This Oral History is copyrighted by the Interviewee
and the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program on
behalf of the Board of Trustees of the University of
Copyright, 2005, University of Florida.
All rights, reserved.
This oral history may be used for research,
instruction, and private study under the provisions
of Fair Use. Fair Use is a provision of United States
Copyright Law (United States Code, Title 17, section
107) which allows limited use of copyrighted
materials under certain conditions.
Fair use limts the amount of material that may be
For all other permissions and requests, contact the
SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
Interviewee: Bill Brannen
Interviewer: Julian Pleasants
Date: November 14, 2003
P: This is Julian Pleasants, and I am in West Palm Beach, Florida. It's November
14, 2003, and I'm talking with William C. Brannen, Jr. Would you give me just a
little bit of background about your education? I know you graduated from the
University of Florida in 1956. Did you always intend to be an engineer?
B: Yes, [I always intended to be an engineer]. Through happenstance, I started
working for the county engineer's office in Duval County as a rod man on a
survey crew, and I continued to do that at the same time I was going to what was
then Jacksonville Junior College at night. I finished [in one and a half years,] less
than two years and transferred to the University of Florida. [I] was down there five
semesters and got my degree in civil engineering [in 1956].
P: Then you went to work with Duval County?
B: I was on leave of absence from Duval County, and no, I didn't go to work right
then. I went to work for American Cyanamid in Lakeland in a phosphate mine. I
went in June 1956 and I went back to Jacksonville in September to work for the
county as assistant county engineer.
P: You began work with the Central and Southern Florida Flood Control District in
January 1964. Why did you decide to go to work for that organization?
B: I came down to Ft. Lauderdale, my sister lived there, and I was looking for a job. I
interviewed with the flood control district and they hired me. I knew a fellow in
college who's a consulting engineer here now, and he had worked with the water
management district before he went into consulting work. That was the only thing
I knew about it. I just went in and had an interview and they hired me.
P: When you started out, you were an engineer in hydrology and hydraulics?
B: Yes, that's correct.
P: What was your job specifically?
B: We were collecting data [for] the great data base that we have now. We had
people out in the field getting rainfall and water levels and any other data that
was pertinent to hydrology and hydraulics. We were doing design on canals for
acquiring necessary rights of way for them. They were still building the canals in
south Dade County in the Homestead area, so we were trying to plan for future
right-of-way widths and that required canal design.
P: All of this in the beginning is obviously designed for flood control, right?
B: Yes, that's correct. The system was designed for flood control, and you can't
make a purse out of a sow's ear. It's being used for water supply now, but if you
were building the system from scratch, you would build it a lot different than it
was done. Some people don't understand that.
P: Did you do the work on the dikes on Lake Okeechobee?
B: Yes, we were working on the northeast shore of Lake Okeechobee to finish the
dike around the lake. Then I worked on a portion of it where we acquired land,
Fish Eating Creek.
P: Later on you become chief of the design division. Exactly what were your
responsibilities in that job?
B: I was responsible for any relocations, such as buildings, bridges, roads, or
anything that would be interfered with the project construction. I was also
charged with the right of way design, to come up with the necessary rights of way
for the projects, to do the surveys, [and to] furnish legal descriptions to the legal
department. They, in turn, the real estate division, would negotiate for the right of
way. If we weren't able to purchase it, then they filed eminent domain and we
went through the court proceedings. I was responsible to be an expert witness at
those trials to explain why we were taking the land.
P: Most of this was still building the canals.
B: Yes, [it was] building the canals.
P: I talked to Jack Maloy the other day. He said when he went to work for the water
management district, that you had offered him a job and somebody else had
offered him a job, and the other job paid twenty cents an hour more, so he took
B: That's our story. I interviewed him and I said you can have the job if you want to,
but at that time our wage scale was so low we had difficulty filling the jobs. Bob
Taylor was in charge of hydrology and hydraulics, so he went to work with Bob
Taylor, and as such, got to dibble in a whole lot of things. That's where he picked
up his background.
P: He got pretty far along the administrative ladder fairly quickly.
B: Oh, yes, he moved right up. I hired him, I don't know when he went to work, in
the 1960s, and in 1974 or 1975, he was made executive director.
P: That's right, yes.
B: But he was a quick study. He just took to that like a duck to water. He liked it and
he knew all about it.
P: You then became director of the design division, is that right?
B: Yes, I think, they've changed the name so much. Bill Storch was the chief
engineer, I was in charge of the design division, and Bob Taylor was in charge of
H&H [hydrology and hydraulics].
P: In 1975, you are the director of field services. Exactly what did that entail?
B: It entailed the operation and maintenance of all district facilities. The project at
that time was valued at about $500,000,000, and had canals, levees, pump
stations, [and] water control structures. We had field crews at several locations
throughout the district, and they were responsible for a certain section of that
operation and maintenance.
P: You're with the South Florida Water Management District by this time.
B: Actually, I was reading that they changed the name in 1977, I think, but they
were in the process [of changing the name]. The legislation had already passed,
they just hadn't changed the name.
P: Did that change your responsibilities, because now it was not just flood control?
B: No, it didn't change them because they were in the process of trying to set up
permitting systems for water use permits, and development permits were
required to determine water supply and water quality. They became involved with
both of them. Prior to that time, we had a permitting system that just regulated
the amount of water you could withdraw from a canal.
P: Then, in 1985, you went into land management. What did that entail, and how is
that different from your previous work?
B: It was, as I said, to acquire land for the remaining projects, but also the
legislature passed the Save our Rivers Program, which gave Doc Stamp money
to buy environmentally sensitive lands. So then we had to work out what lands
we were going to acquire and give them some sort of priority, and then go
through the process of surveys and legal descriptions and so forth so that we
might acquire the lands. Then there was the managing of them, what would we
do with them after they were through?
P: What did you normally do with the land you acquired?
B: We had a recreation division, and they took care of the first lands when we first
started. But as they acquired more and more, we started to get other agencies
involved in taking these lands. [We asked the] Game and Fish [Commission] and
anybody else, local governments, [to] take the responsibility for managing the
P: Did you get any land for reservoirs, or did you buy any wetlands?
B: Yes, we bought wetlands. We weren't buying the lands that they are using now,
those were just thought about at the time. They were still doing research on
marsh cleansing, so they didn't know exactly what lands they were going to
P: So much of the early land you acquired was for recreation purposes?
B: Not really. It was to protect the land, but anytime you have water involved, you're
going to have recreational use, or you had nature trails.
P: So it was still conservation land?
B: Yes, it was a rather passive sort of use.
P: In 1988, you become assistant executive director. What were your
B: During the time that I was in land management, I was involved with construction.
I got involved with construction at the district of their headquarters and satellite
offices and field stations, and I pretty much handled all that construction from
1975 until I retired.
P: One of your projects, I know, was the Kissimmee River restoration. You had to
expand, I think, or enlarge Canal 51?
B: Canal 51 is [the] West Palm Beach Canal. That was the last big drainage canal
that we had. The structure at the easterly end, the discharge structure spillway,
was built by the old Everglades Drainage District, and it was obsolete. We
replaced that structure and dug the canal back to about the turnpike to the proper
size so that that was the last coastal canal that we had to dig.
P: Was that a particularly difficult project?
