May 19, 2015
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – “It is with much sadness that we have learned of the passing of Dale H. Twachtmann, one of Florida’s extraordinary environmental champions.
“Dale committed his career to the protection of Florida’s natural resources and continually demonstrated the wisdom, creativity and sensitivity only true leaders possess.
“Dale will be long remembered as one of the Florida’s most important figures in the history of Florida’s environmental protection, thanks to his tireless efforts to ensure a balance between the growing demand and use of water and the needs of natural systems. He was a mentor and teacher for all of us, and leaves a legacy that this department will strive to continue.”
-Jon Steverson, Secretary, Florida Department of Environmental Protection
As the first executive director of Southwest Florida Water Management District in 1962, Dale H. Twachtmann understood the importance of changing the common public view that Florida should be drained and dredged, to one that recognized water should not be wasted and that healthy wetlands are vital to the health of our state’s lakes, streams, estuaries and freshwater aquifers. During Dale’s tenure, the district became a leader in the sciences and helped the State of Florida gain a new appreciation of its irreplaceable wetland systems and the need to protect them.
Under Dale’s leadership, the district designed and began construction of the Four River Basins Project, which includes the now-completed Tampa Bypass Canal – a project that has proven time and again its capacity to protect the City of Tampa from major flooding and potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in loss and damages. Dale and his district staff convinced the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to redesign many aspects of the project to address not just engineering problems, but also impacts to natural systems. In fact, the Environmental Impact Statement developed for the Bypass Canal, which was drafted by the district, was one of the first ever successfully filed for a federal project in Florida.
Later, as the Public Works Director for the City of Tampa, Dale recognized the harmful effects that the daily discharge of millions of gallons of secondarily treated wastewater was having upon Tampa Bay, and led the fight to build the Howard F. Curren Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant. The plant was one of the most advanced of its time and remains one of the largest denitrification filter plants in the world, with a design capacity of 96 million gallons per day average flow. Just recently, the district reported grass beds in Tampa Bay have expanded beyond all expectations and quality tests indicate the water is as clean as it was in the 1950s.
Dale was visionary in recognizing that water conservation and reuse would be integral to ensuring a clean, reliable and affordable water supply for Florida. He understood that for every gallon conserved or reused, one less gallon would be needed to meet the population’s growing demand from expensive new sources. To illustrate this point, he famously drank a glass of treated wastewater from the new Tampa plant to prove its safety. Under his leadership, conservation and reuse became priorities for the City of Tampa, a philosophy that continues statewide today. In fact, Florida reuses an average of 720 million gallons of reclaimed water per day.
After working for a private engineering firm solving water and wastewater problems as far away as Nepal and Jamaica, Dale was appointed Secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Regulation (DER) by Governor Bob Martinez. From 1987 to 1991, he called upon his extensive background in Florida water resource management and championed many critically needed programs including:
The Surface Water Improvement and Management (SWIM) Act
Dale strongly believed that Florida needed to do more to protect and restore its irreplaceable surface waters and helped advocate for the SWIM Act. With pollution from point sources reasonably under control, it remained clear that pollution from less direct sources was still a burgeoning problem. SWIM allowed agency partners from across the public spectrum to work together, pooling resources and attacking pollution on a systemic basis by looking at watersheds in their entirety rather than point by point.
Solid Waste Management Act
Dale was a leader in fostering the concept that there was opportunity in recycling garbage. He advocated that all counties develop recycling at their landfills. This act became a model for other states.
Regional Water Supply Planning
Recognizing that some local governments were having difficulty finding future water supplies within their own boundaries while others had plenty, Dale advocated for water users to work together for regional water supply planning. This would reduce the propensity for water wars and allow users to share the growing cost of finding and developing new water sources. Regional water supply planning and partnering is now a legislated role of water management districts and regional water supply entities.
From the beginning of his career in public service in 1958 with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and lasting until he left state government as Florida DER Secretary in 1991, Dale continued to innovate and lead the way in environmental protection, many times setting the standard for how to analyze and develop solutions for long-standing complex problems. He retired on the 17th green of his favorite golf course in Lakeland, where he spent much of his new-found time golfing, traveling and studying historic battlefields.