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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
H: It's July 8, 2005, and I'm meeting with Mr. Robert Clark. Sir, thank you for
participating in this project on behalf of the history of water management districts.
You were telling me that actually you had a lot of ties to Florida; you're not one of
these Johnny-come-latelys like myself, for example. When and where were you
C: I was born in Ft. Lauderdale, [Florida], in 1937. My dad was born there in 1906,
and he and his father, who was born in Baker County, Macclenny, Florida, they
farmed on the banks of New River, which is now the financial district of
downtown Ft. Lauderdale. They were farmers down there. Then shortly after my
dad was born, when he was about five or six years old-there was he and three
brothers-they moved to Okeechobee to farm up there. After only three or four
years up there, my grandfather, my dad's dad, was bit and killed by a rattlesnake.
They didn't have any way of getting him to a doctor and he passed away. My
grandmother packed all four boys up in a wagon and brought
them back to Ft. Lauderdale. He became sheriff down there and served twenty
years in the sheriff's office, from 1932-1952. There were only a few hundred
people in Broward County. It was small, maybe just a few thousand, but there
weren't many people.
H: The farming started in Ft. Lauderdale as well?
H: What exactly were they doing?
C: My dad has always been interested in farming and he grew a lot of row crops-
peppers, beans, [those] type of things, and farmed all around South Florida.
Then he was interested in the cattle business, always had been, and in the mid-
1950s we started in the cattle business in Davie, [Florida], and went from there.
When my dad retired, his former ranch manager and I became partners and we
stayed in the cattle business for about thirty years down in Broward County.
H: I see. I understand that when you were ten years old you had a somewhat
formative experience with a hurricane. Is that the case?
H: Why don't you talk a little bit about that.
C: That was in 1947 that a big hurricane hit South Florida. It was just a tremendous
flood all across South Florida. It was all under water, virtually all of South Florida.
There were a lot of groves that the trees died because of the standing water in
Davie; a lot of beef and dairy cattle both drowned there at the time. I remember
that my dad was sheriff at the time in the little town of Davie, just west of Ft.
FWM 14, Bob Clark, Page 2
Lauderdale. There were some dikes, some levies, just west of Davie, and the
people that were protected by those levies in Davie, the farmers further west
wanted to blow those levies out to get water off their property. There were
actually a couple of gun fights. My dad had to be out there at night, standing
guard. These were neighbors and sometimes relatives that were on either side of
the levy that were ready to fight in order to get some relief. As a result of that
1947 flood was the formation of the old Central and Southern Florida Flood
Control District, which many people went up and lobbied in Congress and went
up there and actually caused the formation of the original flood control district in
South Florida. Thirty years later that became the South Florida Water
H: In terms of this hurricane, obviously it was an early lesson that water really had a
crucial impact on folks. Is there anything else that you think sort of looking back
on it informed your perspective about how you looked at water and Florida
citizens' use of water?
C: Yeah. There wasn't any concern at that time about any shortage of water or any
crisis because of lack of water or drought; the water was an enemy, really, to the
farmers and all because of drainage. It actually started back in the 1920s that
there were efforts made to drain the Everglades. There were canals dug from
Lake Okeechobee down to South Florida and out to the ocean to drain the
Everglades. That went on through the local drainage districts and so on long
before the water management district or the Central and Southern Florida Water
Flood Control District was built. Like I say, as a result of that in 1948 and 1949, it
came into being, and it was built in just a couple years. It was a real big project,
and the federal government put a lot of money into it, and it was constructed in a
very quick time.
H: You weren't involved with that, but you remember it going on.
C: I remember it being built, I remember seeing it even though I was just a young
kid at the time. Then a lot of it, pump stations and so on, were built long after that
H: In a sense, your understanding of water management was completely different
from what it was in later years in terms of your view that water was the enemy,
instead of thinking about how to parcel water out and supply it to all areas.
C: Just as it was named in its early stages, it was a flood control project, and that
was what it was meant to be.
H: That was first and foremost. My understanding is that you started in 1967 as in
charge of the Hollywood Reclamation District?
FWM 14, Bob Clark, Page 3
H: What exactly did that job entail?
C: It was also to drain land to make it usable down there in the south end of
Broward County; that's still in existence called the South Broward Drainage
District today. It changed names, but it's still there. There were several what we
called local drainage districts all through Broward, Palm Beach, and Dade
County. They are still in existence, many of them are.
H: In the late 1960s, was that organization effective in carrying out its goals?
C: Yes. Of course, the big project, the big Central and Southern Florida Flood
Control District was already built. Our job was to drain private land and get that
water to the big canals that were operated by Central and Southern Flood
Control District. We just dug ditches, some small canals, put in pumps and so on,
to get that water to a grid that was owned and operated by the Central and
Southern Flood Control District.
H: I see. How did you come to be in charge of that district? How did you get that
C: We owned some land down there. My dad had been former president of the
drainage district, and he passed away and I was elected to the board and made
chairman of that.
H: Really you had grown up around those issues and those folks.
C: I was farming down there and owned cattle. It was kind of an ironic situation;
there was probably 20,000 acres in that Hollywood Reclamation District, and
there were about four of us that owned 16,000 out of the 20,000 acres. The
others were small housing developments and some ranchettes, say three to five
acre ranchettes, that they kept horses on and maybe a couple cattle. It was
mostly people from up north who had moved down and bought some land. The
way the by-laws were set up, you got to vote for the amount of acres that you
owned. We had a lot of the homeowners and everything that had moved in and
they always wanted to do something, beautify the canal ditches and everything.
They would vote. They would show up and their numbers, it might be one
hundred of them there, and they'd vote; Joe Brown, one vote for five acres,
another one, five acres, this, that, and the other thing. I'd stand up and vote
against it, I'd say Bob Clark, 4,000 votes. Some of the other owners in there did
the same thing. There'd only be about three of us there, but it was not a very
democratic way to run things, but that's the way it was. We payed taxes on it and
H: There you go. Who were some of those other big land owners?
FWM 14, Bob Clark, Page 4
C: A fellow by the name of Jake Dowerman, who had been executive director of the
district down there; he owned a lot of land down there. Another gentleman by the
name of Lloyd Baselon, who later developed some land down there; he owned a
big golf course and owned some cattle out there south of Hollywood Boulevard in
H: Talk a little bit about how you came to be involved with the Central and Southern
Flood Control District.
C: Like I say, I had some land experience down there and was raised there. My
brother-in-law, Jim Smith, was working as the top aide to Reubin Askew
[Governor of Florida, 1971-1979], who was running for governor. I supported
Askew when he was running and [I] was appointed to the governing board. At
that time it was still only five members on the board. We covered all the way up
into what is now the St. John's River Water Management District. We went way
on up the East Coast through Brevard County and up that way. Most of the
gentlemen on the board had been appointed by Claude Kirk, who was the
Republican governor before Askew. A couple or three of them were Republicans,
and a couple of them switched parties back and forth, and I was the new kid on
the block. I was only thirty-something years old when I was appointed. Then I
became chairman the year after I was appointed and then served as chairman
for eleven years.
H: Did the fact that there was that sort of mix of Democrats and Republicans, did
that effect the early years of the flood control districts?
