Thursday, November 08, 2007

FLORIDA DIGEST November 8, 2007

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Dialogue is fine, but compassion is key

By Tony Plakas
November 8, 2007

In a rare alignment of progressive deliberation, elected leaders locally andin every tier of our government are contemplating discrimination in terms ofgender identity and expression.

Palm Beach County's leaders, including city and county commissioners, statelegislators and congressional representatives, are considering the totalityof tolerance in a variety of initiatives many regard as housekeeping policyrevisions. The intended outcome is to ensure policy language is inclusiveenough for every resident to enjoy the same right to work, reside, andprovide for themselves and their families.

Universal support locally is not a surprise. Although a few officials haveexpressed their aggravation over a legal necessity to list classes exemptfrom bias, most recognize the exercise as a chance to reinforce theirsteadfast allegiance against discrimination of any kind.

Their action follows Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy's assertion thatthe enumeration of protected groups and individuals "is the essential deviceused to make the duty not to discriminate concrete and to provide guidancefor those who must comply." Most importantly, however, the alignment of ourofficials emphasizes why Palm Beach County is emerging as one of thenation's most inviting and progressive areas.

But when County Commissioner Addie Greene distinguished herself as the oledissenting vote against expanding the county's fair housing and employmentordinances, it caught my attention. Her influence last year inspired the
formation of a nonprofit group whose goal is to enhance economic developmentwithin the black community, so her lack of support seemed a contradiction.As one of 27 black elected officials in the county, the most of any countyin Florida, she is considered an ally in efforts to promote increasinglyinclusive policies in terms of social justice.

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Delay sought in lawsuit trial over gay group meeting at schoolSchool Board changes policy

By Keona Gardner
Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers
November 8, 2007


The ACLU is asking a judge to delay the start of the trial involving theGay/Straight Alliance of Okeechobee High School after learning theOkeechobee County School Board plans to use expert witnesses who willtestify there are dangers to being gay.

"This is shocking and sort of far-reaching," said American Civil LibertiesUnion attorney Robert Rosenwald. "That's a last-ditch effort" by the schoolboard.

Last November, the ACLU filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of former studentYasmin Gonzalez, who graduated in 2006. The ACLU claims the board violatedfederal law by banning the alliance but allowing other clubs to meet onschool campus.

The trial is scheduled to start in March, but ACLU officials want to delayit until September to give them time to dispute the testimony.

"It's so hateful and shocking that we really want to step back and make surethat the court is getting all the best evidence before it," Rosenwald said.

Last month, the school board unanimously approved changing its rules toprohibit sexually oriented clubs and all groups that are based on sexualorientation or grouping.

School Superintendent Patricia Cooper recommended the change, saying itwould strengthen the district's existing policy.

Cooper wrote in a memo to the board that the change would "assure thatstudent clubs and organizations do not interfere with the school board'sabstinence-only sex education policy."


La Niña likely to bring S. Florida less rain, more 80-degree days thiswinter

By Ken Kaye
November 8, 2007

As if the summer wasn't hot enough, now we face an unusually warm winterwith temperatures expected to be 3 to 5 degrees above normal, the NationalWeather Service in Miami said Wednesday.

And don't blame global warming. If its predictions holds true, the weatherservice said, it will mainly be the work of La Niña, the same weatherphenomenon expected to reduce rainfall and plunge South Florida back intosevere drought by next spring.

La Niña is an atmospheric condition created by a cooling of the easternPacific Ocean, and is known for fostering the formation of tropical stormsduring hurricane season.

During the winter, it creates high pressure over the United States, whichcan block cold fronts from moving over South Florida. Those fronts otherwisewould deliver cooler temperatures and rain.

That could mean more winter days where the mercury rises into the 80s, whilethe average high temperatures in December, January and February are in themid to upper 70s, weather service meteorologist Robert Molleda said.

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Population rise in Florida expected to continue, but at slower pace

The Associated Press
November 8, 2007


Florida's population growth slowed by about 100,000 people last year, butthe state should continue to add about 300,000 people a year for the nextfew years, according to a new study.

