot of the impetus was political and not scientific. Mary Barley chewed me
out about this, again, two days ago. I don't go down those roads.
I'm trying to the best I can, to be scientific in how we do this. Politics
intrudes, yes--but to the minimum degree that it has to. Fortunately, I believe the
governor believes that and so do a lot of other people in this administration. At
that point, then, you start zeroing in [for example] okay, you don't really need to
condemn it to save the Park, and, philosophically, I'm not comfortable taking it if
we don't need to. So then where does the line need to be? Then, you get into
elevations related to maintaining a certain amount of head and the benefits
downstream. Also, how deep do you have to stack water there to be able to use
the transference plates--to be able to get water to transfer, as it originally did
between Shark River and Taylor River Slough at certain times. [We have] some
clear cut indications that [during] wet season, water stacked in that area is a
critical component of Florida Bay's health. It was a deal [that] was opposed
massively by Dexter [Lehtinen] representing the home owners and the tribe for
[the] philosophical reasons that they didn't believe in condemnation. Plus, the
chairman has a friend who's on the other side of the levee. So that has been
their issue. There was an argument that went on. I got a sign-off from the
governor's office to support the compromise at 8:00 the night before the board
took it up.
G: Did the Miccosukee [tribe] reject the compromise plan?
C: No, actually it was kind of funny--sort of an interesting position. On that call,
there were things that Dexter wanted us to do, specifically, which we agreed to.
They agreed to support it and they did support it at the governing board meeting.
G: What was the reaction of the homeowners as well as the National Park?
C: It was probably about the same; it was a mixed sort of signal. The National Park,
the Department of Interior had Dick Ring, (then, the superintendent of the Park),
show up and read a letter supporting the compromise. Dick, then, walked to the
back of the room and told the Miami Herald, it was unacceptable. I think many of
the homeowners were probably relieved that we weren't going to pursue a policy
of condemnation for the whole thing. The ones on the other side of the levee,
Madeline Fordham in particular, continued to assert that the original Corps plan
was good enough and we were doing this for no good reason.
G: What was your reaction when, after having worked through this compromise, you
had the Park Service then going public and saying that this is not a good plan?
Did it surprise you?
C: I'm not going to get into all the details. I believe my reaction had something to do
with Superintendent Ring leaving several days later.
G: How is the plight of the endangered Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow figured into
this controversy and your efforts to resolve it?
C: Not in any positive way. I think what it's done has given us some real clear cut
indications that single species management is bad management. I met with Dick
Ring and Steve Forsythe, (who is the head of Fish and Wildlife Service), the day
before they announced that biological opinion that led to the jeopardy opinion
and told them that what they were doing was a huge mistake. It was instinctive
on my part, that singling out one species . We had lunch together. They
spent the whole lunch trying to convince me that, 'no, we've got it all figured out
and if we do this, then this happens and that happens and that happens.' I never
Rock [Salt] asked me a question years ago when we first started talking
about Florida Bay and what was going to happen if we started the restoration.
He said, 'Mike, [when] we start the restoration process, there's every chance in
the world that nobody alive has seen what Florida Bay originally looked [like], and
we may not be alive when it gets to where it eventually winds up, but there's also
every chance in the world that if you were going to pick out your favorite fish, that
it may not be a good habitat for those fish.' 'How are you going to deal with
that?' I went home and thought about that one for awhile. [I said,] 'Rock, I guess
there's only one answer; we need to fix the ecosystem and let the cards fall
where they may.'
Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow is an exact opposite philosophy from that.
The biological opinion, as far as I'm concerned, is massively flawed. The
jeopardy opinion was an attempt to micro-manage the ecosystem in ways that I
would have thought that the failures of the C&SF [Central and Southern Florida]
project would have taught us [it] didn't work. And there is massive evidence
growing that it's horribly devastating in its implementation to Florida Bay and a
whole bunch of the marine environment. It's a total failure. To me, the whole
thing was stupid from minute one.
There's a book written a bunch of years ago by a guy named Austin
Chase called Playing God in Yellowstone, and it's about the Department of
Interior and the Park Service's decision to stop forest fires in Yellowstone
National Park. It was written in the early 1980s, and [addressed how] to control
that habitat and to stop all of the natural burns. It predicted half a dozen years in
advance--the fires that devastated the Park in the 1980s, and the first time they
rolled this out in front of me, I, from the podium, told them that what we were now
doing was playing God in the Everglades. We were assuming that our
understanding of this system was good enough that we could select a single
indicator species and decide to manage the Park based on that. It was a horrible
mistake, created all sorts of unnecessary problems with other users, and
accomplished who the hell knows what. There's a whole lot of evidence that the
habitat that bird lived in was destroyed by the 1935 hurricane. Nobody wants
endangered species situations and definitely, not jeopardy opinions and jeopardy
situations, but there needs to be some sort of a recognition that we're fixing
ecosystems here and not deciding what our pet pig is in the middle of it. That's
all that happened, the whole thing was just stupid.
