Tag Archives: Richard Schwab

Who’s the Chair and the Board? Land purchase and toll roads @ SRWMD 2020-10-13

On tomorrow morning’s 9AM Board Consent Agenda is acquisition of ten acres on the Withlacoochee River in Hamilton County near Georgia. The toll roads (M-CORES) are on the Workshop agenda for after the board meeting, along with Water Quality Review, Poe Springs, and Rum Island Park. There’s nothing about Nestlé, but that doesn’t have to stop you talking about it in Public Comments.

News reports say seven of nine positions have been filled, but their own Current Governing Board Members web page only shows five for the Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD) Board. That page says Virginia H. Johns is still the Chair, but last month she handed the gavel to Richard Schwab, even though he is still listead as the Vice Chair.

[Board, Drufner Tract]
Board, Drufner Tract

You can attend tomorrow morning’s meeting from anyway. If you want to speak, you must sign up on the public comment form as well as for the webinar and the voice call-in number.

The Meeting will be conducted via GoTo Webinar for Presentations Only

GoTo Webinar Link: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/6241426543382591502

Separate Call-In Number for Audio

Toll Free 1-888-585-9008 – Conference Room Number: 704-019-452 #

Public Comment Form Link: www.MySuwanneeRiver.com/Comments

Who’s the Chair? Who’s the Board?

Interesting note in the minutes from the 3PM September 8, 2020, meeting: Continue reading

Tabled by SRWMD: Seven Rivers permit until Nestle co-applicant 2020-08-11

On a motion (by Don Quincey) seconded (I think by Virginia Sanchez), with only one dissenting vote (Richard Schwab), the SRWMD board voted to table the Seven Springs permit application for six months, because they want Nestlé to be a co-applicant.

They do not want the permit to go back to DOAH; they want it to come back to SRWMD.

[SRWMD Board and Nestle (Seven Springs) permit map]
SRWMD Board and Nestle (Seven Springs) permit map
SRWMD Governing Board, l-r, Donald J. Quincey, Jr. Vice Chair; Virginia Sanchez; Richard Schwab, Treasurer (voted nay); Gary F. Jones; Charles Keith; Virginia H. Johns, Chair.

Before they voted, they discussed that they were not in any way disparaging the efforts of SRWMD staff. The lack of Nestlé as co-applicant was the primary reason. A secondary reason was the lack of transparency. For example, there had been no public hearing, and while there were supposedly hundreds of people listening, nobody could see them.

Speaking of transparency, I had to ask to find out who made the motion, who seconded, and who voted nay. Fortunately, the staffer taking names during the fifteen minute recess for people to have sign up for public comment knew 2 out of 3. It’s not a very transparent process when the public doesn’t know who did what. Somebody else also asked could each SRWMD board member say who they were, or maybe the chair could.

Plus, the point of the WWALS letter to SRWMD this morning remains: without a SRWMD board member for the Santa Fe River, approval of this permit would be taxation without representation.

It is odd that Nestlé is not already a co-applicant, since in the board packet for today’s meeting there are 12 pages of Nestlé documents, starting with NWNA Water Consumption Estimates. Continue reading

Two thirds of SRWMD Board half there 2019-09-18

It was surprisingly interactive meeting, with the Board members repeatedly questioning staff about multiple projects, sometimes taking up points raised from the audience. One Board Member even stopped a project. Yet half the rump board was not visible, being on the telephone, and the Budget Public Hearing may or may not have been legal.

Nestlé Water Withdrawal Permits

At the rescheduled September SRWMD Board meeting, OSFR President Mike Roth questioned the validity of the permitting process for Nestlé’s proposed 1.2 million gallon per day water withdrawal from Ginnie Springs on the Santa Fe River, since the actual application is from Seven Springs, which proposes to sell the water to Nestlé, which is not a use authorized by Florida Statutes.

[OSFR President]
OSFR President

I seconded that, and added that the SRWMD Board should revisit Nestlé’s permit for water withdrawal at Madison Blue Springs on the Withlacoochee River, since Florida Statutes to authorize them to do that.

You can comment to SRWMD about Nestlé’s permits.

Photo: Jim Tatum for OSFR, of Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman
Photo: Jim Tatum for OSFR, of Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman

Afterwards, SRWMD’s Tom Mirti told me the $70,000 contract with SRWMD for Nestlé to support springs water quality monitoring is required by the Nestlé permit for Madison Blue Spring, even though it has to be negotiated separately. Apparently yet another open records request is needed.

Invisible and Missing Board Members

Continue reading

Two reappointed to SRWMD so quorum for Wednesday Budget Public Hearing 2019-09-18

Sudden quorum for Budget Public Hearing, Pilgrim’s Pride withdrawal as Renewal rather than Modification, and Nestlé still not on the Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD) agenda for this Wednesday afternoon at 3PM. But don’t let that stop you from asking SRWMD to deny Nestlé’s application for more water from Ginnie Springs on the Santa Fe River, and to revisit Nestlé’s withdrawal permit from Madison Blue Spring on the Withlacoochee River.

[Apparently two have been reappointed]
Apparently two have been reappointed

Apparently the Florida Governor has reappointed two SRWMD board members, Charles Keith and Richard Schwab, since they show up again on the SRWMD Current Governing Board Members web page.

I don’t know whether they were reappointed to the same slots or not, since there was no announcement that I have found. Charles Keith was At Large and Richard Schwab was Coastal River Basin.

