The City of Adel passed a city resolution in support of Georgia House Resolution 158, “a measure allowing the Georgia General Assembly to dedicate fee collections for their statutorily designated programs,” this Tuesday, January 16, 2018. That’s the second in the Suwannee River Basin, after Lanier County. The more of these urging resolutions that get passed, the more likely the legislature will act to schedule a Georgia Constitutional Amendment to stop many millions of dollars of diversions of state fees from their intended purposes.Continue reading
Video by Gretchen Quarterman for Lowndes Area Knowledge Exchange (LAKE) at Valdosta City Council, Thursday, January 11, 2018.
Newly elected Mayor Pro Tem Sandra Tooley wanted to know whether Continue reading
Received January 8, 2018. I think this is the last workshop, so if you haven’t been to one….
Good Afternoon Everyone,
This email is a quick reminder to attend the 4th Regional Plan Update Workshop in the City of Douglas, Georgia, on:
January 18th, 2018 10:00 a.m. to 12:30p
City of Douglas City Hall,
224 East Bryan Street, Douglas, GA 31533,
This fourth workshop will cover the following topics: Continue reading
When you pay a state fee, be it for a license plate or for use of a landfill, chances are much of it is being diverted to some unrelated purpose. The Lanier County Commission today passed a resolution urging the Georgia legislature to dedicate state fees to their statutorily-designated programs.
Lanier County Commissioners Paul Brockington (District 1), Susan Bowling (District 3), Harold Simpson (District 2), Dennis Fender (District 4), and Alex Lee (Chairman). Neil Ginty (County Administrator) in pink shirt.
The Commissioners’ only question after I briefly spoke was to the County Administrator as to whether the county attorney had reviewed this resolution: she had. Thanks to Continue reading
It’s not just GE and Siemens that are “experiencing disruption of unprecedented scope and speed,” power plant builder Fluor finds “The challenges we have experienced over the last two years on gas-fired power projects are inconsistent with the results we have historically achieved.” Maybe you should have bet on sun and wind power, Fluor, Siemens, and GE, instead of fracked methane and nukes.
Photo: Fluor web page on Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant
Copenhaver Construction, Inc., 8 August 2017,
Problems on three gas-fired power plant projects with fixed-price contracts forced Dallas-based Fluor Corp. to book a $124-million charge in 2017’s second quarter.
CEO David. T. Seaton says Continue reading
If you haven’t been to one, here’s another chance to get your input into the SGRC regional comprehensive plan.
When: 10AM to 12:30 PM, Thursday, December 7, 2017
Tifton-Tift County Chamber of Commerce,
100 Central Avenue, Tifton, GA 31793
What: 3rd Regional Plan Update Workshop
The notes in red look familiar.
Reminder received yesterday: Continue reading
It’s not near any hazardous site on GA-EPD’s inventory, but it is right next to multiple heavy manufacturing companies and two railroads, in an area full of wetlands, upstream from Knights Creek, which runs into Mud Swamp Creek, then the Alapahoochee River, then the Alapaha River, then the Suwannee River: last night’s chemical leak on Clay Road next to the Lowndes County Schools Transportation Center on Howell Road.
According to the Lowndes County Tax Assessors maps, north up Clay Road are Steeda Autosports, Letica, Archer Daniels Midland, and other heavy manufacturing sites. Maybe the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Department and Valdosta Police should be asking them Continue reading
I still want to know which river that is, under “(2) Areas Requiring Special Attention Defining Narrative; Threatened Regionally Important Resources&rdquo. And what I already sent SGRC for WWALS is below this reminder message. Received yesterday:
A quick reminder for our 1st Regional Plan Update Workshop on:
September 21st, 2017 9:30a to 12:30p
Valdosta SGRC Offices at 327 W. Savannah Ave
The first workshop will cover the following topics:
- Review the existing issues and opportunities within the Region and determine whether they are Continue reading
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Hahira, Georgia, July 27, 2017 — On Monday, WWALS Watershed Coalition asked the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) to take Southern Company (SO) CEO Tom Fanning up on his suggestion that the PSC could affect the SO board’s August self-imposed deadline about the two new nuclear units at Plant Vogtle: to go ahead despite the bankruptcy of Toshiba, or not. WWALS also asked the PSC, like it did four years ago, to require Georgia Power to buy more solar power.
Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman wrote to Georgia PSC: “The Mississippi Public Service Commission in June refused Continue reading
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 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:
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