G: What was your reaction to the recent report by U.S. Magistrate John O'Sullivan in
which he suggested that the latest compromise plan be thrown out because the
Corps of Engineers lacked the authority to condemn land in the area and is
legally bound to protect residents from flooding?
C: He's wrong.
G: Why do you say that?
C: I just think he's wrong. The Corps has the responsibility to integrate new
information. What he's basing it on, is the idea that when Congress charges the
Corps, (which was whoever the lawyers [were]), (and the tribe still swears they
are not working for them) ... It's interesting to find a bunch of lawyers who don't
normally do pro bono work doing pro bono work. These guys were expensive.
Anyway, there's an assumption there, that if the Corps gets new information after
they receive a project from Congress, that they're bound to the exact terms that
the first plan developed, and I don't think that holds up. That's not good
management. The Corps has the responsibility, I believe, that if they develop a
plan and later, prior to its construction, they receive more information about
impacts, they have a responsibility to see that they get to the original intention--
not just the intention at the time they developed the pla, (A.). And then (B.), the
responsibility for flood protection doesn't exist. What they're responsible for, is
mitigation of the impacts of the Mod Waters program. They don't have a
responsibility to provide flood protection in there since it never existed. Having
said that, the project that seeks the alternative, will give the 90 percent of those
people a certain level of flood protection. I think the magistrate's wrong,
G: If the federal courts, though, decide to reject this compromise, what would that
mean to the broader restoration effort?
C: There isn't one until we find a way around it. It's a roadblock which makes, from
my point of view, the view that the tribe and Dexter have taken on this, totally
hypocritical. In my opinion, they're standing up, talking about Mother Everglades,
at the same time, they're saying, 'well, you can't do it unless you do it exactly the
way we want, protecting this buddy of mine over here.' Quite frankly, that's not
what the science tells us, so we're going to have to find a way around it.
G: How would you evaluate the restudy process that led to the development of the
C: Very highly. Proof of the pudding's in the eating. It's been successful, I think. I
believe it's going to be successful; I believe that we put enough checks and
balances in that, as we find out new things that none of us were smart enough to
figure out, they'll be integrated into the plan. It allows enough flexibility, which we
had to fight for in Congress, that the stuff that we weren't smart enough to know,
will be things that other people have the ability to fix. I think that really was the
critical thing for me.
G: Do you feel that the Corps of Engineers faithfully followed the guidelines and the
conceptual plan as provided by the Governor's Commission?
C: To the degree they can. Again, I think the Corps has a responsibility to integrate
new information as it becomes available. We were careful to write a plan, I
believe, that says that and that's how we got in trouble there; that's how we got in
trouble in the Kissimmee. In the Kissimmee River, there were very clear cut
indications before the Corps finished the project, that what they were doing was a
mistake. They didn't believe they had the ability to go in any other direction. So
we spent a lot of time since the 1960s trying to (A.), give them the ability, but (B.),
encourage them to use the ability to do appraisals on an ongoing basis. I think
they're doing that; I don't think we should be criticizing them for it. I think they're
doing a good job of that, in the right form. It needs to be reviewed and
coordinated with everybody else.
G: How much interaction was there between the Corps and the Governor's
Commission during the time of the restudy?
C: Constant. That was probably the single largest interaction we had was with the
Corps. The Corps' district engineer was always on Sustainable, from Rock to
Terry to Joe Miller. The briefings, Stu[art] Appelbaum [chief, Ecosystem
Restoration Section, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville district] and his
crew that were working on the restudy, were in front of us, if not every month,
every other month. It was a very tight and very close coordination, coordination
that sort of seems to be taking place now to a certain degree on the WRAC.
Stu's there all the time and there were a lot of personal relations. Some of the
people that had worked on the Governor's Sustainable Commission are the
people that now were the lead people on CERP within this agency. Agnes
McLean and the rest of that group were all people that originally started working
on Sustainable, and now work for this agency. That integration has been very,
G: What was your reaction and that of the District's governing boards to the chief
report that accompanied the restudy plan to Congress?