Estimates show the state's population grew by 331,000 between 2006 and 2007.That's compared with more than 400,000 people a year from 2003 to 2006,according to new University of Florida estimates.

"There have been a number of news articles lately focusing on the idea thatpopulation growth has fallen off the tabletop in Florida and practicallycome to a standstill, and that simply isn't true," said Stan Smith, who ledthe research.

Florida's population was estimated at 18,680,367 as of April 1, 2007.Florida is expected to add about 300,000 residents a year during the nexttwo to three years unless there is a recession, Smith said.

"What is considered a slow year for population growth in Florida would beconsidered a fast year for most states," he said.

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Hollywood administrator to run for sheriff in '08

Posted on Thu, Nov. 08, 2007

Hollywood Assistant City Manager Richard Lemack filed paperwork Tuesdayindicating that he will run for Broward sheriff in 2008.

Lemack will have to gain name recognition outside Hollywood to take onSheriff Al Lamberti, who was appointed by Gov. Charlie Crist after Ken Jennestepped down in September. Lamberti, a law enforcement veteran, is popularwith the BSO rank and file and has the high visibility countywide that comeswith being the sheriff.

But Lemack has party affiliation in his favor: He is a Democrat in a countywhere Democrats outnumber Republicans two to one. Lamberti is a Republican.Former state Sen. Skip Campbell, a Democrat and well-known politician inBroward, has said that he will probably support Lemack.

Lemack has held his current City Hall job since 2002. He previously servedas the city's assistant chief of police.

Jenne is expected to face up to two years in prison when he is sentencedlater this month for tax evasion and mail-fraud conspiracy.

The other candidates who have filed to run for sheriff are J.M. Evans, aprivate investigator; Billy Davison, a plumber; Philip Sweeting, former BocaRaton deputy police chief; and Wiley Thompson III, former administratorunder Jenne. Evans is a Republican while the others are Democrats.


Mayor accused in sex case loses re-election bid (with video)

Katie Fretland
Sentinel Staff Writer
November 7, 2007


Mayor Jeff Krull lost his re-election bid Tuesday, a day after his arrest onchild-molestation allegations that came to light during an investigationinto a weapon missing from his home.

Krull, who was defeated by City Council member Felix Ramirez, had accusedone of the alleged victims of stealing a gun while the teen spent time atthe mayor's home, according to the teen and his mother.

Krull, 66, is accused of molesting two teenage girls and showing apornographic Web site to a teenage boy. He was arrested Monday night justbefore a City Council meeting on the eve of his bid for re-election.

"I fully expect to be exonerated of the false accusations," Krull said."They are contrived allegations against the mayor to break on the day beforeelections so that he would be discredited in the eyes of the people." Hecalled his arrest "tragic to my chances" after his defeat was sealed. Hereceived 81 votes to his opponent's 175.

The alleged victims are a 14-year-old girl, a 15-year-old girl and a14-year-old boy, according to a probable-cause affidavit.

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Broward urges noise options for homes near new runway: County states termsfor FAA

By Scott Wyman
November 7, 2007

Residents near a new runway at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood InternationalAirport should get the choice to have their homes soundproofed or bought atmarket value, county commissioners decided Tuesday.

The commissioners spelled out steps to offset additional noise that theywant the Federal Aviation Administration to accept as part of planning therunway. They asked the FAA to help more homeowners than they have elsewhere,even though they question whether the agency will agree.

For some in nearby communities, though, the county is not going far enough.

"No amount of mitigation will be adequate to compensate for the destructionof these homes and dock space, but I understand you are caught up in feedingthis economic engine," said Linda Sacco, a resident of the Davis Islesneighborhood in Dania Beach.

The FAA is in the final stages of reviewing the runway plans and is expectedto decide whether to proceed with construction early next year. The countywants to lengthen the commuter runway on the airport's southern side tohandle additional traffic expected over the next two decades.

