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Rotary Happenings: SFWMD chair speaks at Rotary Club meeting

By Staff | Nov 13, 2019

PHOTO PROVIDED South Florida Water Management District Governing Board Chairman Chauncey Goss was the guest speaker at the Sanibel-Captiva Rotary Club's meeting on Nov. 1.

The Sanibel-Captiva Rotary Club was delighted to have Chauncey Goss, longtime Sanibelian and almost native son, as our guest speaker on Nov. 1. His father, Porter Goss, was the first mayor of the city of Sanibel and continued on with his service to his community, county and nation in various positions of government service. Chauncey Goss also worked for our government in Washington, D.C., where he served as deputy staff director and director of budget review for the House Budget Committee, under Paul Ryan. But something drew him back to our islands, where he founded his own company, Goss Practical Solutions, providing federal fiscal policy analysis and budget forecasting.

Public service is in Goss’ blood and it didn’t take long before he became involved with water quality issues and wanting to do something about it in Southwest Florida. What better way to position oneself to understand and help with the issue but to run for the Sanibel City Council? In addition, Goss served as treasurer for the Captains for Clean Water, which advocates for the elimination of harmful large-scale Lake Okeechobee discharges, and he served as a board member with the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, which is dedicated to conserving coastal habitats and aquatic resources.

Soon after the 2018 election, Gov. Ron DeSantis disbanded the eight-member board of the South Florida Water Management District Governing Board, and on Jan. 29 DeSantis appointed Goss to the reorganized board and he was elected chairman. Goss has now exchanged his work on the city council for time spent handling the complex operations of the SFWMD. He compared the overarching tasks of the district like finding the solution to a complex Rubik Cube. According to the SFWMD, its mission is to “safeguard and protect South Florida water resources and ecosystem, protect our communities from flooding, meeting the region’s water needs and connecting to the public and stakeholders.”

The SFWMD is charged with managing and protecting the water resources of 16 counties stretching from Orlando to the Florida Keys. As Goss pointed out, “Florida is flat, rainfall in the summer is approximately 50 inches, the area is greatly impacted by hurricanes and sometimes floods; we are an area of extremes sometimes experiencing severe droughts and sometimes great rains.” Where, when and how does the water flow to the right places?

“The South Florida Water Management District operates the region’s primary water control system and manages water supplies year-round, meeting this challenge even during South Florida’s weather extremes. The water district has approximately 2,200 miles of canals and 2,100 miles of levees/berms, 778 water control structures and 632 project culverts, 84 pump stations, 3,500 hydrological monitoring stations at more than 625 flow sites, including 200 rain gauges and 27 weather stations. The work of SFWMD is complex and a balancing act that manages the water needs for the people and the environment. The tasks flood control, water supply planning, water quality improvement and ecosystem restoration,” he reported.

Flood control is mostly on the east coast of Florida. The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), authorized by Congress in 2000, focuses on “getting the water right” in the South Florida ecosystem, getting the right amount of water of the right quality to the right places at the right time. Inadvertently damage caused by the convoluted water management system has caused the Everglades and the rest of the water system major problems and now there is a forward design being brought forth to get water flow back to more natural flow in the Everglades.

There are 29 Everglades Restoration Projects planned, including the Caloosahatchee River (C-43) West Basin Storage Reservoir Project to be completed by 2023. It will store 170,000-acre-feet of freshwater. It will help reduce damaging discharges from Lake Okeechobee to Caloosahatchee Estuary during wet season and will provide needed freshwater during dry season. The project will reduce the extreme salinity changes in the Caloosahatchee Estuary by providing a more consistent flow of water discharging into the estuary. The project will also provide water supply benefits and some flood relief.

In January, the Florida Legislature voted in support of more than $625 million for Everglades restoration and protection of water resources after following DeSantis’s recommended budget for water projects. In May, the House Appropriations Committee today took a necessary first step in securing full federal funding for Everglades restoration by approving the Energy and Water Development spending bill, including the necessary $200 million for South Florida Ecosystem Restoration – the amount needed to meet the federal commitment to the 50-50 partnership with the state.

For information about the Sanibel-Captiva Rotary Club, visit sanibelrotary.org or www.facebook.com/sancaprotary. The club meets every Friday at 7 a.m. at the Dunes Golf and Tennis Club, at 949 Sand Castle Road, Sanibel; visitors are welcome to attend.