C: No, it really didn't. So many of the folks were agriculture-oriented that the political
party didn't mean so much as to the philosophy. Environmental issues were not a
priority at that time, although being a third-generation Floridian, as well as Bob
Padrick who served on the board with me, Mutt Thomas from South Bay-who
lost his entire family in the 1928 hurricane when Lake Okeechobee flooded. Mutt
lost his entire family except for one sister who he held up in a tree as the water
came in and drowned all the rest of his family, his mother and father and a
couple other brothers and sisters. There again, talk about experience with water
and how to fight water, that was how we were all raised. We were just used to
our land getting flooded and trying to get rid of it.
H: What was it about this position then? Why did you accept it? I mean, it's not paid
and I presume it's a lot of work and a lot of paper work.
C: I didn't realize [what it took]. I don't know that I would have, if I would have
realized eight or ten years down the road what was involved in it. But number
one, I'd been active-of course I wasn't paid either for serving on the drainage
board-I'd served on [the] Florida Farm Bureau and Broward County Farm
FWM 14, Bob Clark, Page 5
Bureau as president of Broward County and state secretary for the Florida Farm
Bureau. I wasn't paid for that either, but it was something that I thought were
issues that needed to be addressed, things that I could help provide some
knowledge and assistance to, and I enjoyed doing it.
H: What'd you enjoy about it?
C: I don't know. I'd never been interested in being in politics so to speak. I'd been
approached to run for several local offices and state offices and never cared to
do that, but I did enjoy serving some folks, and I met an awful lot of nice people.
Some of the nicest folks I ever met in my life were from the farm bureau, from the
Cattleman's Association, and working with the water management district; I
mean, some class gentlemen.
H: Why don't you talk a little bit about that process on how the flood control district
shifted into becoming the water management district.
C: That came about in the early 1970s after I'd been on the board a year or two, and
it was brought about by the Water Resources Act. At that time we're beginning to
notice not only environmental issues, but water quantity issues. More and more
people are moving into Florida; in various areas of the state there was a shortage
of water, and the other water management districts were formed-the St. John's,
the Suwannee, Northwest Florida Water Management District were all formed.
We had been in business and Southwest Florida Water Management District had
been in business. The geographic boundaries were formed and all the other five
water management districts were formed. There was, like I say, need for more
environmental concern and water use restrictions.
H: Was this a controversial move? Certainly there were a lot of interest groups that
were going to be effected by these water management districts.
C: Oh yeah, it was controversial as hell, especially up in Northwest Florida, they
didn't want any water management up there. [They] didn't see any need for it,
and perhaps at that time it wasn't really needed. [They] certainly didn't want to
pay any more taxes to a governmental organization. They didn't want any more
boards or anything like that.
H: They didn't want more bureaucracy.
C: Right. There was a millage form for what the districts could tax. Of course that
started all the permitting through the water management districts. Water use
permitting, which was brand new to everybody, [was created]. I remember
attending a board meeting over in St. John's when it was first formed and seeing
some old ranchers come in there from around Brevard County, Indian River
County and up that way, and to be told they had to regulate how much water they
FWM 14, Bob Clark, Page 6
could use, it was not well accepted at all.
H: There was some heat at those meetings?
H: What about environmentalists or some of the other groups, even the Army Corp
of Engineers? Did they weigh in on the districts?
[Break in Interview]
H: We were talking about the Water Resources Act and how the water management
districts first came into being and some of the groups that were either for or
against on that. It was highly controversial even from its inception.
C: It was so much different than what anybody had been used to before. This was a
balance of not only getting rid of water, but to provide water in different areas of
the state and protect the quality of the water in the state of Florida. It was just a
different ball game, but it was something that was absolutely necessary to do, as
shown, for example, over on the west coast now, in the Tampa-St. Pete area
where they have severe water needs constantly. Different areas of the state, over
in the St. John's Water Management District and so on, they need some more
water over there. We had to move wellfields west because of the vast population
increases in South Florida. The Dade Wellfield and the Broward Wellfields had to
be moved west because of salt water intrusion. If you're aware, I don't know, but
when the district was formed, the South Florida Water Management District was
formed. Canals and all were pretty much in place, but like I told you earlier, they
were built back in the 1920s some of them were. Then we included conservation
areas, which included thousands of square miles out there, three of them, for
flood protection and future water supply.
H: You said that you were elected chair of the water management district by default.
What exactly does that mean?
C: All the other board members were Republicans, there was only five of us at that
time. It was before the Sunshine Law-you're familiar with the Florida Sunshine
Law, you know, public meetings and so forth. I remember going into my first
meeting and we met in a little boardroom to have a workshop, just the five of us,
and a reporter from the Palm Beach Post came in. He just walked in with his
notepad and pen, his name was Pat something, I can't remember his last name.
But Bob Padrick, who was the chairman at that time that I took over for from Fort
Pierce said, what the hell are you doing in here? He said, well I came in to take
some notes. [Bob said], this is a meeting, you can't sit in here, get out, and they
actually threw him out of the meeting. That's the way we did business; you could
talk to each other on the phone, you could do whatever you wanted, and you
FWM 14, Bob Clark, Page 7
didn't have much backlash at all at that time.
H: The Sunshine Laws really did have an effect on business once they were
C: Yes. I'm not going to tell you that I was a big [fan of the Sunshine Laws]. I
understood the reasoning for the Sunshine Law; I thought there were some
things about it that were too strict, and that a person of honesty and character
could violate it, some of the Sunshine Law, without being a bad guy. I'll give you
an example. We covered sixteen counties in the district, and every week we
would receive big manila envelopes full of papers and backup of the agenda for
the coming month's meeting. If there was an issue in St. Lucie County and I'm
from Broward, or Fort Pierce/St. Lucie County, I wasn't aware of the all the
problems and issues that were there. If there was a question I might want to call
Bob Padrick and ask him about this issue that was coming up at the next
governing board meeting to be informed-not to be persuaded or not to be
H: Gathering information.
C: Correct. So I was guilty of that some; however, I can tell you many, many times
whenever Bob told me we might vote completely against each other in the board
meeting. In fact, he would turn around, he sat next to me at the board meetings,
and the votes would start coming in and he could tell by the conversation that I
was not going to vote with him. He would turn around and say, go ahead, like I
was going to stab him in the back. He was quite a character and a real good
public servant also. I just thought there were some issues, as chairman
especially, that I needed to be informed about and not just go in there like some
dumb willy-nilly and have to learn all about it at the board meeting.
H: I know that this completely has nothing to do with water management, but in the
recent search for a new UF president, I think it was really hampered by the
Sunshine Laws because people weren't willing to throw their hat in the ring
because their home institutions would immediately know about it.
C: Also another thing about the Sunshine Law was where you had to divulge your
income and so on. I was very concerned about a lot of that because of having
children and their safety and so on. I didn't agree with a lot of those issues that
you should reveal your net worth and all of this.
H: Talk a little bit about some of the issues you had to deal with when you were
chair of the district. My understanding is that your first task was you had to
replace the executive director?
