Goss appointed to South Florida Water Management District Governing Board
Outgoing Sanibel City Councilmember Chauncey Goss was one of two appointees named Tuesday to the South Florida Water Management District’s Governing Board by Gov. Ron DeSantis.
DeSantis announced the appointments of Goss and “Alligator” Ron Bergeron during a press conference held at the Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center in Naples. The governor also outlined his environmental budget, which recommends investing more than $625 million annually for Everglades restoration and protection of the state’s water resources during his term.
DeSantis’ office noted that more than $2.5 billion would be invested by the end of his first term, which amounts to $1 billion more than was invested to protect state water resources in the prior four years.
“This historic budget proposal will have a substantial impact on the water and quality of life in Florida,” DeSantis said. “This is not a partisan issue. This is something that Floridians from all walks of life and political persuasions think needs to be done. I look forward to working with the Legislature on bringing this into fruition and getting the job done for the people of this state.”
Goss was first elected to the Sanibel council in 2015; his term expires on March 19.
“I’m really excited about it,” he said Tuesday. “It’s going to be a lot of work, but I’m willing to do it. I think it’s important for Sanibel, and I think it’s important for Southwest Florida.”
Asked about his priorities once seated, Goss cited the Everglades Agricultural Area – EAA – Storage Reservoir project south of Lake Okeechobee, which is being built by the SFWMD in conjunction with funding from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
“That is definitely one of my priorities and it has been for a long time,” he said.
A component of the state-federal Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, or CERP, the reservoir will send needed clean water south to the Everglades while reducing damaging discharge events from the lake to the northern estuaries, according to the district’s website. The project will hold 240,000-acre-feet of water and include a constructed treatment wetland, known as a Stormwater Treatment Area, necessary to meet state and federal water quality standards.
Goss also cited the Caloosahatchee River – C-43 – West Basin Storage Reservoir.
“That will help us in the low-flow times,” he said.
Also part of CERP, the C-43 project consists of a 170,000-acre-foot reservoir that will help store and manage basin runoff for meeting estuary needs during the dry season, according to the SFWMD.
Goss noted that DeSantis is fully in support of the projects.
“I think the first priority for me is making sure the governor’s priorities are served,” he said.
The recommendations announced by DeSantis in his environmental budget to make up the $625 million for Everglades restoration and protection of the state’s water resources included:
* $360 million for Everglades restoration
* $150 million for targeted water quality improvements
* $50 million to restore Florida’s world-renowned springs
* $25 million to improve water quality and combat harmful algal blooms
* $40 million for alternative water supply development
“The South Florida Water Management District’s Governing Board is very important in solving our water quality issues,” Goss said.
He explained that sometimes the board has held different opinions, especially in terms of coastal communities and their environments and economies, as well as those along the rivers and estuaries.
“I think that maybe that hasn’t received as much attention in the past, and that’s why I want to get involved,” Goss said, adding that he wants to make sure those priorities are also given a voice. “I’m one vote out of nine, so I’m not going to always win, but I’m going to make sure we’re heard.”
He acknowledged the hard work of the Sanibel council and staff on the issues.
“Most people don’t recognize that we’ve got a full Natural Resources Department at the city,” said Goss, adding that the staff is the best in the state. “It’s a real testament to how much we care about our natural systems.”
Randy Smith, spokesperson for the SFWMD, commented on the appointment.
“The district very much welcomes Mr. Goss and his knowledge of and dedication to our environment,” he said. “District staff looks forward to working with Mr. Goss.”
The specifics of DeSantis’ environmental budget announced:
The budget includes $360 million for Everglades restoration projects, a level of funding that will put Florida on track to complete the C-44 Reservoir and stormwater treatment area, the C-43 Reservoir, and 20 additional projects over the next five years. The projects will provide 672,000 acre-feet of storage and remove almost 200,000 pounds of total phosphorus annually, a major source of nutrient pollution. In addition, they will significantly reduce discharges from Lake Okeechobee when combined with updates to the Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule, as requested by DeSantis. The EAA Reservoir project will receive $107 million: $43 million above the annual $64 million to ensure that the state is moving forward with the projects needed to move water south. In addition, $40 million through the Department of Transportation’s work program is provided to speed up and complete the final phase to raise the Tamiami Trail, which will restore the flow of more than 900 million gallons per day of water flowing south.
TARGETED WATER QUALITY IMPROVEMENTS
The budget also includes $150 million in general revenue for targeted water quality improvements to achieve significant, meaningful and measurable nutrient reductions in key waterbodies across the state. This includes $100 million for cost-share grant funds for water quality improvements, including septic conversions and upgrades, other wastewater improvements, and rural and urban stormwater system upgrades. Also, $50 million is included to accelerate projects to meet scientific nutrient reduction goals, called Total Maximum Daily Loads, which may include green infrastructure investments or land conservation to protect water resources. The funding will support projects identified by the Department of Environmental Protection, the Blue-Green Algae Task Force and its partners to reduce nutrient pollution and harmful algal blooms.
RESTORING FLORIDA’S SPRINGS
The budget includes $50 million to restore Florida’s world-renowned springs. The funding may also be used for land acquisition to protect springsheds and will be crucial to supporting homeowners and local communities as they work with the state to achieve the septic and nutrient reduction requirements of the 2016 Water Bill.
IMPROVING WATER QUALITY, COMBATING HARMFUL ALGAL BLOOMS
The budget supports a more than $25 million investment to improve water quality and combat the effects and impacts of harmful algal blooms, including blue-green algae and red tide. Specifically, $10 million is recommended for innovative technologies and short-term solutions to address the impacts of algae blooms. It includes the continuation of the DEP’s emergency red tide grant program and may also address water quality treatment technologies surrounding Lake Okeechobee.
In addition, $10.8 million is recommended to increase water quality monitoring, support the Blue-Green Algae Task Force and to develop a water quality public information portal. The portal will be focused on accountability and transparency, providing monitoring data for all of Florida’s outstanding springs and key waterbodies, as well as allow the public to track the investment in projects and progress in attaining water quality goals.
Also, $4.2 million is recommended to establish the Center for Red Tide Research within the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and to support the Harmful Algal Bloom Task Force and partnerships for mitigation and technology development with a renewed focus on red tide. An additional $1 million is recommended for the Department of Health to conduct a study on long-term health impacts of red tide and blue-green algae.
ALTERNATIVE WATER SUPPLY DEVELOPMENT
DeSantis recommended $40 million in general revenue for an alternative water supply grant program to help communities plan for and implement vital conservation, reuse and other alternative water supply projects. The DEP will engage local governments, industry, universities and water management districts to identify and research all viable alternative water supply sources and is working to provide an assessment of funding needs critical to supporting Florida’s growing economy.
Also on Tuesday, DeSantis recommended a transfer of 19 positions, composing the Environmental Crimes Enforcement Unit, from the FWC to the DEP. It would move the investigations and criminal enforcement back to DEP to align resources focused on environmental protection, allowing the DEP to address civil and criminal investigations for the environmental laws that fall under its purview. It would allow the DEP to comprehensively protect the environment from criminal environmental actions, while maintaining record compliance and its investment in public education.