Something new: three DEP employees have been placed in the job of Executive Director at the Suwannee River, Northwest Florida, and South Florida Water Management Districts. This is unprecedented. Until the administration of Governor Rick Scott, the district Governing Boards were very leery of hiring someone from the Governor’s Office or the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
The districts always have wanted to select an Executive Director with the same focus they have. They stayed away (except in one case) from selecting an E.D. whose loyalties were divided between the district and the state. It made sense to have at the district someone as committed to that side of water issues as DEP would be to its side. Disagreements between the regional and state level of water management sometimes became very public, as they should be. With these new appointments and a host of other top-down policies, we will see only one side of issues–the state side.
Florida effectively now has a unified state Department of Water Management rather than a state water agency that works in partnership with regional water agencies. If you want to know who is making decisions on important water permits, it isn’t the local water management district in public meetings. Tallahassee uses private meetings and phone calls to direct all of the critical choices.