C: Yes. He became ill and in my opinion could not carry on the duties of the
FWM 14, Bob Clark, Page 8
executive director. Like I say, I was in my early thirties and some of these fellas
had worked for the district for many, many years. I didn't think he could fulfill and
perform his job duties. I did not terminate him, but I gave him a job elsewhere in
the district and replaced him as executive director. There was an engineer by the
name of Bill Storch, who was renowned as a water expert that worked for the
district, and an attorney by the name of Bob Grafton, who had also been with the
district many, many years and was a fine gentleman. I talked to both of them
about who should be executive director and all three of us concluded that it
should by Jack Maloy, who I brought up before the board and the board elected
him as executive director.
H: Was the fact that the previous executive director was that controversial, or was
the rest of the board agreed that maybe it was best for him to step aside?
C: There was much concern amongst the staff, but not amongst the board. It was
unanimous that the board agreed that something had to be done, but it was not a
popular move with the staff.
H: I see. What was it about Jack Maloy that made him seem like the best candidate
for the job.
C: Jack started as, I believe, a surveyor for the district. He'd come here from New
York. He was a New York native and then went to school at the University of
Kentucky and played football for Bear Bryant [Paul "Bear" Bryant 1913-1983;
renowned college football coach] up at the University of Kentucky. He was a
young Irishman and just full of himself, but like I say, he was very knowledgeable
and I think it was just an excellent move. It has shown to be an excellent move
for the district. Jack has since gone back and is working for the South Florida
Water Management District now.
H: Is that right? Was there a bit of a transition that had to occur given that the staff
was predisposed not to ...
C: We were growing an awful lot. We had a little office down on Evernia Street in
downtown West Palm Beach that wasn't half as big as this building here. We
moved from there to what was called the Taj Mahal out on Gun Club Road, which
was a big office, computers were just coming into being ... All this type of stuff
had to be done. The district was growing as was the population in Florida-it was
starting to just skyrocket. Like I said, it was a good move, Jack could handle it,
and it was proved that he did.
H: Talk a little bit about how the board was changing in the mid-to-late 1970s. My
sense is that the dynamics of the interest groups represented by the board were
sort of shifting.
C: True. John DeGrove, who had been very, very active in the Water Resources Act
FWM 14, Bob Clark, Page 9
was put on the board. Dr. Art Marshall, who was also very active in environmental
issues was put on the board, and we had a chief engineer from Disney World,
Neal Gallagher, who was not involved in agriculture at all, he came on the board.
There was just a cross section of folks that came on. We had a dairyman from
Okeechobee, Aubrey Burnham, another dairyman, Bob Butler, myself, of course,
who was in agriculture. Years later we had Nat Reed, who was very
environmental oriented, who had been Deputy Secretary of the Interior in
H: In the Nixon administration.
C: Yes. So we had quite a diverse board.
H: How did that play out in terms of the functioning of the board given that you had
these different interests?
C: [It was a] lot of interesting discussions. They were not very successful in voting as
a whole, but everybody respected their views and we all got along good, there
wasn't any problem about that. There wasn't any big arguments or fights in the
boardroom, we just didn't do that.
H: There were philosophical differences?
C: Oh, absolutely.
H: Can you sort of elaborate on those differences?
C: I can give you a couple of examples.
C: In the late 1970s, early 1980s, [there was] a lot of flooding in South Florida, and a
lot of farms and ranches over in Hendry County were being flooded. The water
was all the way down through Everglades National Park, and they didn't want any
more water, they were full. South Florida was full of water, and we were pumping
out St. Lucie Canal, Caloosahachee River, all over getting rid of water. But it was
still raining and we were filling up pretty good. Like I say, people from Hendry
County were pleading with us to do something to get water off of their property,
and we were turning it loose into the conservation areas. Like I say, the
Everglades Park didn't want any more water, so the gates down at the bottom
were closed, and we were holding an awful lot of water in the conservation area.
Well, we had a problem that deer were starting to drown. A lot of people wanted to
go in and build artificial deer islands, about quarter-acre islands that the deer
could get on and keep from drowning in the conservation areas. I was very much
against it; I didn't think that it was appropriate. My idea was that if you leave them
FWM 14, Bob Clark, Page 10
alone, some of them will drown, but some of them will get the hell out and they'll
leave; they'll climb the levy and they'll get out, they'll swim the canal, and they'll
go to someplace else. If you build these little islands, all the deer are going to get
on these little quarter-acre islands and all they're going to do is starve to death.
They were going to throw hay to them and all this, but deer become stressed very
easily and deer die very easily under a stressed condition.
I was against it and I really caught a lot of grief not only from environmental
groups, the Wildlife Federation, Audubon's Society, etcetera, but from the Florida
Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission. Our biologists and myself and
members of the board thought this was a bad idea and we shouldn't do it. I
remember the Miami Herald-I used to beg them to get a different picture-they
showed a picture of a game warden carrying out a drowned fawn and they ran
that damn thing about three years running, the same picture, until I got tired of
looking at it. They built a few, but they never did prove successful. You can see
them out there now and there's nothing to it. My idea was that there were a lot of
hunting camps on natural islands, fifteen and twenty-acre islands out in the
Glades in the conservation area. I said, why don't you take those hunting camps
off the natural islands, close them up, and let the deer get up on there? Keep
people from going out there, don't let them go out there in swamp buggies and air
boats and hunt deer; close the season, let the deer get up on there and leave
them alone. But no, you can't close the hunting camps, those people are entitled
to go out there and visit their camps and all. That was a pretty big philosophical
difference that we had on that issue.
H: You said you had biologists from the district who were actually supporting you.
You had scientific evidence to support your claims.
C: Yep, and a lot of the biologists from the Game Commission did not agree with
them either, that it was not a good idea. They went out and tranquilized and
trapped some deer, Cleveland Amory, who's an environmentalist nationwide
known. They caught about thirty head of deer and transported them out by
helicopter and all this stuff and put them on a little farm; all of them died, every
one of them died. Deer are wild animals and they just can't take the stress. It was
too bad-I mean hell, nobody wants to see a deer drown, but there's just some
things that you can't help, and that happens. Mother nature can be a mean lady
once in a while.
H: Just as a point of clarification, how would you distinguish, for example, the
examples of these deer drowning and all the cattle that you saw drown as a result
of the hurricane? You did have first hand experience with seeing these animals
suffer with water. In your own mind, how did you separate the two?
C: There was something that could be done about the cattle; you could remove that
water and send it down these canals and get water off these ranches, that's what
FWM 14, Bob Clark, Page 11
we were trying to do in Hendry County. People had cattle starving to death on the
levies up there while we were pumping water into the conservation area. These
were people's livelihood. You look back, many, many years ago, we had an
outbreak of what they call screw worm, which is caused by flies. It became real
active. It's where the fly actually lays their egg in warm-blooded instead of cold-
blooded [animals]. Instead of a maggot, this screw worm fly deposits their eggs in
a living animal; it almost decimated the cattle business in Florida back in the
1940s and 1950s. It infected about 90 percent of the calves in Florida; you had to
catch them and treat wounds and all this. They built what they called a deer
fence-because deer were carriers of this tick fever and the screw worm. There's
still what they call the deer fence canal across South Florida. They hired people to
go in and shoot deer and kill them. They wanted to kill them, every damn one.
