HOLLYWOOD — Jack Smith Jr., who has served on the Seminole Water Commission for 26 years, was recognized Dec. 16 for his service during the group’s monthly meeting at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood.
“We are recognizing his important contribution to the Tribe,” said Amos Tiger, commission chairman. “He is the longest-serving member and was on Tribal Council when the water compact went through.”
In 1987, the Tribe signed a water rights compact with the state and the South Florida Water Management District. Tribal Council created the Seminole Water Commission with seven commissioners in 1989, two each from Hollywood, Big Cypress and Brighton and one from Immokalee. Smith was appointed as a Brighton commissioner and has served ever since.
Smith said he believes communication between the Tribe and government is the most important thing the commission does.
The compact gives the Tribe, as a sovereign nation, water entitlement rights and the ability to make decisions about water management.
“We have control of our water,” Smith said.
The commission operates under the auspices of the Environmental Resource Management Department (ERMD), whose mission is to protect and evaluate the Tribe’s land and water resources and to facilitate the wise use and conservation of them. The commission informs the district how it plans to use water and how much, within the parameters of the compact.
“It’s a notification process,” said Cherise Maples, director of ERMD. “We agree to submit a plan and wait for the state to approve it. They often have comments, but our plans are usually approved.”
The commissioners all have backgrounds in natural resource management; some are cattle owners and in tune with the natural environment, Maples said. ERMD also holds workshops to enhance their knowledge.
“Water is an important resource,” Tiger said. “We all have to work together to keep the quality up.”