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Rodrigues talks state water quality initiatives

By Staff | Sep 18, 2019

Ray Rodrigues

The Sanibel City Council heard a presentation from state Rep. Ray Rodrigues during its Sept. 9 meeting, which touched upon many water quality initiatives that are taking place around the state.

“We ended up passing a budget just over $91 billion,” Rodrigues said, adding that when the governor finished with his vetos the budget landed at $90.9 billion.

With the new budget, more money was put into environmental resources- more than had been done in the entire seven years he has been in legislature.

“To my knowledge any sessions prior to that,” Rodrigues added. “The governor had asked for $612 million specifically looking at funding water quality initiatives that he rolled out the second day in office. The legislature ended up funding $687 million, so we met the governor’s request and we were able to find additional money to put there.”

Rodrigues addressed the residents by sharing that their city council, specifically Mayor Kevin Ruane and Vice Mayor Mick Denham, have been leaders in the state on the issue of water quality before it was a crisis.

“They have been leaders not only on raising awareness, but doing so in ways that register. They were raising the awareness to the legislature and to the executive branch about what the water quality challenges were and more importantly up to that time the presentations that were made to us were made through the prism of the environment. Sanibel made the case by not only it being an environmental matter when making these releases, but also an economic disaster as well,” Rodrigues said. “They quantified that case and that was the first time it was done. I think that went a long way in getting allies, if you will, beyond Southwest Florida to address this issue. Your leadership here has led the way statewide, which has assisted us in Tallahassee as we have been working on this issue.”

The legislature allocated $50 million in the budget before this one to give to the federal government to use on the Herbert Hoover Dike. A federal responsibility turned into struggles, he said, which turned into the state contributing $100 million total for the Hoover Dike.

“We were able to get from the federal government an additional $400 million in their most recent budget,” Rodrigues said. “What that does is it jump starts the dike repair, a project that was slated to be completed in 2028.”

Now with the funds, the Herbert Hoover Dike is in the position to be completed in 2023. This is important because more water can be kept in Lake Okeechobee, which means less water released.

“Getting the dike repaired is giving them the opportunity to keep more water in the lake. No matter what happens, they are going to keep more water in the lake than what is in the lake right now,” Rodrigues said.

Another project includes wells north of the lake, which means water can be stopped from going into the lake from the north, which is the primary source of where the water is entering the lake. Rodrigues said there are five wells that were funded with $50 million, which will end up getting 15 million in acre feet of water worth of storage.

The C-43 reservoir, which is being built in Hendry County, is 18 square miles, which is larger than the city of Naples.

Another project, raising Tamiami Trail to allow water to flow south to Everglades Bay. So far 3.5 miles have been raised and another 6.5 miles will be added, making a total of 10 miles.

“Prior to that being done U.S. 41 was a barrier, a dam that prevented the water from getting south to Everglades Bay. We are going to get 140 billion gallons of water a day to move south,” once the 10 miles are completed, he said.

Rodrigues said from every angle of the equation they are making progress.

“We have projects that will prevent water from going into the lake that will be done in 2022. We have projects that will retain water in the lake that will be done in 2023. We have the C43 reservoir if it has to be released to be kept, will be done in 2023. We have projects of raising Tamiami Trail that will allow water to be sent south that will be completed in 2023,” he said. “The one piece that is missing is there is pollution that occurs along the Caloosahatchee. We are working with stakeholders and hopefully we can get that in the position where we can address that.”

The issue would be addressed by cleaning the water, or preventing pollution from entering the river.

All the council members thanked Rodrigues for being a great friend and partner to the city.

Mayor Kevin Ruane said he has always enjoyed their relationship due to them having the opportunity to talk about legislation and getting it done. He said he has entertained every time they have asked for a bill and, more importantly, he has got it through.