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SCCF salutes actions of DeSantis to help water quality

By Staff | Jan 11, 2019

PHOTO PROVIDED Gov. Ron DeSantis at the podium in Bonita Springs on Jan. 10, with Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation Natural Resource Policy Director Rae Ann Wessel standing behind him to the right.

Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation Chief Executive Officer Ryan Orgera and Natural Resource Policy Director Rae Ann Wessel engaged in a roundtable briefing on Jan. 10 with Gov. Ron DeSantis, the First Lady and Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nunez, along with other South Florida non-profit leaders, in the fight for water quality and regional legislative representatives.

Following the meeting and a similar event DeSantis held later in the day in Stuart, the governor called for all nine members of the South Florida Water Management District’s Governing Board to resign. The board voted in November – two days after the election – to extend a lease to sugar farmers on land that has been designated for the Everglades Agricultural Area reservoir. At the time, DeSantis sent a message through Congressman Brian Mast requesting that the board delay the decision until he had a chance to review it.

“Everglades restoration is the centerpiece of our strategy to improve our water, and the actions of the South Florida Water Management District are incredibly important in aiding the success of that strategy,” DeSantis said in his letter to the board members. “It is time for a clean reset of the leadership of the board to focus the appropriate attention on this bold vision. Therefore, I ask that each of you tender your resignation from the board, effective immediately.”

In addition, DeSantis signed Executive Order 19-12 (Achieving More Now For Florida’s Environment), calling for:

– $2.5 billion for Everglades restoration and protection of water resources over the next four years – a $1 billion spending increase over the previous four years and the highest level of restoration funding in Florida’s history.

– The establishment of a Blue-Green Algae Task Force, charged with focusing on expediting progress toward reducing the adverse impacts of blue-green algae blooms immediately and for the next five years.

– The South Florida Water Management District to immediately start the next phase of the Everglades Agricultural Area Storage Reservoir Project design and ensure the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approves the project according to schedule.

– The formation of a new Office of Environmental Accountability and Transparency to be charged with organizing and directing integrated scientific research and analysis to ensure that all agency actions are aligned with key environmental priorities.

– The appointment of a chief science officer to coordinate and prioritize scientific data, research, monitoring and analysis needs to ensure alignment with current and emerging environmental concerns most pressing to Floridians.

“We are very encouraged by the governor’s action in calling for effective, consensus-driven, solutions-oriented leadership at the SFWMD,” Orgera said.

“Organizations like SCCF, fighting day in and day out for effective water management and natural resource policy in the state of Florida, need strong partners in Tallahassee. Our new governor has shown that he has the political will to throw down the gauntlet, and steady for the long political battle ahead,” he added.

“By his actions today, our new governor has taken clear and decisive leadership on behalf of Florida’s citizens,” Wessel said.