There was actually a bounty put on them for these hunters to collect. They'd bring
in a deer ear and they got paid a couple dollars or whatever it was at that time.
They've come back; wild animals will come back. The fire didn't kill the deer and
the flood doesn't kill the deer, cold weather in the north doesn't kill the deer.
8: It sounds like really, the point of contention between you and the
environmentalists were the links to which the district should go in order to help the
environmental factors that they were concerned about. Is that an accurate statement?
C: I was criticized by the Florida Wildlife Federation because they wanted to make the
conservation areas, where Alligator Alley crosses the state from Naples over to Ft.
Lauderdale, a game management area and charge a ten or fifteen dollar fee, which they did
in many areas of the state, for game management. I vehemently disagreed with that
because I saw that the county I lived in, Broward County, that there used to be a lot of
poor folks that used to go out and fish with a cane pole and throw off Alligator Alley.
[They'd] just catch a few brim and take them home and whatever; they would not have
been exempt. They would have had to pay a ten or fifteen dollar fee for the season to go
out there, and I just did not want to go on with that. I figured, if these poor folks want to
go out there and take their family, instead of paying forty dollar or fifty dollar
management fees for everybody, that they should be able to go out there and do it. If they
want to go out there and hunt in an air boat then fine, charge them, I don't care how much
they charged them.
H: My understanding is that these contentions with the environmentalists got pretty ugly at
C: Yeah. I was actually called in the national Audubon magazine a "whore for the sugar
daddies." That was printed in the national Audubon magazine. I guess they thought I
supported big sugar or the sugar industry and wasn't looking to take care of the
environment enough. It hurt and it embarrassed my family. I don't know of anything I
ever received from anybody in the sugar business or anything else, but it was a pretty bum
FWM 14, Bob Clark, Page 12
H: I heard something about an arson threat, is that correct?
C: Oh yeah. One time we were going to draw down one of the conservation areas because it
held water for so long. Years ago in the Everglades water would go up, then come down,
then it would actually bum, then it would go up, come down, and burn. You could take
core samples and you see ash and then further down in the core sample you can see snails
where this had happened throughout many years of water fluctuation in the Everglades.
When we started holding water up in the conservation area, it was up for many, many
years and it formed a sludge on the bottom just from being wet so long. It was just muck,
muck, muck. We went out and we started taking a look at it with our biologists and
thought that it would be good to have a draw down, which actually drained the
conservation area out, let it sit for three or four months and oxidize, and then newer and
better plants would start growing. The bottom would firm up and all. The only way you
can do it is to draw it down and to let it sit. It's now done in several lakes all around the
state. It's a well-known practice and a practice that behooves the fisheries one thousand
percent. We were going to try this and this was an early experiment we were going to do.
We had a public meeting in Pompano. There were a few of people who had air
boat rides for tourists to go out there and drive around fast in air boats out there and take
them out. They were very much against it. A lot of the fishermen were against it. They
didn't think it would work. People that owned fish camps out there got their living from it.
We decided we were going to do it. At this public hearing, a fellow, I can't remember his
name right now, Butch something, but he came up. After the public meeting, John
Hundley, another board member from Pahokee, and I were there with our wives at this
public meeting this night; he came up to me and he says to me, I'll bum your goddam
house down. It was not a pleasant thought for my wife.
H: Water is serious business in Florida, isn't it?
[End of Tape A, Side 1.]
C: On the other hand, I am very thankful. The channelization of the Kissimmee River, which
is the old Oxbow River, channelized and made a canal out of it, that was done before I got
there, and I'm so thankful for that. We knew that that was a problem way back in the
1970s; we knew that the channelization of the Kissimmee River was a problem. It was
channelized to provide drainage from south of Disney World's property into Lake
Okeechobee and on down. It got water too fast from an area and didn't have a chance to
clean itself going through these oxbows and all in the old river. It just came in a big slug
and provided dirty water to the lake. The exact opposite of the draw down, we
experimented with some marsh area to bring back waterfowl and clean some water up in
some of these areas up here. Boney marsh, which is up here in the Kissimmee River, we
FWM 14, Bob Clark, Page 13
did an experimental plot up there and restored the marsh trying to get some water fowl and
all in there. We did some practices in north Lake Okeechobee in all the dairies that were
up there, where the dairy cattle would stand in ditches to cool off and everything. That
water, when it rained, was coming in as a slug and just throwing way too much
phosphorous into Lake Okeechobee. We fenced off the ditches where the cattle couldn't
get in it, and to keep them cool during the hot we built shade barns on the dairies for the
dairyman to let the cattle stand under and cool off instead of getting in the ditches. Am I
making myself clear?
C: They weren't standing in there and having all the cow manure washing down straight into
the lake. We did a lot of things that I thought were pretty good environmental ideas.
However, I still was not a friend of theirs.
H: How did that, in a general perspective, color how you perceived environmentalists or the
environmental movement? I don't know if you made a distinction between the general
environmental movement and the specific environmentalists you were dealing with. When
it comes to slurs in public and threats on your house, it's got to effect your mentality quite
C: True, and I thought that there were a couple of representatives from the Audubon Society
and the Wildlife Federation that were not reasonable in their thought process. It's not what
you might have done in the last few months, but what have you done for me today?
Anything that you did do to provide a better environmental standard for South Florida, it
didn't seem to matter. If you voted against them on one issue, then you were their enemy.
I might have become a little head strong in my own way, but I still thought I was a good
environmental steward, I listened to my staff, I listened to my biologists on my staff, and I
took their advice because I thought they were real good. They did not always agree with
the environmentalists from conservative organizations.
H: In a sense I wonder if maybe it's a mistake to talk about the environmental movement. I
mean in fact, there were a number of different groups and they weren't always necessarily
unified. Is that accurate to say?
C: Yes. I can tell you that one time we had a public board meeting and we had some folks
from Everglades National Park that had come up. We had two representatives from the
National Park Service representing Everglades National Park. They came to our meeting
and one of them was fussing at the district because the water was too low and it was
affecting alligator hatching. There was a lady in the back of the room that later on in the
meeting said that the water was too high and it was affecting the bird rookery and the
hatching of wading birds. I just shook my head and I said, ya'll need to talk to with each
other before you come up here again. They'd driven up in separate cars and one was
fussing about the water level being too low and one about it too high in the same meeting.
FWM 14, Bob Clark, Page 14
So yeah, there was some [discrepancy].
H: You're damned if you do, and damned if you don't, huh?
H: Why don't we talk about other key issues that you felt were important during your tenure
as chair of the water management district. Is there anything that sticks out in your mind
that we haven't broached yet?
C: No, except that in the time I was there, the state, South Florida especially, was growing so
fast. We tried to balance between urban areas, agricultural areas, and environmental
problems, and it's very, very difficult. It's something they're still working on. I went to a
meeting last year and looked at an agenda of the board meeting and was talking to an
employee that had worked there when I had worked there and I said, hell, ya'll haven't
done anything since I left, you've got the same issues-water quality of Lake Okeechobee,
salt water intrusion, just all this type of stuff. I don't know if there are any answers for an
awful lot of it. They're working hard now on some water clean up areas that they're
building water storage areas before water is released down into the water conservation
areas. They're having some trouble. There's a lot of nutrients, the phosphorous in the
north end of Lake Okeechobee and the nitrogen from the south end of Lake Okeechobee
because of the muck soils. They've had a lot of blue-green algae and it's pretty traumatic
for the lake itself. It's awfully hard to sit up there as a board member and balance these
issues, especially when you have someone from environmental and agriculture or from
agriculture and developers or sometimes from all three. You've just got to do what you
think is the best and do it.
