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Florida Gov. Scott Clueless In Lake Crisis

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Florida Gov. Scott Clueless In Lake Crisis

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Florida Gov. Rick Scott addresses an economic summit in Orlando

As a devastating deluge of polluted water darkens two coasts of Florida and threatens their tourist economies, Gov. Rick Scott is once again a flaky phantom.

Billions of gallons spiked with agricultural waste is being pumped daily from Lake Okeechobee toward the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico, browning the blue coastal waters, choking sea grass beds and crippling small businesses that depend on a healthy marine ecology.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says the discharges are necessary because the water in Lake Okeechobee is too high and the old Hoover dike is too weak. Gov. Scott says it’s all President Obama’s fault for not rebuilding the dike, which is absurd.

Scott, who aspires to be a U.S. senator, either has no clue how the appropriations process works, or he’ll simply say any brainless thing to duck responsibility.

A brief civics lesson for Florida’s dim and furtive governor: The president cannot write a check for major capital projects. Congress is in charge of funding, and Congress happens to be controlled by the Republicans.

Being a Republican himself, Scott should fly straight to Washington and persuade his colleagues to rebuild the lake dike and fund a flow-way to the Everglades for the excess water.

Why hasn’t that happened? One reason is that Scott has even less clout with Congress than he does in Tallahassee.

Currently, the state Legislature is gutting or discarding basically all of the governor’s major budget proposals, including a goofball request for a $250 million honey pot to lure private companies to the state.

Scott is the emptiest of suits. He’ll pop up whenever a new business opens, count the jobs and take credit for them. In times of crisis, though, he’s a spectral presence.

Privately, the governor is busy muscling special interests to bankroll his Senate run in 2018. Some of his biggest donors are the worst polluters of Lake O and the Everglades, so you can understand why he’s been hard to find lately.

Scott’s pals in Big Sugar have been back-pumping dirty water from their cane fields into the lake, which through Friday was being emptied into the St. Lucie River at a rate exceeding 2 billion gallons a day. The Army Corps says it will soon drop the daily flow to 1.2 billion gallons.

So far this year, more than 72 billion gallons has been expelled toward the Treasure Coast, ruining the salinity of the St. Lucie Estuary, chasing sea life from the Indian River Lagoon and creating a foul brown plume miles into the Atlantic.

The visual is repelling tourists who might otherwise be interested in fishing, swimming or paddle-boarding. This is also happening along the Gulf coast, where Lake O discharges gush from the Caloosahatchee River.

Under pressure from exasperated business owners and officials, Scott last week declared a state of emergency for St. Lucie, Martin and Lee counties, citing “extensive environmental harm” and “severe economic losses.”

The governor used the opportunity to bash Obama, calling out the president six times in a five-paragraph press release from his feeble Department of Environmental Protection.

Never once did Scott mention the Republican leaders of Congress, who have the power but not the enthusiasm to allocate the $800 million needed to repair the Lake O dike. If they put that item in a budget, Obama would sign it in a heartbeat.

The same is true for Everglades restoration. Showing zero sense of urgency, Congress continues to lag far behind on its commitment to share the costs 50-50 with the state.

Every year when it rains hard, an algae-spawning tide from Lake O is flushed toward the coastal bays and beaches. No president yet has stepped in to stop corporate farms from using the lake as their toilet, or stopped the Army Corps from opening the pump valves.

If Obama tried that, Big Sugar (and Scott) would scream bloody murder.

As for the governor’s “state of emergency,” it’s barely just a piece of paper. The agencies in charge are officially in “observation mode.” I’m not kidding.

TC Palm newspapers reported that the head of the state Division of Emergency Management was attending a conference in New Orleans last week. What better place than Bourbon Street from which to ponder Florida’s coastal pollution crisis?

Scott himself would benefit from spending time at the marinas or waterfront motels in Stuart, meeting the working people whose dreams are drowning in a flood of silt.

But this governor prefers upbeat media opportunities where he can talk about new jobs — not dying jobs. He’d much rather cut a ribbon at a gas station than hear from a boat captain who can no longer find any fish.

(Carl Hiaasen is a columnist for the Miami Herald. Readers may write to him at: 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla., 33132.)

