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Governor's Commission for a Sustainable Florida

                         Carol M. Browner

Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Governor's Commission for a Sustainable Florida

                       West Palm Beach, FL

                      Prepared for Delivery
                         March 22, 1996

It is good to be among friends, and to be home. I want to thank Dick Pettigrew for inviting me to be here today.

I am glad to address this Commission. As members of this Commission, each and every one of you has a critical role to play in achieving the goals we all hold in common: to protect the health of the people of South Florida, the economy and the environment. To restore and protect one of this nation's most precious natural treasures. To achieve a sustainable South Florida.

Let me begin by congratulating you on your report and recommendations of last October. The breadth, the commitment and the recognition of the tough decisions to be made if we are to preserve our quality of life is truly remarkable, and you should be proud. You have served your neighbors, your communities, and all who care about a sustainable South Florida very, very well. I commend you.

You have done what so many probably thought impossible -- out of a diversity of viewpoints you achieved not just consensus, but a shared vision of the future. On behalf of all of us who hold in our hearts a special place for South Florida, the Everglades, Florida Bay -- thank you.

I come here today on behalf of President Clinton to say to you that we stand ready, willing, and able to work with you as partners to meet the challenges and serve the needs of South Florida.

But make no mistake about it: we know, I know having begun my career outside of the federal government, that those who must live with the day-to-day consequences of decisions will always do a better job of making those decisions than some distant bureaucracy. We know that only by working in partnership can we find the right answers for South Florida.

Earlier this year, I had the honor to stand with Vice President Gore as he announced, on behalf of President Clinton, the Administration's commitment to restoring the Everglades and Florida Bay and ensuring clean and abundant water for this and future generations.

I am proud to say that the President's 1997 balanced budget, present on Tuesday, further reflects our commitment.
The President's FY97 budget includes $230 million in federal dollars in federal dollars for restoring the Everglades and Florida Bay -- $100 million to be placed in an Everglades Restoration Fund for land acquisition and $130 million for ecosystem restoration, management, and research.

Over seven years, the President's budget includes $1.5 billion in funding for the citizens of South Florida.

It is the President's leadership, his willingness to take bold action to put forth a comprehensive plan, to guarantee federal dollars in a balanced budget, that has brought to the Everglades and Florida Bay the long overdue national attention.

And literally since the Vice President's trip to South Florida last month, we have seen a new and finally real commitment on the part of the Congressional leadership in Washington to assist in this effort and support the Florida Congressional delegation.

We now look to this Commission to provide a conceptual plan to help expedite the Army Corps review -- the restudy. As I said to you in my letter of last November, I believe this review provides an unprecedented opportunity to assess the work and projects to date in a holistic manner and shape South Florida's environment for decades to come.

I know that as you put forward your recommendations, they will meet the principles you have articulated:

1.That the needs of all -- farmers, urban areas, the natural system -- will be met. 2.That future development will be integrated with the preservation of natural areas. 3.That environmental protection will be recognized as a vital element in protecting the quality of life in South Florida. 4.That we will save the heart of the Everglades -- that the heart will once again pulse with water. As your partners in this effort, the Clinton Administration's plan creates a framework to get the job done.

We are committed to providing the resources to achieve acquisition of at least 100,000 acres for water storage in the heart of the Everglades and the critical buffer areas. Never before has the federal government been willing to bring this level of resources to the crucial work of land acquisition.

We are committed to accelerating completion of the replumbing projects. Our plan addresses the funding and authorities to complete the replumbing.

And finally, we recognize the need for reliable, long-term funding -- a dedicated funding source. Our plan provides for a doubling of federal dollars, and for increasing the market assessment by a penny per pound on Everglades sugar -- a responsible fair share for those who have substantially benefitted from the federal sugar price support program and alterations to the Everglades natural area.

By working together -- as federal, state, and local government, public and private sector -- we can protect the economy by protecting fisheries and tourism and by promoting responsible and sustainable agriculture and urban development.

We can protect wetlands, nature's own water purification system, its own kidney.

We can ensure strong water quality standards.

And we can protect public health by protecting critical underground sources of drinking water.

I know as we seek to move forward, some may say we cannot begin until every single last possible question has been answered and reanswered. I can understand the need for answers, and we must have the best information and analysis available as we make the difficult choices.

But I also know that if we wait, if we continue to delay, it will be too late.

As you said in your report last October, the ecological price of our pst endeavors haunts us. The current trends cannot continue. Time is of the essence. If we are to curtail the deterioration and evade further catastrophe, urgent strategic action is needed.

Together, we can ensure a healthy future for the Everglades and the people of South Florida.

Thank you.