Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Sierra Club Response to DeSantis' $625 Million Everglades/Water Budget

For Immediate Release:  January 29, 2019
Contact Frank Jackalone 727-804-1317; frank.jackalone@sierraclub.org

Sierra Club Responds to Governor DeSantis’ $625 Million Budget Proposal 
for Everglades Restoration & Water Quality Protection

Sierra Club Florida Chapter Director Frank Jackalone released the following statement today:

"Sierra Club Florida is pleased that Governor DeSantis has made Everglades restoration and protection of Florida's waters a major budget priority.  But the devil is in the details -- most of which he hasn't provided yet.   Based on a quick review of the six major priorities Governor Desantis released today in Naples, we have some praise, some criticism, and lots of questions: 

1)   "$360 Million for Everglades Restoration"   
  • What is the source of funding for this large allocation for Everglades Restoration?  
  • What are the 20 Everglades projects that would be funded?  
  • From the text, it appears that Governor DeSantis wants to speed up construction of  the Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir based on the current design which is highly flawed;  it is too high at 23 feet and doesn't have the land needed to clean the reservoir's water before it is released to the Everglades.  He should ask water managers to pause to redesign it, which would allow for the use of Amendment 1 funds to acquire and manage land needed to build a shallower, less expensive reservoir.  
  • We are concerned from the comments on reducing discharges and updating the Lake Okeechobee Release Schedule (LORS) that the Governor may be looking towards a higher water level which would be harmful to the Lake's ecology.
  • We are happy that Governor DeSantis wants to speed up construction of Tamiami Trail bridging.   
2)   "$150 Million for Targeted Water Quality Improvements"
  • We like the $150 million from General Revenue for targeted water quality improvements.  However, the current system of Basin Management Action Plans, TMDLs, and MFLs is not working the way it could and should.  
  • We need more stringent, more protective BMAPs, TMDLs, and MFLs.  
  • Where is the regulation we were promised to stop pollution at its source?
3)   "$50 Million to Restore Florida’s World-Renowned Springs" 
  • Springs have already been getting a measly $50 million since the 2016 Legacy Act. 
  • $360 million vs. $50 million is an unfair split.    
  • Springshed protection is drinking water protection to and deserves a higher level of attention.   
  • Sierra Club calls for equal spending of land acquisition funds between South Florida, including the Everglades, and North Florida, including our Springs.  
4)   "$25 Million to Improve Water Quality and Combat Harmful Algal Blooms"
  • Governor DeSantis would be wise to avoid Red Tide Rick Scott's folly of funding studies, control and mitigation AFTER the algae blooms wreak havoc.  
  • We support increased harmful algae monitoring, but hope that his mitigation funding for innovative technologies isn’t the same as Scott’s plan to spread Chinese clay on the Gulf.  

5)   "$40 Million for Alternative Water Supply Development"
  • More details are needed on the Governor's alternative water supply line item.  
  • It is good to see the $40 million proposed for alternative water supply would come from general revenue funds. 
  • Where is the conservation of water supply?  Until consumptive use is more strictly monitored, regulated, and reduced Florida will remain in water supply jeopardy.

6)   "Transfer of 19 Positions from FWC to DEP"
  • Sierra Club Florida needs to study Governor DeSantis' proposal to transfer environmental crimes enforcement to DEP and has no comment at this time.

Finally, we need to ask:   Will there be any funds left over for the Florida Forever and Rural Family Lands programs?   We hope to learn the answer to those questions when the Governor releases his full environmental budget on Friday.