In Episode 4, Brett sits down with his partner: long time water policy and budget guru, Frank Bernardino. They talk about the history of wetland mitigation in Florida; the water resource funding gap and how he proposes we close it; and his life as a young song writer in Miami.
Here’s the best way to reach Frank: Frank@anfieldflorida.com
If you’d like to learn more about what Frank and I do at Anfield Consulting, check us out at: www.anfieldflorida.com
To learn more about how Florida regulates wetland mitigation, and stormwater in general, check out this handy Florida Department of Environmental Protection page.
Check out a few resources explaining “SB 444”, the Water Protection and Sustainability Program and Trust Fund from 2004
Data and analysis regarding the “needs gap” from the Office of Economic and Demographic Research
As usual, we’ll join this conversation in progress. Talk about the beginning of what the wetland mitigation program was, how it was designed. You were a big part of that.
Speaker 2 00:01:16 So the first wetland mitigation in, uh, initiatives in the state, and at the time they weren’t called wetland mitigation banks, but the first time that financial resources d being derived from development entities were directed towards the management of lands occurred through the establishments of what’s known in the mitigation world is Romas regional offsite mitigation areas. These are different local governments within the state of Florida who had land, oftentimes Parkland owned by those local governments that was in need of active management, but they did not have the funding for it who said, well, this is great. We’ve got a need, a financial need. Here’s an entity that’s got to do something to improve the environment. Let’s put those two concepts together. And so a number of local governments, including Miami-Dade County, I know Broward and Palm Beach County did the same, uh, developed, uh, different banks, if you will, processes by which, uh, developers were allowed to contribute towards the improvement of a specific property that was under the control and ownership of that local government.
Speaker 1 00:02:22 How are the credits that, as we know them now, were they the same then, or did we call them something else? Were what was the basis for establishing what that was in terms of a fair exchange?
Speaker 2 00:02:35 That’s a great question because I, I, I don’t recollect us ever using the term credit. I remember that the land managers for, let’s say a piece of park land, had an estimate of how much it would cost to manage an acre of land. And so without doing a lot of in-depth measurement about the amount of habitat, uh, you know, you often hear the term lift or, or, or how much, uh, um, habitat function is lost. What we did was very simple. If you’re gonna take out five acres of wetlands, then we want you to pay for the management of five acres of wetlands at a local park. Um, it was later in the, that process that the concepts of habitat suitability indices, uh, and other, uh, measurement tools were developed by the regulatory agencies at the federal, state, and local level. That allowed a much more rigorous examination of the actual impact it allowed. So
Speaker 1 00:03:33 What, yeah, I apologize for interrupting there. What, so when did the term u ma’am come into play? First? What’s a u ma’am, and then to the, the best of your recollection, when did that, when did that come into the scene then?
Speaker 2 00:03:47 Yeah, it’s, um, AAM is, is a, is a methodology by which, uh, you can assess the habitat quality of an acre of wetland. Um, back in the day, the we, there were models again that were developed, that were species specific. So what what we did in the early stages is scientists put together basically a, a a a format or a program that said, let’s pick one waiting bird species. That waiting bird species will be an indicator of an entire suite of species. And so if we know that species and understand it well, and we know what the type of habitat that it likes to forage in the kind of habitat that it likes to nest in, um, and we understand those physical characteristics, then we can look at any one piece of property and see how well does it measure up against what would be an optimal habitat for the proliferation of that species.
Speaker 2 00:04:43 And so, based on that calculation, you said this, this, uh, property is only, uh, only contains half of the features that would be perfect for this waiting bird species. So if you undertook these other actions and you created the habitat structure and the hydrologic regime under which we know they optimize, then you would get the lift to an entire credit. So the entire concept of the credit came about during the same time that these models were developed. And, and for each different species, each representative species, you would then be able to go out and measure. And so when you looked at a piece of property in the early days, you would have a reptile species that was representative of that suite of animals, uh, a waiting bird species that was representative of that suite of animals, a animal species that was representative of the, the ones that would typically occur in that habitat. And you would put all that together to decide how much, what the loss was gonna be, how much habitat function you were gonna lose, and therefore how much you had to make up.
Speaker 1 00:05:48 And so just for the, the listener’s sake, the you ma’am, is the Uniform mitigation Assessment method that Frank was just talking about. So, so now you have a new way of looking at these places, judging it, determining, um, the kind of, as you say, lift that one gets from the, these impacts caused between somewhere between then and now. That became controversial. The, the idea was no net loss of, of wetlands, however, the function of some of those mitigated wetlands, even I think the way the, um, a m was structured, uh, or the methodology came into question. Tell me about some of the problems there, and then how we got to where we are now, which seems to be, and you tell me if I’m wrong here, that seems to be, uh, a better system.
Speaker 2 00:06:37 Well, two things happened, uh, with regard to the methodologies themselves. Uh, there were different models, and over time the models were improved upon. The information that was used to actually assess the value of the wetland, uh, became more sophisticated. And as more studies were completed in the field, better data was used to support the models that were driving these decisions. Uh, from the very get-go though, it, it was always very controversial that you would use mitigation to allow an impact that sun should never take place. And so one of the first things that the government did in general, it was true in the federal government state and local government, is we, we, we went through an avoided minimization test. Can we avoid the impact? Is there another place where this activity can take place? Must it take place here? And if this is the only place where this activity can take place, is there a way that we can reduce the footprint of whatever it is that’s gonna be built in order to minimize the impact?
Speaker 2 00:07:39 And so that was the first attempt to, to say, we can’t just carp launch approved anything that comes across the desk of a regulator. Uh, one of the things that was interesting and important step, uh, in the development and how, uh, wetland mitigation evolved was, uh, a push by the private mitigation bankers, those entrepreneurial entities that entered the market to basically force the local governments out of the game. Um, prior to that, as I indicated, these regional offsite mitigation areas, uh, were the tools that the local governments preferred because most of the cash, uh, that was generated from the development action was used to manage the resource that was controlled and owned by the local government. But as you can well imagine, if you’re doing a mitigation project on land that the public already paid for using public employees to design and or supervise the implementation of the project, obviously on a cost per unit basis, it cannot a private sector entity who has to buy a piece of property and hire private sector people along, they can’t compete.
