A Board with No Respect Deserves No Respect

Around 9 pm on the night after polls closed and Floridians focused on election results, the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) inserted into their agenda a lease agreement for New Hope Sugar Co., a subsidiary of Florida Crystals, on land that was earmarked for the EAA reservoir. The existing lease was not to expire until March of 2019, yet the board unanimously approved it in their meeting the next day.

On the same day, the SFWMD voted to vacate the Federal Decree requiring minimum water quality levels on waters being sent to the Miccosukee lands and Everglades National Park.

At worst, they broke state law, requiring published notices of “intention to lease.” At best, they showed a total lack of transparency. Either way, their actions were another example of a breach of public trust as the SFWMD continues to manage South Florida’s Waters as an irrigation system for the sugar industry at the expense of Floridians.

Please let the SFWMD board members know they have once again broken your trust to benefit the sugar industry at the expense of the will of the people of Florida.

Click to Email the SFWMD Board NOW!

Prefer to call the board members? Here are their direct lines:

J. Timothy Beirnes, Inspector General (561) 682-6398
Federico Fernandez, Chairman (561) 682-6262
Melanie Peterson, Vice-Chair (561) 682-6262
Sam Accursio (561) 682-6262
Rick Barber (561) 682-6262
Carlos Diaz (561) 682-6262
James J. Moran (561) 682-6262
Dan O’Keefe (561) 682-6262
Brandon Tucker (561) 682-6262
Jaime Weisinger (561) 682-6262

Election Day is Almost Here

By the time you receive this, it is likely you have either already voted or decided who you will vote for tomorrow. Two and a half years ago, water quality was barely a blip on the awareness meter for most Floridians. In this election it has rocketed near the top of the list because millions of us can see the damage and feel the pain created through blatant disregard for our states water quality and the natural resources where we live, work and play.

The Now or Neverglades coalition has focused on the heart of South Florida’s water management problem, a blockage in the aorta of the Everglades system. A dynamic southern reservoir, filtration marshes and southern flow of clean water to reduce the toxic discharges from the Caloosahatchee and St Lucie Rivers is a must. It is imperative that we maintain focus on the EAA Project and that it not only receives the federal share of funding but also provides the intended benefits.

Over these past two years, I have had the privilege to meet and discuss with hundreds of supporters the many other factors that contribute to our water’s degradation. There is overwhelming agreement that we must stop pollution at its source. Polluters must pay their share. We must return to enforcement of water quality standards and spend the dollars Floridian’s overwhelmingly committed through Amendments as intended. Human health must be considered in the management of our waters. Our water management boards should be made of appointees not under Big Sugar’s influence, and decisions need to be made by qualified people based on science.

Regardless of Tuesday’s election outcomes, I hope and believe we will have made a difference in the future management direction for repairing Florida’s horrific man-made water fiasco. It will be up to all of us to see that those making decisions in the future are held accountable to fulfill their promises on making water quality a priority.

Water Resources Development Act of 2018

By now most of us have heard that the US Senate passed the Water Resources Development Act of 2018 (WRDA) last Wednesday. The vote was an overwhelming 99 to 1, and the bill awaits presidential signature. Cleaning our water supply, restoring the Everglades, and reducing toxic discharges are painfully obvious objectives and beneficial to most Floridians and the American people. Bipartisan lawmakers have agreed on a virtual no brainer regardless of other issues or party politics.

This has been a key objective of Now or Neverglades since inception, but what does it really mean? It means that the physical reservoir project has been approved and while this is an increase in inertia for the Now or Neverglades movement, we need to redouble our efforts through the funding phase and implementation.

This reinforces the importance of the elections just a few weeks away. If voters support candidates committed to our goal and continue to hold them accountable during their tenures, we may be able to return to sanity in managing Florida’s water for the health, economy and quality of life for Floridians and our tourists.

I have been inundated with inquiries on who to vote for after each recent newsletter. Now or Neverglades is a coalition of over 80,000 like-minded individuals and organizations who believe the Everglades Agricultural Area southern storage project is at the heart of restoration. Many of our dozen founding members are 501(c)3 nonprofit corporations who are authorized to inform and educate on issues but not authorized to advocate. Please take advantage of the wealth of information they provide on their websites and social media pages: BTT, Captains for Clean Water, Everglades Foundation, Herman Lucerne Memorial and IGFA.

