Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Politics Could Muck Up St. Johns River Cleanup

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Politics Could Muck Up St. Johns River Cleanup

Article excerpt

If we are not careful, politics may prove to be be more

deadly to the St. Johns River than the poisonous gunk we've been

dumping into it for years.

A clear example of that has developed over the past several

weeks. It revolves around what at first appeared to be a rather

innocuous proposal to have the St. Johns designated as an

American Heritage River.

In this year's State of the Union address, President Clinton

called for 10 rivers in the country to carry such a designation.

The proposal was actually part of an effort to "re-invent

government" by making it less bureaucratic and more responsive

to people -- popular themes these days.

The benefit of the program would be that instead of dictating,

the federal government would listen to the communities involved

and help them reach their goals for improving the quality of

their rivers.

It would be a "bottom-up" approach. There would be better

coordination among the various federal agencies whose rulings

can affect a river. And there might even be some federal dollars

down the road.

The proposal stressed that "the initiative will create no new

regulatory requirements for individuals or state and local

governments."

Officials with the St. Johns River Water Management District,

especially intrigued by the possibility of federal dollars for

help in cleaning up the river, began promoting the designation

as perhaps the greatest thing since sliced bread.

Then the politics began.

It was not surprising that agricultural interests and land

developers, always nervous about even the remote possibility of

regulations, expressed reservations.

It was a bit of a stretch, but not totally unexpected, that the

save the Rodman Reservoir folks jumped into the fray, shouting

that the designation was just a federal disguise to force the

draining of Rodman and the restoration of the Ocklawaha River,

which flows into the St. Johns.

Then, of course -- as always in these times -- there was the

anti-federal government, antiBill Clinton faction.

But who would have thought that a move to have the St. …

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