Speaker 2 00:08:46 And so the legislature acknowledged that and basically drove the local governments out of the game, leaving basically the system that in large part we have today, which is we have mitigation banks that are privately held, uh, all over the state, and developers, uh, anybody who’s gonna impact the resource can attempt to avail themselves of the, the, the various, uh, banks, no matter where they are, they, there is a requirement that the, the type of bank credit that you purchase be related to the type of impact that you’re creating. Meaning that if you’re impacting a coastal habitat, the the type of credits that you should be buying are coastal habitat restoration projects in the same region, and not going from coastal to freshwater or freshwater to coastal. Um, but that’s largely the system that is in place today. Did,
Speaker 1 00:09:36 Did ro were romas held to that same standard, uh, impact for impact? So you have a coastal versus inland, were they held to the same, that same standard
Speaker 2 00:09:47 In the early stages? We never even talked about it, to be honest. Um, I, I can’t sit here and swear that there wasn’t one, uh, freshwater project that wasn’t offset in the coast, but it didn’t take us long for us to realize, for example, in Miami-Dade County that the mangrove resources of the county were, were in short supply and being depleted. And so there was definitely an interest by our coastal scientists to see whatever mitigation occurred occur on the coast.
Speaker 1 00:10:13 Do you remember o offhand about what year the first mitigation, the first private mitigation banks showed
Speaker 2 00:10:21 Up? Um, I do not off the top of my head, if, if I were guessing, I would say it was in the, uh, mid, uh, nineties, 93, 4 5.
Speaker 1 00:10:30 So getting back to the, the, the park before, and we had the same policy at the Northwest Florida district, which is, we never, whether it be wetlands mitigation, timber management, anything else, we don’t want to be putting ourselves in a position to compete with the private sector. Uh, we’re mitigators of last resort. We like, you know, we liked being there. However, the rest of the state is not northwest Florida. Northwest Florida has, you know, enormous gaps, you know, where private, uh, mitigation banks don’t exist, which forces them into the market. You have fewer people, 1.4 million people about in that kind of 16 county area. But when you look at places that you and I have heard about recently in Northeast Florida, in Central Florida, and certainly there’s, you know, that that’s gotta occur in, in southeast and southwest Florida, there’s the, the realization that there may not be enough credits for the development that’s going on, which creates an issue, you know, for these folks. And some have suggested that maybe that answer lies in, uh, public lands, whether it be the water management district itself or, or somewhere else. Can you talk a little bit about
Speaker 2 00:11:46 That, that point is, is true, and it goes back to what I said earlier. My, my personal philosophy of natural resources management is that we, we owe it to the resource to understand, a, that our financial capacity is limited and will continue to be limited for the foreseeable future. I don’t see anything on the horizon that’s gonna change that, that paradigm. Um, and so therefore, can we holistically look at the system and say, okay, in the light that we have a limited resource, where should we spend our dollars first? I have often maintained that sometimes that is in buying more land and buffering your preserve, your, the areas that you value the most from impacts. Uh, but sometimes that is realizing that the areas that you’ve already invested in that are the gems of the resource are not being properly managed. Or, I, I don’t wanna suggest that somebody’s not doing their job, that we don’t have the resources to manage them the way that we do.
Speaker 2 00:12:49 And so if you have a limited amount of money, are we better off not spending the money to protect the heart of the system rather than worrying about adding to its outer edges? Uh, I often make the comparison to, to a patient, if you look at it as an organism, if you know that the patient is, has a heart problem or a kidney problem, or a liver problem, you know, are you gonna spend the money addressing those issues? Or are you gonna spend the money doing cosmetic surgery? One, one of the things that, um, frustrates me at time about our policy area and arena is that there, there seems to be very little innovation, but that, by that I don’t mean that there aren’t folks out there that are working very hard to find, for example, new technologies to deal with bluegreen algae. Um, and, and it, it’s not science-driven innovation.
Speaker 2 00:13:43 It’s policy-driven innovation. Uh, people have done things the same way for a very long time, and it’s really difficult to put their heads around looking at it and perhaps approaching it a different way. I’ll give you an example. I don’t understand for the life of me, why there’s such a total resistance in the water sector, not just the, uh, environmental restoration. This isn’t a water management district problem, but also a utility problem to allow the private sector to pay a, a bigger play, a bigger role in helping to achieve and build the projects that we need. In the transportation arena, public-private partnerships occur all the time. Companies are given the ability to go in and put in a road, and basically it’s a Turkey situation. They manage the project, they build the project, they, they enter into contracts that place them at risk. If they fail to deliver the projects, um, at certain quality, and by certain time in the water world, we don’t even want to have that conversation.
Speaker 2 00:14:41 And so one of the things that I believe is that we need to do as a state is look at our building block blocks our foundations and, and determine whether or not those still hold a long, long time ago when the, the people that forged the model water code, um, uh, you know, put that together. It was what the state needed at the time. And they decided that the role of the water management district should be water resource management, and the role of the local government should be water supply. But now we find ourselves with regional water shortages all over the state and, and the districts pushing the local governments to go further and further afield and become more and more creative to find alternative ways to meet the future demand. I think that there’s a way to perhaps look at whether or not there’s a better role for the water management districts than one that is a, uh, a driver of local cooperative, uh, project implementation and development, maybe from a resource management standpoint, since they are the ones ultimately know that no, how much water is available, where it is available, and when it is available, perhaps they could play a role in putting together bigger projects, uh, and building the regional projects, and then allocating that water to the local governments in the region based upon their needs.
Speaker 1 00:16:03 Let’s pause for a second there. Cause I wanna rewind a bit. Uh, that’s 2023. Frank Bernard Bernardino. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, uh, let’s rewind, let’s rewind you back to 2003, Frank Bernardino. Okay. And because the exact thing that you’re, you’re talking about there, there, there was no inkling of it at all prior to 2003, 2004, uh, nearly anywhere. I mean, there was, there were discussions about, hey, we’re, you know, we’ve gotta deal with alternative water supplies. Hey, we’ve got, you know, these surface water improvement and management plans that have been in statute for, what, four or five years by then? Uh, actually longer than that, um, 14, 15 years by then. And we’ve gotta get these, these things done for, for all these purposes. But you get to 2004 and you have for the first time a knockdown drag out we’re, you know, we’re gonna work through this issue.
Speaker 1 00:17:01 And the end result was, or the, the beginning of that is, uh, Senator Paula Dockery. And I was, uh, in those rooms as a, as an analyst working for Governor Bush, and you were in there working very closely with her. And you, and at the end of that session, you have Senate Bill 4 44, I think everybody just refers to it as Senate Bill 4 44, even though there’ve been many, many Senate bill 40, 40 fours since then, but it’s the Water Protection Sustainability Program and trust fund, and the trust fund was the, the big part, right? Right. Uh, the program was how do you, how do you split up these dollars and how you portion it based on, uh, the program that you were looking at, you know, that was a part of that. You were really close to Paula in those days. You were in those rooms, I’m sure they were in rooms that I was not in. Get us caught up to that, because before we get to the end, which is like, Hey, we’re, these are the things that we still need to do, let’s talk about that, that next step, which is a huge one, right?
