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Guest Opinion: Florida Legislature delivers on promise to address local water challenges

May 29, 2019
By Dane Eagle , North Fort Myers Neighbor

Being born and raised in Southwest Florida, fighting for clean water is personal to me. My mother makes her living on the water as a boat captain, providing tourists with an opportunity to see Southwest Florida's natural beauty. After last summer's water crisis where we witnessed the worst red tide bloom and blue-green algae outbreak in years, we made adopting solutions to clean our waterways the top priority in Tallahassee.

As we debated this year's budget, news headlines about fecal bacteria on the beach near the Cape Coral Yacht Club, Department of Health warnings about water in the Estero River, and news about widespread septic tank failures underscored the importance of securing significant funding to address water quality problems.

This year legislators approved the most Everglades-friendly budget in Florida's history. It provides an unprecedented level of support for protecting our water resources to the tune of $682 million. This funding includes grants for septic to sewer conversions, a multi-year commitment to red tide research, and support for critical water projects that will ultimately help reduce the harmful discharges sent to our estuary from Lake Okeechobee.

Among the Legislature's commitment to reducing these harmful Lake Okeechobee discharges is $50 million to begin the Lake Okeechobee Watershed Restoration Project. This project will capture, store, and treat excess water plaguing our waterways before it makes its way into Lake Okeechobee. It's a win-win for South Floridians because it ultimately ensures we will receive less water when we don't want it and cleaner water when we need it. According to the South Florida Water Management District, this project combined with other planned projects will help reduce harmful Lake Okeechobee discharges by up to 80 percent. The project was one of the five recommendations made by the University of Florida Water Institute in its 2015 report on options to reduce the harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee.

I'm also proud of the support the Legislature provided to ensure the EAA Southern Reservoir project remains on track. Once completed, this reservoir will go a long way toward providing dry season deliveries of clean water to the Everglades.

Additionally, construction on the C-43 and C-44 Reservoirs continues, which will provide significant capacity to store runoff and benefit the local basins. Once completed, the C-43 Reservoir will store up to 170,000 acre-feet of water near the Caloosahatchee River, allowing for better management of basin runoff to meet estuary needs during the dry season. The C-44 Reservoir is a similar project underway near the St. Lucie River in Martin County.

We also provided Governor DeSantis the support he needs to better enforce water quality laws through the Environmental Crimes Unit. We have strict water quality standards on the books, and lack of enforcement should not be tolerated. The legislation we passed helps accomplish this.

Finally, I'm proud of the support the Legislature is providing to study red tide and how it impacts Southwest Florida beaches. Our state is truly blessed to have world-class researchers from institutions like Florida Gulf Coast University, University of South Florida, and Mote Marine Laboratory leading the charge on understanding what causes Red Tide and what makes it worse. The Florida Legislature provided millions in support of research between the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Mote Marine Laboratory. Our hope is that this support can lead to a breakthrough in red tide research.

Thanks to Governor Ron DeSantis and our legislative leaders, addressing water quality continues to remain a high priority in Tallahassee. I look forward to working with our local leaders to ensure we continue to take action on protecting our local waterways as these project are implemented.

-Dane Eagle represents the 77th District of Florida House of Representatives and serves as the House Majority Leader. He resides in Cape Coral and is a member of the Lee County legislative delegation.

 
 

 

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