CHARLES B. LITTLEJOHN & ASSOCIATES
ENVIRONMENTAL AND GOVERNMENTAL
July 21, 1995
Manatee Chamber of Commerce
Post Office Box 321
Bradenton, FL 32406-0321
Attached for your consideration are several recommendations under consideration by the Florida
Chamber and other organizations for submission to the Water Management District Review
Commission and the Florida Legislature:
We must look 10 to 20 years down the road and prepare for the water needs of the future. The
Water Management Districts' responsibilities have evolved from an original emphasis on flood
control and water supply to broad responsibilities which include environmental protection and
ecosystem management. Providing enough water to meet the future needs of all our citizens is
the most critical issue of water management. Water Management Districts should be just that -
water management districts.
The Florida Legislature should clarify that the primary mission of water
districts is regional water supply planning and development in order to meet the
competing needs of Florida's citizens, business and agriculture, and the natural
In order to provide a stable environment for the State's economy, it is important to provide
protection for existing legal water users. Florida statues allow for water management district
permits to have a twenty year duration. However, no district is currently permitting at this
maximum duration. Longer permits for consumptive uses should be practical in most areas of the
State. Also, current law grants existing legal users priority over new uses only when the existing
legal user's application is equal to new uses. This could lead to the loss of existing uses of water
to new applicants.
310 WEST COLLEGE AVENUE TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA 32301 (904) 222-7535
Existing legal users' right to permit renewals should be strengthened through
thefollowing revision to Section 373.233 F.S. It is further recommended that
the following revision to Section 373.236 F.S. be added to require the water
management districts to issue longer duration permits.
373.233 Competing applications. [Revised]
(1) If two or more applications which otherwise comply with the provisions of this
part are pending for a quantity of water that is inadequatefor both or all, or
which for any other reason are in conflict, the governing board or the department
shall have the right to approve or modify the applications which best serves the
public interest. In weighing the public interest, substantial weight shall be given
to an applicant seeking renewal of a permit.
(2) In the event that two or more competing applications qualify under the
provisions of section 373.233(1), the governing board or the department shall
give preference to a renewal application over an initial application.
373.236 Duration ofpermits. [Revised]
(1) Permits may be grantedfor any period of time not exceeding 20 years. The
governing board or the department shall base duration ofpermits on the period
required to provide for reasonable return on the capital investment on the
property and on a reasonable system of classification according to source of
supply or type of use.
Accountability is the key to making the water management process work for everyone. Currently,
the Governor has sole authority to appoint the Governing Boards of the water management
districts. Each of these boards in turn employs hundreds of people to help determine and
administer district policies. Supported by hundreds of millions of dollars in ad valorem taxes, the
water policy makers are virtually unaccountable to the taxpayers in their respective districts. No
other state governing body has that kind of unchecked authority and responsibility.
Currently law does not provide for direct legislative review and oversight of the water
management districts and their activities. Water issues are currently reviewed by the Senate and
House Natural Resources Committees and/or the newly formed House Select Committee on
Water Policy on an as needed basis as issues are identified.
To provide for continuous and specific budget review and oversight of the water
management districts, the establishment of standing subcommittees of the
House Appropriations and Senate Ways and Means Committees to review the
state funded portions of the Districts' budgets is recommended. Further, to
properly address specific water issues, the legislature should formally review
water management laws every five years.
FINANCE AND TAXATION
Water management districts are able to assess ad valorem taxes to finance operations and, in some
cases, questions have arisen over the restrains in place to assure adequacy of programs while
levying the minimal tax possible. The total increase in 1995 budgets for all the districts was 37.2
Currently, the Governing Boards adopt the budgets and may set the ad valorem tax rates for the
districts up to the maximum allowed by statute. With the exception of the Northwest Florida
Water Management District, all of the Districts could legally raise their millage up to the
maximum ad valorem tax rates in total disregard to the concerns of their customers the
taxpayers. The South Florida Water Management District is currently proposing an increase in
the village rate for FY 1996 of 24.7 percent. Another question arises based on water
management district authority to use ad valorem taxes for state mandated programs.
In order to providefor meaningful review of water management district ad
valorem taxation, the ad valorem tax rate caps should be set to approximate
actual FY 1995 district tax levels through modification of Section
373.503(3)(a)(1-5) F.S. The Legislature could adjust the ad valorem tax caps
in the future after sufficient justification. Additionally, the Legislature should
review the use of ad valorem tax revenue for mandated state programs.
Florida Statutes governing the appointment of water management district board members
currently specify that the Governor appoint governing board members for terms of four years
subject to confirmation by the Senate. Other than geographic location, no specific qualifications
for appointment are provided for in statutes. This results in possible appointment of individuals
with minimal professional qualifications or experience.
