Posted by: reefrescue | July 12, 2010

It’s time politicians stop threatening scientists and regulators

By Dan Clark

Cry-of-the-Water

It is time we stop the politicians from threatening the scientists and regulators to push bad policy and projects through the regulatory process.  Many fine people in the agencies are afraid to do their jobs as they see fit, for fear of being fired, transferred or removed from working on projects. 

For many politicians it has become business as usual to pressure regulators on pet projects.  This became more apparent at a Broward County Commission meeting that I attended where a Commissioner stated that he used to be a state politician and he knew how to deal with biologists who objected to permits or said what he didn’t want to hear.  He said we just threatened to cut their funding and they stepped back in line.  I knew that this practice was used by politicians but I was shocked to see someone so matter of fact about it, that he would say it at a public meeting that was being televised on a County cable channel.  The good news is he is currently in Federal prison on unrelated corruption charges. 

Much of the nation was shocked by the facts that came out about Minerals Management Service (MMS) and BP.  This was no surprise to those of us who have been trying to stop the burial and destruction of Southeast Florida coral reefs by dredge and fill projects for years.  We are aware of no place where the political meddling is any worse than the policy of Southeast Florida coral reefs.  The politicians beat their chests telling regulators not to tread on their beach projects.  This has brought us where we are today: 

  • With over a hundred acres of reef buried in Broward and Palm Beach County.
  • With no compensatory mitigation for these acres of impact more than 5 years after the projects.
  • With agencies processing new dredge and fill permits before the tally from impacts from past projects is completed.  This makes it impossible to conduct a cumulative impact assessment, a requirement for a proper Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
  • With some projects not even requiring an Environmental Impact Statement, as in the currently pending Hillsboro Beach project.  The consulting engineer hired for the project was quoted in a recent newspaper article that he was going to put pressure on State and Federal regulators to expedite this permit.  We have reason to believe that pressure is happening with the help of some politicians. We also must question why this project is allowed to proceed without an EIS; perhaps it is because the consulting engineer is a former Army Corps employee.
  • With no management plans for the reefs of Southeast Florida even though they generate more money to the local economy then the reefs in the Florida Keys (Social Economic Study of the reefs in Southeast Florida). We have been asking State and Federal government for a management plan for over 10 years.  I believe that the fear of treading on some politicians beach project has delayed the agencies from moving forward with implementing a proper management plan.

 In the wake of the current situation in the Gulf the coral reefs and near shore essential fish habitat of Southeast Florida have become that much more important to sustainable fish and turtle populations. 

We hope that the White house office of Science and Technology Policy will take a look at the current politics, policy and political meddling as it pertains to the coral reefs of Southeast Florida.  I have a dream that someday scientists and regulators will be allowed to do a fair and accurate assessment of environmental impacts without fearing intimidation or reprisal from politicians. This would do more to protect our natural resources than any other change that the Obama administration can make.

Cry of the Water

P.O. Box 8143

Coral Springs, FL  33075

954-753-9737

www.cryofthewater.org

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