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Wednesday, 06 February 2019 08:45

SCPA Board Supports Florida Today IRL Letter, You Should Too! Featured

Written by  Team SCPA

The SCPA Board just voted unanimously to support the Florida Today letter to Governor DeSantis, requesting action to save our Indian River Lagoon Estuary. We strongly support this effort, and we hope that you will too. 

Here is their Editorial:

 

Dear Gov. Ron DeSantis, please do 4 things to help the Indian River Lagoon | Our view

The Editorial Board, FLORIDA TODAYPublished 3:51 p.m. ET Jan. 31, 2019 | Updated 4:23 p.m. ET Jan. 31, 2019 
 Gov. Ron DeSantis began his term in January. FLORIDA TODAY's Editorial Board will run a series of editorials outlining what we believe should be his priorities. The first one is obvious, yet often overlooked by state leaders: cleaning up the Indian River Lagoon. 

Add your name to this editorial by filling out this form (bit.ly/DeSantis321). We will send it as a letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis. The more names we get, the greater the impact. It takes seconds.

Dear Gov. DeSantis,

We in Brevard County believe you could be an environmental maverick. And we sure need that. 

It took guts to call for the resignation of water management district board members for doing the sugar industry's bidding in South Florida. We are intrigued by your plan to appoint a chief science officer and create a blue-green algae task force. 

FLORIDA TODAY's Editorial Board and Space Coast residents are writing to you because we hope our county's portion of the Indian River Lagoon — more than 70 percent of the estuary's surface area — doesn't get lost in the deluge of water issues facing Florida.

You announced on Tuesday that you're asking the Legislature for $650 million for water conservation. Everglades restoration dominates talks about water issues, for very good reasons. But we hope you ensure we get a significant portion of money allocated in the next four years. We're particularly interested in the $100 million you're asking for sewage upgrades and septic tank conversions.

More: Gov. Ron DeSantis calls for $625 million for water projects in environmental priorities

Tallahassee's tendency is to wait until we see and smell guacamole-thick algae blooms like the kind that erupted in South Florida and poisonous red tide like we saw on the Gulf Coast before stepping up. It's been almost three years since Brevard made headlines across the state with the massive fish kills of 2016.

Gov. Ron DeSantis announced what he called a historic $625 million for water resources projects, including Everglades restoration, Jan. 29, 2018. Patrick Riley, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; 239-263-4825

Don't be fooled by this reprieve — don't think the lagoon's crisis isn't as urgent as others around the state.

We don't expect you to keep track of every proposal to help the estuary, so below we'll outline some suggestions:

Add your name to this editorial by filling out this form (bit.ly/DeSantis321). We will send it as a letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis. The more names we get, the greater the impact. It takes seconds.

Advocate for House Bill 141

Brevard County state Rep. Randy Fine's legislation, filed ahead of this year's session, would allocated $50 million annually in grants to upgrade and expand sewage lines along the Indian River Lagoon and connect them to septic tanks. Local governments would have to put skin in the game by providing a 50-percent funding match. The bill also would impose fines for sewage spills, such as the 30 billion gallons that were dumped into the lagoon after Hurricane Irma. 

 

More: State funding for lagoon will be regional, not partisan, battle, as Fine's bill gains momentum

Fund lagoon projects

Although lawmakers control the purse strings, we ask that you push them to fund Space Coast requests for lagoon projects, such as muck dredging. Brevard County voters passed a half-cent sales tax referendum to fund cleanup in 2016 with the expectation that by doing our part the state would pitch in. So far, we have been footing the bill mostly alone. The $150 million you requested for water quality improvements that achieve "significant, meaningful and measurable nutrient reductions in key water bodies" seems like a good fit.

Gov. Ron DeSantis addresses Florida's environmental concerns as well as funding at a news conference at Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center in East Naples on Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2019.

Gov. Ron DeSantis addresses Florida's environmental concerns as well as funding at a news conference at Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center in East Naples on Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2019. (Photo: Morgan Hornsby/Naples Daily News)

 

Have you signed our letter yet? Fill out this form (bit.ly/DeSantis321) if you want your name added to this editorial. We will send it as a letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis. The more signatures we get, the greater the impact.

End conflicts of interest in water districts 

Even your critics rallied behind you when you asked the South Florida Water Management District governing board to step down. Floridians felt betrayed by the board's renewal of a lease with sugar giant Florida Crystals on land slated for a reservoir to curb Lake Okeechobee discharges. We are pleased about your new appointments.

Please stay true to your commitment of cleaning up government and end the practice of appointing people with conflicts of interest to all water district boards. You can start with the St. Johns River Water Management District, in charge of flood control, water regulation and permitting in Brevard County, Central and North Florida. 

St. Johns governing board chair John Miklos' environmental consulting company specializes in helping clients obtain permits from — guess what, water districts. That's a conflict of interest. Bio-Tech Consulting represented clients 117 times before the district between 2010, when he was appointed, to 2016, The Daytona Beach News-Journal reported. Miklos recused himself from voting on issues involving his company, but decisions about permitting often happen before a vote is taken.

We need scientists and environmentally-minded people to run water districts, not people who will use that position for financial gain. Miklos was part of your transition team, so it will take courage not to reappoint him when his term is up in 2022. 

Did you sign our letter yet? Fill out this form (bit.ly/DeSantis321) if you want your name added to this editorial. We will send it as a letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis. The more signatures we get, the greater the impact.

Manage growth in Florida 

Growth management is a tough topic because as a small-government Republican you don't want the state dictating where and how people should build.

But Florida welcomes 1,000 new residents a day and growth management is largely left up to local governments. The lagoon is a prime example of what can go wrong when too many people live near a water body — urban and stormwater runoff, septic tanks and fertilizer make their way into the water. The same issue is happening with springs and urban encroachment into the Everglades.

More: Turning the Toxic Tide: Florida must reinvent the way it manages growth

The 2011 Community Planning Act weakened the state's growth management laws and closed the Department of Community Affairs, which oversaw local governments' growth plans. We aren't asking for more red tape, but we need to contain the urban sprawl that's characteristic of Florida by creating a development plan for the state. 

Here's the low-hanging fruit: use dollars from the 2014 Water and Land Conservation constitutional amendment to purchase environmentally sensitive lands so they aren't developed.

Growth management should be your long-term goal. It will take fighting lobbyists and even people within your party.

We like what we have seen from you so far, governor. We hope we look at this moment four years from now as the watershed for Indian River Lagoon restoration.

FLORIDA TODAY’s editorials are decided collectively by its Editorial Board. To respond to this editorial in a letter to the editor, email up to 250 words to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Include your name, place of residence and phone number.

Take action

We will send this editorial as a letter to DeSantis. Please add your name to it so we have greater impact and tell your family and friends to do the same. To do that, go to bit.ly/DeSantis321

Don't have internet? Cut out this editorial and send it to FLORIDA TODAY Engagement Editor Isadora Rangel, 1 Gannett Plaza Ave., Melbourne, FL 32940. Please include your full name and hometown on the envelope. 

 

 

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