B: No, not really. The [Army] Corps [of Engineers] took care of the construction, but
we were in partnership with the Corps because we were going to operate and
maintain them after the Corps was finished. When they first started out, as usual,
the Corps would dictate whatever they wanted to do. This was back in the first
projects in the 1950s. By the time I was there, we were saying, well, wait a
minute, we think you ought to do this project a different way. We got our input in
[and] we came up with the idea that the cheapest overall cost would be
considered for the design of any projects. If construction cost a little more and
land acquisition cost a little less, but the overall project was cheaper that way,
then the Corps would spend the additional money. Of course, we got more
sophisticated with our engineering and we had conferences with them. We were
with them from the time they started their design till they went to construction,
and then we would be involved during the construction as a local representative.
People [who] had complaints that we'd acquired land from, or [who] were
adjacent to the projects, would come to us and say, well, why are you doing this?
Then we'd have to get involved with the Corps if there was a chance that we
were liable for anything that wasn't covered in our land acquisition clause.
P: How would you evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of the Army Corps of
Engineers? There are some critics who say, well, the Army Corps of Engineers
came in and they straightened up the Kissimmee River, and then they had to go
back and undo what they had done. How do you see their contribution to land
and water management and construction in the state of Florida?
B: When the project was authorized in the late 1940s, after the hurricane of 1947,
they started their process for the whole project. That changed as it was
constructed, but the problem they had was funding. They were paying 80 percent
of the cost, so they didn't get all the funding they needed. Spessard Holland was
the [U.S.] senator [from Florida, 1946-1971]. He was the father of the flood
control; he kept the thing going. We were probably getting $15,000,000 or
$17,000,000 a year for project construction, but we couldn't necessarily spend
that money because the engineering, the design, and [the] land acquisition just
didn't seem to move that fast. So people were a little concerned that because the
Corps has to dot all the i's and cross all the t's with the government in
Washington, that it was difficult sometimes for them to get a project underway.
Then when the environmentalists were involved, they may have to go back and
redesign. It was a tedious process, but I think, with the problems that the Corps
had, they accomplished a whole lot.
P: Did you work well with them? Was there good communication?
B: When I really got involved, their chief civilian engineer, [Jim Garland], he retired
just before I did, we got so we could [make] a telephone call and get things
accomplished. Or if he would say, look, Bill, I've got a problem here, then we
didn't get everybody else involved [and] we just took care of it. He did some
things on that C-51 [Canal 51] project that really moved the project along. He
even planted some trees and did some things to replace the vegetation that we
removed. It was unheard of before that. I don't know how he took care of it, but
he did, and I thought it was the way it should be done, so we worked together
P: Another one of your projects, which apparently was carried out with a great deal
of efficiency, was building a pump station at the north New River Canal. Tell me a
little bit about why you needed that station, and what process you went through
to build it.
B: We were going through a drought, and there was water being discharged to the
coast and out to the ocean, and we needed a station to put that water back in the
conservation area. So the board viewed it as an emergency situation and
relinquished bidding. We just got quotes and did things on an emergency basis
and got the station underway in, I think they said, six months in something I read,
but actually that station was in operation before six months. That was from the
time you started until you got the equipment, we did the construction with our
P: So the Army Corps of Engineers was not involved?
B: No, they had nothing to do with it. [We] built it much cheaper and quicker.
P: That's pretty fast, less than six months.
B: Yes, it moved right along. I always thought we had a can-do operation. Jack was
responsible for that. The field people were over here when I went to work for him.
P: This is Jack Maloy.
B: Yes. Everybody was here. He said, it's us, not we and they, it's us. He sold that
to the field people and they'd do anything for him. That was one of the things that
they really took pride in, that they could go in there and do the station in record
time. We did the design of the station ourselves, our engineers. I felt it was
P: When you were assistant executive director, you also did some trouble shooting.
Can you give me some examples of some of the things that came up that you
had to deal with?
B: I just took them routinely, and I can't recall. For instance, we acquired all the land
we needed, Nicodemus Slough. We acquired all that land from Lykes, which was
a sizable amount, without going to court. [It] saved a load of money and eminent
domain. If he'd have gone to court, Buddy Blain would have had all kind of
experts and they would really [have] cost additional money. So that was one of
the [examples]. They had Mr. Lykes come over when they settled the thing. We
worked for a system that gave him drainage and flood control protection, and still
allowed him to have the use of the land by letting him build all the facilities and
we get flowage easement. If he didn't build the dikes and take care of them, we
could flood the land, and we gave him the money to do that. Based on that and
the amount of land we took is how we worked out the deal.
P: So it really worked out well for both parties.
B: Yes, he got what he wanted; he really wanted the land to grow sugarcane. The
[Army] Corps [of Engineers] was going to take the whole project and just flood it.
But by taking and building the water control system for his tract of land as part of
the settlement cost, he got to use the land and we got to flood the marsh that he
wasn't using. It was a win-win [situation] as far as I was concerned. I worked with
governments and drainage districts. I negotiated some land deals. Just anything
that came up [Woody would say], go tell me how we can fix this. He valued my
opinion and I didn't take forty years to give him a decision. I would take minimal
engineering information and based on my experience, I'd give him an idea of
what you could do. That's what I did.
Now, on the Kissimmee River, they wanted to see if you could force the water
back into the old oxbows, which had been dried up because we had dug a thirty
foot deep, two hundred foot wide canal right down the valley. The Corps would
let us put plugs in there, [but they] said, but you [may] have to take them out. I
said, no, we aren't going to do that, that'd cost a fortune to backfill them and
then, if they didn't like it, we'd have to go and dig the material out. So we built
steel sheet [pile] weirs, and the water [during] flood conditions, would go over the
weir, otherwise, it would flood it up in the marsh. They got results from that and
said, we can make those old oxbows to put them back [the way] they were. Then
the question was, how are you going to keep the material from washing down
and going into Lake Okeechobee? Well, [there was] a Chinese professor at
Stanford [that] built a model of [the river]. It was quite unique, [but] I never went
out to see it. He knew just how they were going to handle it, so that's what
they're doing. They've finished one section now. There was a marsh there that a
cattleman had kept diked, Bony Marsh, and we bought the marsh from him and
we improved his dikes. That's when we started running water through the [marsh]
to see if it got a cleansing, to go through that marsh. That was a first test of
marsh cleansing that they had.
P: And did that work?
B: Yes, it improved water quality. But money's always the prime factor. There was a
plan on the Kissimmee River where they'd put a canal down each side of the two
mile wide flood plain and take the water that came off the hill downstream and
leave the marsh like it was. But that cost too much money, so they straightened
the canal out and we worked with them deciding the alignment. The [Army] Corps
[of Engineers] said, well, maybe we need such a size canal, and that's what we
did. It got rid of the water and it made the river navigable. Before, it would dry up.
I've been up there where you could walk across the whole river in dry times. You
had to get out and drag [ the boat because] you couldn't [float]. There was an old
navigation channel that Distan got established when he wanted to get up the
Kissimmee that the Corps would maintain a three foot draft navigation channel in
that old river, and that wasn't being done, so the Corps was glad to dig it. There
wouldn't be any Disney World if they hadn't drained the Kissimmee because that
was flooding up there. Disney created a drainage district, which takes advantage
of the down stream.
