Gov. Charlie Crist should never have put the control of Florida's water resources — which belong to all Floridians — into the hands of just five unelected, little-known bureaucrats. But that's what he did when he signed Senate Bill 2080 into law, giving power over issuing state permits for wetlands destruction and water consumption to the executive directors of Florida's five water management districts.
To their credit, a majority of the five have promised to keep the permitting process open and accountable to the public. For example, Carol Wehle, executive director of the South Florida Water Management District, will present a plan to her board today to post all permit applications, as well as every step in the permitting process, on its Web site so citizens will have a chance to comment before decisions are made.
When Crist signed the bill — which was otherwise environmentally friendly — he included a letter that urged water districts to include "permits on all board meeting agendas … for discussion and transparency purposes."
But that was in his letter, not the law. And while most of these executive directors are saying the right things, and must keep their promises, they won't be in their jobs forever. The Legislature still needs to fix this mess by returning permitting authority to the state's five governing boards.