Speaker 2 00:18:01 Yeah, absolutely. Uh, that, that was during the time that I was working with the South Florida Water Management District, and, and Henry Dean was our executive director. And, um, you know, one of the wonderful things about working with Henry was that he, he let us use our God-given talents to think our way through complex issues. Um, there certainly were a lot of interesting policy conversations that were had in private, but when it came to, to seeing how far we can move the football, he really encouraged us to, to, uh, think outside of the box as people like to say and, and pursue, identify, pursue new ideas. And
Speaker 1 00:18:38 So, you know, you know that Henry Dean was the, our very first guest on here. He beat you out, Henry, um, by a couple episodes, I had someone who listened to the podcast call me and say, I, I wish that I’d worked for Henry Dean. I wish I’d worked for someone like that. Uh, and, and I guess what you saying that kind of accentuates that, which is all the things that he, you know, the stories that he told, uh, with, with me kind of, uh, accentuated the idea that he, he really knew what he was doing, and he knew how to get the best outta other folks. And so, I don’t want, I apologize for interrupting, but I thought, you know, that would be, you would be interested in hearing about that.
Speaker 2 00:19:17 No, absolutely. Henry Henry was one of those people that, um, obviously had enormous impact on my career and my personal life. And, and I love Henry, and he’s, he’s, I consider him to stay, to be a very, very close and dear friend. It was interesting because it didn’t start that way. And, and what I mean by that, yeah, it’s a two story. So, and I don’t even know that Henry knows this, but after, um, there were had been a couple of changes in the executive directorship of the South Florida Water Management District, and, and Governor Bush took office, uh, he appointed a very competent governing board, uh, you know, full of some really charismatic and forward thinking individuals. And, uh, they went on a search to figure out who was gonna be the executive director of the water management district. Henry at the time, had been the executive director of the St.
Speaker 2 00:20:05 Johns River Water Management District. And I always found it interesting that every time that we went to a meeting of the executive directors and the lobbyists for the various water management districts here was Henry Dean, who was a larger than life person in the room. And everybody deferred to him, uh, you know, as Right probably the, the, the, the crafties and smartest policy person in this area. And not to say that he wasn’t, but I always looked around the room and said, well, there are other capable people here. Why are we seating the mic to him? And it really came to a head, and, and it was at the point where I, uh, uh, cared for Henry the least one year when the legislature was, was convening. And as you know, the, the first year of the two year cycle, they always have briefings and they educate the new members mm-hmm. <affirmative>,
Speaker 2 00:20:53 And they asked Henry Dean to come and give a presentation on Agles restoration. And I’m sitting there going to myself, what in God’s earth does the executive director of the St. John’s River Water Management District know and have to say about Everglades restoration? It is not his area. And as a scientist at the time, um, a practicing scientist that I was, who had, you know, spent a good bit of my childhood around the Everglades and had done research and published research on the Everglades, I didn’t consider myself the foremost authority, but, but he, anytime that we had an Everglades meeting, Henry Dean was not in the, in the room. And here he was the person providing the briefing for the Senate Natural Resources Committee on the Everglades, the history of the Everglades, and what needed to be done in the Everglades. And I walked away from that saying, who in God’s earth as this man think he is?
Speaker 2 00:21:48 Well, come to find out short time later that he was gonna be our next executive director, <laugh> and I, he was always nice to me personally and on the private. And so I was a little skeptical when, when Henry joined the team. Uh, but it didn’t take long for me to realize, cuz at the time I did not know his very long history with the state of Florida. Going back to the Ask You administration and how involved he had been in some, in basically getting most of the state’s environmental programs off the ground, to where I realized, okay, yeah, he is all that. And I, as a young tur need to keep my mouth shut and be a little bit more appreciative that I get an opportunity to work with somebody like him. And, and, and I wanna say we accomplished a lot of things, uh, during his time.
Speaker 2 00:22:29 We probably could have done more. Uh, but for, uh, the, the, that that stage of Everglades Restoration really brought on was, was the burgeoning of a lot of litigation, uh, a lot of infighting between the agencies and the environmental groups. And, you know, famously, you know, now everybody’s focus on the EEA a reservoir. But during the, uh, Jeb administration, under the leadership of Henry Dean, we launched the Accelerate Program to try to get the eight biggest projects B built. And one of the first ones was the, and then was called the A one Reservoir, uh, which is basically at the same place where the eea a reservoir is now the crown jewel of Everglades Restoration today. Um, according to some, um, and we tried to build a reservoir and we were sued, and the lawsuit stopped the construction and the company that had gone onto the site and had begun the construction of the property actually had to get paid tens of millions of dollars to demobilize and abandoned that project. Um, but it wasn’t for the fact that Henry didn’t have all the passion. And, and it was a great time to work. And, uh, yes, if you were, uh, if you’re a state employee and you work in the water resources area, and you’re listening to this, I am sure you would’ve loved to have worked for Henry Dean. Talk
Speaker 1 00:23:43 A little bit more about that. The SERP to accelerate it was a frustration of mine. I’m watching, uh, enormous budgets, uh, being passed, uh, in the state legislature. I’m seeing, uh, half stepping by our quote finger partners, uh, and the federal government at the time, and the entire time I’m thinking there’s a, there’s a better way to spend this money on places that also have, have issues and then accelerate pops out. But it doesn’t, it doesn’t really change anything. Did it in terms of the pace because of, because of those, was it as frustrating for, for y’all at the South Florida Water Management District as it was for someone watching from the outside? And that was, you know, essentially me watching from the outside wishing that either that worked or we, that we cut bait and go do something else?
Speaker 2 00:24:40 No, it, it, it was frustrating. Um, you know, I guess different folks that have worked in Everglades restoration for a very long time, or have been in the sphere of Everglades restoration may have different recollections of how it all came about. Uh, but, uh, you’re right in, in, in 2000, uh, the comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan was passed to much fanfare, um, this agreement, uh, to build this, these, uh, 60 some projects. And, and, um, at, at the tune of about $8 billion, and it would be cost shared between the state and the federal government. And in the early stages, it was envisioned that the local share would be mostly the acquisition of the properties where projects would’ve eventually be built by the core of engineers. Uh, but even, you know, by the early two thousands that that process began to drag, uh, for many different reasons.
Speaker 2 00:25:36 And, uh, a couple of things happened that were significant at the time. Um, one is the, the, the Jeb administration is, is an interesting one in the history of natural Resources management, because we went from being a, uh, state that mostly relied on borrowing of money. The P 2000 program, uh, is an example of that mm-hmm. <affirmative>, where we borrowed money to advanced environmental restoration programs. But during the years that Jeb was in office, the revenue picture of the state changed significantly enough that by the time his second administration came about most of the environmental programs we were paying for in cash, I, I think many, many people forget that. That’s right. That, that when we went from P 2000 to Florida forever, uh, during that window, we stopped borrowing money and we began to pay for Florida forever, the $300 million in cash.
Speaker 1 00:26:34 Right.
