Monday, July 16, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Smaller South Florida reservoir still worth the effort

The reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee the Legislature approved this week won't be as big or as instrumental in restoring the Everglades as supporters first hoped. That is a testament to the power of Big Sugar, inaction by the governor and reluctance by lawmakers to sink billions into a long-term project that won't yield immediate political fruit. Still, the plan would help ease pollution in a meaningful way, speed a return to the southerly flow of water into the Everglades and underscore the need for more water storage in South Florida.

The legislation, SB 10, was a top priority for Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, whose district has seen firsthand the damage from toxic releases of polluted water from Lake Okeechobee. The plan calls for building at least 240,000 acre feet of water storage south of the lake — the equivalent of 78 billion gallons — by converting 15,000 acres of state-owned land into a deep-water reservoir. That would reduce the discharge of dirty lake water into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries, where the toxic water has spawned blue-green algae blooms that harmed public health, private property and businesses.

The proposal has been scaled back in response to opposition from House conservatives, sugar growers and others who saw the project as too ambitious or a threat to agriculture. Now the reservoir would be about two-thirds of the size originally envisioned. The price also dropped to $1.5 billion from $2.4 billion (the federal government would pay half the cost). The measure was larded up with hiring and job training programs to address any downturn in farming. It also provides millions of dollars in incentives for regional water supply projects in South Florida that have limited use in lowering toxic lake levels or in restoring the Everglades.

Still, even the scaled-down plan would be a significant leap. It speeds the process of building a southern reservoir by four years or more. Moving so much water from the lake would help protect billions of dollars worth of businesses and private property. It amounts to a solid down payment on future water storage needs, comprising one-fourth or more of new water storage needed south of the lake. It also further engages the federal government as a partner in the restoration effort and gives new urgency for South Florida water managers to act.

Gov. Rick Scott says he will sign the bill into law. He could have contributed more by being a strong advocate for Negron's plan, but at least he's behind a compromise that gets this work under way, sets the sights on future storage both north and south of the lake and leads to a strategy for moving more water south.

The bipartisan support for this bill from lawmakers across the state shows that the Everglades is truly considered a state and national resource. The Senate, which took the lead, deserves credit for keeping the reservoir a priority during negotiations and for ensuring that the bill heading to the governor is meaningful enough to warrant his support.

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Editorial: A vote for preserving waterfront parks by St. Petersburg City Council

Editorial: A vote for preserving waterfront parks by St. Petersburg City Council

The St. Petersburg City Council made the appropriate but difficult decision to reject a contract with renowned artist Janet Echelman for one of her aerial sculptures. It would be wonderful for the city to have one of her signature works, but Spa Beac...
Published: 07/13/18

‘Everybody needed to know what happened’

The brutal murder of Emmett Till, a black Chicago youth, in Mississippi nearly 63 years ago went unpunished, but not forgotten. A decision by his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, to allow an open casket at Emmett’s Chicago funeral represented an act of def...
Published: 07/13/18
Editorial: Personal bias taints Florida’s clemency system

Editorial: Personal bias taints Florida’s clemency system

A recent exchange between the governor and Cabinet and a felon seeking to have his civil rights restored underscores the arbitrary unfairness of Florida’s clemency system. A long waiting period, a ridiculous backlog of cases and elected officials who...
Published: 07/11/18
Updated: 07/13/18

Trump should work with Congress on immigration

Donald Trump’s resounding victory in the 2016 presidential election came at least in part because the New York businessman grasped the disconnect between how millions of Americans and the political establishments of both parties felt about immigratio...
Published: 07/11/18
Updated: 07/13/18
Editorial: Trump’s trade war hurts American consumers

Editorial: Trump’s trade war hurts American consumers

Voters who looked to Donald Trump to make America great might want to look at their wallets. The president escalated his global trade war this week, threatening new tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports — everything from seafood, beef and ...
Published: 07/11/18
Updated: 07/12/18
Editorial: Rays stadium cost should be fairly shared

Editorial: Rays stadium cost should be fairly shared

The imaginative Ybor City ballpark proposed by the Tampa Bay Rays fits nicely into the 21st century vision of a sophisticated city and would secure major league baseball’s future for the entire region. It also carries an eye-catching cost that will h...
Published: 07/11/18
Updated: 07/12/18
Editorial: Supreme Court pick qualified, but confirmation process should be vigorous

Editorial: Supreme Court pick qualified, but confirmation process should be vigorous

For the second time in less than 18 months, President Donald Trump has nominated a well-qualified, conservative federal appeals court judge to the U.S. Supreme Court. That does not mean Judge Brett Kavanaugh should get an easy pass through Senate con...
Published: 07/10/18
Updated: 07/11/18
Editorial: Nobody uses fireworks to scare off birds

Editorial: Nobody uses fireworks to scare off birds

Americans are accustomed to celebrating the nation’s birthday by blowing up Chinese fireworks for days — a rite of recklessness that kills seven people a year and sends another 13,000 to hospital emergency rooms. The tragic toll struck close to home ...
Published: 07/09/18
Updated: 07/13/18
Editorial: Let local governments regulate short-term rentals

Editorial: Let local governments regulate short-term rentals

The Florida Legislature’s meddling in local issues has created another mess for neighborhoods across the state. No family should have to put up with a short-term rental next door that overwhelms their street with constant visitors, traffic and noise ...
Published: 07/09/18
Updated: 07/10/18
Editorial: The real forces behind mass shootings

Editorial: The real forces behind mass shootings

It’s the refrain by gun advocates in the wake of every mass shooting: The attacker was mentally ill. They obtained their gun illegally. The message is that gun violence isn’t about guns but mental instability and gaps in law enforcement. But a recent...
Published: 07/08/18
Updated: 07/09/18