Spymaster spins Everglades yarn

Op-Ed by Saint John Hunt

Oh the irony. Being lectured about “shady deal making”, bureaucratic ineptitude and having debates in the sunshine — by a former Director of the CIA.

Porter Goss
Former Rep. Porter Goss

In an opinion piece published in the News-Press, such a lecture is precisely what was delivered by former Congressman and CIA Director Porter Goss. And employing another specialty of the CIA, Mr. Goss engages in some serious disinformation about the proposed $500 million land grab by which the State of Florida would buy tens of thousands of acres of land south of Lake Okeechobee under the false pretense of restoring the Everglades.

I have just moved to the Sunshine State from California. At first, based on what I read in the newspapers, I supported the state purchase of 46,700 acres of farm land in the Everglades. Upon doing some research I learned that this land is not required for Everglades restoration and diverting money for its purchase could actually take money from projects needed to finish successful Everglades restoration.

In fact, buying this land will do little or nothing towards restoring the Everglades. Let’s be clear: Restoring and protecting the Everglades is not at issue here. Everyone agrees with that goal. That’s why Florida taxpayers, farmers and businesses have invested more than $10 billion already to improve water quality and implement dozens of projects to restore this amazing resource. And that’s why we have committed another $5.5 billion to finish the job.

Of course, in his opinion piece, Mr. Goss neglects to mention that all these efforts are working. Everglades water quality today far exceeds federal standards. He also neglects to mention that the state and federal governments already own more than 25% of Florida land. Instead, he just wants us to believe that giving the government even more land will somehow make things better. Sounding more like a real estate investor than a retired spook , Mr. Goss says exercising the U.S. Sugar option will let the government buy land at a “price favorable to the public”. He conveniently overlooks the fact that his “favorable” price expired in 2013, and that a new, current, market value would be required. Who knows if it would be favorable? Closer to $700 million than $500 Million.

What’s more the water contained in the 26,000 acre, $2 billion dollar reservoir is a drop in the bucket –less than 150,000 acre-feet to solve a 4.5 million acre foot problem. Not enough to effect quality of water.

Our former CIA Director also says the state has “all the science it needs” to justify this massive land grab. Well…if that is true, why isn’t the land grab included among the 43 priority projects identified by the South Florida Water Management District for Everglades restoration? Maybe the experts DO have all the science they need — and that science doesn’t support exercising the option.

Everglades restoration projects have been underway for more than two decades, and are achieving and surpassing the science-based goals for water quality and quantity. Buying more land — at tremendous cost to taxpayers and farmers — simply isn’t part of the plan, for good reason. It will only divert dollars and water that can be better used for real projects, rather than to just satisfy the appetites of extreme environmentalists and their political friends to add to the government’s real estate portfolio.

My father worked for the CIA. I learned early that the CIA deals in disinformation. Mr. Goss is continuing that tradition. Let’s keep our eye on the ball. Restoring the Everglades is the objective. Spending $500 million to buy up land, and untold amounts to maintain it, will do nothing to achieve it.

Saint John Hunt is an author, poet and musician. He lives in Fort Lauderdale. He is he son of veteran CIA operative and Watergate figure E. Howard Hunt.

The opinions expressed herein are those of the writer and may not necessarily reflect those of BizPac Review.


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