Speaker 2 00:26:34 But one of the things that was interesting is that the Everglades program and the South Florida Water Management District was given the authority to borrow money to accelerate those projects. So one of the things that people don’t think about when they think about the Accelerate Program is yes, the, the Jeb challenged the Water Management District to, uh, to find, and I think it was, you know, seven or eight projects that accelerate, you know, just became the tagline. And so that’s why it became eight projects. And I think originally the list was shorter, but they landed on eight. Governor Bush at the time said, I, you know, I wanna make sure that you have the financial resources to get it done. So he gave the agency the authority to borrow money in order to implement those projects. Again, the state wasn’t using its credit because it was paying for everything in cash. And that created room under the constitutional cap for another entity of the state to borrow. And, and South Florida was given an allocation and said, yes, you may borrow this amount of money to
Speaker 1 00:27:31 Get that done. How much is that mem memory serves? I think, uh, the, the bond proceeds plus debt service over the years, there’s something like 3 billion, two, 3 billion, is that about right?
Speaker 2 00:27:42 Yep. Yep.
Speaker 1 00:27:43 Let me, let me ask you,
Speaker 2 00:27:44 But on that point Yeah, go ahead. Because that’s one of the significant things that has changed that to some degree we can say has impacted the speed at which Everglades Restoration has been undertaken for more than a decade now. We eat what we kill. We have not borrowed money to build Everglades projects or to advance the Everglade program in a very, very long time. The Accelerate Program was the last time that the state embraced that notion. And when that program was, for the most part, abandoned the state, never the, the South Florida Water Management District did not issue any more, pursue the issuance of any more bonds or borrow any more money. So literally, we grow based on what we can afford to pay based on our revenues.
Speaker 1 00:28:25 Do you, do you think that was from your, from your position, uh, a tactical error on the part of Governor Bush, who was, obviously he wanted to accomplish serp, he wanted to see, uh, accelerate, uh, what I, I eventually called Accelerator 12, which ended up being, I think, 12 projects instead of the eight. He wanted them to be successful, but because he was paying for things in cash, that meant that when the money stopped flowing as well as it did, and those, and those handful of years that it became easy to start lopping things off and trying and then trying to figure out how to backfill from that point becomes harder because the economy’s not doing quite as well. You go into, to the, what do you think about, what do you think about that?
Speaker 2 00:29:13 So, I I, I, I wouldn’t blame the governor for this reason. I think that two things were true at the time. Um, he was pushing us to get as much work done as aggressively as we could get it done. Yes. With the resources that we had available. But we were also doing something for the first time, the South Florida Water Management District, Pryor to CRP, did not have a history of building multi hundred million dollar projects. And so the agency was going through a, a growing period of trying to say, okay, we’ve never done this before. We may not have internally the skills to do this. Um, so how do, how do we do this? How do we get this program off the ground? And I remember the discussions on the governing board about whether or not you did, um, you know, the engineers that may hear this interview would, would identify whether you did CMAR projects, construction management at risk, where you brought in somebody and said, okay, we’re gonna give you the ability to design, construct, build the project, or whether or not those different elements were going to be divided among various companies so that everybody could keep an eye on what everybody else was doing.
Speaker 2 00:30:19 Mm-hmm. <affirmative> to make sure that, you know, we were being as sufficient as we could and the right things were happening. So I think that the confluence of both, uh, the, the newness of the scale of the challenge that the agency was facing, uh, uh, coupled with the changing times in terms of the revenue that was available, was the one that led to the pace at which we got out of the gate. But certainly when the legis when, uh, the South Florida Water Management District, the board at the time, made the decision to do the, a one reservoir as its first project aggressively that they were going to pursue. And that led to a lawsuit that brought that project to a halt that really, you know, had a chilling effect on the program as a whole. And then, unfortunately, nobody’s fault, you know, you fast forward three, four years, right. And we get into the recession notes of seven and eight, and all of the water resources programs of the state here in, in Tallahassee, as well as, uh, around the state and the water management districts, uh, were cut.
Speaker 1 00:31:21 And,
Speaker 2 00:31:22 And so that unavoidably
Speaker 1 00:31:23 Stalled unavoidably. So Absolutely. So really, it, it, it was the, it really was. And, and Henry talked about that when, uh, when we sat down. It really was the lawsuits at the, at the time, you, you have, uh, the political will behind you. You have the, the money to get it going and accomplish it in short order. Why, why were the lawsuits, uh, coming forward at, at that time? Uh, tell me about, tell me about the nature of them,
Speaker 2 00:31:52 Please. The fight over the, A one reservoir broke out about how the water that was gonna be captured by the reservoir was going to be used for what purpose was it going to be used? And the environmental community wanted, uh, certain assurances that the water captured by the reservoir would be reserved for some environmental purpose at some undetermined time in the future, while the agency took the more neutral role of saying, you know, water that’s available in the system will be allocated and, and, and apportioned, um, as the needs arise during, during the time. Um, and so it, the, the rib battle really was about what happens with this once it’s built and what happens with the water once it’s, it’s, uh, collected in this facility that, that led to that lawsuit that stopped the A one.
Speaker 1 00:32:44 It seems to me like non-attorney, like you layman looking at that and saying, uh, does it, doesn’t one sue after the, the project exist if you know that it’s gonna have some environmental benefit? And it’s, you know, it’s not all water supply or whatever is the, the concern was, it seems, it seems like tactically, why, why not wait, you know, until after it’s built and argue over its apportionment in the, the, the control
Speaker 2 00:33:13 Schedule? Well, yes and no. I mean, the same thing is happening now, right? I mean, uh, just, uh, today, as a matter of fact, if I’m not mistaken, there was, uh, there’s a hearing that’s taking place for summary judgment, uh, by parties in the lower East Coast that are concerned because the conversations and everything that the Corps of Engineers and, uh, the water management districts have said about how the EEA a reservoir will be operated once it is up and running, um, it will not include or, uh, abide by the savings clause. And the savings clause is, is, uh, for the listeners that are not aware of it, when the surplus originally authorized, um, everyone was concerned that the projects, these enormous reservoirs that were gonna be built, were going to be allocated water in a basin where there is a shortage, right? For, for quite some time now, the lower East Coast has been, uh, a water use cautionary in what that basically means is that, uh, the, the, the regional water managers to South Florida Water Management District said, look, we cannot give another drop of groundwater in, in Southern Palm Beach, Broward, or, or Miami-Dade counties for urban use or agricultural use, because pulling out that water out of the aquifer will adversely impact water levels in the Everglades.
Speaker 2 00:34:34 And so if essentially the amount of water that a utility or, or, uh, development or agricultural industry, um, interest, um, in that region has been frozen, and anybody who wants new water’s gotta get alternative water supply, well, when the surplus authorized in 2000, all of the water users at the time said, wait a minute, the water that’s gonna be captured by these projects, where does that fit into this equation? Because Florida Water Law currently says that an existing legal user, somebody who has water allocated to them now, right? Comes first. But if you take water off the top, if you say that water’s not part of the equation anymore, then it’s entirely possible that the allocations that have been made to users in the lower East Coast may not be met. And so, even though I agree with you, it would make sense that you would fight about who gets to use the water after the facility is built, as we saw then.
