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Algae Adam “All Too Silent” on Lake Okeechobee Pollution — and Will Do Nothing to Address Algae Bloom as Governor

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Over the course of two decades in office, Adam Putnam has repeatedly opposed efforts to clean up Florida’s water — and embraced policies that have contributed to the current dangerous algae bloom.
As Agriculture Commissioner, Putnam backed a water bill that gutted water quality regulations and assigned only eight staffers to manage the 3.5 million acres north of Lake Okeechobee. Putnam’s record has drawn the ire even of fellow Republicans. Senate President Joe Negron took the extraordinary step last year of reminding Putnam that he had “a responsibility to look after the environmental condition of every part of Florida.” A former Nixon and Ford Interior official has gone further, accusing Putnam of being “all too silent on the issues of Everglades agricultural pollution.”
As both Agriculture Commissioner and a gubernatorial candidate, Putnam has been “oblivious” to toxic algae and instead chosen to embrace policies that would only cause more pollution. Floridians can expect more of the same if Adam Putnam ends up in the Governor’s mansion.
In February 2015, the Department of Agriculture Had Eight Staffers to Manage the 3.5 Million Acres Subject to the New Rules. According to the Miami Herald, “But the Department of Agriculture has only eight staffers who monitor the 3.5 million acres north of Lake Okeechobee that would be subject to the new rules. ‘With an area that big, how do we know the farmers are successfully implementing the best management practices?’ said Douglas MacLaughlin, a former attorney with the South Florida Water Management District. ‘That’s a huge job. I don’t think there’s anyone who knows how they’re being implemented.’” [Miami Herald, 2/9/15] 
Tampa Bay Times Columnist Maxwell: “Putnam Has Assured Lawmakers That These Eight Souls Can Perform Inspection Miracles.” According to a Tampa Bay Times column by Bill Maxwell, “The new arrangement puts Putnam in the lead of cleanup efforts for the 3.5 million acres of land north of Lake Okeechobee. Although the Department of Agriculture has only eight staffers to manage those 3.5 mil-ion acres, Putnam has assured lawmakers that these eight souls can perform inspection miracles.” [Tampa Bay Times, column, 3/3/15]
Putnam Supported a 2016 Bill “That Gutted Water Quality Regulations.” [TC Palm, 7/3/18]
HB 7003 Replaced a Strict Permit System to Regulate Pollution with “General Limits” That Were More Difficult to Enforce. According to the Miami Herald, “Currently, landowners in this area are required to follow permits issued to them by the South Florida Water Management District that limits the amount of phosphorous they can discharge. Under the bill, those limits would be replaced by a general target that all landowners must follow. Without individual limits, enforcement will be more complicated. Landowners would be asked to implement land techniques recommended by Putnam’s Department of Agriculture that would reduce pollution, such as planting vegetation that would prevent nutrients from seeping into Lake Okeechobee.” [Miami Herald, 2/9/15]
Environmental Groups Were “Disappointed” by HB 7033: Said It Was Not a “Full Plan for Cleaning Up Lake Okeechobee.” According to the Bradenton Herald, “‘We are disappointed to see the House pass a bill that does not provide a deadline or a full plan for cleaning up Lake Okeechobee,’ said Eric Eikenberg, CEO of the Everglades Foundation, in a Thursday statement. ‘We have serious concerns about eliminating a mandatory permit-based system for controlling pollution and replacing it with a voluntary reporting program.’ Eikenberg’s group joined the Sierra Club, Audubon Florida, 1000 Friends of Florida, the Florida Springs Council and Earthjustice in urging lawmakers to vote against the House bill.” [Bradenton Herald, 3/5/15]
Stuart News Editorial: HB 7003 Eliminates Water-Quality Requirements and Replaces Verifiable Safeguards With Unproven Best Management Practices. According to a Stuart News editorial, “Case in point: House Bill 7003, which would delay the cleanup of Lake Okeechobee, eliminate water-quality requirements for water entering the lake and replace verifiable safeguards with unproven ‘best management practices.’ It also would shift responsibility for water-quality improvements in the northern Everglades and the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee river estuaries from the South Florida Water Management District to the Florida Department of Agriculture.” [Stuart News, editorial, 4/26/15]
Former Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Fish and Wildlife and Parks under Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford: Putnam Has Been “All Too Silent on the Issues of Everglades Agricultural Pollution.”According to an op-ed by Nathaniel Reed in the Gainesville Sun, “The commissioner has been all too silent on the issues of Everglades agricultural pollution. The vast majority of the costs of land acquisition, construction of the STAs — in reality Pollution Control Treatment areas — and the management of the system to cleanse the polluted drainage has been borne by the taxpayers of the 16 counties that comprise the South Florida Water Management District. So much for the amendment requiring that ‘Polluters shall pay the full cost of cleansing their pollution’! Without effective litigation before federal courts, the industry would never have complied with strict water quality standards.” [Gainesville Sun, op-ed, 11/15/15]
Putnam Called Spending $2.4 Billion on an Okeechobee Reservoir a Poor Use of Money. Senate GOP Leader Joe Negron Said Putnam Would Think Differently If Algae Blooms Reached Putnam’s Hometown. According to TC Palm, “Several state officials and lawmakers have questioned Negron’s push for a reservoir south of the lake instead of a northern one the state and federal governments already are planning. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said Tuesday there are better ways to spend the $2.4 billion Negron’s proposal would cost in state and federal dollars. Negron’s response? Putnam would think differently if algae blooms were happening in his hometown of Bartow. ‘If there was ooze and poisonous fluids flowing down the center of Bartow and Polk County, we wouldn’t be talking about an abstract schedule or making comments that somehow this is a political effort,’ Negron said. ‘As a member of the Cabinet, he has a responsibility to look after the environmental condition of every part of Florida.’” [TC Palm, 1/26/17]
In February 2017, the Executive Director of the Everglades Trust Said Putnam Was “Oblivious” to the Toxic Algae. According to an op-ed in USA Today written by Everglades Trust Executive Director Kimberly Mitchell, “On Zika, Putnam stands firm: ‘A state that had 105 million visitors last year can’t tolerate a widespread epidemic of a disease that would keep families away,’ he asserts. Yet when it comes to an algae outbreak that forced a ‘state of emergency’ that lasted 225 days in 2016, closing beaches and restricting fishing, our commissioner of agriculture was mute. The mosquitos that carry the Zika virus, he noted, could well come back: ‘warm weather can bring that back out,’ he cautioned the assembled reporters. He was oblivious, however, to the likely recurrence of the blue-green algae, a toxic bacteria that takes hold whenever water levels in Lake Okeechobee force the Army Corps of Engineers to flush the filthy excess into our coastal waterways and estuaries as a flood-control measure.” [USA Today, Kimberly Mitchell op-ed, 2/16/17]