On the other hand, several of our founding members are 501(c)4 nonprofit organizations, who are authorized and do advocate for candidates they believe will best represent us as we move forward. If you are interested in those voter guides, please visit Bullsugar.org, Florida Bay Forever and the Everglades Trust, as they make no bones about who they feel will best represent Now or Neverglades objectives.

You have my deepest appreciation for continued support of the Now or Neverglades movement.

Stay Educated on the Issues

Just a few days ago, the cities of Cape Coral, Sanibel and Ft Myers Beach signed a joint petition asking the South Florida Water Management District to increase minimum dry season flows from Lake Okeechobee to try to mitigate the devastating effects of blue-green algae and red tide that have been wreaking havoc on these communities for months. The cities recognize that this would be a temporary fix, and only return of southern flow will provide a more permanent solution.

Our Now or Neverglades coalition has grown to over 80,000 likeminded organizations and individuals who believe a dynamic southern storage reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee that feeds scientifically sized filtration marshes can return as close to possible, clean, fresh water flow through the “Glades” to Florida Bay. We believe its implementation is the primary solution required to reduce the Caloosahatchee River and St Lucie River discharges while providing this water to Florida Bay where mother nature intended it to go.

This project is and has been recognized as the heart of the matter for decades. It is integral to the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) and the Central Everglades Planning Project CEPP). Now or Neverglades recognizes that there are other many other issues to address with Florida’s water problems, but will we stay focused here because without it all else is becomes folly.

Our politically elected officials and their appointees are responsible for making it happen or not happen. Florida’s primary saw its biggest turnout ever, and we hope that Florida voters will turn out in droves for the midterm election. Florida’s devastating water problems persist, and citizens are looking for candidates who will make fixing them a priority.

Please stay educated on the issues. Look to our founding member websites for information and news and we hope that you will consider the environment and the future of Florida’s water as you cast your vote this November. The Everglades Foundation, Captains for Clean Water, the IGFA and BTT are constantly updating with solid information.

Some of our founding members who are authorized to advocate; the Everglades Trust, Bullsugar.org and Florida Bay Forever will be offering voter guides in the next few weeks.

I offer a heartfelt thanks for all your support and trust you will make the best choices possible for our future.

EAA Reservoir Moves Forward

A few weeks ago, the White House backed the EAA reservoir. We are grateful to everyone who made their voices heard. While funding is expected to be included as part of America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018, the request for funding still needs to be approved by the U.S. Senate.

Late last week, the Army Corps of Engineers announced that it would slow the discharges from Lake Okeechobee that have been causing the eruption of harmful blue-green algae in the surrounding waterways. Fish and animals have been dying, people are getting sick, and businesses like Florida Sportsman have had to temporarily close their offices for fear of the impact the algae is having on their employees’ health.

What is happening in Florida is tragic. We must continue to work urgently on solutions to this crisis that put the people and businesses of South Florida and our precious ecosystem first. The right choices in the 2018 elections will determine if implementation continues.

On behalf of the Now or Neverglades coalition, thank you for your continued action and support of our efforts.

A Simple Request

Thanks again for your heartfelt support and growing awareness of Florida’s destructive water management policies. After our last report, we were flooded with inquiries on who to vote for in the upcoming elections to fix these problems!  Now or Neverglades has always stated that implementation of the solutions is a political problem caused by individual legislators and administrative appointees, not political parties.

There have been leaders and obstructionists from both parties in the fight to create dynamic southern storage, filtration marshes, send clean water through the Everglades to Florida Bay and reduce the St Lucie and Caloosahatchee discharges. Three estuary disasters with one common solution.

The fall elections are critical to the future implementation of science-based solutions. Now or Neverglades’ Founding Members are reporting extensively on past actions and policies in this fight for the future of our water, economy and quality of life. I urge you to read what they are saying in hopes that this year’s election choices will become clear as our waters should be.

One other thing I would ask, is a simple request to help strengthen our coalition of like-minded organizations and individuals. Please forward this email to five of your friends, family or business associates today and ask them to join in support of Now or Neverglades.

We can and will make a difference in our future together.

Deja Vu All Over Again

The natural rainy season has arrived in Florida, creating high water levels in Lake Okeechobee. The US Army Corps of Engineers once again began releasing billions of gallons of water from the lake into the estuaries two weeks ago. Pictures soon emerged that were reminiscent of the discharges from 2016 – blue-green algae and brown water invading coastal areas. Harm occurs to the estuaries when flows are over 2,800 cubic feet per second – and as of Wednesday, flows were around 7,300 cubic feet per second. Congressman Brian Mast and others have called for the Army Corps to stop the discharges before they cause more harm.