Speaker 2 00:35:27 And we’re seeing now, folks want to know mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So before I agree to you building that facility, I want to know where do I stand once it’s built? And in, in that case, it was the water management district, uh, not evading, but not being willing to commit specifically where the water was going to go, that led to the lawsuits. And in this case, it’s the Water Management District and the, and the, uh, army Corps of Engineers telling the existing legal users, we we’re, how we operate this facility is not gonna take into account what commitments have been made to you. So if in the future, the water taken up by this reservoir adversely impacts you, you know, we’ll deal with it down the road and perhaps have to adjust your permits. But to your point, that’s, that’s what, that’s that same stumbling block. It’s funny, you know, here we are 20 years later and the issues are the same, right?
Speaker 1 00:36:24 If only the cord taken that, that position when allocating water out of Lake Lanier and in the system, the, the ACF system, um, I’m being, uh, I’m being, that’s another, that is another podcast. Um, but, uh, but annoying nonetheless. So
Speaker 2 00:36:43 For those, for those who don’t know, Brett’s talking about the, the, the water wars between Georgia, uh, Alabama and Florida, uh, over water coming down the, the Apalachicola River.
Speaker 1 00:36:55 That’s right. That’s a, that’s a whole, that’s a whole hour. Um, and we’ve got, we’ve got, uh, former general counsel from the Department of Environmental Protection, Fred Ash Hour coming in, you know, he was the, uh, the manager of the, of the trial, uh, for that, the most recent iteration of the, of the Supreme Court case. And, and so he and I, he and I will go through it, uh, at length. We’re gonna get personal a little bit cuz I want people to know a little bit more about, about you. You’re, you’re born in Miami, I think I mentioned that in, uh, in the intro, but I want to hear more about you growing up in places like Central and South America. Walk me through a little bit of that.
Speaker 2 00:37:35 Yeah, it was crazy. My, my father, um, was a, um, an accountant, uh, and he worked for the firm of Pete Marick Mitchell and Company, uh, which I think has evolved in today as kpmg, if I’m not mistaken. I could be wrong about that, but I think I’m right. And, um, he was one of these people who believed that the fastest path to career growth was by accepting the assignments that nobody else wanted. And so whenever they said, we need a volunteer to go to Timbuktu <laugh>, he would be the first to raise his hand. And my family would soon be packing our bags and going there. And so that’s how, um, we were, I was born in Miami, like you said, the first year, year and a half of my life. I was in Jacksonville while he was, uh, being groomed, uh, uh, by, uh, Pete Marick, uh, and their offices there.
Speaker 2 00:38:27 And then he took an assignment in Venezuela, in Caracas. And so we went to Caracas. And from that time, uh, until high school, we, I, I can identify a lot with military brats because I think one time my sister and I added it up, and I think we had been to something like 13 schools, uh, between, um, when we started kindergarten all the way through eighth grade. So we moved from, we moved from Caracas to Miami to Guadalajara, to Mexico City, back to Miami, back to Caracas, back to Miami, back to, uh, down to Bogota, Colombia, and then back to Miami, uh, where I eventually ended up going to high school. So it was, it was crazy, but a good way to grow up. I mean, I, I think I, I’m very appreciative for the fact that growing up in, in countries where there is such a difference in economic strata of the, of the society, uh, you really come to appreciate what it’s like to have certain things and, and your poverty hits you, you know, like a two by four in the forehead.
Speaker 2 00:39:31 And so, you know, you develop for an appreciation of the hardships that other people feel and, and you know, not to cross over into other areas. But that’s why, you know, somebody like me can be a little bit more, uh, empathetic, uh, of the, the struggles of so many immigrants today because I, I’ve seen firsthand, I’ve walked in the slums, uh, of, of central and South America, and I know the kind of hardship that they face, and I, I can’t begrudge them for wanting to, to find a better place. But yeah, that, that we moved around a lot as success. Well, you
Speaker 1 00:40:02 Just, you just described your parents though, right? Your parents are Cuban dissidents that left in, I assume, in, uh, 19 59, 19 60 or so.
Speaker 2 00:40:10 Yep, yep. In the late fifties. My parents came from Cuba. Um, my father was quick to sign up, uh, for the, uh, then, uh, covert operation being managed by the Central Intelligence Agency, uh, that eventually led to the, uh, failed invasion of the Bay of Pigs. Um, and, um, but yes, my, my parents came to America fleeing the Cuban Revolution, um, communist revolution in Fidel Castro.
Speaker 1 00:40:38 So something I don’t think almost anyone knows about you, you are a songwriter, or at least you were a professional songwriter, and, and not just, uh, you know, like the rest of us, um, you know, puttering around and coming up with, you know, terrible poetry set to acoustic guitar. Uh, you worked for some pretty famous artists.
Speaker 2 00:41:00 I was lucky. I, I’ve, I can look back on my life and, and I, so I studied biology and I have a master’s degree in biology, and I’ve published research nationally and internationally on the Everglades. But I don’t consider myself a scientist because, uh, the way, at least my mentor at the time taught me, uh, people that, that want, if you want to call yourself something, you’ve gotta be a, an active practitioner in the area. And so, I, I don’t stay current on the literature, and I’m certainly not conducting any research. So I don’t consider myself a scientist. Similarly, uh, I dabbled in music, uh, uh, at, um, uh, when I began college, and I was very fortunate, um, developed my, uh, enthusiasm for songwriting. I don’t even know how I got started, but I did. And, and it was a lot of fun. And, um, as time progressed, I ended up, uh, collaborating with a number of artists that basically played the local scene in Miami.
Speaker 2 00:41:56 And I had written half of the songs for, uh, an album for, uh, a friend of mine at the time. And that somehow found its way to, uh, a up and coming artist, uh, in the Estefan Studios, uh, Crescent Moon Studios in Miami, uh, gentleman by the name of John Sakata, who is, uh, Grammy Award-winning today. Uh, very famous and very successful Grammy Award-winning artist, multiple Grammy award-winning artists. But, uh, he heard my music, uh, and I got a call on a Saturday morning out of the blue. And just like you hear in some of those fairy ta tale stories where, uh, you know, an important athlete or an important person calls you on the phone and says, hi, I’m so-and-so, is this you? And it’s like, hi, this is John Sakata, this is Frank Bernardino. And by that point, I knew who John was, cuz his first album was all over the radio stations and, and, and, and, uh, videos on M T V.
