Florida’s governor-elect is speaking out on the environment, but any hopes we had for help from him in fixing Florida’s water are quickly being dashed. This comes from his choice of advisors he published recently.
Among the 40 we have no group or person which truly understands nor cares for our water problems.
Instead, we have on the list industry, fertilizer, agriculture, a law firm representing phosphate mining, John Miklos, and so on.
If Mr. DeSantis really wants to know how to fix the water problems, he need advisors such as Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson from OSFR, Dr. Bob Knight from Florida Springs Institute, Whitey Markle from Sierra Club, Jim Gross from Florida Defenders of the Environment, Jacki Thurlow Lippisch of the recent Florida Constitutional Revision Committee, Dr. Bob Palmer of the Florida Springs Council, Karen Chadwick of the Putnam County Environmental Council, and Lisa Rinaman, St. Johns Riverkeeper. And we could add more. And we have written to Mr. DeSantis recommending these names.
Advice such as that from Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commissioner Bo Rivard, that we engage Trump and Rick Scott for help, is truly insane. That puts us at the bottom of the pile, and there is no lower place to go.
Read the original sickening article here in the Sarasota Herald Tribune.
Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life: once taken, it cannot be brought back-
DeSantis vows to focus on Florida’s troubled environment, despite poor green record in Congress
By John Kennedy
GateHouse Capital Bureau
TALLAHASSEE — Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis calls himself a “Teddy Roosevelt conservationist,” and allies say he is genuine when he vows to make the environment a top priority of the incoming administration.
But some in the environmental community are skeptical — recalling how DeSantis in Congress drew bottom-scraping grades from them on a range of issues considered vital to water and land oversight.
Still, U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Palm City, a friend and close adviser, said DeSantis views Florida’s water woes and preservation needs through a unique lens.
“He knows this needs to happen,” said Mast, who heads the incoming governor’s transition team on the environment. “Our water is the lifeblood of our environment, and the environment is the lifeblood of our economy.”
DeSantis’ focus, Mast said, is, “What can he do right now?”
In a state reeling from a summer when red tide fouled the Gulf Coast and toxic, blue-green algae from Lake Okeechobee polluted Atlantic coastal communities, DeSantis said he is critically aware of the need for swift action.
Construction of a new reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee must be accelerated, along with urging the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to keep lake levels lower to reduce the need for damaging water discharges, he said.
DeSantis also has pledged to form a task force to examine the causes of red tide and recommend steps to combat future outbreaks.
“I don’t want to say we have to wait years to get progress,” DeSantis told GateHouse Florida. “I want to make as much progress as we can right off the bat.”
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commissioner Bo Rivard even suggested during a meeting of environmental advisers that DeSantis organize a kind of Florida water summit including his predecessor, U.S. Sen.-elect Rick Scott, and President Donald Trump, who endorsed both men in the November elections.
None of these big three leaders have a record that instills confidence in environmentalists. But Rivard said the stars are aligned for top Republicans to at least do something to ease rising threats to the state’s water quality.
“There are big issues to tackle,” he said. “But it might be good to get everyone in the same room.”
Many environmentalists, though, scoff at such talk — pointing out that problems with nutrients flowing into state waters were amplified by Scott’s actions as governor.
They doubt DeSantis will be a green crusader.
“The facts and his own record suggest that may not be the case,” said Aliki Moncrief, executive director of Florida Conservation Voters, which endorsed Democrat Andrew Gillum in the governor’s race.
The national League of Conservation Voters has given DeSantis a career 2 percent score — out of 100 percent — for his votes in Congress on a host of environmental issues and appointments by Trump to key administration posts.
The only major environmental group to endorse DeSantis over Gillum was the Everglades Trust, which hailed the Republican’s willingness to stand up to the sugar industry, which hugs Lake Okeechobee and is blamed by the nonprofit for much of the lake’s water problems.
“He has a real passion for Florida’s environment,” said Kimberly Mitchell, executive director of the Everglades Trust. “Once you know the truths, it’s easy to see the lies that have been perpetuated about Florida’s environment. And it’s not just about taking on sugar, it’s about solving the problem.”
Soon after Scott took office, he rolled back three decades worth of state growth management laws, regulations that helped control development and its impact, such as fertilizer runoff and human waste leaking from septic tanks.
Scott also slashed funding for the state’s water management districts, which play a big role in protecting waterways, and appointed board members who critics said were deferential to polluters.
The South Florida Water Management District alone lost 300 technicians, scientists and other staff because of the reduced budget.
In 2012, Scott also signed legislation repealing a state law mandating that septic tanks receive regular inspections to ensure that untreated waste wasn’t seeping into water systems.
The approach of the Scott administration could well be what DeSantis is looking to reverse.
A Sarasota freshman Republican House member, Will Robinson, has filed legislation that would reinstate the inspection program.
And another DeSantis environmental adviser, former House Speaker Steve Crisafulli of Brevard County, says that state money used for Everglades restoration and springs protection should be made available to help Floridians pay for septic-to-sewer conversions — a proposal certain to draw heat from conservationists.
The state’s powerful agriculture industry — especially big sugar companies — regularly redirect blame away from farm runoff toward homeowners with leaky septic systems.
DeSantis, who clashed with the sugar industry in Congress and remained critical through the governor’s race, indicated that he will continue challenging growers after his Jan. 8 swearing-in.
DeSantis acknowledged the need for septic tank work, but also suggested that toughening state regulation of farm runoff may be needed.
Moncrief said her organization is wary of DeSantis. But she said he could win across-the-board support from Floridians with a few strong steps.
“When it comes to acting on climate change, he has an incredible opportunity,” Moncrief said. “He’d be on solid ground with his base, and everyone in Florida … if he acknowledged the effects of climate change. He has not done even that yet.”