H: Talk a little bit then about the influence of the 1973 ELMS Act. Do you remember that
playing a particularly key role in water management and how the districts worked?
C: More so I remember more about the Water Resources Act rather than the Environmental
Land Management Act.
H: As I understand it, that created the regional impact statements when you had to have those
C: Yeah. I can't really remember all the details of it and everything except that was when you
had to have the environmental impact [statements] for building. No doubt, it caused a lot
of concern in the development industry and so on in Florida, and it made it a lot stricter to
be able to do some things.
H: How about in 1975 when the Department of Natural Resources became the Department of
FWM 14, Bob Clark, Page 15
C: Yeah, and then later on [it became] the Department of Environmental Protection.
H: How did that work in terms of its interaction with your water management district? Was
that a smooth relationship between the two, or contentious?
C: We actually housed the Department of Environmental Regulation in our office building in
West Palm Beach. We didn't have a lot of contact with them; they ran their show so to
speak, and we ran ours. We did have a liaison between all five of the water management
districts and the Department of Environmental Regulation; the person was John Wehle,
whose wife Carol, is now executive director of the South Florida Water Management
District. There were some issues were questioned both by the water management district
and the Department of Environmental Regulation about each other's actions, but all in all
I thought we got along real good. I didn't see any big problem between the two.
H: This might be a little bit of a tangent, but I understand there was some sort of situation
involving insurance policies in 1982-1983?
C: Yeah. You're talking about my involvement in it and what happened?
C: Okay, I owned a general insurance agency down in Ft. Lauderdale, and the board had
secured a policy to write liability for the district, a three-year policy that was written by
the Florida Farm Bureau, who I no longer had any affiliation or association with-had not
had for twelve years before that. The Florida Farm Bureau also owns a big insurance
company, both life and general insurance. They wrote a policy for the district which was
put out to bid and written according to specifications that all of them had, but because of a
bad loss experience, they cancelled us. They cancelled us about three months before
expiration date of the policy, and we were stuck. We could not go out and find bids or
even put it up for bids and all to get insurance companies to come and look at it because of
the vast premium and everything else. We had sixteen field stations, we had offices all
over the district, we had pump stations and everything else, and to get somebody to come
out and take a look at this and bid on it was completely out of the question. They said, no,
we're through with you, we're cancelling. We had a bad loss experience [and] we're not
staying with you anymore.
My partner and I in the insurance business in Ft. Lauderdale went and talked to
one of our insurance providers. We said, look, we need you to do something for us, we
need you to cover us for-I forget whether it was 90 days or 120 days-take over liability
insurance and write it for us for the water management district for that period of time.
They agreed to do it. I also, of course, stipulated that we would receive no commission,
that this was just being done because we'd been a good client of theirs; we'd had good
loss experience with this company. We had two or three lead companies, one was St. Paul,
one was CNA, and I don't remember which one of them it actually was, but it was one of
our big companies. They said, yes, we'll write you until you have a chance to go out for
FWM 14, Bob Clark, Page 16
bid. They did and I spoke out at the board meeting, I said, we're in a bind here, we've got
to do something. [I said], I don't know what else to do, but I can get this insurance
company to write the insurance for us, it's one of my companies, but we will receive no
commission whatsoever. Everybody was very happy. We did it, we put it out to bid, and
bid it out. I got in trouble because they said that there was a possibility that if I had a
good loss experience right at this, that it would have added to-you receive a contingency
if you have a good experience from one of these companies, they pay a contingency. We
actually, while it was hypothetical, it actually turned out that we had a bad loss experience
and it cost us money. In fact it cost us fifty to sixty thousand dollars in contingency and
we received no commission, but it cost our company that much money. I was still brought
up before the ethics commission and was cleared. There was a big piece in the Miami
Herald about it and all the papers and all.
H: That was probably pretty close to the last straw for you then.
C: Well, it was getting there quick. I didn't do anything wrong, didn't think I was doing
anything wrong then, and I knew I didn't do anything wrong.
H: And you were cleared?
C: Oh yeah.
H: I want to take reference-you gave me this framed copy-it's an editorial from the Miami
Herald from May 14, 1984. The title is "Thank you Mr. Clark," and it's referring to your
decision to step down. It says in here that in your resignation speech you had noted that
the job you had once found to be a challenge had turned into a chore. Was that accurate?
H: Talk a little bit about that.
C: As we've mentioned throughout this interview, it was always a challenge. You could
never make everybody happy and you had to make some pretty big decisions that would
effect someone, whether it be environmentalists or it be somebody in agriculture or
somebody in the development business. You just couldn't make everybody happy, but that
didn't bother me. I didn't mind it, I was a big boy. I could step up to the plate and make
decisions and sleep at night because I thought I'd done the right thing. Then, like I say,
after reading articles calling me a whore in the Audubon magazine and a couple other
things, and then this ethics charge, it just wasn't any fun anymore. I said, hell, I can do
better things with my life than do this.
H: It also says that in your time as chair, the mission of the water management district
changed drastically. You tended to view the water management district as a combatant
against the elements, whereas some of the newer members had talked less of battle and
FWM 14, Bob Clark, Page 17
more of forging a truce with nature.
C: As we talked earlier, it was a battle against the elements, because when I was raised you
were trying to get rid of water to protect your livelihood and those of others. Hell, I didn't
know what ecological or environmental meant when I was teenager; it just wasn't in my
vocabulary. I knew not to be a litterbug and not to throw trash in the canal and so on, but
that was about as far as it went. I learned an awful lot about environmental issues when I
was with the district. I learned an awful lot from folks like John DeGrove and Art
Marshall and others. I paid attention and I learned.
H: What did you learn from them?
C: [I learned] about different ways to protect water quality, and what good water quality
meant and how important it was to the state of Florida.
H: This [Miami] Herald editorial also said that the new members on the district board have
not been eager to sanction the free hand that Mr. Clark had enjoyed so long and setting
policy and "running the district." Was that a fair comment in your estimation?
C: I think I was a pretty strong chairman. I think I wielded a lot of clout as chairman. [That's]
not to say that other people on the board with me did not have [power as well]. I certainly
didn't try to bully anybody or run over anybody doing this, but I think they respected my
opinion and my actions and tended to follow, but certainly not follow in a sheepish way.
They each had their own mind and they each had their own thoughts and were very, very
good at it. I don't know whether I had a way to get along with people or what, but we
didn't have any big arguments or fights on the board and never did. When there was
something that needed working out, I'd call a recess and we'd go back into the parlor and
talk it over and come back out. I've been to some more board meetings down there and
I've seen where the staff and the board have fought amongst themselves and the board has
fought amongst themselves. I wouldn't have been on that board for twenty minutes if that
had been happening. I just wouldn't have done it. I had better things I could have done. I
enjoyed it. I met some of the finest people on that staff and board of anybody I've ever
known. I respected them all and some of them I was very, very close with. They were just
good people, good public servants.