Speaker 2 00:42:49 And after I, you know, pulled myself off off the floor and nervously acknowledged who I was, um, he expressed an interest in working with me. And yes, I ended up, uh, spending a few years as an also tag, um, um, and had the good fortune to meet, uh, um, uh, the Stefan’s wonderful people. And, uh, and worked a lot with John. And actually one of the songs that he and I worked on together, uh, ended up being top 10 in the billboard charts. So that’s my, my great claim to fame. But quickly, uh, it became untenable, you know, trying to make a living or, I, I never really tried to make a living against a musician, I just wanted to be involved in it. I enjoyed it. But, um, work just became, uh, the driving force and, and working on, uh, the Everglades and working at the agency just took up way too much time. So eventually I faded out of that professionally. I still write now and then mostly for myself. Uh, and good research on your part cuz that’s not part of my life that I really talk about.
Speaker 1 00:43:53 Well, you were, uh, well known teetotaler, and so it seems like you’re probably not, weren’t meant for the music industry anyway.
Speaker 2 00:44:01 <laugh>, well, a lot of people out there, uh, in the industry that would probably agree with you <laugh>, but it was a lot of fun. I it’s right. I i I I cannot describe the, the, um, how exciting it is for basically an amateur, uh, fan, if you will, to be in the studios of some, one of the most successful artists in the world at the time. You know, uh, uh, I mean, Gloria Stefan could not be a more gracious person and Emilio, I, I can’t say enough good things about him. I, I, I, I, despite the fact that I w I saw myself then and still see myself very much as an amateur songwriter. They were so warm and welcoming and, uh, and, and gave me the opportunity to work in their studios when in reality there were a lot of people that they had on the payroll, uh, that they could have just as easily said, you know, thank you for your time, but we’ve got people here that are on the payroll that are dependent upon the songs that they’re working on, uh, to make a living. But they were nice enough to let me stick around for a few years and work there. And, and I’m forever grateful for that experience.
Speaker 1 00:45:03 Well, you mentioned being a working biologist, and you studied at, at Florida International University, right? That
Speaker 2 00:45:10 Is
Speaker 1 00:45:10 Correct. Right out of there you did work, you published some work while you were there. Were you working at Miami-Dade County dur while you were still in school or grad school, or did that come after you finished?
Speaker 2 00:45:21 No, I, I was, as a matter of fact, my, my, my life’s goal was to be basically a park ranger. I was a huge fan going back to music. Uh, John Denver was one of my biggest influences. And I dreamed of, you know, parking myself in some fire tower or in the middle of some western forest and looking at my binoculars to look for a distant puff of smoke and basically living a very isolated life. That was my dream at the time. Uh, circumstances led me to go to Florida International University. Uh, but I knew that I wanted to work in the outdoors. I had spent a fair amount of my adolescence, uh, and certainly when I came to visit Florida every summer while I was a child, my grandfather and uncle would take me into the Everglades. And, and I loved the Everglades, and so I knew that I wanted to work there.
Speaker 2 00:46:12 And when I got to school the first semester, I was shocked to find that there were only two professors that were working in Everglades National Park, actually doing scientific investigations. And, uh, one of them was a botanist and their study had concluded, and the other one was a herpetologist. And so I immediately volunteered to be a research assistant. And, uh, literally from the second week I was in college until seven or eight years later, um, I worked on research in the Everglade. So that spanned both my graduation, uh, my being hired at Miami-Dade County, and into my first few years that I worked for Miami-Dade Counties Environmental Resources Management Department, I was doing my, my graduate research in Agles National Park.
Speaker 1 00:46:59 And I, and I think that’s what makes you different than a lot of us up here. I, I was a political appointee. I had to adopt water as something to, to care about, learn about. But you were trained to this, and, and I think you draw on that a lot in the, in the work that you’ve done since you left the water management district to, to kind of go into, uh, private consulting and lobbying. Is that a fair thing to
Speaker 2 00:47:26 Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I, I, I think that one of the, of the things that you and I have in common is despite our educational background, I think that there are a lot of people who may not choose to study a science, uh, for a career in college. But they grew up camping, they grew up fishing, they grew up in the outdoors, uh, they hunted. Uh, and, and so they have a passion for the outdoors. I don’t, I don’t think that, from my perspective anyway, the passion of individuals who feel they’re a kinship to the environment as a byproduct of things that they experienced in their life, regardless of whether or not that came about through rigid studies, doesn’t diminish what, what folks can contribute to the cause, if we will, if we could look at environmentalism and protecting the environment as a cause. Uh, where it does provide me with an interesting perspective, having been trained in it and having done research in it, is that there are a lot of people in the field, and in particular in the area of Everglades who can, can talk a big game.
Speaker 2 00:48:29 Because the basic elements of what drives the Everglades are not difficult to understand. They’re not that complex at a very 30,000 foot level, you know, it’s about hydrology, it’s about, uh, the timing of, of water flows. It’s about the quality of the water. So those are simple things that people can understand. You know, we were involved in research that looked at the, um, the diversity of the reptile community in response to issues like hydrology, um, habitat composition, uh, water quality was less of an issue for that, for that debate. And so I was always interested in understanding what animals where, where in the environment and why, what were their drivers. And so that’s, that, those are the studies that drove me. So, you know, when people talk about, you know, water quality or, or they use a tagline like, just move the water south, my mind goes to the next level.
Speaker 2 00:49:26 Okay, if you’re moving the water south, what’s that doing to the depth of the water where you’re putting it? What does that do to the hydro period, the, the length of time that the water is above ground? What does that do to the vegetative community composition? Because ultimately, what is done to the vegetative community is what’s gonna drive what animals are gonna be there. And so to me, it’s, it’s not as simple, it’s just say, move the water south, because it’s going to trigger this chain reaction throughout the entire ecosystem. And so my focus will be a little bit more granular that maybe somebody who hasn’t been, been trained and, and you’re just told, well, the Everglades needs water, so let’s just move water. Well, what’s the water gonna do? It doesn’t matter. It just needs water. Move it.
Speaker 1 00:50:09 Are you, I’m not just talking about the Everglades. Are you optimistic about the future of water and, and the environment in these natural systems in Florida?
Speaker 2 00:50:19 I’m an optimistic person by nature. I, I, I want to believe that we can and will do more and better. It’s hard for me to, I can answer the question a different way. I’m nowhere near believing that it’s a lost cost. I’m nowhere near believing that good things are not yet ahead of us. As you know, the central theme has always been the same for me. All of these problems are gonna take a lot of money to fix, and we really, really, really need to be serious about that commitment. And, and as of yet, I’ve ran into a lot of policy makers who seem to be developing an understanding of that. They seem to be developing a, a, a more thorough appreciation for the challenge that the state faces. And some of them, uh, uh, indicate that they want to do something about it ultimately, whether or not they’re able to make the bold strides that are gonna be needed. I don’t know.