C: There was a lot of concern over it, I think, in all circles. Certain elements of it
were a shock. There were things in it that I know a number of us did not consider
appropriate. There were deviations going back to the NOAA's draft of the
original Sanctuary Management Plan. I don't believe you should have surprises.
I think if everybody sits down and writes a consensus document, it needs to
show up in pretty much that form, in its next iteration and this was another case
of it disappearing in Washington and coming out with some other things in it.
G: After the process of the Governor's Commission and then the restudy, was there
a sense of betrayal that this had been done?
C: In certain quarters there was a sense of betrayal. I think a larger sense on the
part of the board [was] just of a feeling [that] you put it together with the sparrow
and some of that stuff and micro-management out of Washington was, at the
very least, just poorly advised.
G: What other concerns, if any, did you and the other members of the governing
board have as the WRDA 2000 legislation was being developed and then
debated in Congress?
C: There were a number of issues that surfaced. As somebody who had come out
of the process and who had been charged with holding the group together, I
wound up in the middle of a whole lot of disputes. There were other people
within the administration, Secretary [David] Struhs [Florida Department of
Environmental Protection, 1999-present] was not a part of that process; he was a
big believer and he was really the lead person on getting it through. We had a
couple of sessions with me calling David up and saying, 'okay, I have this group
of people who have these issues, I think we should discuss them,' and David
being very reluctant. [He was reluctant] for a variety of reasons: concerns about
opening old issues, not knowing exactly where the parameters were, or where
some of it had come from. I had to do some fairly intensive lobbying.
I can remember one time, fairly late in the process, there was a group of
eleven or twelve interests. We'd already gotten the bill in committee on the
senate side and it was agriculture] interests, utilities, home builders on both the
state and the national level (like eleven of them), and they wanted to talk about
some changes that they had asked for in the assurances package in terms of
language. I looked at them; the lawyers here looked at them; and basically, we
didn't really feel they were substantive, but they were things that were really
important to these guys, and they were getting ready to go south on the whole
process. They were ready to bail; they were on their way out the door headed
the other way. David really didn't want to talk to him, and I leaned on him and
begged, borrowed, threatened--the whole bit. He finally agreed to a conference
call, and we talked for about forty-five minutes. At the end of it, he was mad. He
said, 'you're being too accommodating to those guys.' I said, 'David, I work for
them. That's my constituency out there.' He went, looked at it, and eventually
agreed to do what we needed. For somebody who hasn't been part of those
processes, it's hard to come in from the outside. David and I come from different
agency backgrounds to have that sort of an open, frank discussion where
everybody's slapping everybody around and believing you're going to get where
you want to be.
There were a couple of moments throughout all of it where I just felt
obliged to weigh in with David, the governor, or whoever, on where we were,
what was going on, and concerns that I had. It was David's lead the whole time.
There were times when he probably would have willingly shoveled me over the
side, but I pretty seriously took the charge that I had this one little role that was to
try to hold that coalition that had agreed to support this, together. When it finally
came up in front of Congress, they were all still standing there. To whatever
ability I had to contribute to that, I tried to.
G: In some of your congressional hearing testimony, you talked about a need to
provide for federal cost sharing for the operation and maintenance. What was
C: There are two parts to that. Traditionally, the Corps picks up 80 to 90 percent of
project costs, and then the local sponsor is responsible for the operations and the
maintenance. [One has to] try to figure out how to cash flow this stuff, and how to
leave some money available for unanticipated problems in the future, related to
things like alternative water supply that we're going to have to deal with. When I
looked at it, and a lot of the rest of us looked at, it seemed more logical that we
could sell it to Congress if we offered to pay 50 percent up front rather than this
standard 70 or 80 percent, because Congress has traditionally been very, very
unwilling to fund stuff east of the Mississippi that involves capital improvements
of this size. They just, flat out, don't do it--anywhere, for that matter, in
something this big. We needed a list of things that we could sell Congress on.
