Weighing in on the Water, a February 9 town hall event, was hosted by SCCF at the Bailey Homestead Pavilion and moderated by SCCF’s Natural Resource Policy Director Rae Ann Wessel. In introducing U.S. Congressman Francis Rooney and Sanibel Mayor Kevin Ruane, she framed both the economic and ecological impacts from poor water management as key issues that must be addressed at the local, state, and federal levels to improve water quality in the Everglades and Southwest Florida.
“There is insufficient capacity to store, treat and move water,” said Wessel. “We need new ways of doing restoration, and science needs to be the basis of all the solutions we pursue.”
Congressman Rooney briefed approximately 200 constituents on his efforts to address Southwest Florida’s water quality issues at the federal level.
“We don’t need new legislative authorization, we need funds to be appropriated for multiple Everglades Restoration projects authorized since 2007,” said Rooney.
The Congressman went on to say his first acts since taking office on January 20 were all focused on water quality for his district and Florida. He cited his one-on-one visits with members of the House Appropriations Committee, arguing for Everglades restoration funding. He also shared the letter he crafted and sent to President Trump, on which he secured the signatures of every member of Florida’s House delegation on Capitol Hill. (See a pdf of the letter here). The letter asks that the Trump administration’s fiscal 2018 budget “strongly support Everglades restoration projects, especially those within the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Program (CERP).”
“This was an extraordinary achievement for a recently arrived freshman member of Congress,” said Wessel. “The letter was bipartisan and included every House member representing Florida in Washington. Advocates fighting for Everglades restoration and water quality have never had that demonstration of unanimous congressional support before Congressman Rooney brought this focus on water to Washington.”
City of Sanibel Mayor Kevin Ruane expressed his appreciation for Congressman Rooney’s efforts at the federal level, particularly in the way they complement the efforts Ruane is working to spearhead.
“We have worked with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and have gained their commitment to accelerate – to 2018 rather than 2021 – the design and planning process for a flow way for storage and cleaning south of Lake Okeechobee,” said Ruane.
The Mayor went on to speak in detail about his initiative to engage the 19 counties and 163 cities affected by poor water quality. These counties and cities represent 55% of Florida’s real estate values. Combined with their tourism income, the economic impact of poor water quality is $2 trillion. “If you’re in Tallahassee, that number is hard to ignore,” said Ruane.
The mayor has taken a leading role in bringing together the cities to work together in seeking state-level support, such as advancing the passage of Senate Bill 10 (SB10) to purchase 60,000 acres south of Lake O. He told the audience to watch for planned efforts to highlight these issues during the Florida legislative session beginning March 7.
SCCF encourages you to forward this email to friends and neighbors, asking them to sign up for SCCF action alerts and become engaged in pressing our elected officials to take positive actions for moving restoration forward to protect our economy and water resources. Click here to sign up for our Action Alerts.