SWFL leaders advocate for Florida natural resources in D.C

Reporter: Stephanie Byrne Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:

Making sure our water and our environment don’t fall through the cracks, Southwest Florida leaders joined other local officials in the state in our nation’s capital to advocate for our natural environment.

Elected leaders were in Washington D.C. Thursday, representing Florida to convince federal leaders their help is essential to our water quality and the Everglades.

“We are here to visit with our delegation to ask them to support $200 million in continuous funding for improving our water infrastructure in the Okeechobee basin, Port St. Lucie River basin, and of course, the Caloosahatchee River basin,” Fort Myers Mayor Randy Henderson said.

The St. Lucie River is the vital waterway on the east cost of the state, and Port St. Lucie Mayor Gregory Oravec joined local leaders in our area to advocate for the state’s water quality in D.C. He spoke about the history of the federal government making Florida’s natural resources an important priority over the years.

“But in 2000, Congress and the State of Florida came together and said, ‘Hey, the Everglades is important. We’re going to fund it on a 50/50 basis. We’re going to get it done,’” Oravec said. “But here we are going on 20 years later, and we’re not done.”

Bonita Springs Mayor Peter Simmons said the Everglades are not simply a prime focus for all of us in Florida.

“Around the country and around the world, the Florida Everglades are on everybody’s map,” Simmons said.

So leaders statewide want make sure the Everglades and Florida’s water stay on our shorelines and lawmaker’s maps.

“The Army Corps of Engineers actually has what’s known as the ‘Integrated Delivery Schedule,’” Sanibel Mayor Kevin Ruane said. “The 68 projects that are essential obviously for infrastructure, we advocate for those projects.”

These are projects to restore the Everglades and protect our state’s most precious resource.

“We’re all connected, not only by the Everglades and the lake, but we’re connected by water,” Oravec said. “As human beings on planet Earth, we all require clean water to live.”

And support is needed from beyond Southwest Florida to make it happen. A win for Florida natural resources came Thursday when Sen. Marco Rubio announced the approval of a bill that includes $650,000 to enhance water quality and seagrass monitoring in the Caloosahatchee estuary and Indian River Lagoon. It also includes looking at Lake Okeechobee discharges and harmful algal blooms.

“It’s really America’s Everglades,” said James Evans, City of Sanibel’s director of natural resources. “It’s a natural treasure.”

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