P: That's the Reedy Creek?
B: Yeah, [that's the] Reedy Creek Drainage District.
P: That wasn't done for Disney per se, was it?
B: What, the canal?
B: No, no, that was the people in Kissimmee. Kissimmee flooded and had water
knee deep. Spessard Holland was, of course, from Bartow, and it's politics, and
they said, well, we need the flood control projects, that chain of lakes is flooding
everything. So that's how they started. But it was one of the last projects built,
those canals that did the upper chain of lakes into the Kissimmee River.
P: Do you think it was the right idea to restore the Kissimmee, or at least to try to
restore it, to its original course?
B: From an environmental standpoint it probably was. You have to weigh the water
supply, the water quality, the environmental factors, were you going to change
the type of growth that you have, were you going to go from a marsh to a lake or
whatever you're going to do. I don't know whether we'll be successful or not. The
biologists think it is. I have not seen it. I don't know where they're going to suffer
erosion problems because that old river meandered down there and had hardpan
to keep it from eroding, what they did do to not have that happen. I don't know
how that's going to work in the long run. I've read some articles, [and] one of the
biologists says that the old river's coming back, and it will have the fish and
wildlife and plant life that it had prior to excavation.
P: Let's talk about the beginning of the water management districts. In 1972, the
Water Resources Act was passed. One of the terms that comes up at that time is
"water management." What did that specific term mean to you?
B: It meant to me that you're going to be concerned with water in its entirety, not just
flood control. Flood control is only one portion of water management. Water
management includes the handling of flood waters in times of hurricanes, but it
also means having potable water for all the population in the water management
district, to ration out or allot that to the utilities so that it can be treated without
damaging the resource, to handle the residential, commercial, industrial
development, to utilize the water and conserve it, and protect the surrounding
areas from degradation due to poor water quality or chemicals or whatever the
case might be.
P: Do you think the design of the water management districts, to divide them up by
watershed, was a wise decision?
B: Yes, that was the only way to do it. Always before, everything had been done on
political boundaries, but the watershed boundaries gave one person the overall
control of a water basin, a natural watershed. I think that was the way it should
have been done.
P: The South Florida Water Management District already had the taxing authority,
and later on a constitutional amendment will allow all five districts to levy ad
B: We, meaning South Florida, were responsible for that legislation passing
because we were a large part of the state and people felt we had done a good
job. Based on that, I think they voted to have a district covering the entire state,
so you wound up with five districts. [It was] six at one time, then it got back to
P: What happened to the sixth district?
B: There was a question of where it was going. I don't remember that, that was
politics too, and they just said, well, we'll allow that for so long and then that will
go away and it will go into the Southwest Florida Water Management District.
P: When all of this began, did you feel like the taxing authority was sufficient to do
all of the things that the South Florida Water Management was required to do?
B: They had a cap of two mils I think, and we were only using about 0.5 mil. Then
we got authority to do recreation and we could spend another $250,000 or
something on recreation projects. Then another board came along they decided
they didn't want to be in the recreation business, and we got rid of all the active
recreation areas and just had passive recreation to save money.
P: When you look at the early water management districts, particularly South
Florida, what were the strengths of these new districts?
B: I think that they were here and pretty well established before the rank and file
citizens knew what was going on. That gave you an opportunity to showcase a
little what you were trying to do. We weren't involved in politics. We went for
years and the legislature didn't even know we were down here, [but] then they
found that we had an appointed board that was levying ad valorem taxes and
they just went ape. I thought that was utterly ridiculous. Here were well
established businessmen that were serving on this board at no salary, devoted
their time, and certainly they were not wanting to increase ad valorem taxes
anymore than necessary. As I say, I don't think we ever went over one mil the
whole time. Then the legislature put a cap of one mil, but we had never even
approached that. But when they started all this other stuff with restoring the
Everglades, it's like pouring money down a rat hole. You'll spend money from
now on. I don't know what it is, [it's] in the billions.
P: It's $8.4 billion or something like that.
B: You can't go back and make the marshes, the Everglades, look like they did
before people moved in here. Napoleon Broward ran in 1905 as governor on
draining the Everglades. So you go from that extreme to somebody on the other
side that doesn't want you to do anything.
P: What is your view of an appointed water management board as opposed to an
elected water management board?
B: I think that the appointed board has less political pressures than an elected
board. They're not concerned with reelection, they're appointed for four years or
whatever the term [is]. It was four years, I don't know, [but] I guess it is still.
They're not going to become entrenched and ask for reelection year after year.
Some of them had been on quite awhile, and then one of the governors decided
they would only let them stay on two terms, eight years. I think they really had to
be dedicated to the public interest because it takes a world of time. The
documents they send out for them to read and all the [job] education that they
have to have, it takes them six months to even get an idea of what's going on. To
devote that much time at no [personal gain], [it just] takes away from their own
business, I think it really is the way it should be.
P: Do you think they made good choices in executive directors and hiring personnel
for the most part in your experience?
B: The district didn't have a problem until the present governor [Jeb Bush] was
elected [in 1999]. We went through the transition when [Bob] Martinez was
elected [in 1987] and that worked out very well and Tallahassee didn't get
involved. There's always been a problem [with] the executive director here and
the secretary to DEP [Department of Environmental Protection]. Who was
bossing who? Jack Maloy just kind of ignored that. Governor [Bob] Graham
[1979-1987] thought Jack could do anything, which he can, but he had us all the
support he needed. He never let the thing come to a head, he just kind of bobbed
and weaved and kept getting the governor to let him do what he wanted to do.
P: What were the weaknesses of the early water management districts, in your
experience, in South Florida?
B: I think maybe we should have spent more money for personnel to get the
projects done in a more timely fashion. Some of those projects drug on for twenty
years. If we had the funds available, we could have finished them in a much
shorter time frame.
P: In the beginning were there enough scientists and hydrologists? In other words,
one of the criticisms of the water management districts sometimes has been that
in the beginning they didn't pay as much attention to science as perhaps they
B: When I came [to work] they had one biologist and a helper. He attended
meetings and we'd say, Walt, we can't do it that way, that'd cost too much
money. He kept butting his head; he stayed there. He died doing the job; he had
a heart condition. He learned to bob and weave and get what he could. But no,
they didn't have any water quality to begin with, they just depended on somebody
else's data and geological survey. Nobody was really involved in water quality
and nutrients. They had been talking about Lake Okeechobee and what's going
to happen to it. I don't think they've accomplished anything in reducing nutrients
going into the lake. Now, they probably would tell you that. We bought up
ranches on the north side of the damn lake, and they won't let them use them for
dairy farms and best management practice. They've tried everything. When we
were going through this, somebody went to Germany. Germany had built a
treatment plant to treat effluents coming off of dairies and what have you, but
they spent a lot of money. The people wanted to protect the environment, but
they didn't want to spend the money necessary to provide other services and
protect the environment at the same time.
P: In that context, how have the water management districts changed from 1975 to
B: I think they're a lot more sophisticated. They have all the science they need,
they've been collecting data for years, and they can make some good arguments
for what they want to do. But again, it gets down to how many bucks you're going
to spend. I told one of them one time, if you give me enough money, I'll fix
anything you want me to fix. But you're not going to make it look like nature had it
before we came in and disturbed everything. That's your goal, but it's difficult.