H: Talk a little bit about being chair. How did the fact that you were chair of the district
change from, perhaps, the responsibilities of some of the other board members?
C: I had a phone in my office in Ft. Lauderdale that was a direct line up to the district. I had
to talk with staff-I probably spent thirty hours a week doing district business, and I was
running a business of my own. I was in the cattle business and the insurance business, and
I was a director of two banks down there. I probably spent a good thirty hours a week
doing district business just talking with staff. They'd come down and visit me and we'd go
out and look at some projects. I'd drive all the way up to Okeechobee and look at some
FWM 14, Bob Clark, Page 18
things up there that was necessary for me to do rather than the rest of the board members.
H: It was a little more hands on.
C: I remember one board member, he was really good fellow, but just a country gentleman,
he didn't have too much interest. We'd walk in there and we'd have two manilla
envelopes that weighed twenty pounds, like this, full of material and all to be going over.
He wouldn't open his till he got into the board room the day of the meeting, and then he'd
start opening his manilla envelope. That just shows you [what they had to do]. Plus, I was
responsible as chairman for signing-we had an awful lot of real estate transactions that
went on at the district because we owned canal easements, right of way easements, and
each of them had to be processed every month. It might be as many as two to three
hundred some months. The staff would have it prepared and everything, but I had to sign
them and look at them and make sure that was right. We owned an awful lot of property
and there's an awful lot of restrictions on it down there.
H: I'd like to ask you one by one about some of the other entities that the district worked with
and the relationship with those entities. First of all, between the various water
management districts, how did that relationship work?
C: Good. We had at least quarterly meetings where we'd meet with all the boards of the other
districts. Maybe it wasn't quite that often. Every six months or so I know we'd meet.
We'd have board members from Northwest Florida come down and visit us and we'd all
have a big dinner or something, the Suwannee River [Water Management District
members]. Everybody would meet, all the chairmen, some of the staff, and the executive
directors would meet.
H: What about the various state agencies that were involved in these? You had a lot of
different turf battles, presumably, with not only the state agencies, but then the federal
agencies, Army Corps of Engineers. How did those relationships work in your
C: We probably dealt closer with the Army Corps of Engineers than any of the other districts
because they controlled water levels in Lake Okeechobee and various other issues. We
had to work with both the Seminoles and the Miccosukee Indian tribes. There would be
some minor problems there, but nothing that couldn't be worked out because their land
was actually in and surrounding some of our conservation areas. I understand that they're
having more problems now than what we used to as to water levels, and there's been some
suits and so on by the Indians now. We worked with the Corps, we worked with, like I
said, the Department of Environmental Protection now, the legislature, and worked also
with the governor and his staff.
H: What sort of presence did the legislature have in dealing with the district?
FWM 14, Bob Clark, Page 19
C: Primarily [in] funding the districts. Four of the five districts had a cap at $1 mill that they
could assess in ad valorem tax. The Northwest Florida Water Management District could
only tax $.05 mill, which was quite a bit smaller than the other districts. There was talk a
long time ago about a legislator by the name of Dempsey Barron, who was the senator
from Panama City. He was a real character; he was a real dude and wielded a lot of power
when he was president [of the Florida Senate]. He didn't want the water management
district in Northwest Florida; didn't want it at all, didn't see any need for it. Then when
the funding issue came up, the talk was-and I can't vouch for this-that Dempsey said,
okay, I'll tell you what I'll do. You all tax $1 million in the other four districts, and we're
going to tax $0.5 mill. They said, okay, okay. Then the bill was written and instead of $0.5
[million] it was written $0.05 [million], and he got it through. He snuck it through on
them, and that was the way it was written. So instead of a dollar, it was a nickel instead of
fifty cents. Those were the rumors that went around, and I don't doubt it a bit.
H: In terms of day to day operations, did legislatures make their voice known about how they
felt about given issues?
C: Yeah. The legislature, the problem that the districts had-of course they gave us a whole
lot of funding-the problem was that you would always have, whether it be developers or
farmers or ranchers or whatever, [these people] were their constituents. Many of those
constituents were upset at the water management district for some thing or another. They
would listen to these constituents and when the water management districts went to the
legislature to talk with them, we weren't very popular. We didn't have a lobbyist or
anybody supporting us where the other interests did. We caught a lot of flack from the
legislature, but we all got over it.
H: I know that you said you didn't have a lobbyist, but did lobbyist, in your opinion, play an
C: Well I say we didn't have a lobbyist, we didn't have a lobbyist that entertains and can take
legislators out like other big interests do. We had people up here to keep us informed of
legislation, and we would have somebody up here all session.
H: Do you think lobbyists played a role in these issues even if they were working for
environmental or business or big sugar?
C: Oh, absolutely.
H: How did that play out?
C: I don't know. In the long-run I don't think there was any real adverse effect on the district
because of other lobbying interests. There were some big ones, U.S. Sugar, Florida
Cattlemen's Association, Florida Citrus, Audubon Society, all of them. That's a lot of
votes, and legislators naturally listen to them. Then you go up and you say, I'm from the
water management district [and they'd say] get the hell out of my office.
FWM 14, Bob Clark, Page 20
H: In terms of the business and the industry groups and the agribusiness and the private
sector, how did they work in terms of getting their voice heard on the issues concerning
C: I didn't understand [the question].
B: In agribusiness and private sector businesses who obviously had a vested interest in the
water management, how did they involve themselves with the process in any given issue
the district was involved with?
C: Depending on what the issue was, you would have huge numbers of people come to board
meetings and they would make themselves heard. We had a lot of public hearings for
when we would have issues. If you had something to do involving cattlemen in Osceola
County, they'd be there. They'd show up and they'd come. We tried to move board
meetings around a lot too. If we had issues that we knew were going to effect a certain
area, we'd try to move the board meeting there to make it a little closer for folks to come.
B: Were those people working on you in particular since you presumably had connections as
C: No, very, very seldom did I have anybody call me and ask me to vote a certain way on an
issue. No, it just didn't happen. They would call me a lot of times and ask me to come out
and take a look at something at their farm or ranch, especially if they thought that an
engineer or biologist or somebody had made an unfair request for them to do something
on their farm or so on. Then I'd go out and take a look. Then I'd discuss it a staff member.
I might have him come out there. You asked earlier what time I spent, I spent a lot of time
like that compared to just a board member. I might take the executive director with me or
whoever, and we'd go take a look at the problem and see if it was something that could be
worked out. If not, then we'd explain to the landowner why. Usually it always worked out
pretty good. We certainly didn't try to run over the staff or influence them. The only thing
I ever did with staff was I told them that I didn't want any politics in the office. I had a
brother-in-law, Jim Smith who ran for attorney general and secretary of state. I said, I will
never ask you to vote for anybody or do anything. On the other hand, I don't want ya'll
politicking in the office. I don't want any political signs, I don't want anything else. Leave
it and do it out in the parking lot or at your home or whatever. I don't want any politics in
the office because all it does is create bad blood. I did not allow that of any kind.
H: Was that adhered to? Did folks follow that?
C: Yes sir, because if not, they knew I'd fire them or have the executive director fire them. I
just didn't believe in it and didn't think it was a good idea.