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Students may opt out of FCAT pre-tests: Broward tries to alter focus onexamination

By Akilah Johnson
November 7, 2007

Efforts to reduce the FCAT frenzy kicked into full swing Tuesday asstudents got the chance to opt out of pre-tests and a team of educatorstried to figure out how to purge the all-FCAT, all-the-time mentality fromBroward County classrooms.

Tired of letting the high-stakes test consume daily classroom lessons, theSchool Board more than a month ago ordered the superintendent to find ananswer. His plan of attack launched Tuesday.

"As a first step in the School Board's commitment to decrease the FCATfrenzy, the Benchmark Assessment Test [BAT], our district-developedassessment, will not be administered to all students this [school] year,"Superintendent James Notter said in a letter to parents that was datedTuesday.

Students who score a level 4 or 5 out of 5 on the reading and math sectionsof the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test can pass on the districtdiagnostic, which is meant to measure progress but is not mandated by thestate. It is given three times before FCAT testing begins in February.

The FCAT is more than a way to assess student achievement. Studentgraduation, teacher bonuses, funding and school image are tied to the test,which is given to third- through 11th-graders and measures progress inreading, math, writing and science. Students who score a 3 or higher areconsidered to read and perform math at grade level.

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Democratic Chairman Mitchell Ceasar

Democrats have a rare opportunity to pick up a legislative seat (HD101) in aspecial election occurring on November 20, 2007. We have a great candidatein school teacher Linda McDonald.

Please help her campaign by volunteering to walk neighborhoods in SouthwestBroward. If you are interested contact the DEC immediately at 954-423-2200.


Forwarded from Ron Mills

Activists hoping to get protections for transgender people added to
Broward's human rights ordinance are optimistic that could happen by yearend.

"It will pass unanimously. Broward has always been a beacon," predictedStratton Pollitzer, South Florida director for the gay rights group EqualityFlorida. "On this issue, Broward has fallen behind the times."

The politics aren't as problematic as many people believe, he said during aninterview with the South Florida Sun-Sentinel Editorial Board. "The issue iscoming. Broward is ready for it."

The measure, sponsored by County Commissioner Ken Keechl, would provideprotection in housing and employment to transgender people, and would coverthe private sector. It is supported by a range of gay rights and civilrights organizations.

Dean Trantalis, a former Fort Lauderdale city commissioner who helped leadthe effort that won protections for gays and lesbians in 1995, saidtransgender people deserve the same coverage.

"We have a defined prejudice here. Unfortunately, Americans don't seem to beable to grapple with differences," he said.

Continue reading "Broward could ban transgender discrimination by year'send" »

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Giuliani expects strong conservative support in S. Florida

By Anthony Man
November 8, 2007

A senior strategist for Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giulianisaid Wednesday his candidate would score strong support from religious andsocial conservative voters in South Florida.

Finishing a two-day series of meetings in Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dadecounties on Wednesday, Giuliani's national political director said voterscan expect endorsements from South Florida values and evangelical leaders.

Not wanting to dilute the news about televangelist Pat Robertson'sendorsement of Giuliani earlier in the day, Mark Campbell wouldn't say whowould provide that backing or when.

"We are being received very, very warmly," Campbell said. "We're makinggreat headway with voters across the spectrum."

So-called faith and values voters are a key bloc in the Jan. 29 Republicanprimary.

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Sense of urgency missing from Army Corps' Lake Okeechobee dike repair plan

November 7, 2007

ISSUE: Army Corps panel urges speed in repairing Lake Okeechobee's dike.

A team of dam experts commissioned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers hassome sage advice if the agency hopes to avoid a catastrophic breach of LakeOkeechobee's crumbling dike:

Hurry up already.

If not the exact wording, that was at least the flavor of a report thaturged the Army Corps to expedite a repair plan that currently does notexpect to finish shoring up Lake O's 140-mile, 70-year-old earthen dikeuntil 2030.

