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Crist signs bill to close off public input in water decisions

Gov. Charlie Crist today disappointed environmentalists and signed into law a bill that removes from public input the of water management district boards on surface water and consumptive use permits. Environmentalists had urged Crist to veto SB 2010 arguing that by allowing those decisions to be made by the water management districts executive director, instead of the elected board, they will be shielded from public input and debate.

They also warned that the bill carves out special exemptions for certain large land holders to get 50-year permits to use Florida water with no public review.

Crist said he was sensitive to those concerns and, in a letter accompanying his signing of the bill, urged the WMDs to continue to make their water permit decisions in the open. "I am asking the governing boards and executive directors to continue to include surface water and consumptive use permits on all board meeting agendas or other public meetings for discussion and transparency purposes.''

Eric Draper of Audubon of Florida said they will fight to get the language repealed next year. "In the past at least we've had a chance to get in front of those people and say, 'Hey, this isn't a good idea,'' he said. "We didn't always get the votes...but this takes a decision about resources and puts it behind closed doors, eliminating the opportunity for a public hearing.''