Saturday, April 5, 2008

Business As Usual?

Recently, Governor Charlie Crist appointed 2 more people to the Governing Board of the St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD). In case you don't know, the Governing Board is a group of politically appointed people who set the policies for the District and make the final decision on permit applications to impact wetlands and to use our groundwater (consumptive use permits - CUPs).

The two appointees are Hans G. Tanzler III of Jacksonville and Douglas C. Bournique of Vero Beach.

Tanzler, 56, is the son of former Jacksonville Mayor, Hans Tanzler, Jr., and is president of Marion Equities Inc., a family holding company. For some reason, the SJRWMD press release failed to mention that he is also president of Cypress Grove Farm that specializes in wetland tree species for wetland restoration and mitigation projects.

Bournique has been the executive vice president of the Indian River Citrus League for nearly 30 years and previously worked for the Florida Sugar Cane League.

Previously, Crist appointed Arlen Jumper who has been the former director of the Florida Sod Growers Co-op, a Board member of the Florida Turfgrass Association and has served on the Florida Citrus Commission. For the last 14 years, Jumper has owned and managed the Jones Turf Grass Farm in McCoy.

Hopefully, these gentlemen will all make decisions based on sound science and what is truly best for the St. Johns River. However, you have to question whether or not apparent conflicts of interest could compromise their ability to objectively perform their jobs, most specifically Jumper and Bournique.

For one, Jumper's company, Jones Turf Grass Farm, has a permit from the SJRWMD to withdraw up to 200 million gallons of water a year from the Floridan aquifer to irrigate 660 acres of sod. Turfgrass, especially St. Augustine grass, is one of the primary reasons that we are using over 50% of our potable water outside the home to irrigate our lawns. Can Jumper make unbiased decisions regarding permits? Will he be willing to say no to permits that represent an excessive use of our groundwater for purposes that are not in the best interest of the public or the river?

As a major player in the agricultural industry, the same questions must be asked of Bournique. In 2006, the agricultural industry used 670.1 million gallons of water a day (MGD) throughout the 18 counties in the SJRWMD. This amounts to more water used than the entire public supply (653.39 MGD). In Indian River county alone, 267.63 million gallons of water a day were used for agricultural purposes.

I guess we have to give them the benefit of the doubt and allow them to prove themselves in these extremely important decision-making positions. However, we all need to scutinize their decisions and performance, along with every other member of the Governing Board. There is too much at stake (our water, our rivers and creeks, and our wetlands), and we simply cannot afford to continue with business as usual.

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