The good Lord does a good job, and we kind of putter around in it. I think they're
getting closer to that. I don't agree with everything they do. Dick Rogers, who
started our permitting system, [and I] used to argue about this. It is about
maintenance of water control systems for local subdivisions. Well, you turn it over
to a homeowners association and they operate and maintain their system, and
they pay for that out of their fees. Some guy down the street that's in a
subdivision that's already there, his operation and maintenance is paid for out of
ad valorem taxes, which I'm paying, so I'm paying for the same service twice. I
think that's unfair to taxpayers, but that was the only way they could get these
projects going, so they took the shortcut. I live in a condo, we have 198 units,
and we have to take care of our lake and the water quality and our drainage
system, yet Jupiter is assessing ad valorem taxes to take care of the older areas
that didn't have this. I don't know what the answer is, but I think it's a problem of
who's paying for what services.
P: Do you think the current water management districts do a better job of serving
the needs of the state than the old water management districts did?
B: Oh, yes, I think they've become a lot more sophisticated. I think they have
personnel doing inspections and trying to see that the rules and regulations
governing water quality is being carried out.
P: One of the problems has always been, with the managing board and with
executive directors, how to somehow coordinate the needs of all the different
groups. You've got the environmentalists, the dairy farmers, and the developers.
How did you go about trying to understand and deal with all these different
B: That depended on the strength of the executive director. Jack [Maloy] was good
at that, of dealing with people and having them listen to him and what his
programs were and why he was trying to do it. Woody did a good job too.
P: Who is Woody?
B: [Woody is] John Wodraska. He came after Jack. It's got to be a matter of give
and take, but in looking at the battles between the farmers and the
environmentalists, there's never going to be any compromise. One won't give
any for the other. Environmentalists will not be happy until the farmers are put out
of business. That would be a blow to our economy. On the other hand, farmers
don't want to do anything that the environmentalists think should be done, so it's
a real stalemate and I don't know how you get somebody to the bargaining table
to come up with a compromise. I don't think you will. Maybe the next generation
P: Talk a little bit about Jack Maloy's leadership qualities. Why was he a good
executive director, other than the fact you just mentioned, that he knew how to
talk with the different groups?
B: He could deal with anybody. He could deal with the state legislatures, he could
deal with Washington, he could deal with his own employees and make them feel
like they were part of a dynamic organization and get the most out of them. He
reminds me of a football coach getting his team to win ball games. That's what
[End of side Al]
B: When Jack put me in charge of operation and maintenance, he knew more about
the system than I did. He knew more about the operations, where the critical
areas were, [and] where the weak areas were. When we had a storm or any kind
of hurricane or weather occurrence, he was right there, johnny on the spot. I told
him when he made me head of the field services that he knew more about that
system than I did, but that I intended to do the job and if he wanted to do it, then
there was no need for me to be there. It took me about six months before I knew
enough about the system to say, no, Jack, we don't do it like that, this has got to
be done. So I had to go through a learning process with him that he'd already
P: I understand he was pretty good at cutting through bureaucracy as well. One of
the problems, I don't know if you were involved with this, was the Florida Power
reservoir damn gave way and there was flooding. Do you happen to remember
B: Oh, yes, [I remember that].
P: He apparently went right there in his plane.
B: He and I were out there in the morning in the helicopter looking at the thing, and I
couldn't believe that water was all over the place out there.
P: Apparently, they thought it might be Lake Okeechobee in the beginning, which
would really have been a disaster.
B: He got with Florida Power and Light and found out what the problem was. The
railroad sued us. The owner, Sanchez, settled, and he got his farm back and
money to boot. But we put people on the job. We hired a consulting engineer to
go over the redesign. Florida Power and Light doesn't like bad publicity to say the
least, so he was able to bring them all together. I was involved [in that too]. Part
of my best engineers were on the project full time until it was finished.
P: So you all rebuilt the reservoir?
B: No, Florida Power and Light rebuilt it. They let the contract, but we reviewed it
and we were there watching every shovel of dirt that went back into it.
P: You must have done a good job, because it's been in existence all these years.
B: Yes, well, they put in a monitoring system so they could find any weak spots in
the dam. They checked the hydraulic gradient across the dams and the pressure
and one thing and another. But the dam had been built, and the compacting
effort had been much greater than it was the first time it was built.
P: What other executive directors had you worked with, and how would you
B: Ed Dale was executive director when I came there, and he came from
Tallahassee. The governor sent him down here to get the place straightened out.
He was an accountant by trade but an exceptionally smart man, [a] quick study.
He could pick us up. He relied on the man doing the operation maintenance, Zeb
Grant, Bill Starch, the chief engineer, and Bob Grafton, [the] district attorney. He
took their expertise, and he knew how to deal with politics, and he did a good job.
P: Was he a different kind of leader than Jack Maloy?
B: Yes, he was more the desk type, I would say. Maloy wanted to get out there and
get his hands dirty, wander around in the field, but he was also very good at
sizing up a situation and deciding what he had to do. He didn't make a lot of
bones about that.
P: Who succeeded Jack Maloy?
B: John Wodraska [succeeded Jack]. He had trained Woody. In fact, when they
were building the pipeline to take water to Key West, Jack was down there and
Woody started running the shop. Then when Jack resigned, Woody was chosen
over a field all over the country. It boiled down to he and Till Creel and he got the
nod, and he hired Till as deputy director. Woody has done well. He went to
California and had a big job out there, and he went to work for Enron in their
water [management]. They were trying to get water utilities. They had gas and
electric and they wanted water, so that's when he got involved. Then, of course,
they had all their problems, [but] I think he'd already left by then.
P: So in your experience, all the executive directors you worked with were effective
leaders and accomplished their goals?
B: Those three, yes, they were very accomplished. They knew how to deal with the
politicians in Tallahassee, local politicians, county commissioners, city mayors,
and all of that. Woody spent a great deal of time going to the editorial boards of
the newspapers and trying to explain to them what he was doing. Jack got
favorable press not even wanting to do it. He was on the front page of the Parade
magazine one time, I've got a copy, wading in water up to his knees. One
reporter, who later went to California, thought he was great, and he did a lot to
get him the right kind of publicity.
P: That's good for the water management districts. That's one of the problems since
then, I think, that most citizens of the state don't really know what water
B: No, they don't.
P: How is the best way to convey that information to citizens?
B: I think [the best way to convey it is] through educational programs [and] TV
spots. They had some programs. They've gone into schools and given this to
P: There were some films that were made, one about the alligator, and some of
those were shown quite a bit on television, I understand.
B: Yes, they used to have a lot of them. I haven't seen any of them. [They] used to
have [one] about water conservation. Now during the drought, they get a lot of
spots on television, but I guess they get like the rest of us, we think that's not
P: I guess it's like everything else, once it effects you, once you can't water your
lawn or your lawn's flooded, then you want to know about water management.
Do you think people are concerned today about the amount of water we have?
This is going to be one of the great problems of the state of Florida, will there be
enough water to take care of everybody's interest? Secondly, do you think
they're concerned about the quality of the water?
B: Rank and file, no, I don't think they're that interested. I think people have got to
get in their forties before they start realizing that you may have a problem during
P: This is a precious commodity.