After failing the people of New Orleans when a corps-engineered leveecollapsed with devastating results, you'd think the Army Corps would beeager to prove itself. Instead, there are signs agency officials still donot grasp the urgency required.

"You can't snap your fingers," Eric Halpin, the Army Corps' specialassistant for dam and levee safety, said, "and have these things happenovernight."

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Miami Herald

Where were voters? Dade urges election changes

Posted on Thu, Nov. 08, 2007

What if they held an election and nobody came?

That's what happened Tuesday in one Miami precinct, where not one of the 147registered voters went to the polls at St. Paul Institutional AME Church.Five people had voted early.

Overall, only 17 percent of the voters showed up in the six Miami-Dademunicipalities that hosted elections, including the three biggest cities ofMiami, Hialeah and Miami Beach.

Can't blame the weather. The temperature reached 82 degrees, and therewasn't a drop of rain.

''People need to participate in the process. This is embarrassing,'' saidAnnie Betancourt, president of the League of Women Voters of Miami-Dade anda former state legislator. ``What kind of a mandate do some of these electedofficials have?''

Homestead -- with a turnout of 16 percent -- featured some of the tightestsqueakers in winning margins. Nazy Sierra has 19 people to thank for puttingher on the City Council, while another newcomer, Melvin McCormick, isindebted to 74 voters. Councilwoman Amanda Garner lost her seat by a mere121 votes.

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Miami Herald

Water bill deserves a second chance

Posted on Thu, Nov. 08, 2007

The U.S. Senate should follow the House's lead and vote to overridePresident Bush's veto of the Water Resources Development Act, making thebill the first to withstand a veto during Mr. Bush's presidency. That wouldbe notable, but its significance would be eclipsed by the bill's importanceto the nation's waterways in general and, in Florida specifically, toEverglades cleanup.

Veto not a surprise

President Bush's veto of the Water Resources Development Act was nosurprise. He had warned Congress that he believed the bill's $23 billionprice tag was too high. But this was President Bush's chance to keep his2004 campaign promise to support the Comprehensive Everglades RestorationPlan (CERP), an ambitious 20-year replumbing plan to restore clean, freshwater to the parched River of Grass and ensure South Florida's futuredrinking-water supply. Nearly a decade ago, Congress agreed to fund 50percent of the estimated $8 billion cleanup cost, with Florida paying theother half.

Trouble is, the federal share is well behind what the state is spending,causing costly delays. The total CERP price tag has now climbed to $10billion. Florida has invested more than $2 billion in CERP so far. Thewater-resources act finally put the federal government's money on the linetoo. The act includes more than $2 billion for restoration projects thathave languished. To delay construction on these projects further will onlyhike CERP's ultimate costs.

President Bush criticized the act's ballooning numbers: In conference, theHouse's $15 billion bill and the Senate's $14 billion bill grew to $23billion. But this legislation basically lays out what projects the U.S. ArmyCorps of Engineers will add to its to-do list. What Mr. Bush overlooked isthat each of the projects need separate funding approval.

To be fair to Congress, the federal government is years behind in investingin more than just Everglades restoration. The nation's waterways, dams andlock systems are in as much need of maintenance and upgrading as itsbridges, for example. There is pork in this bill, as Mr. Bush says, butthere are worthy projects, too, including for hurricane mitigation andcoastal restoration in Louisiana.

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Miami Herald

Social studies matter

Posted on Thu, Nov. 08, 2007

Despite strong evidence that there is a vital need to hold schools andstudents accountable for the content and skills taught in history, civics,geography, economics and the other social sciences, the Florida Legislatureclosed its last legislative session without adding social studies to thestate's accountability program and the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test(FCAT).

The effort to add social studies to the FCAT testing program fell shortdespite unprecedented support from former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, former U.S.Rep. Lou Frey, Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Fred Lewis, leaders inthe House and the Senate, leading civic and historical organizations andnewspaper editorial boards across the state. While the need to add socialstudies to the FCAT is debatable, the need to teach social studies contentand skills is not.

