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Rotary Happenings: Captains for Clean Water speaks at Rotary meeting

By Staff | Mar 10, 2020

PHOTO PROVIDED Capt. Daniel Andrews, executive director of Captains for Clean Water, was a guest speaker at the Sanibel-Captiva Rotary Club's recent meeting.

Capt. Daniel Andrews once lived his life’s calling as a full-time fishing guide. As the Southwest Florida estuaries began declining due to water mismanagement practices, so did Andrews’ business. He noticed the oyster beds and sea grass flats were dying off, which affects all life in the estuaries. The algae blooms increased, as well as the length of the blooms of red tide. Anyone who was present in this area or watched the local news knew of the devastating effects of the water issues. The devastation went far beyond the layers of dead fish on the beaches or the odor that came with them. The health effects on people and animals are being studied, short-term effects as well as long term. The economy of the area, so dependent on tourism, took a huge hit. The fishing industry, marine industry, hotels and restaurants, as well as home values, all took a drastic turn for the worse. And straight to the point, it was just nasty – and extremely obvious that the best interest of Southwest Florida was not being represented.

Andrews learned of the underlying corruption and lack of awareness in the outdoor community, leading him to fight back by co-founding Captains for Clean Water. As executive director, he keeps a steady pulse on Florida water policy and projects, working with elected officials and government agencies to ensure science-based solutions are implemented to restore water quality.

It is important to understand that the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers are artificially connected to Lake Okeechobee by way of man-made canals. During the rainy season, billions of gallons of nutrient- and sediment-laden freshwater are discharged into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers. The devastating discharges kill sea grass, oysters and other marine life, causing lasting damage to estuarine ecosystems. Nutrients, primarily nitrogen and phosphorous, and other pollutants can linger in the estuaries for years. The Herbert Hoover Dike, which surrounds Lake Okeechobee, prevents this water from flowing south into the Everglades, where it went historically, and where it’s desperately needed today. The Everglades Agricultural Area Storage Reservoir project, south of Lake Okeechobee, cuts discharges to the local area and St. Lucie area by over 50 percent. The EAA reservoir, in conjunction with increased treatment capacity, will provide the greatest benefit to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers, while providing a source of clean freshwater desperately needed by the Everglades and Florida Bay.

Having the support of local and state politicians is vital in the fight for clean water to ensure that the projects needed to clean the waters are being pushed along. Two days after Gov. Ron DeSantis was elected, he asked for the resignation of members of the South Florida Water Management District. The members were not supporting the fight for clean water in the area and did not have the best interest of the public in mind. DeSantis then appointed Sanibel City Councilmember Chauncey Goss, who grew up in Southwest Florida and has a vested interest in local water quality, as the board chairman. With the personnel changes that followed, projects to clean the waters are moving forward.

Captains for Clean Water understands that in order for real change to happen, it must educate the public and allow the public to choose the best governmental representation who will respect and support the clean water projects. As a nonprofit organization, it cannot endorse or oppose candidates for local office. However, voting is very important for the future health of Florida’s waters. It is recommended to check if candidates have signed the Now or Neverglades declaration. In a nutshell, it is signed by politicians who want to work together for real solutions to local water quality issues. We all come to our little slice of paradise in Southwest Florida for the beautiful waters and all the activities we can do in it, on it and next to it. Protecting the waters is simply protecting our beautiful paradise.

Captains for Clean Water will host the 4th Annual Restore Gala on March 6 from 5 to 10 p.m. at the Edison & Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers. For information, visit captainsforcleanwater.org.

For information about the Rotary Club of Sanibel-Captiva, visit sanibelrotary.org or “http://www.facebook.com/sancaprotary”>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.