Sunday, April 22, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Fighting for Florida's oyster industry

Florida's elected leadership had little choice but to go back to court Tuesday to try to protect the state's suffering oyster industry. Gov. Rick Scott announced that Florida would sue the state of Georgia over its withdrawal of water that should be flowing south to Apalachicola Bay. And in a hearing in Apalachicola, Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio upped the pressure on Congress to intervene and resolve the water wars for good. The moves should prompt a settlement that fairly serves the Southern states while protecting a vital industry and a national food source.

Scott said "20 years of failed negotiations with Georgia" had left him no other option. Florida, Georgia and Alabama have fought for 23 years over a dam the Army Corps of Engineers built in the 1950s over the Chattahoochee River north of Atlanta. Since that time, the dam has evolved into an important drinking water resource for metropolitan Atlanta, which uses the water from the reservoir, called Lake Lanier, to supply the suburbs. But the withdrawals come at the expense of downstream users in Florida who rely on its southerly flow into the Apalachicola River.

Opening a new chapter in court is not ideal, but Florida had no other options. Georgia stood behind an appellate court victory in 2011 to forestall any attempt to move more water downstream. The Senate also rebuffed attempts by Nelson and Rubio to add tough language in new legislation that would have required allowing more water to flow to Apalachicola Bay. Florida needed to break the logjam, and Tuesday's announcement, which Scott made after touring Apalachicola Bay with Rubio and other elected officials, amounted to a strong united front in getting Georgia to the bargaining table.

The lack of water flowing downstream has devastated the Apalachicola habitat. On Monday, the Obama administration declared a fishery disaster for Florida's oyster beds along the west coast, clearing the way for economic assistance to fishing businesses and communities. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says within the last year, the oyster landings on Florida's west coast had dropped nearly 60 percent, amounting to a 44 percent loss in revenues. The drought and Georgia's abuse of Lake Lanier's water supply have produced the lowest recorded levels of water flow into Apalachicola since 1929. That has devastated a bay that produces 90 percent of the state's oysters and 10 percent of the nation's.

The disaster declaration makes Florida eligible for federal relief funds if Congress approves them, and it should without delay. But the larger focus should be on getting Georgia to realize its self-interest in a deal. The compacts the states agreed to over the years and the 2011 appeals court ruling all recognize an ambiguity in the law over Georgia's authority to withdraw water. By agreeing to a deal, Georgia could end a lengthy legal battle and gain long-term certainly over its water supply. Florida took necessary steps in that direction Tuesday, and it should keep up the pressure.

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Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Not too many people took then-candidate Donald Trump seriously when he famously campaigned to "drain the swamp" as president. But that shouldn’t give this administration a free pass to excuse the behavior of Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Env...
Published: 04/22/18
Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Allegiant Air’s safety record remains troubling, and the Federal Aviation Administration’s reluctance to talk about it is no more encouraging. Those are the key takeaways from a 60 Minutes report on the low-cost carrier’s high rate of mid-flight brea...
Published: 04/21/18

Editorial: Women’s work undervalued in bay area

Even a strong economy and low unemployment cannot overcome the persistent pay gap affecting full-time working women in Florida. A new report shows women in Florida earned 12.5 percent less on average than their male counterparts, and the disparities ...
Published: 04/21/18
Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

For all the symbolism, Raul Castro’s handoff of the Cuban presidency this week amounts to less than meets the eye even if his handpicked successor, the Communist Party functionary Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, is the first person not named Castro to le...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: A missed chance for open primary elections

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission did a lot of things wrong this week by combining unrelated or unpalatable provisions into single amendments that will appear on the November ballot. It also wasted an opportunity to do one thing right. The...
Published: 04/20/18
Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

The Hillsborough school district planted a fruitful seed with the opening of Nature’s Classroom five decades ago on the cypress-lined banks of the Hillsborough River northeast of Tampa. • The lessons taught there to some 17,000 sixth graders each yea...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: Equality pays off on Southwest Flight 1380

The passengers of Southwest Flight 1380 can be thankful that, 33 years ago, the U.S. Navy took the lead on equal opportunity.Capt. Tammie Jo Shults was piloting the flight from New York to Dallas on Tuesday when an engine exploded, blowing out a wind...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Anyone looking to make Hillsborough County government bigger, costlier, more dysfunctional and less of a regional force should love the idea that Commissioner Sandy Murman rolled out this week. She proposes enlarging the seven-member board to nine, e...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

A new foster care provider in Hillsborough County is poised to take over operations in May, only months after its predecessor was fired for what was alleged to be a pattern of failing to supervise at-risk children in its care. Many of the case manage...
Published: 04/18/18

Another voice: Back to postal reform

President Donald Trump is angry at Amazon for, in his tweeted words, "costing the United States Post Office massive amounts of money for being their Delivery Boy." Yet in more recent days, Trump has at least channeled his feelings in what could prove...
Published: 04/17/18
Updated: 04/18/18