Politicians in both parties have resumed rhapsodizing about the magnificence of the Everglades, a phenomenon that occurs every four years with varying degrees of sincerity.
Polls show that most Floridians want the Everglades restored and preserved. This requires candidates to show some love. Neither Democrats nor Republicans want to look like obstructionists on this issue in an election year.
That’s one reason why the Obama administration and the state have reached an agreement tentatively resolving 20 years’ worth of lawsuits that have hobbled efforts to clean the polluted water being pumped into the Everglades.
It’s true that under Obama, funding for Everglades restoration is way up from the Bush years. It’s also true that Gov. Rick Scott pushed for the recent settlement with Washington, which should restart some projects that will help the cleanup.
However, the semi-miraculous truce between Florida and the feds wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for a fellow named Alan Gold. He’s a U.S. district judge in Miami who got so fed up with the stalling of both sides that he gave them a glorious reaming two years ago.
You couldn’t blame the man for being ticked off.
Gold was presiding over drawn-out litigation that was holding up some of the Everglades projects. The Miccosukee tribe had sued because phosphorus pollution from farms, ranches and subdivisions was being flushed into the reservation.
In the summer of 2008, Gold had ordered the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection to start enforcing clean-water standards that had been set to take effect back in 2006.
But in the face of heavy lobbying, the feds and the state decided on a 10-year extension — a nice break for the polluters. That didn’t sit well with the Miccosukees, most environmental groups or the judge.
In 2010, Gold issued a ruling that scalded the EPA and the DEP for showing “glacial slowness” in cleaning up the flow into Everglades. He characterized the restoration plan as “rudderless.”