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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Florida water czar idea rejected -- again



Trudiwilliams Delegates gathered to study Florida's future water supply Thursday soundly rejected a proposal to set up any sort of water czar. The Florida Water Congress -- the first statewide gathering of its kind in more than 30 years -- killed the idea because it represented the creation of a new layer of bureaucracy at a time when every level of government is facing major budget cutbacks.

"I don't see how adding another layer of bureaucracy is going to help," said Rep. Trudi Williams, R-Fort Myers, who was representing the Florida Home Builders Association.

"I agree -- get it out of here," said South Florida Water Management District executive director Carol Wehle.

Five years ago the state's leading business group, the Council of 100, had proposed setting up a state water commission that could route water from rural North Florida to developing South Florida. The proposal, spearheaded by Clearwater real estate mogul Lee Arnold and megadeveloper Al Hoffman, stirred such outrage that then-Gov. Jeb Bush scuttled it.

The idea came up again this week when the Century Commission for a Sustainable Florida convened the Water Congress in Orlando, a meeting presided over by St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker. One of the proposals for the gathering of 120 utility executives, government officials, farmers and environmental activists to consider called for setting up some sort of water czar to oversee water distribution statewide. But not a single delegate supported the idea.

[Photo: Rep. Trudi Williams]

--Craig Pittman

[Last modified: Wednesday, September 15, 2010 8:50am]


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