B: We've also led them, by the technology we had, that we can get water. Jupiter's
got a water plant. They take saline water, not sea water, [but] saline maybe 400,
500, or 600 parts per million, and do a reverse osmosis and get good quality
water at a relatively inexpensive cost.
P: Is that going to be one of the hopes for future conservation, desalinization?
B: No, not desalinization as such. They had a desalinization plant in Key West, [but]
it's too expensive. You create another problem with the environment because
what do you do with the salt? If the brine goes in, then you've screwed up the
receiving area. Just like building a power plant [at] Turkey Point, they made a big
deal about thermal pollution. [They said] that water had to go into the bay at the
same temperature that it would go normally. So they built miles and miles of
canals to cool the water before the discharge in the bay.
P: In Tampa Bay, that desalinization plant's gone bankrupt.
B: That's because the maintenance of the equipment's high, the cost of operations
[is high], and it's just got too many problems. Seawater's got about 35,000 parts
per million, and they're dealing with probably 3,500 parts per million when you're
doing reverse osmosis. All the ground water that's below the freshwater lens has
got 600 or 700 parts per million salt. That can be taken out with a filter, which is
just pushing it through the filter and it comes out pretty good quality water.
They're probably going to have to use gray water for irrigation.
P: Is that for golf courses and things like that?
B: Yes, treated effluents, tertiary treatment. St. Petersburg, I think, has got a dual
system where they've got gray water for irrigation and another system for potable
P: What's going to the be the emphasis in terms of conservation? Do you think that
people will start to conserve if they have to pay user fees or if just the cost of
water increases so that their water bill is going to be equivalent to their electric
B: That's like people driving automobiles that don't get any gas mileage. If you've
got the money to pay for it, [they're] not going to worry about. You've got these
big old SUV's [sport utility vehicles], and they just drink gas like it's going out of
style. I think that the people that should be concerned about it, if they've got the
money to pay for it, they don't save it.
P: What is the hope of conservation? You can save some runoff. What about
underground aquifer storage? Is that a possibility?
B: They say it is [a possibility]. I've read the pros and cons, and some scientists
think you could pollute the pumped water into the underground reservoir. I think
they can find a source of water, and I think if the water's properly treated, I don't
see why it's going to hurt the receiving body and it can be used later. It doesn't
mix, different weight, I guess, and it stays pretty much together. There's a bubble
down there, and you're taking the water out of that. It isn't like you're down there
stirring it all up. So that's a possibility. The gray water for irrigation. Whether
you're going to get anybody to really be concerned about the amount of potable
water they use in their home, I don't know whether you're ever going to do that or
P: Discuss your view of the various governors and their commitment to water
management, partly by their appointments, and partly by their commitment, like
Reubin Askew, to the Water Resources Act and land reclamation and ELMS
[Endangered Land Management Committees] and that sort of thing. How would
you rate Kirk, Askew, Martinez, and Graham?
B: I don't know. I didn't know much about [Claude] Kirk [1967-1971]. He was pretty
flamboyant and he was very fortunate to be elected governor, the first
Republican in [I don't] know how many years. But he was interested, and living in
Palm Beach I think he showed an interest, but I think he was naive from a
political standpoint. I think [Reubin] Askew [1971-79] didn't spend as much time.
[Bob] Graham [1979-1987] spent a great deal of time with the water management
district, and I think his appointments reflected that. [Bob] Martinez 1987-1991],
although we had a change in the board, he was pretty supportive of what we
were doing and it wasn't a great many changes. Governor [Jeb] Bush [1999-
present] is the only one that really muddied up the waters, and he's the first time
that we had trouble. He was responsible for getting rid of the executive director
that came after Woody left. I can't even recall his name now.
P: Are you aware of the quality of the appointments to the board that Bush has
B: Not really, I haven't kept up with them that much. I don't live here in the
summertime when y'all are having all the problems, but I think they made the
right choice when they hired Henry Dean. Before that they were kind of
P: What about these water wars? Do you see that as a future problem? There's talk
now about taking water from north Florida, more water less population, and
taking that across water management boundaries to St. Petersburg and Tampa.
Do you see that as a feasible solution?
B: No, I think the water in north Florida, if you're going to protect the environment,
you can't take away all the water up there. You can't go up there and say, well,
we've got plenty, we're going to pump it to south Florida. I don't agree with that at
all. I think it ought to stay within the basin boundaries and protect that source. If
you over mine it there, [it won't go back up] The midwest [is] taking water down,
the watertable's dropping every year and it doesn't go back up, so eventually
they won't have any water.
P: And if you take the water then they go through an extended drought...
B: That's another problem you've got. I think Lake Okeechobee's a good example.
We built that levee to let that water go up two feet, and I don't think it's been up
there but one time. Every time it gets anywhere close, they talk about, oh, you're
drowning everything. Since that's the only reservoir we've got in south Florida,
the environment's going to suffer if you bring it up, so they say, and I'll have to
take their word for it. If you raise the lake, it's not good for the lake environment.
If you raise the water too high in the water conservation areas, then you're going
to kill off some of the growth or change the type of growth, so you have to be
careful. The more area of the reservoir, the more water you lose to evaporation
and transpiration. It gets to be a no-win situation.
P: Governor Bush has talked about setting up a statewide water board. What would
your reaction be to that? It seems to me that that board would then have the
authority to make decisions over and above what the water management districts
B: It's just another layer of supervision. I don't see where that's going to handle any
of the problems you've got because the people that would be on that advisory
board would be another appointed board overseeing the water management
boards, or could be that.
P: Do you think that would be done for political purposes as opposed to water
B: I don't think you solve anything from a water management standpoint.
P: While we're on that, when you were with the water management districts, what
kind of relationship did you have with either the Department of Natural Resources
or DER [Department of Environmental Regulation] or DEP? Did they supervise
you? Did you have interaction with them, particularly if you were dealing with
issues of water quality?
B: Not me personally. I was never involved with any of the people in Tallahassee. I
was shielded from that to some extent. I have dealt with the Department of
Natural Resources in the Aquatic Weed Program and did pretty well with them.
Dr. Berkholder was there and we set up programs and we received funds for our
programs and did very well. He was having trouble with the people at his end
because [of] the water quality and [determining] how much chemicals and what
chemicals do you use to treat hydrilla. [Hydrilla verticillata, a submersed plant
that can grow to the surface and form dense mats] is the biggest problem that
P: Another question that comes up, and you may not be aware of this, but have you
noticed competition between the water management districts, particularly for
legislative funding or land purchasing or anything like that, or have the water
management districts cooperated pretty well over the years?
B: I don't know [about] recently, but there used to be a lot of competition between
the water management districts for funding and land acquisition. Originally, when
we were building the project, the state paid for a lot of relocation costs. Then all
of a sudden, I forget which administration decided, no, they weren't going to do
that, we'd have to do that with ad valorem taxes. I don't know how much money
they're getting now. Our money, when I say our [I mean] the water management
district money, was usually [used] for operation and maintenance, and
construction money came from a special fund in Tallahassee. Then all of a
sudden they cut that out, which raised the ad valorem taxes.
P: Jack Maloy told me that over a period of time, the legislature has put other
responsibilities on the water management districts in addition to what they were
originally responsible for. Some of these are local pet projects that the legislature
doesn't want to pay for, so they'll use the water management's ad valorem tax
funding to pay for them.