The evidence that our state and nation are failing to hold schools andstudents accountable for the content and skills taught in social studies isclear. As reported by the National Council for the Social Studies, TheNation's Report Card: U.S. History 2006 and The Nation's Report Card: Civics2006 reveal important and alarming data about the achievement of U.S.students on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) inhistory and civics. The reports indicate that fourth, eighth and 12thgraders know only slightly more about history and civics today than in the1990s. The NAEP assessment is one of many reports signaling the need torevitalize social-studies education in our nation's schools.

Clearly, the need to teach social studies in grades K-12 is more importanttoday than ever before. The many disciplines found under the social-studiesumbrella provide students with opportunities to learn the skills they needto be effective citizens in a culturally diverse society and aninterdependent world.

Whether it's through a history course where students learn how the events ofthe past connect to the present or a geography course where students learnthe importance of developing a global perspective or a civics course wherestudents learn how to influence public policy, what students learn in socialstudies will help make them knowledgeable and responsible citizens.Effective social-studies programs prepare students to understand:

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Miami Herald

Nationwide catastrophe fund gains support

Posted on Wed, Nov. 07, 2007

Florida's quest for a catastrophe fund for hurricanes got a boost Tuesday,with presidential Democratic hopeful Sen. Hillary Clinton and Florida Sen.Bill Nelson filing legislation in the Senate to set up a risk pool.

The bill mirrors a fast-moving House measure that could come up for a voteas soon as Wednesday. Both bills would create a voluntary, market-drivencatastrophe fund aimed at lowering the cost of insuring homes in stateswhere the threat of hurricanes, earthquakes and other perils can sendpremiums skyrocketing.

It also would make federal loans available to assist in the rebuilding ofstates affected by natural disasters.

''The current insurance market isn't responding fast enough to the new andheightened risks that many homeowners face,'' Clinton said.

Florida lawmakers have pushed unsuccessfully for similar federal legislationsince Hurricane Andrew slammed into South Florida in 1992.

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Miami Herald

Crist backs reduction of U.S. tariff on Brazilian ethanol

Posted on Tue, Nov. 06, 2007

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist said Monday that he supports a reduction in theU.S. tariff that makes Brazilian ethanol expensive for American fuelsuppliers, but he suggested serious debate over the tariff is unlikely untilafter the 2008 U.S. presidential election.

''If you ask for lowering the tax, I'm that guy,'' Crist said at the startof a five-day trade mission aimed at boosting the state's ties with SouthAmerica's largest nation.

The tariff of 54 U.S. cents per gallon will expire in 2009, and Crist saidhe would lobby for a reduction among members of Florida's congressionaldelegation who will eventually vote whether to keep the tariff, reduce it oreliminate it.

Experts, ethanol producers and Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silvasay the tariff prevents significant U.S. imports of Brazilian ethanol madefrom sugar cane.

But Crist agreed that any move toward reduction of the tariff is unlikelyover the next year because it would be too controversial during the U.S.presidential election campaign. U.S. farmers and agribusiness companies thatproduce ethanol from corn strongly oppose a tariff cut.

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Miami Herald

Broward could face deeper spending cuts, layoffs

Posted on Thu, Nov. 08, 2007

Few middle-class Broward residents have likely noticed county budget cuts,but officials warn that the next round will lead to more noticeablereductions in social services and at parks and libraries.

This year, the county slashed $90 million in spending without laying offemployees or making drastic program cuts. Officials eliminated vacantpositions, held off on building a new jail and raised some park entrancefees, among other changes.

But if state voters approve the Jan. 29 constitutional amendment, the publicshould expect deeper cuts and possible layoffs of county workers.

''We have picked the low-hanging fruit,'' Commissioner Lois Wexler said.

The state Senate estimated Broward would lose at least $76 million if theJan. 29 amendment passes. The measure would increase exemptions onhomesteads and business properties as well as allow people to transferbuilt-up Save Our Homes property tax savings to another homestead.