Speaker 1 00:51:17 You and I have, uh, been friends for 20 years. Uh, you’ve been, uh, a source of context and information and, um, and education, uh, you know, in, uh, those early years and, and even beyond. But I would say the last decade, you’ve been in my ear about something that looks and smells and acts like a D o t work plan, but is actually aimed at water. And it took me a while to, to get comfortable with the idea, but you start to see the value in something like that. First, explain the Department of Transportation’s work plan, how it’s done, what the expectations are of these local areas and regions, and then why that makes sense for for water.
Speaker 2 00:52:05 So that conversation has two components, the first of which is the actual work that needs to be done and how it gets done and how it gets prioritized. And then the second half of the conversation is, what does it take to make it happen? So, uh, talking about the first part, what, what is a work plan? So in the, in, in the transportation world in Florida, we have a process by which, uh, men metropolitan planning organizations or transportation planning organizations, they’ve had different names over, uh, over time. Uh, but at the local level, they identify the projects that are of most importance to those communities. And those are brought together and, and elevated then to, uh, to, through a couple of rings through to the regional level, and then ultimately to the state level. And, um, at each of those levels, the projects are, uh, reassembled.
Speaker 2 00:53:01 They, they, they break down the priorities, they reassemble them, and each region has their priorities based on where they have the greatest needs. Uh, and ultimately the state approves and blesses that plan. In the case of the transportation world, it’s a five year work plan. And what that does for a local government, and what that does for anybody who’s working in that space, is it allows you to, to accurately predict and plan for the work that’s going to take place. If you’re a local government and you’re gonna be contributing financially to the implementation of that project, you can build it into your budget. But there’s a lot of predictability. We know what’s gonna happen when it’s priority based. It starts at the local level. It isn’t Tallahassee telling the local communities here the projects that are most important to you. It’s, it’s a combination of the projects, the, the, the CIS system, the state, and the rural system, uh, priorities that all get cobbled together.
Speaker 2 00:53:58 And, uh, and it, it, that order and that process repeats itself on an annual basis as the new year, the out years are added and updated in, in the, in that work plan, in the water resources world, we don’t have anything that even comes close to resembling that in the water resources world. On our best day, we have grant programs where people apply to a water management district, and in some cases, like the Springs program, the water management districts do attempt to prioritize the projects based on when they believe to be the best needs. And then that is sent to Tallahassee and to the department that ultimately decides what of those priorities gets funded to the second part, what does it take to get the job done? In the case of the transportation work plan, we have as a state, a, a funding revenue stream, which is rather predictable.
Speaker 2 00:54:52 Uh, that’s been in and around the order of 10 billion a year, uh, roughly about 10 to 13% of the budget, if you take the last five or six years, that is dedicated to that purpose. The same is not true in water resources, but for a few projects that very recently are programs that very recently were made programmatic in the Land Acquisition Trust Fund process, the amendment one process. But for those five issues, nothing else that’s in the budget really has predictability. And, and so take alternative water supply. Let’s talk about that. Right. So we, we know that the state has an enormous need for water resources all over the state. And, uh, we know that, that the state is gonna require 14% increase in water supply to meet the growth of the future population. Right? That’s, uh, a literally a myriad of projects, the majority of which we may know what it is that we wanna do, but we don’t know how we’re gonna pay for it.
Speaker 2 00:55:55 And so you have the alternative water supply grant fund, right? That was created backed by Paula. That’s right. As part of the Water Protection Sustainability Act. And, and it was funded for the first three years. But when we got had the recession, it was zeroed out. This administration brought it back, uh, consistently since Governor DeSantis took office, they’ve dedicated not less than 40 million a year, sometimes 50 million a year for alternative water supply development, but prior to that, it wasn’t funded at all. And so that’s an example of how can you build a meaningful program that’s gonna ensure that the drinking water needs in the state are gonna be met if we don’t know what water, what funding is gonna be there to support the development of those water supplies.
Speaker 1 00:56:39 Let me ask you this question in that regard. You look at the D O T work plan, you don’t see the same way you do. And, and this is not a knock on the alternative wa alternative water supply program. It’s not a knock on the springs restoration and protection funding, any of that. But at, at least in its creation, however, no one requires of the city of Bonna Fe in Holmes County to match the dollars that the state is investing in the, the widening of a highway of, of Interstate 10 or, uh, or one of the north-south corridors going through the panhandle or anywhere else in the state. However, we do place those, those kinds of constraints on the alternative water supply funding of, uh, other, um, uh, subject to sewer projects. Is that something that you’re concerned about when you look at how do you prioritize things? How do you have predictability relying on local governments and their ability to come up with those dollars when in fact, in the end, aren’t they all the same taxpayers anyway?
Speaker 2 00:57:51 Absolutely. I, I, look, we, we know as of this year that the state of Florida over the next 20 years is gonna have to, uh, invest approximately 132 billion in order to meet our identified needs. That is that the state has done an evaluation, has looked at all of the projects and programs that we currently have in place, and that’s how much money we’re gonna need over the next 20 years if we’re going to implement those programs at the present rate, we’re spending less than $2 billion a year towards the implementation of all of those needs. And so it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that we’re gonna fall way short. And so what I’m a proponent of is if we have a plan for how we’re gonna address it, one of the things that we need to do is a portion, a percentage of that challenge to different entities.
Speaker 2 00:58:43 So water supply and wastewater. It’s my personal belief that that is a local government responsibility with rare exception, where you have an economically disadvantaged community for which I believe we should do something different. Every other local government has an enterprise fund, a rate structure that is supposed to support the development and the maintenance of the systems that they have built. And so I do not believe that the state should be in the business of helping the local governments pay for that area of infrastructure. Instead, I believe the state focus should be on what I have always referred to as the orphans and an orphan is a water supply inf or a water infrastructure area that is not supported by an enterprise fund, and thus the funding for it is a bit more capricious, more arbitrary. And, and so that’s environmental restoration, that’s flood control, that’s regional flood control and throw in resilience to boot.
Speaker 2 00:59:39 So I do, I believe that if the state sat down to develop a plan for how it was going to address this challenge and these various areas of water infrastructure, it then could decide what percentage of that challenge should be paid by what level of government. But my frustration, Brett, is I don’t even think we have a plan. I mean, let me ask you, your former executive director of a water management district take the Springs program, which by many measures is a successful program, but it’s not a plan. Each of the water management districts that provide, uh, an avenue for local governments to access dollars in spring sheds, it’s, it’s a year by year process, but there isn’t a single plan to restore the springs of the state. It’s more on a project by project basis as the districts prioritize them as opportunities present themselves. Am I wrong? I
Speaker 1 01:00:40 I would put it, I would put it a little differently. You have the, the state has the total maximum daily load, uh, that we’ve established. Uh, we’ve written statutes surrounding, uh, what to do in that case. And we know in that case whether it be, uh, a quality issue. Uh, like with the T MDLs, you have a base in management action plan that you’re supposed to, uh, to use and that’s your, your guidebook to eliminate that impairment. On the quantity side, it’s the minimum flon minimum levels program. And so, uh, when you look at, uh, Springs and whether they be in the, the Swanee River, Santa Fe, uh, river area or northwest Florida or or further down in central Florida, when you finish that, you either have, uh, a spring that meets that’s, that’s above that minimum flow at minimum level or it doesn’t, in which case you need a recovery plan.