B: They passed all the legislation to require the water management districts to do
certain permitting, but they didn't fund it. That's funded [by] charging for permits. I
don't know how much money [they're charging], but they probably still
supplement it by ad valorem taxes.
P: Has it been a detriment for Northwest and Suwannee Water Management
Districts because they have a lower ad valorem tax? Do you think that has
created problems for them?
B: When I was familiar with them [when] they were just starting, they just went
through the motions of being a water management district. They didn't seem to
do anymore than they had to; they weren't trying to muddy the water with the
local politics. Now whether that's changed or not, I don't know. I think they were
dragged into water management kicking and screaming.
P: The people in that area were not favorable to water management districts
because they'd end up having to pay more taxes, but it's pretty clear at this point
that they needed this water management.
B: Yes, I'm sure they did.
P: How has the environmental community changed over the years? Have they
gotten more influence than they used to have?
B: From what I read in the paper, I think they've got more influence than they used
to have, yes. I think the reason is, there must be some people with deep pockets
funding some of these issues, or fighting the issues. That's the only thing that
used to bother me, [that] they could tie you up in court just by making an
accusation based on nothing but hearsay, no proof that what they were saying
was correct or not. They could stop a project or they could do anything they
wanted to, and the courts pretty much went along with them.
P: What was your reaction to the view that sometimes the environmentalists might
stop a project because of a threat to the dusky sparrow, the snail darter or
something like that?
B: [They were worried about the] dusky seaside sparrow? I don't understand that,
and I can't agree with it, but, I guess, that's because I'm an engineer and not a
scientist and environmentalist.
P: How important are lobbyists now in the legislature? I know, of course,
environmentalists have theirs [and] agribusiness has theirs. There have been
some rather legendary lobbyists like Wade Hopping. How would you evaluate
their impact on the legislature?
B: I think if they're successful, they can have a large impact on them. The only thing
that bothers me is, are they informed as to what they're doing or what
consequences will occur from the legislation that they're either for or against. I
just look at them as they get paid for taking something through the political
process. I don't know whether they really look too far beyond that.
P: One of the problems with term limits is that, particularly with the legislature,
because they have such a limited amount of time and so many issues to deal
with, they don't become very knowledgeable about water management per se.
Therefore, critics say, they are susceptible to influence from agribusiness
lobbyists or any lobbyist. Do you think that's a dangerous situation?
B: If they're acting without full knowledge, yes, [that's] a dangerous situation
because with a stroke of a pen [they can do] a lot of damage without even really
P: Do you see the water management districts having too much regulatory authority
or too much authority in land acquisition? Do you think they need to be more
supervised by DEP or the cabinet?
B: No, I think that whatever supervision you're going to have should come from the
governor's appointees, and him appointing people that he thinks are qualified to
be on these boards.
P: Jack Maloy was saying that one of the great benefits of these water management
boards is that they're regional. Obviously, the problems in south Florida are
different from the problems in Suwannee, so it's better for them to operate on
that regional level as opposed to a statewide level. Although land acquisition,
water management, and growth management have to be considered in the entire
context of the state, do they not? Can you have one without the other?
B: I doubt it. Growth management's a joke as far as I'm concerned. They finagle
those things around and tell you all this process that you have to go through to
change the plan, which is a statewide plan, [but] they've got loopholes in there
and they wind up doing what they want anyway, or that's the way it appears to
P: You mean all these regional impact statements they make?
B: Yes. I don't think the public is convinced that we're going to have a water
problem. We're surrounded by water and we have lakes and swamps and what
have you, and they think that water's going to be there forever. From a land
acquisition standpoint, you always, if you're using eminent domain, have to prove
that it's in the best interest of the public for the public agency to have this land. I
think that that should be sufficient to protect the land acquisition process.
P: There's always going to be some conflict between land acquisition and regulatory
activities of the water management districts and the local government, usually
county commissioners who probably see the water management district having
too much influence and power.
B: The South Florida Water Management District has turned those responsibilities
over to local government, if they're qualified to handle them. I tried to help get a
permit to build a church just a few blocks from here in a very active area, in this
case it was Palm Beach Gardens [that was] just out of this world with what they
were requiring to get a permit. The consulting engineer, a friend of mine, acts as
a city engineer, and I was going to him crying all the time because they just were
not reasonable with the things they were charging. They were treating the church
like a development and just running the price sky high. The developer doesn't
care, he just passes them onto the buyer. Whatever those costs are, he passes
them on, but the church is having to get donations to do this work, and it really
puts a hardship on them. I can say, if it hadn't been for my friend, I don't think
we'd have ever got the permit.
P: I read in the paper, I think just yesterday, that the South Florida Water
Management District was talking about farming out some of their work to private
B: Oh, you don't want to talk to me on that. [Laughing] Woody started that. They're
going to end up owning all the water rights; that's what they're going to trade for
doing the construction. The water management district doesn't build projects,
they get contractors to do them, but what they're going to do is, the contractor [is
going to] say, we'll, do this just like you want it and so forth, and then we get such
and such in return. It amounts to usurping the water rights and they're going to
control who gets the water. They'll tell you [that's] not [why], but why else would
they be in it?
P: Why would they do that? What's the thinking behind this? Is it because the water
management districts don't have enough money so they're asking private
industry to help?
B: They've dragged their feet on this restoration. They say, if you gave it to
somebody, you'd get enough people on there without bankrupting the state to
have them build it, but you've got to know what they're asking to do that.
P: They're not going to do it for free.
B: No, and if you're going to pay them, you're no better off than you were before you
got them, so you're going to trade off some rights.
P: There is this argument, I think Governor Bush says, that in many categories,
private enterprise can work more efficiently than state government.
B: That's always been the case. I don't know whether that's the case or not.
P: But there must be some areas of where the state has an obligation to meet the
needs of all the citizens. Obviously, private enterprise is doing it either for profit
or for some benefit, whereas the state theoretically ought to be doing it for the
benefit of all the citizens.
B: I don't understand farming out the schools and paying somebody to run the
schools rather than let a school board do it. Same way with the construction,
which is going to cost the same amount of money. If he's paying the right wages,
whoever builds it, it's going to cost pretty much the same unless you cut all the
frills off and don't build the project as it's designed. That's the reason you take
bids. It kind of scares me. Woody started talking about this when he first came
back, and now it's reared its ugly head again. If [there's] anywhere the
environmentalists ought to get on the high horse, it ought to be that. They should
not have non-governmental agencies controlling water resources. That won't
hack it, I'll tell you.
P: Do you see the Florida water management system as unique in this country? The
California system is completely different, rainfall, reparian rights, and all that. Are
there other states that have systems similar to Florida?
B: Each of them change. If the terrain is the same, then the weather's different, the
amount of rainfall. North Carolina, for instance, [doesn't] get any rainfall at all.
They're just now building little ponds about as big as this table as a retention
area. They're making an attempt, but I think they're behind us. Georgia [has] a lot
of coastal areas. Louisiana, Alabama, [and] all the coastal areas, I think, would
face some of the problems that Florida faces, but we probably get more rainfall
than they do. So you can't really compare one to the other.
