Recommendations made to
Water Management District Review Commission
December 2, 1994
By L. M. Buddy Blain
1. Propose a Constitutional amendment to equalize the ad valorem tax millage that
may be levied throughout the state for water management purposes.
Propose an amendment to Section 9 of Article VII of the Florida Constitution that will
equalize the maximum ad valorem tax millage that may be levied for water management
purposes in the northwest portion of the state with the maximum tax that may be levied
in the remainder of the state. At present no more that .05 mill may be levied in the
northwest portion of the state. The proposed change should increase the ad valorem tax
millage that may be levied in northwest Florida for water management purposes from .05
mill to 1 mill, the limitation that applies to the remainder of the state. The legislature
still must authorize the maximum ad valorem tax that may be levied by each district
within the constitutional limitation.
- 2. Change terms of earning board members to be ee-y staggered terms with
each board having( members appointed each year to provide greater continuity.
Presently, board members for all five districts are appointed for four-year terms.
Four of the districts have nine members each but Southwest Florida Water Management
District has eleven members. In four of the districts (all except SWFWMD), five
members (a majority) are appointed for four-year terms commencing on March 2 of the
year in which the governor's term commences (1995). The remaining four members of
each of these four districts are appointed two years later on March 2 (1997). See
Sections 373.073 and 373.0735, Florida Statutes.
, 3. Allow governing boards to have discretion as to whether to hold a hearing on an
application for a consumptive use permit before the board or to refer it to a hearing
Repeal subparagraph 120.57(1)(b)14, Florida Statutes, which currently provides that the
water management district shall refer the matter to a hearing officer at the request of the
4. Add a new section to the Administrative Procedure Act (chapter 120) specifically
for permit procedures before large, collegial boards which meet monthly such as the
water management district boards.
The mandatory time limits, rather than hastening the permitting process tend to prolong
it. In order to toll the time clock, regulators have a tendency to send a "thirty day letter"
requesting additional information.
5. Revise the general powers and duties of the department of Environmental
Protection set forth in Section 373.026, Florida Statutes, to eliminate duplication and to
be more realistic.
Many of the powers and duties relating to water management have been delegated to the
water management districts. Other duties which are prescribed as mandatory for the
department have never been funded.
( 6. Specifically prohibit the water management districts from making direct money g
grants of funds raised through imposition of ad valorem tax levies. m -a U ,t^..
Several districts are using proceeds from ad valorem taxation to make direct money grants
to local governments for various purposes. In spite of good intent, this practice causes
friction and resentment on the part of recipients and unsuccessful applicants for such
7. Revise the prefatory language relating to establishing minimum flows and levels
to clearly state that such authority is permissive and not mandatory.
Change the language in the introductory paragraph of section 373.042 from "the
governing board shall establish" to "the governing board may establish. .. ." Water
management districts need the authority to be able to set these levels where appropriate
but it should be permissive rather than mandatory.
f8.i Encourage greater use of the basin system. See Sections 373.0693-373.0698,
Florida Statutes. Consider authorizing district governing boards to delegate its regulatory
authority to basin boards so that regulatory decisions may be made on a lower level of
government, closer to the people.
Amend Section 373.103(8), Florida Statutes, to authorize delegation also to Basin Boards.
9. Restrict land acquisition by water management districts primarily to property which
is specifically needed for water management purposes.
Districts are being overloaded with responsibility and should be given direction to limit
land acquisition and land management to property which is specifically needed for water
10. Change the audit system to make it easier for governing boards to secure more
meaningful and timely audits.
See Section 373.079(4)(b)1 about hiring internal auditor.
q d Encourage greater use of advisory committees, reporting directly to the g06g
boards ^t a tt
Advisory committees have served governing boards quite well in the past where utilized.
Governing boards and basin boards should be encouraged to make greater use of such
committees, but advisory boards are more effective when they report directly to the
respective governing boards rather than to report through district staff members.
S 12. bigeai api- or ui "bet management practices" in permit
decisions wg establishing due process in developing, adopting, applying, and
amend ch standards.
i L Utilizing "best management practices" in permit decisions and in lieu of specific permit
language has been quite successful in forestry practices where the industry itself has
i sponsored development of best management practices. However, other agricultural
eo t activities may not be as well organized and standards of due process should be established
for developing, adopting, applying, and amending such standards so that, once adopted,
they truly represent the most current and best management practice, and that they do not
hamper efforts to develop even better management practices.
(1 Encourage greater utilization of impartial peer review by water management
Water management districts are often pressured to adopt new regulations or to launch new
environmental projects before adequate scientific research and evaluation can be
completed. Some districts are experiencing a shortage of competent, mature, senior
scientists to conduct adequate research and to complete necessary evaluation. There may
be bright, academically educated young staffers, but quite often they lack hands-on
Experience and maturity. To offset this shortage or inadequacy, water management
boards should be encouraged to make greater use of a peer review process. This will
help avoid mistakes.
14. Review and revise the budgeting and taxing provisions of Section 373.536, Florida
Statutes, and amend the TRIM provisions of chapter 200, Florida Statutes, accordingly,
in order to provide for a better informed public and for more meaningful participation in
As worthy as intentions may be, the TRIM provisions of chapter 200 and the budgeting
and taxing provisions of Section 373.536 fall far short of providing for a well-informed
public and for more meaningful public participation in the budgeting and taxing process.
Both laws should be substantially amended.
15. Review the additional permitting criteria imposed on the water management
districts' permitting process by passage of the wetland protection and the endangered
The additional permitting criteria imposed on water management districts by the wetlands
protection and endangered species acts must be kept in proper perspective if the
governing boards are to carry out declared policy as set forth in Section 373.016, Florida
Statutes. These acts should be reviewed carefully and revised where appropriate / y .
16. Revise the introductory paragraph of Section 373.103, Florida Statutes, to provide
that the governing board has all powers specifically innumerated in the section.
The powers enumerated in Section 373.103 which may be vested in the respective
governing boards have already been so vested and should be done so by legislative act
rather than at DEP's discretion. Section 373.026(7) should be amended to eliminate dual
authority of DEP and the water management districts by deleting the last sentence that
authorizes DEP to exercise "any power herein authorized to be exercised by a water
(17.) a p viiio th6 Sun hine Law (Section 286.011, Florida Statutes) to make
it 1ear that individual governing members are not prohibited from speaking to each other
about water management district matters, provided, of course, that all meetings shall be
open to the public.
Board members have difficulty keeping informed and should be allowed to talk freely to
each other. This recommendation should not be construed as an effort to weaken the
Sunshine Law. Rather it is intended to enable individual members of collegial boards to
be better informed.