Last Thursday, Our Santa Fe River Board of Directors and Advisors had the unusual opportunity to take a paddle trip from Rum Island Springs to the US 47 bridge with Noah Valenstein, Executive Director, and Darrell Smith, Director – Agriculture and Environmental Projects for the Suwannee River Water Management District. When first planned this was to be an unceremonious meeting to talk about river issues while enjoying a day on the river. On Tuesday before the paddle, Noah Valenstein was appointed FDEP Secretary and we were very pleased that, despite his very hectic transition schedule, Noah was able to still go on the paddle.
One highlight was a lunch break on the side of the river, with John Moran, one of our advisors, leading the dialog on how will you (Noah) make it better here and statewide? Noah answered all the questions posed to him and reiterated his desire of bringing groups together to work together. He was very unguarded and the participants had lots of free flowing conversations with him one on one as boating allows. He also commented on his desire to prioritize work on Florida Forever funding and implementation.
The other conversation topic was about how the combined North Florida environmental and agricultural meetings he and his staff have already put in motion will continue once he moves on. The joint meetings are still being implemented with intent and design to get us all in the same room together to clear some wide misunderstandings on both sides. Those meetings fall within the framework of the Suwannee Partnership.
Overall, the day proved to be an excellent way to maximize conversation between different parties who need to continue working together for the betterment of our river and springs.
We sincerely wish Mr. Valenstein luck in his new position and hope to get him out to paddle even more often as head of FDEP.