P: Do any of the other states have similar kinds of water management districts like
B: No, we're unique. As far as the district and the flood control project worth
$500,000,000, when I retired that's what they valued the worth of it was, and how
many dollars they'd saved in damages by having it in place.
P: Yes, they've saved money from flooding and loss of jobs and all that.
B: The Tennessee Valley Authority has control over Lake Fontana and the dam, but
that's for power generation. But they have made some wetland areas where
they've developed, and some recreation areas. But they've also killed a lot of
trees when they flooded the valley to make the reservoir. I don't know if you'll
ever get people to agree on what they think is best for their particular area.
P: I noticed in Lake Wylie and some of the other lakes, Duke Power Company was
the one that flooded that, and that's again all for power, although recreation flows
B: Nearly every bit of that is for power sources.
P: So they are not as concerned in terms of water management as the state of
Florida has been?
P: What are the challenges of the future for the water management districts? Let's
just say in the next ten years, what should their goals be?
B: [Their goals should be] controlled growth, to try to do urban renewal rather than
use pre-improved land, and plan for a potable water supply so that the cost won't
be astronomical in ten years.
P: Are they going to have to have more retention ponds?
B: Retention ponds are mostly for water quality, and the more they have, the
cleaner they get the water. If you retain that first inch and you bleed the rest of
the water off, then you have reduced the pollutants going into the water. The
other thing though [is that] you've got to get which people are using surface water
and which are using ground water. In north Florida, for instance, they're in the
Florida Aquifer, and that water's been recharged from up in the mountains,
whereas down in Dade County, your water supply is directly affected by what
water you put in the canals because it brings up the ground water with that
porous rock. It's easier to pollute when you start mixing ground water with the
P: One of the problems that Northwest and Suwannee are going to have is, their
water comes from Georgia and Alabama to some degree. Who, by law, controls
the distribution of that water?
B: Basically, you're supposed to pass the water to the downstream owner. You can't
take it all to damage the downstream user, so I guess federal legislation would
be the only thing that would do that. Then you might get to the point [where] the
state with the strongest representatives in congress would fare better than
anybody else. If he could be a Jack Maloy and talk himself out of some of these
problems and get more water, that's what will happen.
P: What are going to be the biggest challenges to the goals you just talked about,
both the quantity and quality of water? Do you think they're going to be financial
or technological or environmental?
B: [The biggest challenge is going to be the] environment, I'm sure.
P: That's the crucial problem that they have to face? How are they going to
B: [They'll just have to] continue to develop practices that reduce pollution, whether
it's ground water or surface water. [They'll have to continue to] look for different
ways to make the water potable.
P: Because as you mentioned earlier, they're certainly more sophisticated in terms
of both science and technology. Things they couldn't do forty years ago, they can
do now. What about politics? It seems to me that in the current set of
circumstances, it's going to be harder and harder for the water management
districts to get support from the governor and the state legislature.
B: I guess we'll have to have a catastrophe before they do anything. That's usually
the way we react, to catastrophe. That's the reason they got the flood control
district, because they had a catastrophe.
P: Are you talking about the 1947 hurricane?
B: Yes. Every time hurricanes were coming, everybody thought we were great,
because they knew how it was without the district. Maybe it's just a lack of
informing the public of what the water managements are doing, why they're doing
it, and what the consequences are if they don't do it.
P: We've talked briefly about this, but I'd like to expand a little bit. How has the
Everglades Restoration Project impacted the water management districts, and
primarily, of course, South Florida?
B: It's gobbling up all the funds, both state and federal funds, to do a project which
is strictly for environmental purposes. We don't gain anything by having that
water. You maintain the marsh of the Everglades and you supply water to the
park, [but] that's it.
P: So is it worth $8.4 billion? The term "restoration" is problematic because, as you
indicated earlier, it's never going to be restored.
B: I question it, I really do, but I'm not an environmentalist. I'll tell you when I have a
problem with the water quality. Bill Storch started arguing with the park before he
died, and he was involved with the legislation that created the water
management districts. He was way ahead of his time. When I sat in meetings at
the district and they talked about delivering water to the park that was purer than
rainfall, they lost me. I just don't see how you can do that. The rainfall is polluted
to a certain extent, but you can't do away with it passing through the park. That's
the way it's [been] done for years under natural conditions. But we've done so
many things to the atmosphere that the rainfall is now polluted, so they want you
to produce them water that's been treated so it's purer than rainfall. I don't think
that really makes any sense because you can't stop it from raining on the
P: But at least one of the things they can do, and I don't know how many parts per
billion, I guess scientists still argue about that, but you can get some of the
phosphates and some of the nutrients out of that water. That water could be used
for secondary water, couldn't it, if you would deliver it back to the consumer as
opposed to back to the Everglades?
B: They're concerned about nutrients, which is nitrogen and phosphorous that
comes out of fertilizer and the muck and all of that. They can remove that, and
that would help the park, but if they come in with unreasonable demands as to
water quality, [then we can't help them]. They first say they want the water, then
they say, you're giving it to us at the wrong time, and then [they] say, it's not the
right quality. I think one of these days they'll be glad to get water, whatever the
[End of side A2]
P: When you look back on your career with the water management district, are
there any particular events or activities that changed the course of water
management in Florida, or made a significant contribution to water management
in the state of Florida? Were there any specific events that you can recall that
were really pivotal in changing water management?
B: I think the legislation creating water management districts to cover the entire
state really should have brought water management to the public's eye. [With]
Hurricane Andrew, which completely obliterated Homestead, they could see what
a devastation could occur if that had hit some populated area of some twenty
miles north of where it hit. It did go across Miami, but it went across the lower
part, it didn't hit the main area of Miami. That's the first storm, since I can
remember, that created that kind of damage.
P: Do you see that water quality or water quantity is going to be the major thrust for
water management districts?
B: I think water quality [will be more important]. [It's going to be important] to set in
place whatever practices they can that would improve water quality and the use
of treated effluent for irrigation purposes. That's going to have to come to
supplement the water. I think it's going to be cheaper to treat the gray water than
it is if you run short or you're going to get your raw water supply.
P: In most of the sewage plants in the state, I guess, are now tertiary, are they not?
B: Yes, [they are mostly tertiary].
P: So that problem is generally taken care of?
B: Basically. Most of the water they say they could run it through a system and drink
it. It's not unhealthy, but it's the idea people get in their mind, we're drinking
sewage water. They don't realize that the water you get in the creeks and the
rivers have come from septic tanks probably. So it's an educational process.
P: So over the years, one of the things that they've done well is, control septic tanks
and well drilling and have a better control over permitting and all that, so that in
an organizational sense, the water management districts really have a good idea
of how to control the quality of the water. Is that a fair statement?
B: Yes, I think they have found out from their research how to reduce pollution.
P: Do you know how much impact the federal government has, the Environmental
Protection Agency, Department of Interior, on the activities of the water
B: I don't think they have very much. They're interested in Super Funds [toxic waste
sites] and point pollution that's occurred as a result of some manufacturing
operation. They give lip service to the rest of it, but I don't think they get involved
too much with the states other than through whatever the Corps of Engineers
P: One of the questions that was given to me by Bob Higgins, and I'll just read this
to you, "Describe your view of the decline of engineer and technical advice in
policy direction." In other words, his argument of the question is that the
environmental issues have now become paramount and the engineering input is
less. Would you agree with that?
