Clean-water funding + dirty water legislation = no progress

Dear VoteWater community:

The things we’d really like Santa to bring would never fit into a stocking. Clean water: Santa could pour some in but it would make a mess.

VoteWater Executive Director Gil Smart

Of course, it couldn’t hold a Christmas candle to the mess we’ve already made here in Florida. Our environmental problems remain severe. The question is whether a tsunami of new spending can change that.

Earlier this month Gov. Ron DeSantis unveiled his proposed 2024 budget, which includes $1.1 billion for Everglades restoration and water quality projects around the state. It includes $550 million for the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), $64 million for the EAA Reservoir, $50 million projects to reduce harmful discharges to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries and $81.5 million for the Northern Everglades and Estuaries Protection Program.

There’s $135 million for the expanded Water Quality Improvement Grant Program to help pay for septic-to-sewer conversions and other nutrient-reduction projects. Another $100 million will go to the Indian River Lagoon Protection Program to fund water-quality projects; $50 million will go to protect Florida’s iconic springs; and more.

All this is good news. But even as Florida politicos are crowing about this fiscal commitment to Florida’s water quality, the Legislature is hard at work on anti-environmental legislation. There are bills that would undermine wetlands protections, efforts to intimidate citizens who challenge environmental permits — and other destructive proposals rumored to be waiting in the wings.

In other words, we’re undermining all the clean-water spending with new dirty-water bills that threaten to perpetuate — or worsen — the problems all that spending seeks to solve in the first place.

One step up, one step back is not progress.

That’s why we’re reluctant to cheerlead all the proposed environmental spending. Simply throwing money at our problems will not solve them.

We need legislators who value our waterways as much as they value the next campaign check from Big Sugar. We need local officials willing to tell a developer “no” every now and then.

Santa won’t bring these things, of course. But you can. With your support, we can keep fighting for a future defined by clean water and open spaces, not pavement and harmful algal blooms.

With your support, we can make real and sustainable progress. So let’s make 2024 the year where natural Florida is no longer seen as something to be exploited but something to be cherished.