H: Did you ever have to take that step then?
FWM 14, Bob Clark, Page 21
C: No. I got along good with the staff. I really did get along good with the staff. I go back
there now and I have people that come up and see me and all. I've been told that I was fair
with them, that I was a good chairman, and they appreciated it. I only had one whistle-
blower complain, and that was a long time ago. There were no complaints against the
board from the staff
H: That's probably fairly unusual in a bureaucracy I would guess.
C: Yeah, I think so.
H: Talk a little bit about how you experienced the different gubernatorial administrations and
their approach to the water management districts. Did you see a difference of style in
between the governors you served under?
C: Of course, Governor Askew, it was under his term when the Water Resources Act came
into being in the early 1970s. I thought he was a great environmental steward. Then after
his term I served under Governor Graham. Governor Graham being from South Florida
and so on was very, very interested in the Everglades issues and the South Florida issues-
not that he wasn't statewide. He was very knowledgeable. Governor Askew was from
Pensacola, so he was looking at more of a statewide water plan, where Governor Graham
was really interested in the South Florida issues and was very aware of the flooding
problem that had happened in the 1940s and so on. Governor Graham was real
instrumental in starting new programs for the South Florida Water Management District
about the time I was leaving and carried on very actively after that.
H: Was there a difference of styles in between your direct dealings with the governor and his
C: Yeah, Governor Graham was more active. We came up here a lot to visit with Governor
Graham. I don't remember having that many meetings with Governor Askew, but
Governor Graham and his staff were very active in the dealings of the South Florida
Water Management District.
H: It was a little more hands on would be the way to characterize it?
C: Yeah. Not hands on in the day-to-day operation, but in the policy issues he was very
H: He was interested in steering the overall course.
H: I see. What I'd like to do now is to bring up certain criticisms that have been levied
FWM 14, Bob Clark, Page 22
against the water management districts in general, and just get your opinion on what you
think of those criticisms. One, for example, is that the districts do not heed scientific
evidence as much as they should.
C: I don't agree with that. I think that all the districts now have water chemists, biologists,
and everything. I think that they have very knowledgeable staff that they hire and that they
listen to them. I know it to be true in the St. John's Water Management District and in
Southwest Florida Water Management District and the South Florida [Water Management
District] because after I retired from the cattle business and I went back to work-I didn't
enjoy retirement and I came back and I'm working here. The office here, we work with
best management practices and we deal very, very much with Suwannee River, Southwest
Florida, South Florida, St. John's, all of them, we deal with them. I'm very impressed
with their staff and the board and the districts themselves.
H: Did you ever run into any situations where both sides were using scientific evidence to
support contradictory viewpoints or perhaps were interpreting the same evidence in two
C: You mean two of the districts?
H: Or even one district, but the scientists were split on the issue.
C: I'm sure that happens, but I don't remember it happening back in my time.
H: In other words, science couldn't always be the sole guide that you used in your approach
to any given issue.
C: No. For example, there were many times when we said there shouldn't be anymore
inflows into Lake Okeechobee because of the water quality program. Then when a damn
hurricane hits or [you get] twelve inch rain, you've got to put your water in there. Sure.
We had some places down in the keys where we had to let water out, Barnes Sound I think
it was called, and we had to bust a dike with a drag line and let water all out into the
estuary down in Florida Bay. It was a lot of freshwater. I know it was killing seagrasses, it
was effecting shellfish and all that, but you don't have any choice. People's homes are
underwater and you've got to let it out.
H: Those are tough issues. What about the criticism that water management districts have too
C: I don't think so. There's been a lot of criticism that the board members should be elected
because they have taxing authority, and I am adamantly against that. I think if people
show interest, they're appointed. I think there's a good diversity in the appointments that
the governor makes and I think that's all that needs to be done.
FWM 14, Bob Clark, Page 23
H: Do you think that the issue of patronage becomes more to the fore when it's not an elected
C: Sure it would be. However, I think there's enough pressure on the governor that they
appoint people from all walks of life. If they put too many ag people on there or too many
environmentalists or so on, they're going to hear about it. They're going to have the right
balance. Plus, they've got to be approved by the Senate before they go on. I think it's a
good process right now. The only question would be the taxing, but I don't think that's
any big deal.
H: What was your experience with the appointees that the governors in your tenure did for
C: As I said, I had some disagreements with some of them, but I respected all of them, and
many of them that I met I'll remember the rest of my life for being such fine gentlemen.
H: What about the criticism that districts are not closely regulated enough?
C: By who?
H: My understanding is that the DEP has general supervisory authority and budget oversight.
C: [The Department of] Environmental Protection.
C: I think there's a balance between the districts and Environmental Protection that I think
works fine. I don't think there's any problem there that I see. I don't think they need to be
regulated anymore than what they are.
H: Do you feel that the districts are limited by politics?
C: There's more politics involved in the district now than there was when I was there. Like I
said, hell, I fired and hired an executive director-I say I did, the board did-and then we
notified the governor of what we'd done. Today in water management districts the
governor hires or places executive directors around and moves them around and so on and
so forth, which was the example over in St. John's and South Florida Water Management
District. The governor made that decision and he put them in where he wanted them. We
never did that. He appointed us as board members and we took action and we voted and
did what we wanted to.
H: What do you think accounts for that change that politics are now infused in the districts
nowadays than during your time?
FWM 14, Bob Clark, Page 24
C: Maybe the boards need a little stronger leadership, such as I was. [laughing]
H: Fair enough.
H: I suppose that it's a more partisan environment in general nowadays. Would that fit with
C: Yeah, when I went on, like I say, I was a Democrat and I was the only one. Of course now
the other fellows are Republicans appointed by Claude Kirk. Now [it] depends] on your
party affiliation whether you're appointed or not.
[End of Tape A, Side 2]
H: I'd like to ask a few last questions that are sort of broader issues about the districts. How
has your view of the water management districts changed from when you first started and
worked up to today? How has your perspective about them changed over time? Or has it?
C: I think that some of the problems facing the water management districts are not
unsolvable, but as more people move into Florida, the issues are going to keep right on
growing. As I told you earlier about the areas out west in Broward County and so on that
were not marked for development, that we said there was not going to be any development
out there. Broward County kind of overruled it and now there's just thousands of homes
out there. The districts do have a lot more to deal with, a lot more problems. They're
pushing harder to clean up the Everglades, the Everglades Restoration Program, as to how
many parts per billion of phosphorous can go into the waters out there. They're making a
lot of progress, but it's still a long ways to go. I'm very concerned about a wet hurricane,
how much of the environmental clean up is going to come back and menace the so-called
flood control, which was early on, with many more thousands of people living in the area
and so on. I don't know how that's going to effect the flood control aspect of it. There
might be a lot of Yankees with wet feet.
H: They didn't quite know what they were in for when they moved down here.
C: It all depends whose ox is getting gored. The environmental issues are fine when the
weather is fine. When people are wet, then they don't care much about how much
phosphorous is going in the Glades, get that water out of my yard.
