Crist visits Lee County, outlines water quality plan amid gubernatorial campaign trail

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

A candidate for Florida governor outlined his plan to take on our water crisis.

Florida U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist (Fla-D) visited Southwest Florida Wednesday to talk about his “Clean Water For All” plan. It’s one of the top priorities for his platform in the upcoming 2022 gubernatorial election.

Monitoring our water quality is a top priority here in the region, and one group gave Crist a personal tour of how they stay on top of it and what’s at stake.

“We can’t address the issue if we don’t monitor it in the first place,” Crist said. “And that’s where we need to begin aggressively.”

That’s what brought Crist to Lee County. Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation took Crist and Fort Myers Councilwoman Teresa Watkins Brown out on a boat to learn more about the water issues in our area and the system it uses to monitor it.

“It’s taken over 100 years to mess up the system, and it’s going to take years to fix the system,” said Ryan Orgera, the CEO of SCCF.

Crist’s plan includes stronger regulations for agriculture runoff, urban septic tank replacement and connection to central sewer and improved management of the area north of Lake Okeechobee.

“Well, there’s too much fertilizer,” Crist said. “That’s clear, and fertilizer is a major contributor to the problems that we’re having. Septic tank use is another one. We need to get away from using so many septic tanks in the state of Florida. There’s about 2.7 million of them right now, and they just don’t contain, and they don’t treat the sewage properly.”

“Southwest Florida is not special without a healthy environment,” Orgera said.

We reached out to the Lee County Republican Party for its thoughts on Crist’s water platform. The party sent us a statement saying in part, “Governor DeSantis has made it clear that the single largest issue facing our water quality is controlled 100 percent by the federal government.” It went on to say Crist could use his current role to fix problems at the federal level.

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