I'd spoken to some of them earlier. But also, there was an awareness, the O&M
[operations and management] of this thing, was going to be $90 million, when it
was done. That's projected; it could be a lot worse. There's an O&M deficit here
at the agency already, so staff here said, 'given the support level that we enjoy
within the Corps, it might be worthwhile.' We had lists. There was a wash list,
literally, of a dozen things that we were going to ask the Corps to do that they'd
never done before and this was just one of them. We got slam-dunked on it
originally, and then we had a meeting in Washington. I'll never forget, it was our
executive director, myself, and a whole bunch of other people [like] Earl
Stockdale, (who's the chief legal advisor to the Secretary of the Army on all this
stuff), all the assistant secretaries, all of their attorneys, and a whole bunch of
brass. We sat there for four hours in a row. Stockdale really is the guy that
pulled it out, who found ways [to express] that 'no, this is not that dissimilar from
what we've done out here or wherever.' Michael Davis, who was the deputy
assistant secretary at the time, was really the guy who was the head of all this
[and] was supportive. So, that helped. We just rewrote the book while we were
at it. [It] just seemed like a good opportunity, and something that, I think, down
the line will be really important.
G: You actually got that incorporated into the law, then?
G: Governor Bush asked the Water Management District to pay about half the
state's share of cost as part of the restoration without raising property taxes.
Would you talk about the challenge that the District has faced in trying to come
up with these funds?
C: Some of it was really not all that hard and some of it's been incredibly difficult.
My view, when I looked at it, (and I think the governor's view), when we first
looked at the agency was that they were spending a lot of money on stuff that
was not related to the core mission of the agency. There was a Center for
Environmental Studies here that had eighty people in it that looked like a
duplicate of the state university system. I have no idea what those people were
doing here. There were a whole bunch of other places that were spending
money on things, programs that had grown up over the years. They were good
programs; they were worthwhile things, but they weren't really part of water
management. We'd gotten Christmas treed over the years with different political
promises and pork barrel stuff.
I had felt fairly comfortable the first year. What I committed to the
Governor was [that] I thought we'd get close to $50 million out the first year that
we would be able to put up for funding. I think we had it at $51 [million] and then
our executive director, for some reason, had some turkeys that he wanted to
save and it got pared down for $48 [million]. We'll get to $75 [million] this year;
the state found another $25 [million]. I think we were able to convince them that
getting past $75 [million] was going to start causing some major league
screaming in local government because that's where the hit was going to take
place. There was money here that I think was available.
One of the things that really hit me on it was we were in a budget process
that first year. [That] was definitely a learning process because the budget was
organized in a way that drove me crazy. Mike Slaten did it, and I think he did it
on purpose because he could hide stuff, but the budget was organized, in one
sense, programmatically. Money was given to individual programs, but then, it
was also organized departmentally so the departments had another budget.
Getting between the two--trust me on this--you could get lost for a week on one
item. So there was a belief on my part that there was money hidden all over the
place. I remember during that first year [with] Frank Finch, our executive
director, we had a shortfall late in the year. It was like $6 million and I said, 'wow,
that's a big deal. Boy, we're in a lot of trouble.' His attitude, (and I'm not quoting
him, but the impression we got back was), 'don't worry about it; we can find that
in loose change,' and it really hit me. If you can find $6 million in loose change
floating around here, then something, basically in terms of accountability and all
that stuff, is definitely wrong. We've been working on that since. If the agency
were really on a real tight run, seriously sort of overseeing a sort of budget basis,
it would have been hard to commit that we were going to find half the money or
something resembling it down here, but I didn't believe that for a second. I knew
there was money that, basically, was not essential to getting spent.
G: What have been some of the initial funding priorities for the District as part of the
C: Land acquisition. That's really it. We spent money on feasability studies, on
putting flesh and bones on a lot of this stuff, that's been important. Designing
processes and building into the institution stuff, that's all real important. But the
real funding priority--the thing where the big money's going and where we're
focused--is land acquisition. That's the greater part of all of it.
G: Do you think there's enough money in the system right now to fund the land
acquisition priorities that the District has?
C: I think so. I got attacked in front of the Everglades Coalition two years ago for
supporting it--the plan that, I think, David Struhs was the major architect of. I
think what David designed is a plan that 'we have what we have' for land
acquisition, [and] if we get into trouble on it that DEP would use some of the
money that [they] get out of state funding to make up a shortfall. And they have;
they gave us $53 million, I think, last year to complete, and we're going to spend
some of it, today: acquisitions in cell eleven in Broward County. It was totally
out of our budget, but we were looking at inverse condemnation issues that were
going to make us buy it. They stepped to the table, immediately.
