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Guest Commentary: Water quality problems steeped in old policies, politics

By Staff | Dec 23, 2015

In reviewing Mr. Judah’s Dec. 11 guest opinion in the Cape Coral Daily Breeze, he failed to address the challenge-to provide a comprehensive plan to address water storage and treatment, including within the Caloosahatchee basin where on average more than 50 percent of the damaging flows originate.

Instead, he continues to provide rhetoric and innuendos about policy changes that he in his 24 years as Lee County Commissioner failed to implement.

Mr. Judah also criticizes the Mayors of Lee County for their support for the C-43 Reservoir Project and the benefits that the project will provide. However, he must have forgotten how strongly he supported the project as the former Chairman of the Lee County Commission, when in 2008 he signed a resolution *(Resolution No. 08-08-03) “urging the South Florida Water Management District and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to expedite Congressional Authorization of the Caloosahatchee West Basin Storage Area (C-43) Project, an essential component of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP)”. I did not see any mention in that Resolution of the need for a water quality treatment component. How quickly things change!

The City of Sanibel and the Mayors of Lee County have consistently advocated for a water quality treatment component for the C-43 Reservoir. If Mr. Judah would have read the Caloosahatchee Regional Water Management Issues White Paper he would have seen that this was in fact included in our comprehensive strategy.

Mr. Judah’s all or nothing approach is bad policy and will prolong the low-flow impacts to our estuary. Personally, I will continue to rely on the scientists that have an intimate understanding of what is needed to restore the Everglades and freshwater flows to the Caloosahatchee. Mr. Judah, when you are ready to provide a meaningful plan on how to address our water quality and water storage issues, rather than pursuing a personal vendetta, give me a call and we can sit down at the table and discuss your plan.

I would be happy to compare my record on implementing water quality projects and policies to Mr. Judah’s any time. In fact, during my tenure on Council the City of Sanibel has successfully implemented a fertilizer ordinance, partnered with Lee County and the Fertilizer Consortium to launch the “Don’t Feed the Monster Campaign,” adopted fertilizer and lake management BMPs for Sanibel golf courses, eliminated all of the wastewater treatment package plants on Sanibel, implemented the final phase of the City’s central sewer project, adopted a Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan for Sanibel, developed a partnership between the Mayors of Lee County to advocate for projects that will help restore the Everglades and estuaries, developed the Caloosahatchee Regional Water Management Issues White Paper in partnership with Lee County and the Mayors, advocated for the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) 2014 in Washington D.C. to get authorization for the C-43 Reservoir and other important CERP projects. Presently, we are advocating for the “Legacy Florida” bill proposed by the Florida House, which will provide a dedicated funding source for Everglades Restoration.

Restoration of the Everglades and our estuaries will take a massive partnership and cooperation between local, state and federal agencies and number of different stakeholders. I have a clear record of building partnerships with diverse stakeholder groups and local, state and federal agencies. Mr. Judah, on the other hand, is a polarizing figure who in his 24 years on the Lee County Commission has divided stakeholders at the expense of the environment and the taxpayers of Lee County.

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Below is a link to resolutions and letters provided to the SFWMD in support of the River of Grass Project, which was discontinued in 2010. In the list of documents you will also find Lee County Resolution No. 08-08-03, as well as a number of letters and a resolution from the City of Sanibel supporting the acquisition of the U.S. Sugar lands.

www.sfwmd.gov/portal/page/portal/xweb%20about%20us/reviving%20the%20river%20of%20grass%20-%20resolutions

-Kevin Ruane is the mayor of the city of Sanibel