In order to ensure substantially uniform governing boards, the current process
ofgubernatorial appointment with Senate confirmation should be maintained
with the following modifications:
1. All governing boards should have nine members.
2. Three members of each board should have specific or technical expertise in
water related areas.
3. Three members should be appointed from the regulated community.
4. Three members should be from the public-at-large
5. To provide continuity to water policy in the state, governing board members
should continue to serve four year terms, but appointments should be rotated in
a manner to ensure a majority would carry over from one gubernatorial term to
STATE WATER POLICY
Currently all state policy is established by the Legislature. However, the State Water Policy
which is not established by the Legislature drives the formulation of rules and policies of the five
water management districts and Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). This Policy is
the fundamental building block for statewide decisions on all water issues. Policy of this
importance with such far reaching implications should always be reviewed and ratified by
Florida's ultimate policy makers, the Legislature.
State Water Policy should have appropriate legislative oversight It is
recommended that the State Water Policy be adopted by DEP and ratified
by the Legislature before taking effect
Current statutes grant the water management district governing boards broad rulemaking
authority. In some cases, governing boards have adopted rules which are directed toward
activities other than water supply, water management or flood control which should be the
Water management district authority should be limited to water supply, water
management and flood control Substantive rules and programs should be
subject to scientific peer review prior to adoption and represent the least cost
alternative to the regulated community.
The addition of the following statutory language at Section 373.113 F.S. will
provide the necessary guidance to the water management districts' unbridled
Section 373.113 Adoption of Regulations by the Governing Board. [Revised]
In administering the provisions of this chapter the governing board shall adopt,
promulgate, and enforce such regulations as may be reasonably necessary to
effectuate its powers, duties, and functions pursuant to the provision of chapter
120. All rules and programs based on using or incorporating scientific analysis,
method or conclusions shall undergo the scientific peer review process prior to
publication of the proposed rules. All rules or policies adopted shall be the least
cost alternative while accomplishing the goals of the statute being implemented
The water management districts should focus exclusively on water management function for land
acquisition. There are limited tax dollars available for land acquisition. Land acquisition by water
management districts should be substantially related to water resource management.
Further land acquisitions should be screened to ensure a balance between the
water management districts' multiple missions of water supply, water
management and flood protection. Funds shall be provided or reserved at the
time ofpurchaseforproper management ofpurchased lands.
In order to provide clarification and certainty that water management districts
focus land acquisition exclusively on water supply, water management andflood
protection, Section 373.139(2) F.S. should be amended to read:
(2) The governing board of the district is empowered and authorized to acquire
fee title to real property and easements therein by purchase, gift, devise, lease,
eminent domain, or otherwise for flood control, water storage and water
management of wetlands, streams and lakes, except that eminent domain powers
may be used only for acquiring real property for flood control and water storage.
The continuation of the acquisition of massive tracts ofproperty throughout the
state without the dedicated funds for perpetual management is irresponsible. The
following statutory requirement should be added at Section 373.139 F.S. to
provide for responsible purchase and management:
(8) All acquisitions by fee simple of real property shall provide or reserve at the
time of closing for dedicatedfunds for the perpetual provision of land
Current permit fees are established by rule in each of the water management districts
independently and permit fees vary greatly among districts. Some districts attempt to recover
significantly larger portions of the costs for regulatory programs from permit fees than other
The Legislature should provide a standard schedule for permit fees and
establish the criteria for allocation between these costs legitimately borne by the
permitted against those permit benefits that accrue to the public at large.
The following amendment to Section 373.109 F.S. will encourage uniformity and
maintain a reasonable balance on the costs.
373.109 Permit Application Fees. [Revised]
When a water management district governing board, the department, or a local
government implements a regulatory system under this chapter or one which has
been delegated pursuant to chapter 403, it may establish a schedule of fees for
filing applications for the required permits. Such fees shall be consistent within
all similar programs in the State and shall not exceed the cost to the district, the
department or local government for 75 percent of the costs to process the
Currently, water management districts' rules are litigated before the Division of Administrative
Hearings and appealable to District Court and the Governor and Cabinet sitting as the Florida
Land and Water Adjudicatory Commission. This process is time consuming and extremely costly.
Voluntary alternative dispute resolution processes should be developed in each
water management district An ombudsman office within each district should
be created and staffed appropriately to respond to complaints, assist permit
holders, applicants, and citizens to help resolve disputed issues.
Many water management districts' permits require concurrent review with DEP and other state or
DEEP and water management district offices should be co-located to the
maximum extent practicable and to require team permitting when both
agencies require applications for a facility or activity. In the future, the
legislature should review any concurrent permitting and designate a responsible
agency to eliminate overlap.
Please call if you have any questions.