To get back to the difference in philosophy between where the agency
was and where [Nathaniel] "Nat" Reed [Governing Board Member, South Florida
Water Management District] and some of the members of the Everglades
Coalition insist it should be, I think somebody has to demonstrate that we don't
have the money before we go get more. The idea that we should just fill up
these sacks full of it [money] without being able to define why we need it or
where, just on the idea that eventually we're going to need it, isn't something that
Congress or the legislature are going to be real happy about, and they've made
that clear. It just goes with the philosophy that you need to be accountable for
taxpayers dollars, across the board. It should be an institutional philosophy; it
should be a philosophy we all have. That didn't go over well, but people need to
understand that's not a lack of commitment; [it's] quite the opposite.
G: Earlier you talked about the creation of the Water Resources Advisory
Commission. Could you tell me a little bit about the process by which that was
developed and what it's designed to do?
C: The process was [to] bring the idea to the board and ask them to support the
idea that we should establish an advisory commission to take the place of the
Governor's Commission. Realistically, it would be better to have that group
advising the governing board about the implementation of all this stuff. The
governing board, then, becomes the group that advises the governor or whoever.
Everybody's a little impatient because there haven't been enough opportunities
for them to advise, but bringing them up to speed has not been, exactly, an easy
task. I just thought in the last meeting there were a lot more technical issues
coming up. But anyway, it was just basically a question of getting the individual
board members to understand that it was important, convince them that it was
important, and that there was a really essential role for this. Many of them were
skeptical because they weren't part of these processes. Then, it was just to sit
down [and talk about it] basically. We started out with all the board members,
[who] got two appointees. Then, we figured, with that and the agency people,
(and then I think John Trifarro, our legal counsel), [we would] go over the idea of
setting up six different categories and filling in the categories with appointments.
[The appointments] technically, would be made by the chair, but would be voted
in by the rest of the board.
There was an editorial in the Palm Beach Post, which I basically would
use Kleenex, but stated that there were too many people on it and that it was a
threat to Everglades restoration. I've seen some dumb crap in newspapers
before, [but] I've never seen anything half that stupid. You cannot have too much
public input as far as I'm concerned and this is not a threat to Everglades
restoration. Keeping those people at the table gives us some hope for
G: Who are some of the groups that are represented on the council?
C: It's divided up into six categories: environmentalists, agricultural interests,
business interests, utilities, public interest, and then local government. It's pretty
much [as] close as we can get across the board. Like the last commission, the
quality of the input is sort of varied. We were very fortunate the last time. We
probably got eight or ten of the Governor's Sustainable Commission members on
it, so that's been a huge help, including some of the bigger proponents like
Bubba Wade and Stu[art] Strahl [executive director, Everglades Conservation
Office] from [the National] Audubon [Society]. People that were really big
players; they're still on it.
G: Where did the idea for creating the commission originate?
C: I think I can take blame for that. When we sunsetted. Alison Depore and I had
some serious discussions about sunsetting the governor's Everglades
commission because there wasn't really a role for it. We'd been the advocates up
front, but we realized after we got it in place that they didn't have a target in front
of them. [That] meant they were deciding--we were all deciding among
ourselves--what to shoot at and that's not a good thing. So when that sunsetted,
I was very aware, and still am, that the charge to hold this together, to keep the
political support, means that people have to have a role and a voice. It was
created to fulfill that role.
G: Do you think a better job has been done with this commission, in terms of
defining the tasks of the commission?
C: Not really, yet. That's one place where I think people are a little bit unsure.
We've had some serious discussions, and what other members of the old
commission, I think, the agency staff, and I had told them is, [that] there will be
received tasks from the governing board for input on specific issues. We have
one coming up that we're going to be doing over the summer and they'll receive
tasks from the Task Force. They've just received one, but there will be
opportunities and times when it's up to the commission to raise issues and
decide among themselves. We just haven't had a real clear cut issue. There are
two of them building, and also, all of Dick Pettigrew and [the] lessons learned
[there]. I've really been reluctant, as chair, to let them get into issues until I have
some assurance that we have a level playing field of people who've all been
educated to an equal degree. It's not fair to turn Dexter Lehtinen loose in a
group of people who haven't had his experience or his background in this stuff
and expect that he's not going to be pointing over people's heads, because he is.
We're getting a little bit past that point.
But those requests from Manclear, the Task Force chair, for an issue (that
coincidentally had surfaced the same day in the WRAC) have provided by some
land acquisition, by some priorities, funding sources, and problems. I think we're
going to get some advice; there'll be priorities on how we put our funding
together and the rate that [at which] we move. [The] Audubon [Society] is going
to say [it] is pitifully inadequate, but then I think we'll get some advice from the
agriculture] interests on what's wrong with the programs that are in place for less
than fee acquisition, which is something that we've all said we want to do, but it's
So I think we're going to look for some input back from Collier Company,
([which] has some representatives), U.S. Sugar, and some of the other big
agriculture] interests. [We want them to] tell us why they're not interested in
doing this and tell us how we can make it something that everybody can use.
