Saturday, January 20, 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: Criminal charges should finally wake up FSU fraternities to hazing’s dangers

Editorial: Criminal charges should finally wake up FSU fraternities to hazing’s dangers

The death last fall of a 20-year-old Florida State University fraternity pledge revealed pervasive dangerous behavior within the school’s Greek system. Andrew Coffey, a Pi Kappa Phi pledge, died from alcohol poisoning after an off-campus party, and a...
Published: 01/19/18

Editorial: Confronting racial distrust in St. Petersburg, one conversation at a time

The St. Petersburg Police Department’s heavy presence in Midtown on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the community animosity it stirred have raised a familiar, troubling question: Can St. Petersburg’s racial divisions ever be reconciled?That big ideal ...
Published: 01/19/18
William March: Tampa Bay Democrats line up for state legislative races

William March: Tampa Bay Democrats line up for state legislative races

A surge of Democrats seeking local legislative offices and hoping for a "blue wave" in the 2018 election continued last week, led by Bob Buesing filing to run again versus state Sen. Dana Young, R-Tampa.In addition:• Heather Kenyon Stahl of Tampa has...
Published: 01/19/18
Editorial: Saying ‘thank you’ helps Tampa police build needed trust

Editorial: Saying ‘thank you’ helps Tampa police build needed trust

The smiles, applause and at least one hug belied the grim impetus for a gathering last week at a neighborhood center in Tampa — the Seminole Heights killings.The Tampa Police Department held a ceremony to thank those who helped in the investigation t...
Published: 01/19/18

Editorial: State’s warning shot should get attention of Hillsborough schools

The state Board of Education hopefully sent the message this week with its warning shot about the slow pace of the turnaround at Hillsborough County’s low-performing schools.The board criticized the school system for failing to replace administrators...
Published: 01/18/18
Updated: 01/19/18
Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

The Florida Legislature’s abrupt move to strip the University of South Florida St. Petersburg of its hard-earned separate accreditation and transform it back into a satellite of the major research university lacks detail and an appreciation for histo...
Published: 01/18/18

Another voice: Self-dealing by nursing home owners threatens patient care

The outsourcing of logistical support services, which became commonplace in the U.S. military in the 1990s and later was adopted by state prison systems, has now come to dominate the nursing home industry. And while nursing homes, unlike the military...
Published: 01/17/18
Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Three years into a crisis with its sewer system, St. Petersburg has a dandy new idea for dealing with the environmental fallout of dumping dirty water into the aquifer. Instead of committing to banning the outlawed practice, a consultant suggested th...
Published: 01/16/18
Updated: 01/17/18
Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

A substitute teacher at a Plant City elementary school berated a class of fourth graders — and then the school principal. Another compared a student to a stripper. Others were caught napping, hitting children, making sexual remarks, giving students b...
Published: 01/16/18
Updated: 01/17/18
Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

For the longest time, injured workers in Florida were basically at the mercy of the whims of employers to treat them fairly. A 2003 law aimed at reducing the cost of workers’ compensation coverage for businesses had the desired impact, but it also di...
Published: 01/16/18