Palm Beach Post Point of View

Suit won’t alter fact: Lake Point can’t sell public water   9/18/14

 Nathaniel Reed

Why is Maggy Hurchalla being attacked through the legal system for telling the truth about Lake Point’s proposal to divert water from Lake Okeechobee and pump it into the firms’ excavations for storage?

Lake Point does not have a valid permit to obtain Lake Okeechobee’s water. Any competent Florida attorney knows that the “waters of the state” are owned by the “people” and are managed in trust for them by the five water management districts with oversight provided by the state Department of Environmental Regulation. I suspect that any plan to divert the lake’s water would also require permission from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with input from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Why haven’t Lake Point’s owners pursued the necessary permits? Do the owners honestly believe that Hurchalla’s critique influenced the pertinent decision-makers sufficiently to cast their vague proposal in the scrap heap?

The concept of being permitted to store water during high rainfall events, holding it in pits and then selling the public’s water to counties and/or cities that have overgrown their own water supplies is not part of eastern water law. The sale of the public water by a third party simply is not permitted.

So why the SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) against Hurchalla? Is there any evidence that she maliciously pointed out the fallacy of the Lake Point’s initial vague proposal?

Is there any evidence that her observations based on “common sense and years of homework” influenced decision-makers to critically review and tell Lake Point that their contract does not allow them to sell the waters of the state?

SLAPP suits were originated by developers, who, annoyed at public input on their plans, sought to muzzle any criticisms of their proposals. What if our Founding Fathers were sued for speaking out against the heavy hands of the Crown? Our country was built on citizens’ opinions, especially when Hurchalla’s opinions are supported by fact, undeniable facts.

The day responsible criticism is threatened by wealthy developers of controversial projects is a sad day in America.

NATHANIEL REED, HOBE SOUND

Editor’s note: Nathaniel Reed is a former assistant secretary of the U.S. Interior Department and founding member of the Everglades Foundation.