One of the ways you get at reducing some of your future costs, in terms of
management and O&M, is to do less in fee, simple acquisition. Go out there and
buy Flo-Ways; leave the land unattached, frozen in the hands of people who can
use it for mowing, cattle, or whatever, on a seasonal basis. That's a goal. Wwe
haven't gotten there and we need some advice on how to do it.
G: How important of a role does the general public have to play in the restoration
C: It depends. We need the support so it's a huge role, but the District will spend
something on the order of $9 million a year doing outreach. The problem is
exactly the same one that we have in WRAC. We need to educate the people in
the general public about what their role is, why we're doing this, why it's
important, how they can help, and how they can engage. There's a huge role for
the public because we need the political support of them, but there's no role at all
if we're not going to be successful in educating them in what this is all about,
how they do play a role in it, and what they have to do. We're kind of in between
the two, right now.
G: How well do you think the agencies have done so far in educating the public?
C: Not well. We've been struggling with it since the early days of Sustainable. We
knew, up front, that there were problems there. There's some real, real problems
in having government agencies educate people about programs. It's like, 'we're
from the government; we're here to instruct you.' No. In the American citizen,
there's a natural instinctive withdrawal from that like, 'okay, what are you selling
me, now.' There are ways around it, but again, just like some of the CERP stuff,
we're really having to write the book on it. How to get within these communities
with the right people to explain to them where there are benefits and what they
can do to maximize those benefits. How [are] we going to create jobs; how can
they access those jobs to make this more than just a one level sort of community
involvement thing where we talk to them. We need them talking back, but, again,
that's not traditionally the way the government does business. There's a lot of
instinctive opposition to it or distrust of it in the general public and we're still
struggling with it.
G: The Water Management District is, of course, the local sponsor of the Corps of
Engineers for many of the projects in the Comprehensive Plan. How would you
characterize the working relationship between the Corps and the District?
C: I think their relationship is probably the strongest interagency relationship I'm
aware of, definitely with Jacksonville and the District. The people have rotated
between jobs in both places. There are a lot of personal interactions. Some of
us have been working together for twenty or thirty years. I think that we have
been fortunate that there's been a fairly close working relationship with
Washington. With Jacksonville it's a very, very strong bond. That's the strongest
one I'm aware of between two agencies anywhere--between the District and the
Jacksonville branch of the Corps. It's been good between us and Washington.
Over the years, it's gotten a lot better. A lot of the institutional people, the Earl
Stockdales and the other people within the agency up there--we've worked with
long enough that we get along with them, well. The political appointees we've
always been very fortunate with relationships there. Michael Davis [Director of
Everglades Restoration, U.S. Department of the Interior] is sort of a friend of
mine. We still talk, I had breakfast with him the other day. We disagreed about a
lot of stuff. There were things that he was doing up there that I flat out did not
agree with, but we kept talking about them. We had enough of a personal
relationship. I think that's true across the board, [with] people within this agency,
on the board, on the staff, and the Corps.
G: Some people contend that the Comprehensive Plan is too dependent on
advanced technologies like Aquifer Storage and Recovery. How do you respond
to those types of criticisms?
C: We had two choices. We could either try to use those technologies to restore the
Everglades and not be able to come up with a plan that was cost effective
enough that we could sell it to Congress. It was pretty simple. ASR [Aquifer
Storage and Recovery] really isn't an advanced technology; it's been in use,
forever. We've used it all over the place. The scale's unprecedented, but if you
told me twenty years ago we'd be restoring the Everglades, I'd have laughed at
you. If you told me ten years ago, I would have been a little skeptical. We had to
do some Brave New World stuff. I think we have in place, pilot projects to
provide answers. That whole hullabaloo over ASR was wrong. I blame NAS
[National Audubon Society] in a certain sense. Their report on ASR basically
crossed the line in a serious sort of way, in a policy decision rather than focusing
on science with predictable results. We need to focus on issues, but without
some really advanced sort of technologies and new ways of looking at this stuff,
it would be hard to see how we were going to be able to do this, if not,
impossible. We've got contingency plans, people have asked for, I think with
justification, for what we're going to do if it doesn't work--where are the backup
plans. We're developing those. It's easy to be critical of people trying to do new
things. And it's justified if you don't hit some of the bets and make sure that have
you have backup plans. But, that's not the case here. We do have plans to back
all this up.