Speaker 1 01:01:38 And if you think it’s gonna need, uh, it’s gonna have a problem. You have to have a, a prevention strategy for it. So I think those, those exist. I think the Springs program itself, at least from our perspective in in Northwest, was how do we take those, not just bmap water bodies, because we had those in McCullough Spring and Jackson Blue Spring in Jackson County, but we also had other springs that were outstanding. Florida Springs and other ones that were not, where on the Homes Creek, uh, is a good example where we want to, to find places that are worth protecting. And sometimes that means acquisition around that place. Uh, and sometimes it means, uh, working with farmers in a basin to, uh, to try to lessen the amount of quantity and, uh, of water being used or, uh, limit the amount of, of fertilizer that’s being used.
Speaker 1 01:02:32 And, and so you work with them. And so the, the guide, the guidepost are there and there is some rhyme to it in, in terms of the way that the department and, and why department, I mean the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, and they have a plan that goes out four or five years, or at least placeholders. You have some things that are extending and some things that are kind of one-offs. But I think the greatest weakness in in that is it relies on the cooperators side of the equation too much. And so when you look at choosing projects, it could be Wakulla County or someplace else, you, you can only do what your, what your cooperative, what your partner is willing and able to accomplish. And so if you’re waiting on them, and it doesn’t matter if you know you’re talking about septic tank problems in Biscayne Bay or ag issues in north central Florida, or septic tanks and ag issues, and this part of the state, if you’re just relying on those partners, they’re, they’re stuck like the rest of us.
Speaker 1 01:03:38 And so from, from my perspective is, is, is maybe looking at that, what you were talking about, but in a slightly different way, which is I think that the state has said it’s, it’s water quality priorities quite plainly in law, but they’re the state’s priorities. And so, you know, with the D O T work plan that comes up from local governments, but it’s also includes state priorities and IT as well. And the state has decided that they’re gonna do that. There are no laws that say that they have to, uh, widen a particular road in Holmes County and Northwest Florida. But there are laws that we’ve written to, you know, to deal with water quality issues.
Speaker 2 01:04:14 Yeah. But the difference speaks to the second component of it, which is the funding and the work plan. They know they’re gonna get money, right? They, they can reasonably expect that they’re gonna get their 10 billion a year, right? And, and now we’re up to 12 billion, but you know that they’re gonna get that sum of money. We don’t have that certainty in the water world. The programs that are part of the L A T F formula do, but everything beyond that does not. Right. And, and even, even the Springs program and, and the, and I agree with you. I think the framework exists there to have a plan to get the job done, but I think that there’s so many variables that are a part of that plan, not the least of which being the most important funding that are not something that you can rely upon, you know, consistently for most of the programs in the state that then weaken, uh, or erode away the confidence of the public to believe that we’re gonna accomplish anything by any particular time. So my mission, the latter part of my career has been dedicated to educating policy makers on the gross inadequacies of our funding for water infrastructure in general, in the hopes that they would make enough of a commitment that that barrier gets removed.
Speaker 1 01:05:30 It’s a hard thing to, to ask though, isn’t it? And I agree with you. I’m gonna, I’m gonna preface what I’m gonna say by saying I agree with you, but you can’t say that this administration, this legislature, the last administration, the last legislature, and the one before that, and the one before that, each one has built on the last in terms of water quality issues, where you’re talking about the Everglades, or now when you talk about springs septic to sewer issues, the Indian River Lagoon, Biscayne Bay, objectively, they’ve invested more money than ever before. Sometimes exponentially more money than ever before. But I I, but I take your point that, that even though that’s true, that doesn’t mean that we hit our targets on time.
Speaker 2 01:06:18 My criticism of, of past administrations and to whate, to whatever extent I want to criticize the current administration and legislature isn’t that they’re not doing more. All of them have done more. It’s that without understanding what the, without being able to openly acknowledge what the need is, they’re not doing enough. You’ve heard me, you know, I lecture about this all over the state, and every time that I talk and, and, and ask an audience, uh, of, of local government officials or community, uh, convincer, whoever has said I’m lecturing or at the time, and I always say the same thing, guess what percentage of the state revenues are dedicated on an annual basis to water resource protection. And, and right now I have a 17 years that I’ve been tracking the, the, and dissecting the state budget. And the average over that period of time is about seven tenths of 1%.
Speaker 2 01:07:19 And jaws always drop. Cuz when I, when I ask the question and, oh, 5%, 6%, those that you know, know that I’m gonna hit a low number will go out 2%. When I say no, the number seven tenths of 1%, they’re go like, holy cow, that’s nothing. And then I say, okay, well, by comparison, what do you think the number is for transportation infrastructure? Again, another worthy area of, of investment by the state that tied to the economy and, and everything else. And, and when they learned that that on average is about 10 to 11%, then I asked the question, to the extent that our budget is a reflection of our values, are we saying that roads are 10 times more important than water? I don’t think there’s anywhere that anyone would agree that that’s true, but our spending certainly says that. That’s true.
Speaker 1 01:08:03 Well, Frank, I’ll, I’ll have to have you back all the way from across the office here, um, on the, on the show. Uh, and I think we will. And so maybe by then some of those discussions may have taken place.
Speaker 2 01:08:15 I can only hope. So
Speaker 1 01:08:16 How can people get ahold of you when you’re not in the capitol or on the golf course at the
Speaker 2 01:08:21 Moment? Well, I believe all of us can be found through our, uh, anfield florida.com website for our firm, www anfield Florida dot.com. And probably that’s the best way to get ahold of me.
Speaker 1 01:08:33 Sounds good. Frank Bernard Bernardino, thank you for joining me. Thanks again to Frank Bernard Bernardino for joining me on the podcast. You’ve been listening to Water for Fighting. You can reach me at fl water podd gmail.com or on Twitter and Instagram at FL Water podd with your comments and suggestions for who and or what you’d like to know more about. This podcast is produced by Lonely Fox Studios, thanks to Carl, so for making the best of what he had to work with and to David Barfield for the Amazing graphics as well as technical assistance. A very special thank you goes out to Bow springing from the Bow Spring Band for giving permission to use his music for the podcast. The song is called Doing Work for Free, and you should check it out wherever music is sold. I’m your host, Brett Ciphers. Join me next time for another conversation with someone who has helped shape water policy in the Sunshine State. Until then, keep your whiskey close and your water closer.