While it is tragic to watch, we all need to take action. This November’s election will be critical in ensuring a clean water future for Florida, and electing candidates who share our vision is an important step forward. Our chosen elected officials must prioritize implementation of the reservoir south of Lake O that will address some of these problems, and must continue to strive for clean water and healthy ecosystems for Florida. The future of South Florida’s water is in our hands.

America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018

Last week, committees in both the House and Senate unanimously approved legislation that includes placeholder language for the Everglades reservoir once the required Army Corps of Engineers’ report on the project is received. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, chaired by Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming, approved “America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018” by a vote of 21 to 0. The legislation includes a section that authorizes a number of projects, specifically including placeholder language for the Everglades reservoir.

On the House side, Chairman Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania moved the 2018 Water Resources Development Act by voice vote. The House legislation likewise includes placeholder language for the reservoir. The reservoir project report is scheduled to be submitted to the White House by the end of May. If all goes as planned, Congress will receive the Army Corps’ physical report towards the end of June in time for floor consideration of the legislation in July. We will continue to keep you updated on this important progress.

NON Update

The NoworNeverglades Coalition was founded in 2016 in support of over 200 Everglades scientists calling for more storage, treatment and conveyance of fresh water from Lake Okeechobee south to the Everglades. Our goal is and will always be to preserve and protect three nationally vital estuaries, Everglades National Park, Florida’s tourism economy and the water supply for 8 million people.

Thanks to your support and commitment, the EAA southern reservoir has moved forward. We now call on Congress to authorize and fully fund this project intended to provide the projected benefits of reducing Lake Okeechobee discharges and sending a yearly average of 120 billion gallons of additional clean water south from Lake Okeechobee to Florida Bay, when combined with other CERP projects.

We are mindful that the approved plan may require future modification in order to achieve critical benefits. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection, which has reviewed and approved the plan, has included in its final order a directive to the state to take “additional action” if necessary to ensure toxic discharges from Lake Okeechobee are reduced and increased water flows to the Everglades, Florida Bay and the Florida Keys.

We will continue to do everything we possibly can on this and other initiatives until our water is fixed.

Moving Ahead In 2018

As we move into 2018, I want to offer each of you a heartfelt “thanks” for supporting the Now or Neverglades movement during the short year and a half of our existence! Your support has moved us one step closer to the science-based solution of creating a dynamic southern water storage reservoir, a filtration system and return of flows south through the ‘Glades to Florida Bay, as nature intended. Only then will the dreadful manmade discharges from Okeechobee down the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries be significantly reduced.

In 2017 we found a champion in Senate President Joe Negron, whose understanding of the issues and determination to solve the problem led Florida’s Legislature to overwhelmingly enact SB10 into law. Governor Scott agreed, and it was the right thing to do for our economy, health, drinking water supply, the Everglades and quality of life for 8 million south Floridians.

Per the terms of SB10, the South Florida Water Management District must present alternative plans for implementation to the legislature on January 9th. SFWMD has created five (though really only three are different) models, and during public input, many said the models fail to take full advantage of the resources offered in SB10. Many said they are not cost efficient and are overly complicated. Many said they offer a band aid when a tourniquet is readily available.

The Everglades Foundation’s science team modeled an alternative that fully utilizes SB10, and looks superior across the board: it’s simpler, in all probability cheaper, better on water quality and sends twice as much water south as any of the SFWMD alternatives. They presented this model to the SFWMD in December, and asked for it to be modeled by SFWMD staff, using the same assumptions used for the other alternatives, for presentation to the legislature on Jan 9th.

Great news for taxpayers and people who love Florida waters, right? Well it would be, if the SFWMD would agree to model it and incorporate it into its presentation on an “apples to apples” basis. But so far they have refused to model it, and indicated that they will not present anything other than the models they presented last month.

Personally, 40 years of observing SFWMD’s activities has not given me high confidence in the agency’s resolve to do the best job of following direction given by law, nor in its implementation of restoration policies. If the SFWMD will not in fairness voluntarily include what many believe to be a better alternative, I would urge the Legislature and Governor to demand its inclusion in the available options. Let the legislature have what it asked for in full so it can make the best choice for Floridians.