G: What is your evaluation of the draft programmatic regulations that were released
by the Corps in December?
C: I think they were fairly close to being right. We had problems with individual
parts of them, but for a draft--first shot out of the box--I thought they were fairly
G: What were some of the concerns that you had?
C: The concerns, here, actually were more at a legal department than from a policy
end for myself or any of the board members. I think there are concerns about
definitions of some of the roles. Probably, the major concern was the idea of
interim goals, where they go on the regs [regulations], and making sure that the
regs weren't drawn in a way that federalized Florida's water, which has been an
issue, all along. We fought that battle prior to CERP and prior to WRDA 2000 and
we just need to make sure that we're not dealing with the federalization of our
existing statutory responsibilities of the state. Then the issue [becomes] how
much detail you put into programmatic regs and interim goals. I never
understood how you could get any more specific. You haven't done PARs, PIRs
on this thing. A lot of what you're talking about, (including [the fact] there hasn't
even been peer review, let alone put through a PIR process), I don't see how you
can put stuff that hasn't been through those two qualifiers into anything like
programmatic regulations. I [don't] think they need to be that finely drawn, that
they limit our options. I don't think that was the intention of Congress. I'm pretty
sure that it wasn't.
G: How would you characterize the significance of the State Federal Water Compact
that was signed by Governor Jeb Bush and President George Bush?
C: Monumental, earth-shaking history. Basically, you've got a state committing, for
the first time, to the idea that the natural system was entitled to a reservation of
water to protect. I know there's nothing like that in statute or rule anywhere in the
United States other that Paynes Prairie, which Henry Dean [executive director,
South Florida Water Management District, 2001-present] did for a small thing up
in St. Johns, a bunch of years ago. [It was a] huge commitment [and] shocked
some people. I remember talking to Mike Parker, Assistant Secretary to the
Army, who was over at the Corps at the time. He said he couldn't believe where
the governor was willing to go. I think a lot of people have misinterpreted, for
many years, the commitment that Governor Jeb Bush has to the restoration of
the Everglades. I keep reading this stupid stuff in the press. There's very little
that could've been done that he hasn't done and [there were] major points along
the way where he was not only the cheerleader. But [he was] the guy who pulled
this stuff out of the fire with Congress and many other places. Because he's a
Republican and environmentalists are Democrats, he says, 'nobody's ever going
to give me credit.' I said, 'no, nobody but history.' Because they're going to go
look at this (I think anybody that looks at it), it will be crystal clear what role he
played in all of it. But yes, that was a huge, huge commitment on the part of the
G: How much impact did the District have in the development of that compact?
C: Not a whole lot. A little bit, [though] we provided some basic input. If you
remember, it was just this huge thing at the Everglades Coalition, Senator [Bob]
Graham [U.S. Senator from Florida, 1987-2002] challenging them, to within six
weeks. I think, basically, Secretary Struhs and the governor had probably
already written it. They were just trying to find an opportunity where they had
time to go sit [and talk about it]. It was easy, even if you're the governor of the
state, to get on the president's agenda. It was sort of like they threw that one up
and, basically, if you tally with the boys, the gentlemen up there were [saying],
'no, okay, if that's what you want here, no problem, here, watch this.'
G: As the implementation of the Comprehensive Plan moves forward, how should
we evaluate its success or failure?
C: I think the natural system should tell us. We've developed the bio-indicators and
the goals and, basically, we should be looking at the natural system. Some of
this is going to take a long time, that's the bad part about it. But I think we built in
enough early indicators that we should, with some degree of predictability, be
able to say, 'this has improved; that's improved; this is getting better.' Ultimately,
I think it lies, not on one species, but on an improvement in the sixty-seven
threatened or endangered species that are there. They should be what produces
the best returns. I think we'll see improvements in some of those areas quicker
than people are expecting. Some of the responses [in] the ecosystem itself are
going to be hard to identify [and a] long time in coming. But I think you'll see
responses within the species; I think any little bit will help them enough that you'll
see immediate sort of returns there. Birds [and] fish [in] places like that.
G: I'd like to mention some specific groups and organizations] and have you
evaluate their overall impact on the Everglades restoration effort, starting with the
Department of Interior, including the Park Service and Fish and Wildlife Service.