H: That makes sense. What do you see as the strengths and weaknesses of the water
management district and how they carry out their tasks, particularly from your tenure as
C: Weakness not because [of something] they're doing, but their weakness is like we've
mentioned, there are so many competing interests that there are just sometimes no
FWM 14, Bob Clark, Page 25
answers. It's not because of anybody's lack of knowledge or lack of interest or whatever,
but when you have the agriculture, the millions more people moving in, and you see the
condominiums right up to the conservation areas out there in the western edge of Broward
and Dade County, I don't know if there is any answer. The strengths are their staff, that
they really do have a dedicated and knowledgeable staff that work hard to solve the issues
and don't get down about it and they keep on plugging along. Also, I think the boards are,
mostly from what I see, still dedicated public servants that spend their own time and
money to travel around and try and try and take care of some of these issues.
H: We haven't talked much about developers. Did they play a role when you were chair on
the district? Were they an interest group that had to be contended with?
C: Just for water use and competing for water use against agriculture. It was more of not any
particular developer, but just our process was involved in limiting areas that could be
developed because of environmental issues. We would just say, this area is off bounds or
out or boundaries, you're not going to be come in here and do anything in this area. But
then so many times, like I say, counties or local government say, well, we're going to let
this one sneak in here and this one's going to come here and this one here, and before you
know it it's all gone. We gave warnings. We had people that built houses, and on their
deed we put a big stamp on it and it says this land is subject to flood and they'd still go
ahead and build. This area is unprotected, no flood control, and you're subject to flooding.
They would; they'd build it, and they'd flood, and then raise hell with us.
H: In terms of dealing with local governments, was that a tricky issue that you had to deal
with at the local level of these interests converging versus the power of the water
C: We got along pretty good with local government. Some local governments, such as Dade
County, that had a big staff, they were immune from our permitting and so on-we let them
handle their own stuff down there. Many of the other smaller counties, we assisted them a
good bit in water use permits and so on. It was more individuals than local government
that we had problems with when we went into tell a grove owner he had to cap this well or
he had to meter this one and could only use so much water. It took a lot of getting used to.
It was a very memorable experience for me and one I wouldn't trade for anything in the
world, the time I served on it.
H: Did you have sort of an overall guiding philosophy that you used in your dealings; a
particular approach that you felt governed your mentality in dealing with all these issues?
C: I tried to balance between the environment and the livelihood of folks. Probably my rule
was that if it came between the two that I was going to try to take care of the people that
had invested in their land and livestock or whatever. The other could recover, I would
hope, but if you wipe out a man's livestock, herd, or grove, he can't. Does that make any
sense? I don't know, but that's the way I felt about it. I sure tried to do both.
FWM 14, Bob Clark, Page 26
H: [For] historians reading this interview transcript fifty years from now writing a book on
the water management district, what do they have to understand about these districts in
order to do them justice or to understand their strengths and faults?
C: Fifty years from now?
C: It's like when I resigned from the board and had these pictures up on the wall of former
board members and everything. I told the board, you look around and see these pictures,
and their duty was to prevent flooding and to build canals and ditches and drain the damn
land so somebody could use it to farm and make it. That was the same principle as the
state government had and everybody else. I said you look at it now and you realize that a
lot of it was mistakes, but they weren't making a mistake. They were performing in their
time and they were doing what they thought was right. So if you ask what somebody's
doing now, we think that we are doing the best that we can to protect the environment, to
do this, that, and so on. You ask what somebody's going to think about it in fifty years,
they're going to think, damn, they were fools. [They will think] they weren't doing it
right, we found that this is right and this is the way to reduce phosphorous in the
Everglades, not the way that they were doing it. They were idiots. Right now they're
doing the best that they can with the knowledge that they have. I don't think we can really
tell what people will think fifty years from now. I hope that they're saying we did an
excellent job, not just an excellent job in our own time. I don't know.
H: It is sort of unusual that the districts are not a problem solving endeavor, it's really sort of
an evolving process that they have to monitor and there's some fluctuation in dealing with
these issues. It's not just, go after something and fix it, it's really an ongoing process.
C: Like I say, I've been off the board now over twenty years and I look back and see that
they're still dealing with the same problems. They've made some advances, and they're
making some new efforts, but it's still there. I think that eventually there's going to be a
lot of salt water used, and it's costly, it's expensive, but it's going to be done. They're
doing it all in the Mideast.
C: Yeah, desalinization and reverse osmosis. I think that's going to be the answer in a lot of
places in the world.
H: Do you still view water as the enemy?
C: Not as much because I see also now-I never was aware thirty years ago-a lack of water.
So yeah, water can be an enemy, either a lack of it or too much of it.
FWM 14, Bob Clark, Page 27
H: Now that you've worked at DEP and now the Department of Agriculture, has that changed
your perspective on the water management districts?
C: No, we get along good with them. Like I say, this office here, we work with best
management practices with all the water management districts. We have joint funding and
I know, certainly in Suwannee and Northwest Florida, that the farmers respect the
districts, get along good with their staff. We have offices now, this office here, the
Department of Ag and Water Policy, we have staff members in all the water management
H: Is that right?
C: Yeah. We have joint funding for a lot of growers for things that they do-mobile irrigation
labs and cost share practices for providing better water quality. We cost share and split
funding with the water management districts.
H: You say in terms of this best use practices is what you do now in working with farmers.
What exactly does that term mean to you?
C: Best management practices is a way to help improve water quality in an economically
feasible manner. In other words, if you just told the farmer, go on out and we're going to
give you some practices you've got to do to improve water quality, but if it's not
economically feasible for him and it's saving him a little money, then it makes more sense
H: Yeah, incentives help.
H: What is your view on the current Everglades Restoration Project, one of the most
expensive projects ever passed by the U.S. Congress?
C: Well, a big portion of it, one of the new clean up areas, is my old sod farm.
H: Is that right?
C: Yeah. We sold it, and then it resold again to the state to use it as a clean up area. All the
good muck was gone off of it anyway so it wasn't worth a damn, so they can do with it
what they want to. It was getting a little shallow; the muck subsided. Like I say, I hope it
works. I'm sure it will.
H: Are you?
C: [Laughing] Kinda sure I guess. Like I say, I am still very concerned. I wish I was smart
FWM 14, Bob Clark, Page 28
enough to know that it won't, but I think that a lot of the pumps that they're going to
remove and all this, some of the canals that are going to fill up to help restore the
Everglades, won't affect too many people in time of a bad storm. They let them keep on
building out there and moving out there. The Everglades clean up, I think a lot of it's to be
blamed on agriculture, but a hell of a lot of it's to be blamed on homeowners.
Homeowners can go to Lowe's or Home Depot or Wal-Mart and buy any kind of stuff
they want to put on their yard, scatter it out there at any rate and nobody says anything. It
all washes down in the groundwater and into the canals the same as farmers.
H: There's a lesson in that for all of us I think. Is there anything else that I should have asked
you that I didn't?
C: I can't think of anything.
H: I've rung you pretty dry here, huh?
C: I might be a minority in a contrary position from some of the others that you've
interviewed, but I got to tell you how I felt about it and what it meant to me. Like I say, it
was a very good experience in my life and I learned a lot and met some real good people
in the process.
H: I think this project will be a lot better for having your perspective. I appreciate your time.
On that note we'll conclude the interview.
[End of Interview.]