(c) 2016, The Miami Herald Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: Florida Gov. Rick Scott addresses an economic summit in Orlando, Florida, June 2, 2015.  REUTERS/Steve Nesius

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Carl Hiaasen

Carl Hiaasen is an award-winning journalist, commentator, and novelist. Hiaasen has worked for the Miami Herald since 1976, and his writing focuses on environmental and corruption issues in his home state of Florida.

His latest book is Skink—No Surrender (2014).

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11 Comments

  1. dpaano March 8, 2016

    Typical GOP governor…..they don’t care about the people in their state…they only care about being re-elected or moving up the political ladder on the backs of their constituents! After all, look at Brownback and Kansas, and I could go on and on.

    Reply
    1. Insinnergy March 8, 2016

      Don’t forget Jindal… Brownback’s buddy-in-crime… who may have also completely ruined his State using the Party-of-Stupid’s best economic practices.

      Reply
      1. dpaano March 8, 2016

        Yeah, there are several, including Scott Walker, the idiot governor of Michigan, and I could go on and on…..funny how all of them are Republicans. They still have this misbegotten notion about “trickle down economy,” pushed on us by their “hero” Reagan! Additionally, they do not care a hoot about the people in their state and only do what the party tells them to do….the Party of Koch!! I feel bad for the people that have to live in these states and deal with these idiots.

        Reply
        1. JPHALL March 8, 2016

          But it is their own fault for electing and reelecting the scum!

          Reply
          1. dpaano March 8, 2016

            Definitely, and they aren’t going to be particularly happy if they elect a GOP president, especially if it’s Trump. They’ll be kicking themselves after a few months, trust me on that one!

            Reply
  2. Insinnergy March 8, 2016

    It must suck for the anti-regulation Party of Stupid when they watch the result of unregulated companies poisoning the environment, destroying the estuary, and killing wildlife with billions of gallons of toxic water…. and, even worse, being SO OBVIOUS about it.

    Also… the “Free Market” in it’s fetchingly sh!t-brown superhero costume has not yet appeared to wave its wand and magically save the day….

    How very strange.

    Reply
    1. dpaano March 8, 2016

      And we can look at Cruz who wants to abolish the IRS, do away with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, abolish the Commerce Department, approve the Keystone XL pipeline (despite states saying they do NOT want the pipeline to come through their lands), and do away with the Energy Department. He also says he wants to do away with the Environmental Protection Agency (and the oil and coal companies can thank him for that one). He also says he wants to “hire one person for every three who leave the federal civilian employee service,” and he probably thinks it’ll save money to make that one person work like a slave to cover the 3 people he or she is replacing! He also wants to reduce the annual adjustment for federal civilian pay while offering only opportunities for merit-based salary increases…..again, which means the one poor employee covering for the 3 employees that left will have to work his a$$$ off in order to get a small raise. Doesn’t sound promising to me.

      Reply
  3. Dominick Vila March 8, 2016

    The first thing Gov. Scott should do is call his pal, Mitch McConnell, and ask him why he opposed investment in infrastructure. While he is at it, he may also want to call Ted Cruz and ask him why is he planning to shut down the Environmental Protection Agency. And if that is not enough, he should talk to every Republican member of Congress and ask them why they oppose regulation to protect our environment.
    The real problem is not irresponsible demagogues like Scott, Cruz, Trump, or McConnell, to name a few. The real problem is the people that vote for them, and then blame the people that propose taking steps to protect our environment, for the damage their campaign donors are doing to our environment. They are not stupid, they are greedy un-American cynics.

    Reply
  4. Donald Filiault March 8, 2016

    Here’s how clueless he is. Today, he was in Orlando to proudly announce that “WrestleMania” is coming to Florida in 2017! Clueless is his middle name. He should be impeached, but of course, the Florida legislature is loaded with clueless GOP morons who were re-elected by the same clueless voters who re-elected Scott. I’d move back North, except for the endless snow and higher cost of living.

    Reply
    1. dpaano March 8, 2016

      Can always move to California…..just a thought.

      Reply
      1. Donald Filiault March 8, 2016

        Actually, I’ve got the best of both worlds. My Brother lives in Thousand Oaks, so we can visit him every year and take advantage of his hospitality. Driving the rental car from LAX to and from his house is murder, though.

        Reply

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