Governor Ron DeSantis made a brief appearance at the Save our Water Summit held on August 21st at the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point in Bonita Springs. DeSantis told the 600-plus pro-clean water advocates, “I want the resources applied in ways that are going to make a difference.”
Daniel Andrews, founder of Captains for Clean Water, introduced Governor DeSantis and reminded the guests that “we really can’t do enough, fast enough to deal with this crisis. If we are going to leave Florida to future generations and have anything left, we’re going to have to take bold actions.”
Bold actions are the cornerstone of Governor DeSantis’ environmental program. Just days after taking office, he had an environmental wish list of $625 million for water quality and everglades restoration projects.
Governor DeSantis signed a state budget for fiscal year 2019-2020 which appropriated the largest funding for Everglades restoration in Florida’s history. He shattered conventional expectations with a budget that resulted in $682 million for Everglades Restoration which included the following:
- Everglades Restoration: $417 million
- Springs Restoration: $100 million
- Alternative Water Supply: $40 million
- Blue Green Algae and Red Tide Research: $25 million
- Water Quality Improvements and Water Projects: $100 million
Other priority funding includes:
- Coastal Resiliency: $5.5 million
- Beaches: $50 million
What a difference a year makes. According to Lt. Col. Jennifer Reynolds, Deputy District Commander for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, “This year, instead of looking for someone to blame, people are really asking the question, ‘What can I do to help?’”
What has changed? According to Lt. Col. Reynolds, “People in Florida have really come together and realized that we need to work together.” She is encouraged that as long as we continue to look at ways to be part of the solution there is hope.”
Marco Island City Councilor Charlette Roman, a Governing Board Member of the South Florida Water Management District, has lived in Southwest Florida for over 18 years. She has dedicated much of her life to the environment, not only as key to our economic prosperity but also key to our quality of life. She asked “Do we have the will to do it? I think it is time knowing there are so many people who are willing to get it done.”
A discussion on public health risks associated with blue green algae (cyanobacteria) was a big part of Save our Water Summit. A challenge was put forward to all elected officials to “Put public health at the heart of the environmental policy.” The public is desperate to know the risks associated with blue green algae blooms.
Toxic blue-green algae fouled canals, lakes, rivers and estuaries, and at one point last summer, cyanobacteria covered 90% of Lake Okeechobee and dead marine life washed ashore by the metric ton in Southwest Florida.
Though no silver bullet or singular solution to Florida’s water problem came out of the summit, there were 600-plus strong and engaged citizens who have raised the volume and are inspired to see the momentum continue.