So they’re back up to Continue reading

Rescheduled: SRWMD Board due to lack of Quorum 2019-09-18

We recommend Dennis J. Price, Practicing Geologist of Hamilton County, Florida, for the Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD) Board.

[Dennis Price explains, 13:50:12, 30.57871, -83.05231]
Dennis Price explains, 13:50:12, 30.5787100, -83.0523100
Photo: John S. Quarterman, January 27, 2018, at the Dead River Sink, off the Alapaha River

Received 11:23 AM this morning via email:

SEPTEMBER 10 GOVERNING BOARD MEETING RESCHEDULED

LIVE OAK, FLA., Sept. 10, 2019 — The Suwannee River Water Management District Governing Board meeting for September 10, 2019 at 3:00 p.m. at the District Headquarters has been rescheduled. The rescheduled meeting will be held on September 18, 2019 at 3:00 p.m. at the District Headquarters.

[Rescinded and Timed Out]
Rescinded and Timed Out

That notice doesn’t say why, but this does. Cindy Swirko, Gainesville Sun, Posted Sep 8, 2019 at 2:50 PM Updated Sep 9, 2019 at 12:00 AM, Suwannee district to discuss budget without full board, Continue reading

SRWMD kept money from Florida for “routinely anticipated budget shortfalls”

Where does the buck stop for these “routinely anticipated budget shortfalls”? Who let a budget include those? Isn’t the point of a budget to, well, budget for what’s needed? Or, given the history of deliberate downsizing of environmental agencies in Florida, maybe shortfalls were the point.

Noah Valenstein
Noah Valenstein got the job as secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection on Tuesday May 23rd, on a unanimous vote by Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet. His previous job? Executive director of the Suwannee River Water Management District, which was flagged by state auditors for $22.5 million in “questionable costs”. The audit covered the time Valenstein led the district. He oversees the district in his new job. [Special to the Times]

Mary Ellen Klas, Miami Herald-Times Tallahassee Bureau, 14 July 2017, Auditors find millions in ‘questionable costs’ at water district,

Weak budgetary controls led to $22.5 million in “questionable costs,” auditors found. Officials had transferred $13.3 million of it into the district’s operating account without proper authority. They may have overspent some areas of the budget and directed money to other areas to make up for shortfalls. They set aside $3.8 million “in the event of an economic crisis” without authorization, and they steered $1.7 million “to cover routinely anticipated budget shortfalls” without explanation.

Contingency funds, sure, but “routinely anticipated”? And in an economic crisis, wouldn’t it be the legislature that should be authorizing funds?

Auditors concluded that accounts were “misclassified because district personnel misunderstood” standard accounting requirements and budget staff members were “somewhat new to the process” so they couldn’t explain how and why it happened.

That is what happens when a state massively defunds its environmental agencies and makes political tests and servicing economic development more important than competence. The article goes into that, rightly pointing a finger repeatedly at Governor Rick Scott, who said “ensuring that Florida’s precious water resources are protected and managed in the most fiscally responsible way possible” while:

The five districts, whose boards are appointed by the governor and operate under the oversight of the Department of Environmental Protection, were purged of hundreds of veteran professionals, and budgets were cut in half. They continued cutting their budgets through 2016. Suwannee, because of its small size, had proportionally fewer cuts.

The article discusses and quotes SRWMD staff, with some pretty amusing tidbits, including this one from “Roary E. Snider, the district’s chief of staff”, who

also disputed the auditor’s claim they don’t have documentation. “While we absolutely will provide these records, these documents were largely in hard copy,” Snider said. “Staff couldn’t assemble these additional records in time.”

SRWMD staff don’t know how to use a scanner? Or they didn’t know where they put those paper documents? Or maybe the dog ate them.

The article even quotes Eric Draper of Audubon Florida about “problems we’ve seen at the Suwannee River district with the change of leadership over the years,”. If Audubon Florida “works closely with the water management districts”, what did Audubon Florida know, when did they know it, and why are they only speaking up now?

The actual audit report lists on page 2:

Executive Director
Noah Valenstein from October 13, 2015
Carlos Herd, Interim, from May 14, 2015, to October 12, 2015
Dr. Ann B. Shortelle to May 13, 2015

The article mentions that:

The district is overseen by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, which is now headed by Noah Valenstein. His last job was executive director of the Suwannee River WMD during the time the audit was underway.

Guess which fox the foxhouse is turning to for assistance:

The district said it would turn to the Department of Environmental Protection for advice on how to resolve the dispute over whether money is owed to the state.

“DEP has communicated with staff at the Suwannee River Water Management District, and they have informed us that they are reviewing accounting and land acquisition records for additional information,” said Lauren Engel, spokesperson for Valenstein.

“If it is determined that these funds should be returned to DEP, they would go to the trust fund from which the funding was issued, however, DEP would require spending authority from the legislature to use it.”

This is the same Noah Valenstein who told me shortly after he was appointed to SRWMD that he believes that Florida law requires him and SRWMD to provide water resources for economic development. Maybe he should have paid more attention to making sure the economic resources of the District were properly organized.

The Miami Times-Herald story as carried by tbo.com (Tampa Bay Times) has a bit more pointed headline and picture caption (see top of this blog post), Auditors find millions in ‘questionable costs’ at water district, but will it matter? Continue reading