Relationships, Responsibilities, Responses and Recommendations
Remarks by Secretary Virginia Wetherell
Water Management District Review Commission
April 20, 1995
Thank you for the opportunity to address you on your important tasks. The work of
the Commission will have profound effects on the people and natural resources of this
state. Your careful review of the current water management system and thoughtful
recommendations for improvement can result in a better Florida.
We all recognize that the existing water management structure, based on the Model
Water Code, has accomplished a great deal since the Florida Water Resources Act of
1972 was adopted by the legislature. In the area of water supply, the system has
" helped provide water for the seven million new residents since 1972. In the area of
flood damage prevention, it has helped to prevent the catastrophic floods that have
occurred in this state historically. In the area of water quality, the system has
endeavoredto minimize the largest water quality problem in the state: stormwater
pollution, and has worked to sustain our highly productive aquifers by protecting them
S from saltwater intrusion. In the area of natural systems, the Department of Environ-
mental Protection and the water management districts have purchased, under various
programs, enormous acreages of land for such important purposes as water supply,
recharge protection, maintenance of natural biodiversity, and outdoor recreation.
These successes are the envy of most states and are the product of the fundamental
strengths of the current statutory system. These strengths include:
A Watershed Approach Our system wisely emphasizes unified basin
SComprehensieness. The current system discourages single-purpose water
Management activities. Water supply, for example, must not be considered in
isolation from flood control or natural systems or water quality. The needs of all
users, both human and natural systems, are always balanced as part of the
equation under the current system.
Reasonable-Beneficial Use Test. Under the Water Resources Act, a proposed
consumptive use of water must establish that the proposed use of water is a
reasonable-beneficial use. This Florida standard, which combines the best
features of Eastern and Western water law, has promoted both the efficient use
of water and the public interest.
Adequate Powers to Raise Needed Revenues. Effective water management is
Water Management Review Commission Items to be discussed later
Please note: The following numbered paragraphs are from the earlier list distributed
in Vail at the 1995 seminar. These proposals will be held for further
consideration another day:
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 applicant.
8. 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
17. Add a provision to the Sunshine Law (Section 286.011, Florida Statutes) to
make it clear 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.
Note: It was agreed that WMI needs to prepare a white paper on this
6. Specifically prohibit the water management districts from making direct money
grants of funds raised through imposition of ad valorem tax levies.
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
10. Change the audit system to make it easier for governing boards to secure more
I I i I I
meaningful and timely audits.
See Section 373.079(4)(b)l about hiring internal auditor. Make it clear that districts
should retain their own independent auditors so that timely, meaningful auditing can