B: I think they're probably spending more money on environmental issues than they
are on engineering technology. I think the engineer feels that the
environmentalists are not going to agree with anything he recommends because,
after all, he's an engineer. But without the engineering expertise, they're not
going to be able to do the projects that they want to have done.
P: So it's up to the executive director to sort of filter out the various points-of-view?
B: We always said the reason our water management district had proceeded as well
as it had is because it was an engineer oriented organization and not an attorney
oriented organization. That's what you have to guard of, having an attorney, non-
technical in the engineering, making decisions for you based on whatever
information somebody's furnished him. That wasn't the case with the district. The
attorneys were there to advise us, but they weren't calling the shots by a long
day. Now when you got into the permitting process, and we started to lose
ground, they became paramount in establishing all the rules and all the criteria
they had to set up in that rigmarole. The problem I had with attorneys [was] that
[if] you asked them, well, can you do so and so, they'd say, well I don't know
whether that's legal or not. I said, well don't tell me if it's legal, tell me if it's illegal.
You never could get them [to say one way or another]. They wanted to have
every i dotted and every t crossed, and sometimes you can't do that. You've got
to take the bull by the horns and do something.
P: Particularly if it's an emergency.
B: [Especially] if it's an emergency.
P: I noticed that today DEP [Department of Environmental Protection] has an office
at South Florida Water Management, so they've tried to bring them into the
B: Yes, we did that.
P: Do you think that's a good idea?
B: Yes, I think it makes the public feel better, and they had some people in the local
office that we worked with [that] did very well. They always talked about one-stop
permitting so you didn't have to go to four or five agencies [to get a] permit. I
agree with that, but I guess the problem is, well, who's the number one person?
For me it would be the water management district; for the state it would be the
EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] or whatever.
P: I guess one of the aspects of water management districts is, they can be
successful to some degree based on how they deal with the public, right?
P: If people do come in for permits and they get the run around, they're going to
have a bad view of the water management districts. Then the county
commissioners will get involved and so on. So a lot of it is public relations, isn't
B: Yes, and we spent a lot of time [working on that]. We used to take our meetings
around to different cities in the district so somebody could get a view [and] they
didn't have to come to West Palm Beach. But how do you explain to a fellow that
I worked with [who said], if the person's got a problem, their decision's only a
month away because they have a meeting every month and he can appear and
be on the agenda and get an answer to his question, which is what the public
P: So these are the board meetings?
P: They're accessible to the public, as it were, they're publicized, and anybody can
come and make a presentation?
B: Yes. Well, they have to be on the agenda.
P: But obviously if they make the proper contacts, they can be heard. Are there any
skeletons in the closet of the South Florida Water Management District you'd like
to tell us about?
B: [Laughing.] Not that I know of.
P: Okay. Is there anything that we have not talked about that you'd like to talk
about? I'm sure there are plenty of other issues that we haven't gotten to.
B: I only have one other issue, and that's, if you're going to take a person's rights to
the property and you need them, then you should buy them. I'm a firm believer in
private property rights and I hate to see [the land just taken]. We've got caught
[where we] just refused a man to do anything with his property until he finally
sued us and we had to buy it. I think that should be the policy. If you're doing
something with a piece of land, or you won't let a man do something with a piece
of land, then you should have to reimburse him for whatever he's lost.
P: And in some cases, that has not been done, as you indicated.
B: No, we went by zoning or rules and regulations [to limit what people could do
with their land].
P: He might want to build an office building that has been zoned as a recreation
area, therefore, he cannot actually use that property for the purpose he'd like to
use it for. So you think the state then should either buy that property or reimburse
B: Or [they should] give him a property. Now they say, well, he bought the property
for speculation. Well, that's part of the business. I don't know how much you
should pay him for it; that's the big sticker. [If] he bought it for $100 an acre and
he wants to get $1,000 for it, well, it depends on, has the local property changed?
You can determine that with an appraisal. When we used to get an easement to
do construction, we were taking 90 percent of the fee value. We should have
taken the whole thing because there was nothing left for the owner, but the
courts would not let us take it in fee title, so we took an easement. [That] created
a problem because the man still had an interest in the property and couldn't use
it for now, for instance.
P: In some cases there's been some criticism that the state has paid too much for
some of this land that would probably not have that much commercial or retail
value. Do you think that's sometimes the case?
B: We never could pay more than 10 percent over the appraisal. We could jockey it
around a little bit, but I've seen some land they purchased here that they're
paying much more than I think it's worth, [but] I don't have that much knowledge.
I told somebody, if we could have bought the land like they're buying it now, I'd
have had everything in south Florida bought up. But we were limited by how
much you could negotiate with them.
P: Have they bought up enough land? I noticed the programs like Preservation 2000
and these other programs, do you think that's sufficient for land conservation in
B: I don't really know. I haven't followed it since I retired. Some of the things they've
done pretty well. There should be some land put in public ownership, such as
beaches, before it's all gobbled up. There's not going to be ten cents worth of
vacant property around here after the MacArthur Foundation sold off all those
rights. The company bought them and he kept what he wanted and he sold the
rest, and well, you can see the construction out there. We can't hardly go down
the street now. That's the planning issue, zoning and planning.
P: And that's more to local governments than it is to water management, right?
B: The thing they used to [do was] the government would say, well, you tell us how
much water we've got and then we'll decide how many people. The water
managements districts [would say], well, you tell us how many people you want
and we'll tell you if you've got the water. So they never did anything.
P: Although they're supposed to. Is there anything else that you would like to talk
about. Do you have any stories of interest or any other individuals that you would
like to talk about?
B: They've had some good people with the district, Jack Maloy's one, and Woody.
Ed Dale probably came during the transition period, and then he contended to
Jack. When [Bob] Graham was governor, they had trouble with the Keys'
Aqueduct Authority, and he just did away with the board and sent our board
down there to operate it. I thought that really showed a great deal of confidence
in our district and expertise because we sent all our people down there. Half my
pump station people were down there working, and then Jack built the pipeline
P: Did you actually work on that?
B: No, he chided me because I didn't. I said, well, I was trying to keep the district
running while you were down there playing. I had a couple of engineers and
some maintenance people working down there.
P: That was really a crisis because the old pipeline didn't give them enough water.
B: I enjoyed my tenure with the district, and I feel that it's a necessary organization
to provide water supply and flood control. That's the reason the environmentalists
don't like us, because if it wasn't for the district there wouldn't be this many
people down there. Somebody asked me about the Kissimmee River. I said, well,
at the time, they thought they wanted it excavated, and we did the work. If they
decide they want to fill it in, we can do that too. [We just do] what the public
wants, or what they think they want. I guess [with] the Kissimmee River, nobody
really understood what the consequences of that would be.
P: I guess that's part of the problem for the Corps of Engineers. They're given a
project and they do that project, that's what they're told to do, and then fifteen
years later somebody comes and says, you don't want that, you need to change
it. That's a difficult job for an engineer because the engineer gets instructions and
then ten years later somebody comes back and says, well, we didn't mean for
you to do it that way.
B: When somebody found out I was working on the restoration of the Kissimmee
River, he said, you're a born again engineer [laughing].
P: I think that's a good note to end on. I want to thank you very much for your time.
[End of Interview]