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House overrides Bush on Everglades funds
Senate likely to follow suit on $23 billion bill for water projects in firstsuch defeat for Bush

By William E. Gibson
Washington Bureau Chief
November 7, 2007


The House rebuffed President Bush and voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday tooverride his veto of a massive water bill that allows spending on Evergladesrestoration and other projects around the nation.

The $23 billion bill will become law if the Senate also votes as expectedthis week to override the president's veto, ending more than five years ofdelays that have driven up the costs of construction. If so, it would be thefirst veto override of Bush's presidency.

Federal funds cannot flow to the Everglades until the long-awaited WaterResources Development Act becomes law. Even then, restoration supporterswould need to seek annual appropriations for the first construction projectsof a Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan approved seven years ago.

The Everglades spending, which is not controversial, has been held hostageby disputes over other projects and most recently the standoff between Bushand Congress.

"This bill is the most critical piece of Everglades restoration legislationsince 2000," said April Gromnicki, director of ecosystem restoration tAudubon. "Everglades restoration cannot move forward without passage of theWater Resources Development Act."

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Miami Herald

Homestead gets 1st female mayor

Posted on Wed, Nov. 07, 2007

Homestead made history Tuesday when voters elected the city's first femalemayor in its 94-year history, along with a majority of women for the CityCouncil.

And in a predominantly Hispanic city, Homestead will have two Hispanics onits seven-member council. The council has been without a Hispanicrepresentative since 2003.

Lynda Bell overcame Steve Losner's fundraising advantage to replace outgoingMayor Roscoe Warren, who chose not to seek reelection.

Bell and Losner, former allies on the council, engaged in one of the mostcontentious races this election season, fraught with heated debate andlast-minute attack mailers.

''This is the result of a clean, honest and hardworking campaign, and thepeople appreciate that,'' Bell said. ``This is history.''

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FAU unable to properly explain $495,661 in severance pay

By Scott Travis
8:01 PM EST, November 6, 2007

Florida Atlantic University failed to show why it was necessary to give aformer fundraiser $495,661 in severance pay, a state audit has found.

The severance package was one of 22 problem areas the state AuditorGeneral's office found when it conducted a regular two-year operationalaudit of the university. The preliminary audit, released Tuesday, also foundthat the university did not have proper control over issuing free athletictickets and did not adequately monitor cellular phone usage, among otherissues.

University administrators told auditors they gave the money to LawrenceDavenport, former vice president of advancement, because he threatened tosue. But FAU provided no paperwork to back this up, auditors said.

Davenport resigned in March. His contract entitled him to 90 days' pay if eresigned. But he received an additional two years of pay, which he was onlyentitled to if he was fired, bringing his total severance to $577,952.

Brogan said he wanted Davenport out, citing differences in leadershipphilosophy and friction between Davenport and the FAU Foundation, thefundraising arm of the university. But auditors said FAU also failed toproduce paperwork showing deficiencies in Davenport's performance, the auditfound.

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Tougher water restrictions could come soon for all of South Florida

By Andy Reid
November 7, 2007

Even with neighborhood ponds and canals brimming in South Florida, residentsfrom Orlando to the Keys in December could be limited to once-a-week yardwatering to prepare for projected water shortages.

On Tuesday, the South Florida Water Management District announced a plan toenact tougher water restrictions earlier than it did last spring, and thistime would move to once-a-week landscape watering for the entire 16-countyregion.

While coastal water supplies in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade countiesgot a boost from the summer rainy season, Lake Okeechobee remains at ahistoric low entering a dry season forecast to be worse than this year'sdrought.

Lake Okeechobee serves as the primary backup water supply for more than 5million residents along the lower east coast. Lake water also refillsirrigation canals and replenishes the Everglades.

"We have a huge challenge in front of us," district Executive Director CarolAnn Wehle told a bank of television cameras Tuesday as she stood atop LakeOkeechobee's dike, with grasses and weeds growing over more than a mile ofexposed lake bed behind her. "We will be proactive. We are not going to waituntil there is a problem."

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