C: I would say their role is improving. Throughout Sustainable, throughout many of
the things we had to go through, the National Park Service and [the Department
of] Interior were, obviously, the major players] in a lot of this stuff, but [they were]
quite frankly, a major impediment at the same time. It was so hard to get to
some of the issues that they had because Dick Ring would occasionally say
things to you like, 'well, it's different for the National Park Service. We own the
parks.' Or, [he would say], 'we really don't care about anything else for the Park,
[or] what's in it for the Park, if you want us to support CERP.' On one level that
sounds kind of obnoxious, on another level you can see that his responsibility is
the Park. But the focus there, was so clearly on the Park that, at times, it was
hard, for him and for other people in Interior to see where you had to provide
some of the other benefits. Ultimately, they were willing, reluctantly however, to
go along, but that whole brouhaha down in C-111--that should have been
resolved a lot of years ago.
G: The Corps of Engineers.
C: Good soldiers. I think by and large, if we review the history, they've done pretty
much what they've been told. We've been lucky; they've sent us good people
down here to work. We've gotten some of the best, the brightest, and people
that really care about it. Their commitment, once we started on the restudy, has
been absolute. Once we get into the restudy process, if we look at C&SF, (I
always assumed they were wrong), but realistically, if you look at what Congress
told them, they did what they were told. In the restudy, their commitment has
been absolute. They sent us the best of what they had; they have been
supportive, committed, [and] willing to change in ways that you would never
associate with the Corps, to try to make this happen. Having said that, we've
had some huge problems with some of the project [managers]. I've had some
bad, bad battles on some of the issues with some of their project managers and
people like that. It's a human thing; people are people, but I would say [that],
overall, their performance on this has been unbelievable.
G: The sugar industry.
C: Surprising. I demonized them, probably as badly as anyone, in the early days.
As time went on, I became more focused on what the actual impacts were and,
through Sustainable, started working with them. I had been surprised, from
about half way through Sustainable, at the level of support that they've
generated, for what we're doing. It's been a little bit of a shock. It was not an
easy decision for them to make. It wasn't industry-wide; they don't all support it
at the same level, but the level of support across the board, when we were doing
CERP, to me, was a surprise.
G: The environmental community.
C: It's hard to judge them as a group. The individuals within the environmental
movement are radically different; the organizations are very different. Audubon
has been a real beacon, a player, and a contributor throughout all of these
processes. I think they've been tremendously helpful in maintaining the
perspective and the importance of some of these issues. They've had good
people on the ground working on all this stuff in a very positive sort of way, all
along. They take a lot of heat over it. Some of the others have gotten wrapped
up in national agendas and political issues to the point where they've been less
than effective and, in some ways, quite frankly, just an impediment.
G: The Miccosukee tribe.
C: Again, that's sort of a changing situation. I think in the early days there was more
of a focus on the Everglades. Now, it's hard to look at our relations with them
and view it as anything other than ongoing battle. It's hard to see the
Everglades as the real focus for it. It's an unfortunate situation. I'm friendly with
Dexter and Billy Cypress, but they are, quite frankly, obstructionists in an awful
lot of areas, for reasons that, for me, are not things that I can understand as
being related to Everglades restoration or even tribe interests. But, that's their
G: Looking towards the future, what should be the most important goals and
priorities for the Everglades' restoration?
C: I think holding together political support, holding together some sort of coalition in
support of it so that you can maintain the funding and the political will, to make it
happen. [Then,] all the things we've talked about, have to contribute to that.
G: What do you see as being the most important obstacles to the success of the
C: Individual agendas. I think people splitting off on deciding that this element of it
or that element of it is more important. We've had people chumming up local
governments to insist that their stuff [would] get moved up in the plan, regardless
of whether it sequences with everything else. Personal agendas sort of getting
[moved] forward. [An example is when] potential development interests deciding
that they want to use land that we're planning for this and they're willing to start a
political war over it. Just things that are [for] self-interest [like] a political battle
starting over some of this stuff, environmentalist organizations, national
organizations deciding their national agendas are compromised by something
we're doing here and starting political battles over that. Self-interest stuff, and
like I said, I think we [will] stay away from that if we keep everybody at the table
talking to each other.
G: Final question. What are the most important lessons that you have personally
learned from your experience with Everglades issues?
C: Patience. Just patience--that's it. We just need to be patient with the situation,
with each other, [and] with the time-frames, and we're dealing with time-frames
for lifetimes. Like I said, I started out thinking I was going to spend a day talking
to the Everglades National Park and then I was going home. Patience.
G: End interview.