Governor DeSantis is addressing his campaign promise to tackle our water quality challenges. I’m excited to see his aggressive attack to protect our waters and quality of life. He appears to be seriously listening to our concerns, looking for sources of our problems and real solutions.
However, I am concerned about his demand of resignations from all our experienced SFWMD board of directors. We certainly need to fix our problems, but is this the best way to accomplish our goal?
This was an extremely close race to get elected. I’m sure he has supporters to answer to — it’s part of our political system today. Now it’s easy to blame the folks overseeing these problems; but is firing experienced people helping or contributing to our water problems?
First, let’s note that water management is extremely complex and involves a working understanding of multiple water users. They must balance the needs of agriculture, drinking water, water quality, safety, industries and other needs. This is not something just anyone can get up to speed on in a short time. I do understand the need for change, but why the entire board? Is this the best solution to our problems or political payback for support? Does he even have the authority to fire them?
Nancy Smith of Sunshine State News wrote a commentary about this resignation requests. She says, “Water quality isn’t just a priority, it is the right thing to do … But I hope water isn’t a priority he will continue to delegate away, particularly in matters of Everglades restoration. The new governor could have a devil of a job walking back some of the decisions he’s leaving to men of questionable motives, Congressman Brian Mast of Martin County and Everglades Foundation CEO Eric Eikenberg.”
Replacing the entire SFWMD Board is a huge task. Without getting into all the details, which were published on Jan. 12, there are questions to be considered by all concerned as to how fast a new board could be appointed, confirmed, and get up to speed running all the projects it oversees.
Senate President Bill Galvano said the senate has to follow procedure and notes that water management board members can only be removed for cause. On the other hand, all board members serve at the discretion of the executive. Is replacing this board in the public interest or a ploy to control water management boards? It will be interesting to see what the senate decides.
The focus I hear about is the lease of sugar land while waiting for project is required by law. The leaseback is required by law and according to Smith, Eikenburg was intimately involved in crafting the language of Florida Statute 373.4598 — the law which requires the leaseback!
Smith further points out that, as also I understood it, the federal governments failure to fund agreed-upon projects has stalled Everglades restoration. Time will answer many questions, but it’s certainly exciting and rocking the boat.
Then to add more confusion, another article I read in the Eco Voice points out that Army Corps has been ordered to find monies to build security barriers on the southern border which could drain funds from restoration projects.
What we all need to grasp is that every action has a reaction. None of our problems have just happened. We have ignored destruction of the natural wetlands that filtered our runoff forever. Fast money in development has been preferred over sustainable water quality and economies. Nothing anyone but God can do will just fix our problems! Fast fixes are a hoax. These problems accumulated over the last hundred years, and no Band-Aid will heal them. Please seek to identify the sources and then address remedies.
Sugar could be the problem it is portrayed to be — or not. I do know they have done a lot to remedy their contributions to nutrient discharges. What about Mosaic’s track record and contributions? Are they about to start mining again upstream of our drinking water source?
Can we seek compromises that allow businesses to survive while reducing their contributions to our water issues? Consider how much water phosphate mining requires — it’s a lot! — and where mining runoff will go. How can they improve habitat restoration? They understand the need for public relations. I ask if there’s a way to find solutions to benefit both them and us. If we can fix problems while not picking fights with a huge opponent, that would be ideal.
How many other sources do we need to address? Septic tanks and lawn fertilizer abuses are problems. Don’t just jump on a band wagon; study before you raise Cain. Follow the sources — only then can we stop feeding our problems and reduce nutrient input.
Look at our huge dead-end canal projects: PGI, Port Charlotte, Cape Coral, and all along our coastline. These are the source of a good part of our problems. They lack any circulation to mitigate the contributions from landscaped lawn fertilizer.
We complain about the Caloosahatchee River runoff blaming Lake Okeechobee. Last year I learned the lake contributes only 40 percent of river discharges. The rest is from the river’s watershed. How much does Cape Coral contribute? How can we create water flow in hundreds of miles of dead-end canals?
This much is clear: We can’t just recreate the natural watersheds that filtered our runoff. Too much has been altered. But we can look for working solutions and not simply blame someone else. We all contribute, and we all need to work together if we’re going to fix anything.
Capt. Van Hubbard is a highly respected outdoor writer and fishing guide. He has been a professional USCG-licensed year-round guide since 1976, and has been fishing the Southwest Florida coast since 1981. Contact him at 941-468-4017 or VanHubbard@CaptVan.com.